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Neither Spirituality Or Religion Is Ever Enough (via Fleming Rutledge)

Fleming Rutledge skewers the central conceit behind the supposed superiority of being ‘spiritual’ rather than ‘religious’: they’re both manifestations of the same condition.
Humans need neither.
What they need is justification through Christ.
From Rutledge:

Spirituality, too, like religion, is essentially a human activity or trait that stands in stark contrast to faith. To put it in the simplest terms possible, spirituality is all too easily understood as human religious attainment, whereas faith itself is pure gift, without conditions, and nothing can be done from our side to increase it or improve upon it. On the contrary, we throw ourselves upon the mercy of God, saying, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
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…Human potential—which often takes the guise of “spirituality”—has itself become the object of worship.
So what is the antidote to the situation we find ourselves in, where in some places, attendance at “Celtic” services on Sunday evenings—with candles and chants and eclectic liturgies—far outnumbers church attendance on Sunday morning? Where so often, sermons are little more than assorted reflections having little to do with the biblical text? Where the high Christology of the creeds and councils has become mere “Jesus-ology”?
In today’s context, it is more crucial than ever to make a sufficiently sharp distinction between self-justification and self-sanctification on the one hand, and on the other, the utterly gratuitous, prevenient action of God in justifying humanity through his Son. The answer to our problem, then, is both simple and difficult: We need substantive, biblical preaching that drives home our need for justification through Christ.

Read the whole article at Christianity Today.


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There Is No Future In Frustration (via Don Carson)

Don Carson recalls a difficult conversation with a senior Christian in Sydney Australia.
Not difficult because of its content, but difficult because of the physical condition of the person to whom he was speaking.
The content of the conversation was saturated in glory.
An excerpt:

Here, then, is a philosophy of suffering, a perspective that ties it both to the salvation we now enjoy and to the consummation of that salvation when the glory of God is fully revealed. Like the discipline of physical training, suffering produces perseverance.
This is not a universal rule, for suffering can evoke muttering and unbelief. But when suffering is mingled with the faith of verses 1–2, and with delight in being reconciled to God, it then produces perseverance. The staying power of our faith is neither demonstrated nor developed until it is tested by suffering.
But as perseverance mushrooms, “character” is formed. The word character suggests “provedness,” the kind of maturity that is attained by being “proved” or “tested,” like a metal refined by fire. And as character or “provedness” is formed, hope blossoms: our anticipation of the glory of God (verse 2) is nurtured and strengthened.

Read the whole post at Desiring God.


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The Difference Between Change And Transition (via Jeff Iorg)

Change and Transition are not the same.
One will involve the other and healthy experiences of each need to identify both aspects and plan for their implementation distinctively.
Failure to acknowledge one or the other will hinder successful experiences of change and transition.
From a longer list drawn from Jeff Iorg by Ed Stetzer:

Foundational to helping people through major change is this seminal idea: change is different than transition. Change is the new circumstances introduced into organizational life, i.e. a new staffing plan going into effect on a specific date. Transition, on the other hand, is the emotional, psychological, and spiritual adjustments people go through when change is implemented.

Read the rest of Iorg’s list here.


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On Praying That God Would Bring In People Not Like Us (via Daniel Darling)

Daniel Darling on church being a snapshot of God’s grace and not homogeneous unit management principles:

Sometimes, in our quest to create cutting-edge churches, we sacrifice our long-term futures for short-term benefits. I’ve often felt this way as I’ve walked into vibrant, well-known churches or as I attend popular evangelical conferences. It seems that we are often creating a church for the young, hip, and sexy. It’s as if we want our message to the world to be something like, “See, church is the place where the cool people gather on Sunday.”
But the kingdom of God takes the opposite approach.
Jesus said it is the poor, the downtrodden, and the marginalized who have a prominent place in the kingdom of God (Matt. 5:3, 20:16). Paul reminded his churches of the shocking ordinariness of God’s people (1 Cor. 1:26). James scolded those in the church of Jerusalem for their tendency to favor the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the poor (James 2:1-13).
Do our congregations look like outposts of this radical kingdom? Do people enter our congregations and wonder to themselves, How did these disparate people get here? What possible thread unites people so vastly separated by age, race, political affiliation, and class? Why is it that old and young, black and white, disabled and able-bodied, rich and poor, prominent and anonymous gather together every Sunday?

source


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Who Owns The Culture? (via Karl Vaters)

I’ll be getting a copy of Karl Vater’s book Small Church Essentials.
While the main cross-cultural issue is that characterising a congregation of under 250 people as a small church in Australia is an over-reach, the observations about group dynamics in groups of varying sizes should hold true.

This excerpt about who shapes culture in a local church strikes me as true:

In bigger or newer churches, the culture is more likely to be determined by the pastoral staff, with the congregation more willing to follow. In smaller and older churches, the culture is more the property of the congregation and its history than the pastor. The smaller or older the church, the greater impact the culture will have on any new ideas, projects, or changes a pastor wants to implement, especially if the congregation has had a high pastoral turnover.

If this point isn’t taken into calculations cultural change in smaller groups will be a struggle.


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Give What You Didn’t Get (via Justin Buzzard)

Justin Buzzard writes about that which truly brings healing for those whose lives are marked by loss:

Give what you didn’t get.

What didn’t you get?

A safe childhood?
A best friend?
A loving father or mother?
Opportunity?
Justice?
Words of encouragement?
Healthy touch?
A place to belong?
A good education?
A healthy church?
Physical health?
Stability?
Someone to listen to you?
Someone to mentor you?
Someone to grieve with you?
Someone to challenge you?
Exposure to diverse people, places, and cultures?
A good coach?
An example of a healthy marriage or healthy friendships?
A healthy work/life balance?
Wise and generous stewardship of money and resources?
A sense of purpose?
Adventure?
A place to call home?
Truth?
Grace?
Give what you didn’t get. Often it’s this place of not-getting—this tender territory of wounding, lack, loss, longing, weakness, and unfamiliarity—that can become your place of strongest character, greatest giftedness, highest contribution to others, and largest joy. This follows God’s counterintuitive J Curve, that our place of pain can become our place of giving and gain.

Quit waiting to get what you didn’t get. Quit stewing in bitterness over what you didn’t get. Quit holding yourself victim to what you didn’t get. Instead, realize that what you don’t have can become your greatest investment. Know that God is with you in your didn’t-get-ness, and his presence and power can transform this lack into a unique overflow of care that you lavish on others.

You can start right now, right where you are. See that person in front of you? Give them what you didn’t get. And watch how God’s supernatural mathematics show up, creating gains you couldn’t have imagined.

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The Ocean Between Remorse And Redemption (via Sarah Condon)

There’s a world of difference between feeling bad and being sorry.
A marker of that difference is whether the response to your wrongdoing is about managing the situation or seeking mercy.
Sarah Condon mentions the example of Judas:

This is where we learn the full meaning of what Judas has to teach us, one that’s less about betrayal and more about where we go with that betrayal, or you might say, how we handle sin. After all, a betrayal from one of the disciples should signal to us that our own betrayal of Jesus Christ is inevitable.
It is in how Judas handles his sin where the lesson is found.
Judas is seized with remorse. So he returns the bribe. But here’s the thing. He doesn’t find forgiveness. The chief priests send him away.
Remorse and redemption are an ocean apart. Judas has done what we all so often do. We try to fix the smallest part of our fallen selves. Because naming our sin and asking for mercy can require a humility we are unwilling to offer.
And so our sins follow us and haunt us, just as sin followed and haunted our brother Judas all the way to the grave.

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.