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Living Between ‘Personal Power’ And ‘Presuming Providence’ (via Mike Emlet)

Mike Emlet encourages us to find the line that has trust in God’s providence on one side, and reliance on our effort and initiative on the other.

it’s easy to become imbalanced and to drift into either the “power mode” or the “presumption mode.” In the power mode, we take charge of our lives as though human responsibility were the only piece of the equation. Overplanning is common in this scenario. Here there is a functional absence of a sovereign God—we, of course, acknowledge God’s sovereignty, but practically speaking, it doesn’t affect our daily lives. On the other hand, there is a magnified emphasis on secondary causes. As a result of these imbalances, we may be tempted toward anxiety, fear, over-control, over-responsibility, perfectionism, and anger. Why? Because we think it’s all up to us.
In the presumption mode, we let go of our lives as though God’s sovereignty were the only piece of the equation. Little or no planning is common. Here there is a magnified emphasis on God’s sovereignty but a functional absence of secondary causes. As a result of these imbalances, we may be tempted toward laziness, passivity, stoicism, fatalism, and indecision. Why? Because we think it’s all up to God.
Scripture steers clear of either extreme. We are called to live neither by power nor by presumption. God’s Word provides an alternative: prudence. Prudence involves wise and prayerful planning. It is characterized by a robust view of God’s sovereignty and providence—He is responsible. Further, it retains a proper emphasis on secondary causes—I am responsible, too. We see this dual emphasis throughout the entire Bible. Time and time again, Scripture calls us to trust God’s providential care and to plan well and work hard in various spheres of life.

Read the whole article at Ligonier.


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Anger Management When The Anger Is With God (via Bonnie Zahl)

Anger with God is not unbelief.
It is an aspect of faith that has reached its current limitations.
Bonnie Zahl writes about the various ways in which a relationship with God will sometimes find us in pain and wrestling with him.
Being in relationship with other Christians we need to grow together in grace and patience to bear one another through these dark seasons.

In my many years of speaking with people who are angry at God, I have never met a person who told me that what they needed was a reminder of how to think correctly about their situation. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest the opposite: studies show that if people are made to feel judged, ashamed, or guilty about feeling angry at God, they are more likely to continue feeling angry at God, to reject God, and to use alcohol and other substances to cope. In contrast, people who said they were supported when they disclosed their anger reported greater engagement in their spiritual life and more spiritual growth as a result of the difficult experience.

Read the whole article at Mockingbird.


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Grumbling: Putting God In The Dock And Finding Him Guilty (via Tim Chester)

God’s people can be singing his praise and grumbling against him in a matter of days, hours, or minutes.
Tim Chester writes about how easily we can lose perspective and how quickly our hearts can harden:

It’s sometimes said that most Western societies are three days of empty shelves from civil disorder. We appear to live peacefully together—but if something went wrong with food supplies, then it would only take three days before rioting and looting broke out. That’s certainly how it was among the Israelites.
The Israelites have been rescued from Egyptian slavery in the most dramatic fashion. They have seen the hand of God parting the Red Sea and defeating the Egyptian army. They have sung, “The Lord is my strength and my defence … In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed” (v 2, 13). But all that was three days ago. Today they are hungry and they are grumbling.
When we think of it like this, the Israelites’ grumbling is ridiculous and inexcusable. But then think about your own life. Perhaps you sing of God’s unfailing love on a Sunday morning. But three days later — or maybe three hours later — you are grumbling. Think of all the things that God has done for you. Think of all he has promised to you. But think, too, how easily you lose a sense of perspective. Think how much better you are at seeing what you do not have than what you do have. All we see is bitter water. All we see is our problem or lack.

Read the rest at Core Christianity.


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There’s Always A ‘Next’ When You’re Following Jesus (via Michael Kelley)

The maturity of disciples of Jesus shows in a consciousness that expresses humility about of how far we have to go, not pride in how far we have come.
From Michael Kelley:

We are on this road – on this walk – not because of our achievement but because of God’s grace in the gospel. And we continue on this road – on this walk – not from a sense of achievement but empowered by that same gospel. That’s why there is always a “next” when it comes to following Christ.
When we first start following Jesus, the “next” might be that we need to attack some moral impurity. Then the “next” might be the easier-to-hide sins of greed and pride. Then the “next” becomes how to live like a Christian in marriage. Then the “next” is how to die to our own preferences and desires as we seek to raise and lead our children. Next, next, next all the way until the “next” is how to die like one who follows Jesus. There is always a “next.”
But the gospel transforms this ever-present “next” of following Jesus. See, our “next” is not to merit favor. It’s not that with each “next” we think, Perhaps now at last I will at last be good enough to warrant the love of God. No, the gospel transforms our “next” in that we are growing into what we have already become.

Read the whole post at Forward>>Progress.


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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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Why Church Should Be Nothing Like Cross-Fit (via Connor Gwin at Mockingbird)

I’ve been dabbling a little bit in personal fitness for a while now, so I’ve got lots of respect for those who exercise.
This article by
Connor Gwin on Mockingbird
interacts with popular thought about why gyms and exercise fill a space in some modern lives that used to be filled by church.
It wants to tease out that the thought that people can find more personally meaningful “content and wisdom and community” in gyms is because the church has been conditioning them to expect the wrong thing.
There are texts in the New Testament that utilise athletic metaphors, but they are not based so much in self-improvement as they are in increased resting in the finished work of Christ in order to grow more like him.
From the article:

What troubles me is that we so easily make the jump from church to gym.
This argument of the Vox article starts from the assumption that religion and religious institutions are “providers of content and wisdom and community.”
From the outside, this is an easy assumption to make. Those of us within the church can fall into this trap too easily as well. The church is not just a provider of content and community. Ritual is not “this really helpful way of making people think of something greater.” The church and the rituals contained therein are forms of participation in reality as opposed to the delusion of my own sinful understanding.
The church does not exist to “make people better” like CrossFit. The church exists first and foremost for the worship of Christ and the proclamation of his Gospel. This sole focus serves to remind people who they are and to proclaim the Good News that we cannot make ourselves better but there is One who makes us whole.
The church is not a provider of spiritual wisdom, but foolishness. It does not exist for improvement or even growth. Saying that CrossFit is the logical home for those who no longer darken the doors of the church is an indictment of the church more than anything.
It shouldn’t be an easy walk from the pew to the weight bench, but it is made easy by a Christianity that looks more like a spiritual fitness program than a Gospel balm.
Any mention of “nones” and someone will mention the “dones,” those who are burned out and tired of giving their all to the church. For the “dones,” the prospect of endless burpees sounds better than one more sermon about the next political issue they need to care about or the next moral ladder they need to climb.
What is happening in the church when the Workout of the Day sounds like better news than the Gospel?
Jesus is not a personal trainer or a guru espousing wisdom. Jesus is Lord, and he calls to each of us, saying, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.


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Encouraging Involvement In Small Group Ministries (via Ed Stetzer)

Ed Stetzer writes a post about encouraging involvement in small group ministries:

Through teaching biblically, promoting incessantly, and leading organizationally, we can encourage our brothers and sisters to get involved with small group ministries.
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On promotion:
Promote it incessantly
People need to hear about small groups all the time. The more you can promote it, the more likely they are to understand the importance of small groups. I would try to mention small groups in some form or fashion in every service. An ongoing, incessant discussion of small groups is key.

Read the post here.