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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.


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Following Jesus, The Pioneer Pilgrim (via Jonathan Gibson)

A reflection on the longing for the better world which Christians experience, and how Jesus has walked through the darkness of this life to bring us to eternity with himself.
From Jonathan Gibson:

One of the ways in which the Psalms connect to Jesus Christ is in the sphere of typological experience. The psalmist or the person described in the psalm (like the blessed man in Psalm 1, God’s anointed king in Psalm 2, or the righteous sufferer in Psalm 3) is a type of Christ in their experience. That is, the fullest and most perfect expression of their desires, disappointments, and sufferings is found in the life experience of Jesus Christ. In this regard, the psalms are not just about Jesus; they were also experienced by Jesus.
As the true, faithful Israelite, Jesus perfectly experienced the desires expressed in this psalm, especially the vivid, intense pulsebeat for heaven and for God. Jesus was the Son of Man, born of Mary, but throughout his life he never forgot that he was a son of heaven. During his earthly ministry, he wandered from place to place like his patriarch fathers before him. In fact, he didn’t even have a tent to dwell in. “Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20). Why? Because for the joy set before him, he endured the cross and then sat down at his Father’s right hand in his presence (Heb. 12:2). This world was not his home, he was just a-passing through.
The life of our Lord is one of those parts of the Bible—like those of the patriarchs in Canaan and those of the pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem—where the affectional pulsebeat for heaven, for God, is pumping strong. Jesus was the pioneer pilgrim, the one who in his earthly life embodied the perfect longing for heaven, the perfect longing for God. And because he perfectly lived out this longing, God looked with favor on him as our Anointed King. When Christ died, the temple curtain was torn in two: God removed the angelic barrier that had stood between him and humanity since the day Adam was expelled from the garden-temple of Eden.

Jesus loves me! He who died
Heaven’s gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let his little child come in.

And when God does let us “come in” to his heaven after our earthly pilgrimage, we will find that C. S. Lewis and Augustine were right: we were made for another world, we were made for God. The deep longings we experience now will be met then, fully and finally, not simply in heaven itself, but in God himself.

Read the whole post here.


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Aligning Ministry Service With Personal Narrative (via Stephanie Judd)

Stephanie Judd writes about aligning Christian service ministries with the personal narrative of individual Christians.

The church is not a sausage factory. It’s a dynamic, diverse group of people that God has brought together in Christ. That’s what makes the church so amazing. But what this means is that to see people really fly as volunteers, leaders of churches need to resist the urge to be more concerned with filling gaps in rosters than they are about helping people serve in a way that aligns with their personal narrative. We need to sit down with people and ask the following questions:

  • What does it look like for you to live faithfully and courageously for Christ this year?
  • What excites you?
  • What energises you?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What ministry sparks your interest? Why?
  • What do you want to get out of serving?
  • What are your present commitments and what do they demand from you?

Asking these questions can tell you a lot about a person. Not only is it going to give you a good idea of what role is going to see them thrive and be a source of ongoing joy and motivation, it also gives you a touch-point to come back to. Six months down the track in enables you to say: ‘At the beginning of the year you told me that you wanted to join the welcome team to connect with more people at church. Is that happening for you?’

Read the whole post at Gospel Coalition Australia.


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Vale Ron Clark

A blessing to watch the funeral of Rev Ron Clark today.
If you search on Facebook for Creek Road Presbyterian the video may still be available, and that can inform you about this gracious and committed disciple of Jesus.
Mention was made that a staple of Ron’s evangelistic ministry to children, the song Stop/Go wouldn’t be sung at the funeral. It wouldn’t have been out of place.
Among the privileges of knowing Ron was to be a leader on some upper-primary aged camps run by Ron in the late eighties – early nineties.
One of the songs Ron taught us hasn’t travelled too well, based as it is on the concept of the newspaper seller’s cry of Extra!.
Trying to explain special editions of evening newspapers being sold on street corners by youthful vendors seems a few too many bridges to cross these days.
But the lyrics, along with the rousing shout of the word ‘EXTRA’ as part of the song are an abiding memory of Ron’s love for the Gospel, his love for young people, and his contagious joy and enthusiasm.
Back in the day, a simple printed fold out poster were all the visual aid needed to lead a group of children in song.

The lyrics:
Good news! Good news! Christ died for me.
Good news! Good news! If I believe;
Good news! Good news! I’m saved eternally.
That’s wonderful EXTRA good news.

I found one recording of the song, but it has defied my attempts to embed it on this page.
Follow the link and it should open in a new page.

https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/218126116%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-UYVa0&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true

Or go to this page and find out more about the song.


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Giving Up Boundaries With Jesus The Boundary Crosser (via Sarah Condon)

It’s a constant challenge to live in the truth that people are our ministry, not an impediment to our ministry objectives. It seems modern ministry strategies judge people not on the degree they cling to Jesus, but on the degree they usefully support the local church’s program objectives.
From Sarah Condon at Mockingbird.

And nothing made the Pharisees angrier than Great Aunt Boundary-less Jesus. Because he took their boundary ridden law and raised it to completion in himself. He both ignored the boundaries and finished them. The failure to adhere to boundaries was no longer useful, because Jesus had come to be the Boundary. And mercifully, he had decided to let everyone through, no matter what.
By and large, I believe boundaries to be utterly useless, at least when it comes to the Gospel. I am not an idiot. I understand that there are people we need boundaries with. Abusive family members, angry people on the internet, and (maybe) even addicts. Boundaries in and of themselves are not bad. But as is her usual tendency, the Church takes a self-help concept and makes a gnostic gospel out of it.
The worst use of boundaries comes from the mouths of the pastors and priests of the church. All too often a “boundary” is insisted upon when the people in the pews are struggling with loneliness or mental illness or are simply annoying. But we label them as difficult and relegate them to the gnashing of teeth beyond our magically “self-actualized” boundary.
And woe be it unto the parishioner who has been labeled evil or even demonic for the sake of creating a hedge grove of shunning. But the hard truth is that people are not automatically evil if they get in the way of ministry. They are just people being very people-y. We would do well to remember that Jesus might have been able to cast out demons, but he had dinner with “difficult people” on the regular. And he loved them. Just as they were.
Of course, I am not certain that this insistence upon boundaries in the church is sheerly the fault of ordained people. I heard the word “boundary” used in seminary at least as much as I heard the name of Jesus invoked. Also worth nothing, you would be hard pressed to find many seminary professors who have run churches for any length of time. They do not know (or perhaps remember) that these are real people we are categorizing. They are not solely their sins. They are not their only their obnoxious tendencies. They are people marked beloved by God whether we like it or not.
In numerous parts of my life, I am unsure of What Jesus Would Do. But I do know what he has done. He was the great Boundary Crosser, the finisher of all of the boundaries we place around one another, and the Rescuer who crosses all of the practical and personal boundaries to get that one difficult sheep back into the fold.

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.


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Walking With Saints As They Near Home (via Zac Harrel)

Zac Harrel writes that amid a needed focus on discipling the young and newer Christians, there is a privileged ministry of pastoring senior saints as they near the end of their lives.
One of the ways we do that is through the ministry of presence:

Our wider culture wants to ignore and hide the dying, but the church cannot do this.
God has called us to shepherd his people in these last moments. Our presence reminds those we visit of God’s presence. It reminds them he is always there and will never leave nor forsake them.
God doesn’t call us to have all the answers. He calls us to be present. God doesn’t call us to have the right thing to say. He calls us to show up and to show his love.

Read the other two ministries at Gospel-Centered Disciples.