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Good Churchmen (via David Burke)

It was good to see David Burke at the General Assembly of Australia this week.
He and Paul Cooper were launching their book Read In The Light, a compilation of essays relating to the Declaratory Statement that the Australian Presbyterian Church adopted at its formation which formalises its understanding of certain aspects of the Westminster Confession of Faith.
Anyway, David was reflecting on having heard of a couple of people being described as ‘churchmen.’
In a certain time that phrase may have described someone who seemed to have a higher loyalty to the institution of the church than to Jesus.
But David set himself the task of composing a positive formulation of what that description might mean.
“A good churchman is someone who sees and relates to the church in Christ. He is committed to the church through, in and for Christ. He values the church not in itself but as the body and bride of Christ. His loyalty to the church is conditional on and conditioned by his loyalty to Christ.”

Read his whole post at his blog.


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Laundering Frantic Distraction From Christians (via Stephen McAlpine)

Stephen McAlpine writes about church as a place of focusses attention, not impatient demand.
If Christians are to be salt and light, a non-anxious presence in an increasingly anxious culture then our gatherings would be well served to be measured and consistent.
This includes the impulse for non-stop music playing under every activity and word, or a passing parade of faces coming and going from the platform.
From McAlpine’s post:

Jesus lived the life of focussed attention. The world around him (“Everyone is looking for you Jesus!” says Peter) would drag him into frantic distraction. But, by the power of the Spirit, Jesus knew that his greatest asset was the focussed attention that would take him all the way to the cross in Jerusalem.
I don’t get the impression that people in our churches know how to do focussed attention all that much. I don’t get the impression that their work lives, social lives, social media lives, and family lives are built upon focussed attention. I don’t get the impression they are given much option anywhere in the world. Or at least nothing in the world invites them away from frantic distraction towards focussed attention.
So maybe that’s our job as church leaders. Maybe it’s the role of the church to launder the frantic distraction out of our people, in order to better equip them for life in a frantic and distracted world. In order to help them to be that non-anxious presence at work; that listening neighbour who has time on their hands; that person who they meet who needs help.

Read the whole article here.


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Learning To Number Our Days (via Michael Kelley)

Michael Kelley writes a four point reflection on the phrase from the Psalms ‘teach us to number our days.’
Why?

We naturally assume that there will always be tomorrow – that there will always be another chance for this or that. We become procrastinators in our arrogance, assuming that the limited number of days we have on this earth will never come to an end. Because we drift toward this kind of arrogance in which we are the charters of our own destiny, we need God’s help to have a true gauge of our own mortality.
This is the point James made in James 4, a chapter diagnosing the disease of pride, when he reminded us all that we should be careful about assuming on the time-table of our lives. Even in things like planning trips, meetings, and anything else, we would do well to remember that “you don’t even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes” (James 4:14).

Read the whole post at Forward Progress.


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You Must Take Up Your Cross As Often As You Put It Down (via Connor Gwin at Mockingbird)

A reflection on the Christian life as a long obedience in a consistent direction.
This is not a process where Jesus gets us in, and then we set to work to keep ourselves in.
This is a constant remembering of the fact we’re only in because of what Jesus has done.
The more our lives change, the easier it is to forget that truth.
From Connor Gwin, writing at Mockingbird:

It takes more than praying a certain prayer. It is not a ‘one and done’ situation. You must lay down your life anew each day or each moment. You must be born again and again, over and over. You must take up your cross as often as you put it down.
For “the flesh is willing but the spirit is weak” (Mt 26:41). In our weakness, we grasp for control and power.
When we think we have control over our lives, we run ourselves ragged. When we feel like the masters of our own fate, we drive ourselves into the ditch. The world promises that we can do all things by our own sheer willpower. We are told that we can accomplish all of our dreams through nothing but our own effort, but that path is the expressway to death.
Paul writes it this way: “You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else” (Eph 2:1-3).
It is only through surrendering our lives, letting our ‘selves’ die, and following Jesus that we find life, real life, and rest.

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.


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Killing The Many Sins Of Ministry (via Peter Adam)

Peter Adam points out that being in pastoral ministry is not being in an environment that automatically promotes growth in Godliness and firewalls the pastor from sin.
The opposite is true.
Pastoral ministry provides a rich environment of stumbling blocks through which temptation yield the fruit of besetting sin.
Pastors can learn and those who pray for pastors can be informed of the spiritual warfare your prayers sustain your pastor through:
From Adam’s article:

People sometimes say to me, ‘it must be wonderful to do Christian ministry as your job, because it must keep you free of sin.’
I reply, ‘actually, it increases temptation and opportunity for sin, and opens up many more possible sins to commit. It also increases responsibility not to sin, because we who teach will be judged with greater strictness’ (James 3:1)!
If you found that unconvincing, you might like to think on the fact that many of our strengths and gifts carry with them potential sins.

Read the whole post at Gospel Coalition Australia.


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When You’re A Disciple Of Jesus, There Will Be Bound To Be Bonfires (via Will Willimon)

If you think that becoming a disciple of Jesus will lead to a settled, monotonous, status-quo, life that you’re in control of, think again.
From Will Willimon’s memoir, Accidental Preacher.

It’s odd that some characterize God’s creative work as the making of order and stability. I’ve found the opposite to be true; you’ll know it’s the Trinity if it’s disruptive. Because of God’s refusal to leave well enough alone, Christians’ lives are always on the verge of being out of control. Jesus intrudes among us not to care but to call. Disciples are made, not born. Jeremiah compared God’s ways with Israel to a potter pounding a lump of clay to make something out of a mess of mud (Jer. 18:1-12). Disruption — conversion, metanoia, relinquishment, detoxification, purgation, renovation—characterizes the work of the divinepotter who pounded Abraham, Mary, Paul, and maybe me. There are bound to be bonfires..
Will Willimon, Accidental Preacher, Eerdmans, 2019, pg 92.


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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.