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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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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.


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Growing New Instead Of Growing Old (via Abigail Dodds at Gospel Coalition)

Abigail Dodds writes an article that directly addresses women, but speaks to the experience of every Christian.
She contends that increasing age should represent a growth in more that the number of candles on our birthday cakes.

Now, instead of growing old, we are growing new. The mature Christian woman is the one who has been new for a long time. The mature Christian woman is the one who’s been with Christ long enough to have the unbelief of adulthood reworked into childlike faith. The mature Christian woman is the one who, though outwardly wasting away, is getting newer every single day (2 Cor. 4:16).
Yet how can a mind that’s growing old and forgetful also grow new? We all use our minds on something; perhaps not through relinquishing brain cells via childbirth, but in some form or another, our minds are spent. I have given my mind to storing information like: the location of the stray sock belonging to the 11-year-old, what chapter the 8-year-old needs to finish for history this week, when early bird registration ends for my oldest kids’ youth retreat, who needs new snow boots this year, what meetings my husband has this week. And even more importantly: what area of discipleship needs attention in each child, what godly habits could use further cultivating, what opportunities were missed last week for building up, connection, and growing together. All the data and information at times seem to crowd out coherence! What am I but a jumble of seemingly random, but repetitive, facts and concerns?
But this is a fertile place for newness to grow—in a mind and heart stuffed with the details and rhythms of life, worn out in the work God has entrusted. Our minds aren’t compromised by being used up; they’re replenished with something better than sharpness or quick-wits or brilliance. They’re replenished with a dependent wisdom that only Christ can supply, so that over the course of our lives—as we give away our brain space for the sake of those around us—we gain a mind that holds more than ours ever could have. We gain the mind of Christ, filled with humility, trust, and faith.

Read the whole post at Gospel Coalition.


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Looking At Problems From Heaven’s Perspective (via Joni Eareckson Tada)

Joni Eareckson Tada is well known as a Christian how ministers from a life experience as a paraplegic.
In an article taken from her book Heaven she recounts a situation where, after another painful physical therapy situation, she hears a question, and responds:

“I bet you can’t wait for heaven. You know, like Paul said, ‘We groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling’” (2 Cor. 5:2).
My eyes dampened again, but this time they were tears of relief. “Yeah, it’ll be great.”
In that moment, I sat and dreamed what I’ve dreamed of a thousand times: the hope of heaven. I recited 1 Corinthians 15 (“The perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable”), mentally rehearsed a flood of other promises, and fixed the eyes of my heart on future divine fulfillments. That was all I needed. I opened my eyes and said out loud, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”
This experience often occurs two or three times a week. Physical affliction and emotional pain are, frankly, part of my daily routine. But these hardships are God’s way of helping me to get my mind on the hereafter. And I don’t mean the hereafter as a death wish, psychological crutch, or escape from reality—I mean it as the true reality.
Looking down on my problems from heaven’s perspective, trials looked extraordinarily different. When viewed from below, my paralysis seems like a huge, impassable wall, but when viewed from above, the wall appears as a thin line, something that can be overcome. It is, I’ve discovered with delight, the bird’s-eye view found in Isaiah 40:31: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Read the whole post at Christianity Today.


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Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 44

Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 44

113.
Q. What is required in the tenth commandment?
A. That there should never enter our heart even the least inclination or thought contrary to any commandment of God, but that we should always hate sin with our whole heart and find satisfaction and joy in all righteousness.

114.
Q. But can those who are converted to God keep these commandments perfectly?
A. No, for even the holiest of them make only a small beginning in obedience in this life. Nevertheless, they begin with serious purpose to conform not only to some, but to all the commandments of God.

115.
Q. Why, then, does God have the ten commandments preached so strictly since no one can keep them in this life?
A. First, that all our life long we may become increasingly aware of our sinfulness, and therefore more eagerly seek forgiveness of sins and righteousness in Christ. Second, that we may constantly and diligently pray to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, so that more and more we may be renewed in the image of God, until we attain the goal of full perfection after this life.