The Most Radical Thing I Do
I go to church to remind myself that I am sacrificially loved, therefore I can love (Philippians 2:1–18); to reject the bleakness of this world: ‘I consume, therefore, I am consumed’ (Colossians 3:1–10). I go to church because God enjoys it and I enjoy his joy in his people (Ephesians 1:3–10). I go to church because it is the unanticipated centre of what God is doing in our crazy, battered and beautiful world (Ephesians 1:15–22; Revelation 21:1–4).
I go to church.
To get there I pass through the shopping centre on its busiest morning of the week. The sports fields are crowded with players and spectators,the park run friends in their shorts and tees mingle with the lycra-clad cyclists, crowding the cafés. If you know where to look, you can sometimes catch glimpses of the yoga and meditation session in the community room. As I pull out into the dense traffic the world is full of people running errands, visiting open-air markets, piling into Bunnings, travelling to and from visiting family and friends.
Meanwhile, I go to church. Why?
After all, group exercise is good and necessary for physical, social and mental health; meditation can adjust our mood and re-centre our thoughts to a calmer mode; grocery shopping and the unending list of domestic projects need to be tackled sometime in our crowded week; friendships and family commitments are hard to maintain in our separated lives. These things can be good, even necessary. But still I go to church, for a short time of inefficiency, irrelevance and rebellion against our curated, self-improving, iLives.
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Why You Should Pray for Your Pastor and How to Pray for HimBy Christopher Poshin David — 10 months ago
By Christ’s intercession, prayers are divinely answered with lavish love and generous grace. Therefore, it is a true blessing for your church when you intercede for your pastor before your heavenly Father’s throne of grace.
When we think of people in the church who may need prayer, we often think of people struggling through life.
We pray for the single mother fighting to hold things together, the depressed young man unsure and anxious about his future, or the lonely widow who has just lost her husband after decades of being together.
My guess is that your pastor did not figure in your list of people to pray for at church.
Your pastor may not be struggling, but he needs your prayers.
He is the one who lovingly exercises God’s authority. He diligently preaches God’s Word, week after week. He tenderly shepherds you through life. So it might seem strange that you might pray for your pastor.
After all, isn’t it supposed to work the other way around? Isn’t your pastor supposed to pray for you? It is true that your pastor prays for you. But it is equally true and important that you pray for your pastor.
Your Pastor Needs Your Prayers
The apostle Paul, in his many letters to many churches, repeatedly appeals to the saints of God to pray for him and his ministry (Rom. 15:30; Eph. 6:19; Col. 4:3; 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1).
Paul planted churches throughout the known world both in Asia Minor and in Europe. If he needed the prayers of God’s people, be assured that your local pastor is no different.
As the American Presbyterian pastor, Gardiner Spring (1785-1873) said in an address, “When the churches cease to pray for ministers, ministers will no longer be a blessing to the churches.”
Paul considered those praying for him as partners in ministry (Rom. 15:30). When you pray for your pastor, you are not only ministering to your pastor but also partnering with him in ministry. You are sharing his sacred burdens as you intercede for him.
It is an encouragement and a delight for your pastor that you are praying for him. Pray for him and let him know you are praying for him.
In Indian culture, pastors are often idolised. We place them upon a pedestal as gurus and we are always looking up to them. So much so that we often do not see their need for God’s grace. Not surprisingly, we do not pray enough for them.
Your pastor needs your prayers—whether he asks you for it or not.
Here are five ways you can and should be praying for your pastor.
1. Pray for Your Pastor’s Spiritual Walk
The vitality of your pastor’s personal spiritual life directly affects his ability to minister to the congregation.
Do not assume that your pastor is immune to the temptations of sin, the weariness of the flesh, and the distractions of this world.
He is susceptible to every frailty and brokenness that affects men and women in this life. It is vital that his life is nourished by the steady grace of Jesus Christ.
Pray your pastor will find his joy and sufficiency in the justification of Christ alone and not upon the approval of men, or even his own self-estimation.
Offer up prayers that he would not be discouraged by Satan’s accusations of his sins and failures, but trust in the atoning work of Jesus.
Pray he would fall deeper in love with his Lord and Saviour. Ask the Lord to give him greater delight in his spiritual disciplines of grace.
Pray that he works out his salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), confident that he who began the good work will bring it to completion on the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).
Pray that his life would be one of authentic confession of sin and repentance. It is particularly tempting, in our Indian shame and honour culture, to hide sins and present an ideal self-righteous image of oneself.
Encore: Evangelicalism in 2020 and BeyondBy Mark Devine — 4 months ago
Looking over the last twenty years, it becomes clear that Keller-movement Evangelicals built platforms, brands, and messages in order to be found winsome by the blue communities they sought to reach. As with the old-line liberalism of Friedrich Schleiermacher, exquisite sensitivity to target audiences will shape the message delivered far more than its deliverers intended.
Tensions churning within the Keller-led Reformed resurgence among Evangelicals eventually found articulation among the movers and shakers themselves. In March of 2021, North Carolina pastor Kevin DeYoung acknowledged that the once nationwide, cross-denominational Calvinist party was effectively over:
On the other side of Ferguson (2014), Trump (2016), MLK50 (2018), coronavirus (2020–2021), George Floyd (2020), and more Trump (2020–2021), the remarkable coming together [of Reformed evangelicals] seems to be all but torn apart…We won’t be able to put all the pieces of Humpty Dumpty back together again…
DeYoung accurately identified pressing political realities as key factors in the break-up of the movement. We could add to DeYoung’s list of political flash points: the emergence of critical race theory (CRT), the crisis at the Southern U. S. border, Black Lives Matter, identity politics, and the stunning Biden-supported transgender rights campaign in the nation’s K-12 schools.
More fundamentally, however, are the political sensibilities that precipitated Humpty Dumpty’s fall from his wall. With such a promising start, the movement that put so much stock in being found winsome by its target audience found itself divided over branding strategies that could not please the full spectrum of Reformed evangelicals  Indeed, as a winsomeness campaign targeting blue communities not red, it resulted in a politically-subtle “seeker sensitivity” movement and a church growth model that aimed to please the so-called political party of “compassion,” not “conversativism.” In what follows, I will outline the fruit produced by Keller’s “Third Way,” and I will show how it has impacted Evangelicals.
Keller’s Third Way
Once again, the genesis of this commitment to winsomeness goes back to Tim Keller’s Third Way. As noted in my last essay, Keller encouraged Christian engagement with culture both as the path to clear communication of the gospel and as a necessary protection against compromise of the gospel message through unwitting capitulation to cultural rather than biblical norms. But Keller never called for and never modeled serious engagement with politics. Politics was treated as a dangerous threat to the gospel message and as a temptation to an idolatrous attachment of believers to one political party or to one politician. Accordingly, Keller tried to position his movement between the political parties and above politics writ large in a quest to avoid ongoing responsibility to weigh in on thorny political debates.
The attempt to inoculate his movement from a perceived political minefield appeared in Keller’s first book, the 2008 bestseller, The Reason For God. There Keller outlined for evangelical leaders his so-called “Third Way” whereby Christians could allegedly fly between and above liberal and conservative political loyalties. According to him, Republicans got some things right; Democrats were better on others. Between the two, however, there exists a rough moral equivalence and a freedom to vote as one pleases—or so the argument went.
Nestled in the heart of New York City, Keller’s Third Way appeared to have evangelistic traction in his secular locale. And many young, Reformed evangelicals followed his political example. Unfortunately, Keller’s commitment to winning blue communities with winsomeness broke through his supposed political neutrality. Keller and his followers offered too many reductive caricatures of the political left and right that incentivized critique of conservatives and showed openness to the contemporary social justice movement the Democratic party cherishes.
Keller credits the left with what they want but don’t deserve—the supposed reputation of compassion for the poor and love for justice. He then reductively defines conservatives as primarily concerned with eternal souls, the unborn, and money—a caricature that the left is happy to declare and then impugn. The Third Way means to make it kosher for ostensibly pro-life Christians to vote Democrat while giving an edge to Democrats on the compassion front. Although he identifies as pro-life, Keller recently tweeted, “The Bible tells me that abortion is a sin and great evil, but it doesn’t tell me the best way to decrease or end abortion in this country, nor which policies are most effective.” Really? It is possible that support for the Democratic party might offer “the best way to decrease or end abortion in this country,” when this party not only celebrates abortion on demand at every stage of pregnancy but looks to punish anyone who refuses to publicly celebrate such abortions? I think not!
For His Name’s Sake – And the Sake of OthersBy Bill Muehlenberg — 1 month ago
Often when I see wicked rulers all around me, I wonder why God just does not deal with the lot of them – now! But perhaps he has a lamp amongst us as well. This also is further speculation, but something to consider. Philip Graham Ryken offers these thoughts: The flame in David’s lamp would never be extinguished. . . . Whatever punishment Solomon endured as the result of his sin was not God’s final judgment, therefore, but only God’s fatherly discipline. It was corrective judgment to preserve his people, not destroy them. This is an important principle to understand about the way God works in the world.
Why do you do what you do? If you are a Christian you should be doing ‘all things for the glory of God’ as Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 10:31. That should be our bottom line. And we often read in Scripture of God doing something for his “name’s sake” – for the sake of his reputation and his glory. Here are a few of these passages;
1 Samuel 12:22 For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.
Psalm 23:3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Psalm 25:11 For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.
Ezekiel 20:44 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for my name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, declares the Lord God.”
Revelation 2:3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.
I have written previously about these matters, and how we should do things for the honour and glory of God: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2021/04/29/that-the-world-may-know/
But what is quite interesting – and quite amazing – is that sometimes we read of God doing something for the sake of someone else! Since I am reading through the books of Kings right now, I find this often in regards to King David. Here are the main passages, with the phrases in bold, as well as something I will speak to in a moment about Yahweh ‘leaving a lamp’:
1 Kings 11:9-13 And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen.”
1 Kings 11:30-36 Then Ahijah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. And he said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces, for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon and will give you ten tribes (but he shall have one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city that I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel), because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the Ammonites, and they have not walked in my ways, doing what is right in my sight and keeping my statutes and my rules, as David his father did. Nevertheless, I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, but I will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of David my servant whom I chose, who kept my commandments and my statutes. But I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand and will give it to you, ten tribes. Yet to his son I will give one tribe, that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen to put my name.
1 Kings 15:1-5 Now in the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam the son of Nebat, Abijam began to reign over Judah. He reigned for three years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. And he walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father.