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The Need For Both The Cross And The Resurrection At The Same Time

These words were written with the season of Lent in mind, but they could easily be true of Good Friday as parts of Protestantism observe it.

Each year we spend forty days pretending Jesus is going to die; we go hungry and grow—despite ourselves—angry; we prepare for what is going to take place. But it has, dammit, it has taken place. Christ has died and redeemed us and has risen from the dead. We are new and alive. Love should be our concern now (read St. Paul) and instead we mope around and bewail our sins, which have killed our Savior. Well I have more to bewail than anybody, of that I am certain, but I’m tired of bewailing and I’m tired of going hungry and growing angry, and I’m tired of pretending Christ is going to die. I am forgiven my sins and the bridegroom is among us.

The focus on resurrection is similar, though,

On the other hand, there is the current tendency to concentrate only on Easter, only on the risen Christ. We are saved. We are good. This is the Worship tendency;…

Christians need both. At once. All the time.

The relation must be made between the absurdities of existence and the coherence of Christianity, between Lent and Christ suffering in our contemporaries, between Easter and Christ showing us our ultimate triumph. Lent and Easter are not merely personal experiences. They reassert the divine economy of salvation. It is criminal, therefore, to reduce Lent to self-reproach and Easter to self-complacency.

Mockingbird.


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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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True Piety Is Not Self-Centered (via Hywel Jones)

The experience of Job recounts a faithful and human expression of trust in God through a time of great suffering and confusion.
Hywel Jones points out that we should be encouraged to know that God was not an inactive party throughout Satan’s assault on Job, and that after Job’s vindication there is a touching example of true graciousness toward those who had been part of Job’s affliction by their error:

…it might seem as if Job is left unaided in his struggle with the powers of darkness. That is not the case. The Lord boasts of him to Satan and has his eye on him all the time. Throughout his struggle Job is graciously, though unconsciously, supported by God, and occasionally he is given some glimmers of light as he pioneers his way toward God. His very persistence in addressing God by way of appeal and accusation and also arguing with his friends and rejecting their counsel is a manifestation of his being upheld by God. It is not only dark thoughts that spring up in the mind unbidden, but also thoughts that inspire hope, even if it is only faint hope. Finally and climactically, when he is sure that he is about to die, he is given to know that his “kinsman-redeemer lives,” who will ensure that Job will see God again on his side. This is a sovereign intervention in a situation where Satan seems dominant. It is, as James says, great compassion.
Job has found solid ground under his feet. His outlook clears and he sees that the argument of his friends—that suffering is always traceable to sin—is a paper tiger, for the wicked do not always suffer (chapter 24). He gains the ascendancy in the argument and reduces his friends, and with them Satan the accuser, to silence. Job triumphs over Satan for God and godliness.
God therefore had his own purpose in allowing Satan to test Job. This is what James calls “the end of the Lord.” It is to show great compassion and mercy and to bless Job more than he had previously done. When the Lord appears, it is to judge and to save as James declares (5:9 and 11). He humbles Job for his outspokenness but still owns him as he did before the trials began, calling him “my servant.” Surprisingly, God says that Job had spoken what is right about him, whereas the friends had not.
This probably refers to the issue that is at the center of the debate between Job and his friends, namely whether God is punishing Job on account of his sin or not. God says that Job is not a hypocrite, and God further exalts Job by telling the friends to go to him as to a priest and that he will accept Job’s prayer for them. It is striking that Job prays for them before he is restored, and that it is as he prays for them that he himself is restored. True piety is not self-centered.

Read the whole post at Core Christianity.


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Sometimes We Forget We’re All The Wrong Sort Of People (via Larry Parsley)

In a book of devotions drawn from the Gospel of Mark, Larry Parsley reflects on the observation that Jesus attracts the wrong sort of people, and sometimes some of us can forget that we’re the wrong sort of people too.

Parsley concludes his devotion with a story that most pastors have experienced in one form or another:

Years ago, at a heated church business meeting, an older man rose to take issue with our pastor and the many changes he had made to reach people who don’t go to church. This man complained how new neighbors from highly churched backgrounds were not interested in our church anymore. And then he leveled what he must have thought was his most devastating indictment: “Since you came to be our pastor, the wrong kind of people are coming to our church.”
Exactly.
Jesus, thank you for welcoming the wrong kind of people…like me.

Read the post at Mockingbird.


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The Spiritual Dangers Of Disconnecting From Creation (via Scott Martin at Gospel Coalition)

I do spend an hour and a half outside most days walking, but I’m not a huge fan of nature.
To say the least.
It’s a pretty well-known thing that anyone who knows me has heard about.

This article by Scott Martin points out how not experiencing creation on a regular basis cuts a person off from experiencing aspects of God’s presence, power, and character.

From the article:

… in our post-industrial societies, humans are growing increasingly distant from the wonder and communicative power of creation. Climate is controlled by a thermostat. Our windows rarely open. We need not notice weather, the seasons, and other cycles of creation unless we want to. Our food is delivered without any dirt getting under our fingernails, from places we know not where, in seasons of harvest we know not when. We barely notice when trees bud or creeks rise.
What do we lose in the Christian life without meaningful, intentional immersion in and connection to creation.
We lose a dimension of the grandeur and glory of God. We lose a sense of the sublime that we experience standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, staring down mortality in a Class V rapid, or intentionally exposing ourselves to the brutality of a winter storm. We lose a sense of wonder when we aren’t planting flowers, harvesting food in our garden, or watching a bird built a nest. We miss opportunities for gratitude and worship when we don’t take time to pause before the simplicity of a tree, taking in its bark, leaves, shape, form—and realizing this little piece of nature is perfectly achieving the purpose God set for it. John Calvin said, “There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in the world, that is not intended to make us rejoice.” But when we are far from the grass and colors of the world, we miss opportunities to rejoice.
We also miss a sense of healthy proportion and orientation. Exposure to creation reveals that we are small and God is big. It humbles us and reminds us of who we are in relation to a holy God.

Read the rest, along with some suggestions about how to reconnect with creation at the Gospel Coalition.


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The Importance Of The Christian’s Secret Life (via Derek Thomas)

Derek Thomas on the mark of Christian authenticity: our secret life.
For those whose calling involves public expressions of the Christian life, the challenge is to live as a disciple of Jesus when people can’t see us.
From the article:

Six times in the Sermon on the Mount, alluding to three distinct exercises, Jesus employs the term secret:

  • Give “in secret…and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:4).
  • Pray “in secret…and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (v. 6).
  • Fast “in secret…and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (v. 18).

The Sermon on the Mount is addressing the issue of authenticity. Just how genuine is our relationship with the Lord Jesus? It is altogether possible to practice an outward display of piety—to “talk the talk”—without demonstrating any inner reality of godliness. This is true of every professing Christian, and it is especially true of those engaged in Christian ministry.

Read the whole post at Ligonier Blog.