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Anxious Pastors Leading Anxious Churches (via Sarah Condon)

Local churches don’t need more people to come along to save them.
They have the task of sharing with others about the one who has already saved them.

From Sarah Condon:

The fact of the matter is that most of our ideas about how to fix the church are terrible, my own included. We over-exaggerate what we can do, and we forget that nothing happens that has not first be named by God. We figure that our ministry du jour will grow the church because we love our latest idea, and if we love it, how can anything be wrong? Well if we love it, then everything can be wrong with it.
All of this makes for anxious pastors leading anxious churches. When we do not care about the ancient of days God who we worship, when we fail to see his hand guiding us, then we have only ourselves, our egos, and our interests to fall back on.
I believe this description applies to a great many of our churches: nice places, full of kind people, who are told, Sunday after Sunday, that they need to bring more people to church or do more work for Jesus. It can feel like scrambling to please an absentee parent. Our anxious hearts suffer, all a while trying desperately to do more and more for God Almighty.

Sarah Condon, Churchy, Mockingbird, 2017, PCs 152-153.


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Jesus And The Easter Effect (via Bryan Jarrell at Mockingbird)

An article at Mockingbird that reflects on the point that Jesus’ resurrection has a far more profound impact than someone simply coming back from the dead:

Reading the resurrection stories in the gospels, there are plenty of themes that the four authors want to emphasize. One among them is that the resurrection was a bodily resurrection—scars were preserved, fish was digested, hands were placed in wounds. Another is that the resurrection was an embarrassment to worldly powers, with heavy stones moved, Roman soldiers terrified, and religious authorities spreading cover-up propaganda. Equally as important to the story, however, is that The Resurrection is an act of divine love to the undeserved. Jesus appears to weeping women, terrified men, doubters, runaways, people who don’t know their bibles, and disciples who quit the business and went back to their day jobs. It’s almost as if a qualification for meeting with the resurrected Jesus is being a really bad disciple of Jesus.
Which is to say, The Resurrection isn’t just that someone rose from the dead. The reanimation of Lazarus didn’t inspire a women’s rights movement, nor did the resuscitation of the Rabbi’s daughter inspire a generation of self-emptying plague doctors. The good news is that the one who rose from the dead is, specifically and uniquely, Jesus of Nazareth, friend of sinners, love incarnate, son of God, and full of grace. It’s this particular Jesus that caused the disciples to reconsider time and space and Sabbath, and also, love and forgiveness and the entire nature of the divine. Replace this Jesus with anyone else, and the whole movement falls flat.

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.


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Two Expressions Of A Grace-Filled Church

This morning it occurred to me that in striving to nurture a grace-filled culture in a local church that there are two expressions of grace required.
The first of those is a culture of grace that frees people to be who they are; liberated from carrying the pretences and masks of self-protection that make them appear as people who have it all together.
The second of those is a culture of grace that enables us to love and support each other when we find ourselves with all these imperfect people around.
Otherwise you encourage people to be themselves, only to find yourself frustrated that they won’t get their acts together.
A grace filled church: a place where people can be who they are – instead of who they think people want them to be; a place where people accept each other and love each other for who they are – not what we’d like them to be.


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Christianity As Identity, Not A Magic Potion (via Sarah Condon)

From Sarah Condon’s book Churchy.

Everyone has wounds from childhood that will follow us into the grave. Christianity is not a magic potion to make our pain vanish. but it will tell you to whom you belong. That is the best way I can describe “putting on the armor of Christ” (Ephesians 6:11) We are not necessarily fighting a battle with other people so much as fighting our own well-developed patterns of self-loathing sin. … Jesus interrupts this destructive cycle. He puts a safeguard around our hearts and whispers, “Remember, you are mine.”

Churchy, Sarah Condon, Mockingbird, 2016, pg 36.


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Free To Pray Simply (via David Mathis)

David Mathis contrasts the access that we have to God through Jesus with the human tendency to add lots of words and phrases as we pray as if that gives us some form of control.
IF not having enough words or not having the right words hinders you from praying, you don’t understand Christian prayer.
From his article:

Liberty from heaping up worn and empty phrases, and from many words, is the glorious freedom in which we walk as children of the Father. When we pray — note Jesus’s when, not if — we come to a God who already has initiated toward us. We never introduce ourselves to his highness for the first time, or reintroduce ourselves suspecting he’s too important and busy to remember our name. Prayer is not a conversation we start, but a response to the God who speaks first, calls first, and claims us as his own, even before we return interest in faith and prayer.

Read the whole post here.


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The Eradication Of Shame (via Scotty Smith)

Scotty Smith provides these words, an encouragement as Jesus’ people prepare to gather in worship tomorrow:

Heavenly Father, drive the good news of these Scriptures deep, deep, deep into our hearts, for shame has marked and marred many of us. Heal and free us, by the power and truth of the gospel.

“Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth.” Isa. 54:4 (ESV)
The eradication of all shame is one of the things I’m most looking forward about our life in the new heaven and new earth. Never again will we feel “dis-graced,” only “fully-graced.” Never again will we remember the shaming events of our childhood, or of our youth, or of our adult years. Never again will we feel the disintegrating and paralyzing power of shame, or the need to hide and cover up. Hallelujah!

The Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” Rom. 10:11 (ESV)
And there’s only one reason for such a hope: Because Jesus bore the full weight of our guilt and has broken the eviscerating power of our shame. To believe in Jesus is to trust in the One who was shamed for us on the cross—the One who doesn’t despise our weaknesses or our insecurities; nor does he turn away from us when we feel fractured or fragile; painfully self-aware or the pain of self-contempt. Indeed, Jesus has clothed our vulnerable nakedness with the garments of his grace. Hallelujah!

Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Rom. 5:5 (ESV)
Father, thank you that the promise of a shame-free eternity isn’t self-hype; it’s a sure hope. As we wait for the Day of no more shame, we now live in the day of your lavish love. You’ve poured your love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, and you’ll continue to do so. May the voice of the Spirit, witnessing to our beloved-ness, drown out all other voices pestering us about our brokenness. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name.

source.


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Dodge Reconciliation, Deny the Gospel (via Ray Ortlund)

Ray Ortlund explores the practical outworking of being reconciled to God on our personal relationships:
An excerpt:

Let’s ask ourselves some hard questions: Who are we keeping our distance from? Who are we avoiding? Who are we hoping we won’t run into around town? Whose presence makes us feel awkward because of some painful history? To whom might we owe an apology? If we say we love the gospel of reconciliation, can we let any relational breakdown go on and on without at least trying to reconcile? And if we are unwilling to try, then let’s admit it: we are trifling with God. We are, in practice, denying the gospel.
We prove our sincerity about the vertical gospel of reconciliation through our willingness to move toward horizontal relationships that need reconciliation. Maybe that person or that church or that group won’t listen to us. But still, we must try. And we might be surprised at how God blesses our imperfect but prayerful effort.

Read the whole post here.