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The Difference Between Following A Vocation And Volunteering (via Will Willimon)

Will Willimon’s memoir Accidental Preacher is an engaging collection of memories and observations.
He tells the story, and the art of telling the story is as enjoyable as the stories themselves.
In writing about the somewhat neglected concept of calling, he makes the observation that being a disciple of Jesus is not our idea. We didn’t volunteer, we were called. And that stops our service being about ourselves and makes it about the one who idea our service originated from.

In a rare lapse into autobiography, Isaiah dates his call, “In the year that king Uzziah died,” leaving us to speculate why the death of the king was significant in the young prophet’s vocation. Methodists adore this passage. Our Methodist national anthem is based on Isaiah 6, Dan Shutte’s “Here I Am, Lord.” Few Methodists make it through two stanzas of this hymn without volunteering to go evangelize Zulus or at least to shed a maudlin tear.
Here I am, Lord, is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. … I will go, Lord, where you send me … I …
Note the prevalence of the first—person personal pronoun as vocation degenerates into volunteering. Rather than risky encounter with a summoning God, worship morphs into sappy songs, syrupy clichés on the screen, followed by the sharing of tiring details about our personal lives at the coffee hour. Christian preaching slides into “Come right over here and sit next to me. I’m dying to tell you all about myself,” and theology becomes commentary on human experience of God rather than God. Interiority writ large.
Here I am, Lord overlooks a great gift of vocation: rescue from our overly cultivated subjectivity. Vocation’s power, said Hermann Hesse, is when “the soul is awakened…, so that instead of dreams and presentiments from within a summons comes from without,” and an external relation “presents itself and makes its claim.”
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Vocation is not evoked by your bundle of need and desire. Vocation is what God wants from you whereby your life is transformed into a consequence of God’s redemption of the world.
Will Willimon, Accidental Preacher, Eerdmans, 2019, pgs 51-52, 54.


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The Church Is God’s Incubator For Making Disciples (via Stan Gale)

Stan Gale spent the days after his birth in an incubator. He received that life sustaining and growing support in isolation.
As a disciple of Jesus we are told that we need support for our life to be sustained and our growth supported. We need an incubator. But not in isolation.

The church is God’s incubator for making disciples. Through the means of grace made effective by the Holy Spirit, the church provides the light of God’s Word in an atmosphere oxygenated by prayer – the perfect environment for spiritual growth and development.
Unlike my time in a hospital incubator, the disciple is never released to be on his or her own. The need for Christ is constant and the church makes that apparent through celebration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, both of which sustain the disciple in this world and anticipate the world to come.
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If the church is an incubator for spiritual growth and development that means it is incumbent on those who lead to ensure that the church is functioning according to Christ’s design. The light of Christ must shine with clarity of God’s truth and warmth of His love. The atmosphere must be oxygenated with prayer in communion with God and dependence upon Him. Discipleship will not be reduced to mere information but transformation into maturity, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

Read Gale’s whole post here.


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Long Term Expectation Produces Short Term Obediences (via Scott Hubbard)

The expectations of an impatient culture run counter to the reality that growth is a long term process.
But the conviction of that long-term expectation does not manifest itself in frustration, or in complacency and inactivity.
Rather the expectation that we are growing like Jesus produces the immediate regular actions that produce that fruit.

From Scott Hubbard at Desiring God.

The long view of sanctification, received rightly, refashions our perspective on today. On the one hand, we will adopt humble expectations of today’s progress. The farmer plowing his fields does not expect to harvest a crop by evening; nor does the cross-country traveler expect to reach his home. The rhythms of the seasons and the breadth of the country have chastened their expectations.
The Christian seeking God should likewise not grow unduly discouraged when today’s efforts fail to yield immediate fruit. Scripture reading, prayer, fasting, and fellowship are less like the crank of a lever and more like the sowing of a seed. We plant, we water, and then we keep our eyes on the harvest.
On the other hand, however, the long view reminds us that today’s small acts of obedience are of the utmost importance. The steps we take today may not take us all the way to glory — true. But we will never reach glory unless we keep stepping.

Read the whole post here.


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The Preached Word – Where God And His People Meet (via Kanishka Raffel)

There is something that can be anticipated when God’s people hear God’s Word preached.
Gathering should be a time of expectancy that God’s Word will be explained, and part of that explanation will be how the portion of Scripture being preached upon should be applied in the lives of hearers.
This is not the work of the preacher or the hearers, as much as it is the work of God’s Holy Spirit.

From Kanishka Raffel:

The preacher and congregation must yield to the Holy Spirit in responding to Scripture. ‘For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any two edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart’ (Hebrews 4:12). As the content and purpose of the inspired text of Scripture is preached, the Spirit wields his Word in the congregation. To fail to respond would be to ‘distort the word of God’. When the Word is explained but not applied it suggests that God’s Word is merely of historical interest and makes no immediate demand upon those who hear it; or that Christian duty is fulfilled when we merely hear; or that God’s Word can be safely confined to Sunday morning sitting in church and need not trouble the hearers at other times; all of which are impossible.
It will always be right for a congregation to respond to God’s Word in repentance and faith (Acts 20:21). But the word of God’s grace that is ‘able to build you up and give you an inheritance among the sanctified’ (Acts 20:32) may call for obedience, love, effort, hope, fear and trembling, zeal, joy, praise, prayer, perseverance, contentment, endurance, patience, thanksgiving. The Spirit is the powerful presence of God in the preaching of the meaning and purpose of the words of Scripture so preachers must expect God to meet his people in the preaching, and the people must expect to make a response to God.

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What We Are

Disciples of Jesus are not subversives, we are not rebels, we are not anarchists; disciples of Jesus are light.

That is how we are the means by which God changes the world.


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Where God Will Lead His People This Week (via Scotty Smith)

Scotty Smith offers a prayer about where God leads His people.
Not where we’d go by our own decision, but it’s where we need to go.
It’s written for a Monday, but as the week flows along you can see how the prayer is being answered.

Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? Rom. 2:4

Heavenly Father, on this June Monday, we are so grateful for the riches of your kindness, forbearance, and patience. You have enriched us beyond all measure in Jesus.
All of these good gifts converge in this one verse from Romans. The most certifiably insane thing we do is to “show contempt” for these treasures. After all, this wonderful triad of graces will only take us to the address called freedom on the path called repentance.
Indeed, the Holy Spirit will never direct us to self-contempt or condemnation, but only to a place of greater liberty and Christlikeness. Because of Jesus’ finished work, your ongoing work in our lives — even when it hurts, is so good.
When we resist the convicting work of the Spirit and refuse to humble ourselves, we’re worse than silly. We’re toxically foolish. You give grace to the humble and resist the proud. Who in their right mind would ever want your resistance? We want grace, Father, as much as you will give us.
Thank you for leading us to humility, not humiliation; to shelter, not shame; to repentance, not penance. Thank you for teaching us that repentance is collapsing on Jesus as our righteousness, not making vain promises we can’t and won’t keep.
So kind Father, fill our week with the beauty of Jesus and quick repentances. As your kindness leads us to repentance, may it also lead us to loving others as Jesus loves us. Give us more joy in walking with you this week than being admired, appreciated, and applauded by our peers. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name.

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Think Advent, Not Adrenaline, When You Picture Life In Christ’s Church (via Chad Bird)

A reminder from Chad Bird that life as a disciple of Jesus is life with the Church; and growth as a disciple of Jesus with the church is a slow-cooker experience, not a microwave experience.

The work of Jesus in our lives, and in the life of his church, creeps along like that Matthew genealogy. It’s not radical, explosive, immediate, incredible, or any other dazzling adjective you can select from the Thesaurus of Spiritual Excitement. There’s no microwaving this sacred meal. It’s going to take time. It’s going to be humdrum most of the time. Worship won’t be an ongoing string of wow! mind-blowing! incredible! experiences that leave us tingling with the skintight closeness of the Spirit.
Jesus is more of a take-his—sweet—time gardener than an applause-inducing circus performer. Novelty is not his way. We often want it to be. Indeed, as the devil Screwtape brags in one of his letters to the junior tempter, “The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart.” Unsatisfied with the built-in rhythms of change in daily lie, “the horror of the Same Old Thing” demands novelty for novelty’s sake. “Unchanged” comes to mean “stagnant.” But think advent, not adrenaline, when you picture life in Christ’s church.

Chad Bird, Your God Is Too Glorious, Baker Books, 2018, 127.