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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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The Legalist’s Spirit (via Sam Storms)

Legalism among Christian disciples is the product of misplaced or misundertood trust that diminishes grace.
From Sam Storms:

Legalists feel good when they can identify another person’s errors. It reinforces their feelings of superiority. They actually think themselves more spiritual, more godly, and more favored and loved by God.
There’s a flip side to the legalistic spirit. In addition to being quick and dogmatic in identifying the small and rare failures of others, the legalist never acknowledges his own faults and failures. To admit and confess to sin or misjudgment is to run the risk of losing power, losing face, or losing prestige.
What drives this spirit? It is the belief that one’s own efforts and achievements merit acceptance with God and approval from men. Instead of resting in Christ’s achievements, confident of what he has done for us, legalists redouble their own works and take pride in what they do in view of what others don’t.
Look again at Mark 2:24: “And the Pharisees were saying to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’” Or again, Mark 3:2: “they watched him closely” (niv). That’s the legalists’ spirit: always on the lookout for someone else’s sin; always scanning the horizon for someone’s failure to measure up to their rules, rules that aren’t in the Bible; always spying on the behavior and beliefs of the other person to root out the slightest deviation from their traditions. They nitpick and judge, nitpick and judge, nitpick and judge!

Read the whole post at the Crossway Blog.


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The Day Jesus Said “I’ve Got This” (via Stephen McAlpine)

Stop whatever you’re doing and read Stephen McAlpine’s post The Day Jesus Said “I’ve Got This”.
No excerpts, no quotes, the whole thing is a highlight.
Really.
Read it.


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The Disappointment We Must Control (via Ralph Davis)

There is a form of remembering the goodness and grace of God that can kill faith in the present.
Ralph Davis, from a study on Ezra:

The Disappointment We Must Control – Ezra 3:12-13
What a mixed response! From Ezra 3:12b it looks like the memory of the first temple clouded the day for some (see 1 Kings 5-7on Solomon’s temple). The older folks could still recall that magnificence. And they could tell from the foundation of this projected temple that it would have none of the “pizzazz” of Solomon’s. There is no problem here with the candor of their weeping, but there is a danger in it – it could color the whole occasion. But you can understand them, can you not?
In 1953 my father purchased a new car, a 1953 Chevrolet. As usual, he selected the most basic, stripped-down, economical model. He bought the “150” model, which had black rubber instead of chrome trim on the back fender. There was no radio. It had only regular hubcaps, no wheel covers, and a standard transmission, no “Power Glide.” It was nothing like the fine looking “Bel Air” model. This second temple was a “150” model, and a major disappointment to those who had seen Solomon’s Bel Air style.
Sometimes nostalgia like this can kill a church. We can also have problems if a church does not meet our expectations in its ministry or fellowship. In our culture of hyped-expectations, we tend to think that what is low-key, ordinary, plain, simple and quiet must be rather worthless – and this attitude can infect God’s people. Sometimes we can be so caught up in desiring revival (not a series of meetings, but when God’s Spirit is poured out in a striking way) that we may forget that it’s possible to be faithful even when God doesn’t send revival. We can still engage in family worship, sincere public worship, loving intercessory prayer, consistent Christian living in school or workplace. Don’t despise the “day of small things” (Zech 4:10). What matters is not whether the church is grand, but whether she is genuine. The question is not “Is it jazzy here?” but “Is Jesus here?”
Can the people of God live through their gray days? Yes, by running with their fears to worship their Savior; by expecting that though God has dashed their hopes they will yet see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living; and by being content when God prefers to work in plain, ordinary, non-sensational ways.

source


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The Most Trustworthy Element In Our Day (via Scotty Smith)

A prayer for those days when things are a bit blergh.
When you’re somewhere between the two sons of Luke 15.
From Heavenward, by Scotty Smith.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:20

Heavenly Father, I’m not beginning my day in a faraway country derelict, disillusioned, and destitute. Though I’m capable of anything, I’m not sitting here filled with shame for squandering an inheritance. And neither am I out in a field feeding somebody else’s pigs. Yet I’m just as much in need of fellowship with you as any of your broken children. So here I come.
Because the gospel is true, I bring you my busy, easily-distracted, somewhat-blasé heart. I feel like a 3rd Luke 15 son right now—a hybrid of the Father’s two boys Jesus described. I’m not on a hedonistic holiday, and I’m not spewing the toxins of self-righteousness. I’m just somewhere in between. I still hear and love the music of the gospel, but I just don’t feel like dancing right now. I’m not cold, hot, or lukewarm. I’m just here.
So, Father, as I come to you today, I take great comfort in knowing that we’ll always find you filled with compassion for us, even when our feelings are not fully engaged with you. As we saunter toward you, you’re always running toward us in Jesus. When we’re not as inclined to lift our arms in praise to you, your embrace is the most trustworthy element in our day.
You don’t just put your hand on our shoulders; you throw your arms around us in the gospel. And though our affection for you wavers, you shower us with multiple kisses all day long, for you love your children with an everlasting, unwavering love.
It’s not my fired-up-ness, but your faithfulness that counts. It’s not my peace with you, but your peace with me that is the anchor for my soul. Because the gospel is true and good, I will seek to live and love to your glory today. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name.

Source


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J.B. Roane And The Case Of The Belated Apology by Larry Parsley

At Mockingbird Larry Parsley offers a piece of short fiction featuring J.B. Roane – Pastor for Hire.
Rev. Roane is engaged by a man named Thornton who needs his assistance in conveying a belated apology.
“I’d like to hire you for job. It’s a little out of the ordinary. I should be able to do it myself, but dang it, I just can’t.”
If subsequent offerings remain at this standard I’d look forward to a collection.
Have a read at Mockingbird.


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Nobody Welcomes Grace. At The Same Time Everybody Pants For It (via Paul Zahl)

Grace has to be the total paradigm, mix it with anything else and it can’t exist.
From Paul Zahl.

How can grace end-run its way around standards and yardsticks? It sounds unfair.
It is unfair, but it is completely unfair. It is the other side of the law, which is total grappling, a totally unsuccessful and failed grappling, with judgment. Because the law is completely fair, grace has to be completely “unfair.” The atonement makes grace “fair,” as is apparent in the teaching concerning the cross, But from our point of view, from the standpoint of its recipient, grace is unfair.
The unfair character of grace makes it persona non grata in the cut-and-thrust of the battle of life. Nobody welcomes grace. At the same time everybody pants for it; everybody wants it every second of every hour. Grace is an either-or proposition; it is not both-and.

Grace In Practice, Paul F. M. Zahl, Eerdmans, 2007, pgs 70-71.