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Temptation Is Not the Same as Sin

Kevin DeYoung:

This truth is obvious from the Scriptures. In the Lord’s Prayer, we are taught to pray “forgive us our debts” and “lead us not into temptation” (Matt. 6:12-13). Debts and trespasses require forgiveness; temptation needs deliverance. They are not the same. Just because you are struggling with temptation does not mean you are mired in sin. The spiritual progression in the human heart goes from desire to temptation to sin to death (James 1:14-15). We are told to flee temptation, not because we’ve already sinned, but because in the midst of temptation we desperately feel like we want to. If being tempted was in itself a mark of wickedness, we could not confess that Jesus Christ “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). It is possible to experience profound temptations to sin while still being blameless from that sin.

Get The Work of Christ in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get The Work of Christ by R.C. Sproul for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Romans by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • Pillars of Grace by Steven Lawson (hardcover)
  • Foundations of Grace by Steven Lawson (ePub)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

The Number of Hours Keller, Piper, Driscoll (and 5 Others) Spend on Sermon Prep

Eric McKiddie:

There are various opinions on how long it should take someone to prepare their sermon for Sunday. There are minimalists, maximalists, and everything in between.

No matter where you are on the spectrum, it should comfort you to know that well known preachers span the entire spectrum. So how long do well known preachers take to prepare a sermon? Here’s what I found.

What Makes a Full Atonement Full?

Mike Wittmer:

Last month when the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Songs for the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to exclude “In Christ Alone” from its new hymnal, the chairwoman of the committee said the popular hymn mistakenly expressed “the view that the cross is primarily about God’s need to assuage God’s anger.”

Her comment reveals both a discomfort that many contemporary Christians have with God’s wrath and also an overly simplistic dismissal of penal substitution. We who believe the Son bore the Father’s wrath don’t narrowly think that assuaging this wrath is what the cross is “primarily” about. What happened on the cross is a bit more complicated.

 

The destination deepens the journey

Road-Wallpaper-Nice-Background-Wallpaper

Ralph Waldo Emerson (among others) famously said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” There’s a lot one can easily resonate with here. After all, it’s easy to become so consumed with a particular goal—with an ideal you want to get to—that you forget to live life right now.

But, honestly, this quote has always bothered me for one simple reason:

There’s no such thing as a journey without a destination. 

Let’s apply this to writing, specifically:

Whenever someone sits down to write, their goal is typically to persuade the reader of something, or to elicit some sort of emotional response. In non-fiction, it’s usually spelled out something like this:

  • In my first chapter, I will introduce my point.
  • The following chapters will provide you with several supporting arguments, and maybe even address some counterpoints.
  • My conclusion will confirm that we have indeed arrived at the point I set out to show you.

Pretty simple formula, right? But effective.

Fiction, though, is a different animal. With fiction, you don’t get a neat outline. You usually don’t know where you’re going until you get there. This is the drama of storytelling. The journey is crucial to making the point—but that point, that destination, will still make or break your book. It either makes you throw the book away, saying “Seriously? That’s where we ended up?” or it compels you to go back and re-read, to go on the journey again to see all the hints that were dropped along the way.

In good storytelling, the destination deepens the journey. 

It’s the same in life, too.

For the Christian, we know the destination—we know where all of this is heading. We know that there’s a day coming when this world and all God’s people will be remade, perfect and spotless, forever free from the curse of sin. God has promised this and it will surely come about.

And yet, we so often live as if we don’t know this. We get consumed with things that are less important and distract us from the destination. This is why Paul told the Colossians in the face of distracting (and destructive) false teaching, “If then you have been raised with Christ…set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Col. 3:1-2) And again he tells the Philippians:

…Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:12-14)

That, friends, is the goal. “The goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” To be with Christ. And this goal consumed Paul, to be sure—but it also informed all that he did. It’s this goal that allowed him to go to where Christ was not known, so that he might be the first to preach the good news. It was this goal that allowed him to suffer enormous hardship, multiple shipwrecks, numerous imprisonments, poverty and plenty and still say, “I am content.”

It’s the same goal that allowed Horatio Spafford to pen the words of his famous hymn, “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.”

In the Christian life, just like in good storytelling, the destination doesn’t distract from the journey—it deepens it. 

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Thoughts on street preaching

Jeremy Walker:

In recent weeks there has been a spate of arrests of Christian brothers in the UK involved in street preaching and other open-air witness. As someone who preaches in this way fairly regularly, this is obviously a matter of interest and concern, and that on a number of fronts. For the record, I do this because I think that it is a legitimate and potentially profitable way – one of many – of going outside the walls of our building to reach men and women, boys and girls, who have no appetite at present to come inside to hear the Word of God being proclaimed. I think we need to make a distinction between what we do in trying to gather a crowd to hear that gospel and what happened in, say, the Scriptures, when Christ had a crowd gathered with an appetite to hear him, or in the days of men like Whitefield when they were – initially – forced outside, and then had ready-made congregations. I also think we need to accept that, unlike somewhere such as the Areopagus, public discourse is no longer, in the culture of most in the modern West, an accepted mode of discussing and pursuing truth.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few new Kindle deals:

Grace Makes the Medicine Go Down

Dan Darling:

One of the things that confounds me, as a parent, is the refusal of my kids to take their medicine, even as they are crying out in pain. It’s particularly annoying in the middle of the night (you know, those few nights when it’s actually me getting up instead of my long-suffering and faithful wife, Angela).

I am second: Eric Metaxas

This is really good:

A Prayer for Christian Bloggers and Writers

Joey Cochran:

Lord, please be with these fine men and women who work delightfully hard to share and collaborate with a growing global community for Your name sake. Their gift and passion for writing deserves our gratitude. I ask Lord that you would guide them to write with integrity. May who they are in person be who they represent themselves to the digital community. Keep them honest. Protect them from plagiarism, especially the kind of plagiarism that takes credit and glory away from you, O God. You are the one who has pressed upon their heart what their fingers type.  May they ever praise You for their writing. May this community of bloggers and writers deal lovingly with one another. Build a kindred spirit of brothers and sisters who exalt You and proclaim the Gospel you delivered once for all for the saints.

The biggest challenge facing the church today

Paul Tripp:

Loving that which condemns us

Preaching the psalms can be tricky business. On the one hand, there are few better ways to help people see the “human” side of Scripture. So many psalms are almost shockingly emotional. They’re full of beauty and drama and imaginative poetic language…

And that’s also why they’re tricky.

While they’re incredibly human, beautiful and emotional, they’re also easy to misinterpret. If you don’t read them appropriately—as poetry, songs and prayers—you can wind up developing some pretty whack theology, thinking God the Father has a physical body (He doesn’t) or thinking God approves of dashing babies heads against rocks (ditto).

Worst of all, it’s really easy to miss an important truth:

The psalms are all about Jesus. 

In Psalm 19, for example, we see David exclaim the amazing reality of creation proclaiming God’s existence and work. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork,” he writes (Psalm 19:1). When we see amazing images from super-powered telescopes, we can’t help but be in awe of God’s creative power.

Source: NASA

Source: NASA

Even more down to earth, we have the consistent routine of the sun’s rising and setting, and can recognize that God is precise. He doesn’t do things willy-nilly. He abhors chaos.

And then the scene shifts to David extolling the virtues of the Law. “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple…” (19:7). David loves the Law. He loves God’s Word, as should we all. He loves it because it brings life. He loves it because it reveals God’s commands and HIs promises.

He loves it even as it condemns him in his sin.

This is where we can get into trouble, if we’re not careful. Remember, the Law itself cannot save—it’s not intended to do such a thing. The Law reveals our sin, but has not the power to free us from bondage to sin.

And yet, when we get to the end of the psalm, we see David throwing himself upon the mercy of his Redeemer. He pleads that God would declare him innocent of hidden faults and keep him away from overt, arrogant rebellion. He prays that he would be blameless before God.

So how did he get there?

Because he sees Jesus in the Law. David sees there’s no way for him to keep the perfect Law of God, nor can he possibly meet its standards. He is condemned under the Law—and yet it brings life. It “revives the soul.”

Why? Because from beginning to end, Jesus is there:

  • Jesus is the promised seed of the woman in Genesis 3.
  • Jesus is the true offspring of Abraham who would be a blessing to all nations
  • Jesus is the true Lamb, offered in place of Abraham’s son.
  • Jesus is the perfect sacrifice the imperfect sacrifices of the Law point to.
  • Jesus is the better priest in whose shadow the Levites stand.
  • Jesus is the greater prophet Moses promised would come.
  • Jesus is the faithful king to whom even Israel’s greatest king pledges allegiance.

And David, reading the Law, sees his Rescuer and Redeemer there. He knows this faithful King, this better Priest and greater Prophet is also the perfect sacrifice. Even in the midst of the Law’s righteous condemnation of David does he see his redemption. David loves that which condemns him because it holds out the hope of his salvation. When we read, preach or teach the psalms, we need to do the same.

Links I like

Everyone Has A Regulative Principle

David Murray:

Every Christian believes that there is an acceptable and an unacceptable way of worshipping God. Every Christian has a regulative principle, a rule (or rules) which regulates the content and conduct of worship. Even the most extreme worship leader has some limit on what he or she deems acceptable in the worship of God.

Listen to “Suffering Servant”

Dustin Kensrue’s upcoming album from Mars Hill Music, The Water and the Blood, releases next week (ish). Over at Relevant Magazine, Kensrue premiered a new song from the album, “Suffering Servant.” Check it out. It’s really good.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Desiring God’s 2013 National Conference is coming up this weekend, so naturally there are a lot of C.S. Lewis and John Piper-related titles on sale for the Kindle:

Also on sale:

From Hitler’s Wolves to Christ’s Lambs

Chad Bird:

No doubt many condemned men throughout history have found repentance and faith when certain death looms nigh. What makes this story remarkable is that this man, along with many others hanged that day, was among the most hated men in human history, guilty of atrocities so horrific only words forged in hell could adequately describe them. These were Hitler’s men. His closest confidants. His very own pack of wolves.

Moderate Mourning

Jesse Johnson:

When a Christian dies, other believers find themselves pulled by two competing emotions both clamoring for obedience in the heart. First, the ones left behind have the desire to grieve their loss. The father who is not there, the mother who is gone, or the child who precedes her parents in death—when someone dies there are those left who will be missing their loved one, and grief is an urgent and inevitable reality. This is why Romans 12:15 commands us to mourn with those who mourn.

But Romans 12:15 also commands us to rejoice with those who rejoice, and here the Christian finds his heart pulled in the other direction.  We desire to celebrate that a person we love has run their race, finished the course, and now resides in glory. We want to be glad because we know they are exceedingly better. Thus our hearts are simultaneously pulled to joy as to grief.

Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung

crazy-busy

“Man, I’m so busy right now.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a conversation or an email like this. I really hate doing it, but there it is. It’s even worse when a friend or family member opens up a conversation saying, “I know you’re busy, but…”

When it comes to busyness, compared to Kevin DeYoung, I’m a lightweight. He preaches multiple times on Sundays, writes books, blogs, tweets, has all the responsibilities that come with being the senior pastor of his church… oh yeah, and he’s married with five (soon six) kids!

So, realizing he’s got way too much on his plate and has no concept of “margin,” he made the logical decision and wrote another book: Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem.

Crazy Busy isn’t written from the position of having figured out the secret of overcoming busyness. “I’m writing this book not because I know more than others but because I want to know more than I do,” he explains. “I want to know why life feels the way it does, why our world is the way it is, why I am the way I am. And I want to change” (12).

In doing so, DeYoung writes inviting to join him on the journey. This is a nice approach, one I really appreciated throughout much of the book. More often than not, I found myself identifying with his diagnoses of the causes of busyness, which ranged from the overtly sinful (pride in its various forms) to some genuinely good reasons that get a bit off course (parenting immediately comes to mind).

One of my particularly nasty habits is being a bit too attached to my devices. When I got my first iPhone, I played incessantly on it for about two weeks. My wife wanted to throw it into the street (and probably would have if it didn’t belong to my employer). The problem for me, for the longest time, was learning to have boundaries with it. An immediate one we put in place was no cellphones in the bedroom. Another was no phones at the dinner table (something she’s rebuked me for in the past and rightly so). But the worst has been how it fed my inability to rest properly.

I’ve always been terrible at “Sabbath-ing.” I don’t vacation well; I’m always doing something (seriously, I think I’ve got three jobs now). One of the things I’ve had to learn is how to actually take steps to plan to rest. I’ve started planning time off well in advance. I deactivate the Mail app whenever I’m on vacation. So I really resonate with what DeYoung writes about how hard this really is to do:

We all know we need rest from work, but we don’t realize we have to work hard just to rest. We have to plan for breaks. We have to schedule time to be unscheduled. That’s the way life is for most of us. Scattered, frantic, boundary-less busyness comes naturally. The rhythms of work and rest require planning. (98)

Probably the standout chapter of the book is the second-to-last, where DeYoung reminds us that while there are many sinful kinds of busyness, sometimes we’re busy because God has made us to be busy. He writes:

The busyness that’s bad is not the busyness of work, but the busyness that works hard at the wrong things. It’s being busy trying to please people, busy trying to control others, busy trying to do things we haven’t been called to do. So please don’t hear from me that work is bad or that bearing burdens is bad. That’s part of life. That’s part of being a Christian. (102)

As Christians we are meant to work hard for God’s glory. We’re to bear one another’s burdens. We’re to spur one another on to love and good deeds. We’re to witness to our community, and do all we set out to do with excellence. That is hard work. And it will keep you very, very busy. But it’s the good kind of busy—the kind where we spend our energy on one another, rather than on ourselves. This is a kind of busy that we all (myself especially) could embrace with a little more zeal.

And honestly, I kind of wish this is where DeYoung had ended Crazy Busy. There’s much that I appreciated throughout the whole thing, but I found myself left a bit wanting as I finished reading.

It’s not like the “one thing you must do” he writes of in the final chapter is bad—”We must make learning from [Jesus] and taking time to be with him a priority”, he writes (113). This is right and true and absolutely necessary in our continued growth as disciples of Jesus and a fine note to end on. But I walked away from the book… unsatisfied.

Maybe it’s a flaw in the “journeying together” style of the book. Maybe I hoped that DeYoung would be a little further ahead of me on this journey. Maybe I simply had unfair expectations of the book itself. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it just didn’t grab me the way I’d hoped.

Reading a book by Kevin DeYoung is never a waste of time, and Crazy Busy is no different. His writing is as sharp and naturally zingy as ever. He does a very good job diagnosing the issue of busyness in our lives, and even if it’s not one of his best works, there’s still a great deal of food for thought.


Title: Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem
Author: Kevin DeYoung
Publisher: Crossway (2013)

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon

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My Dragon Skin Torn Off

Luma Simms:

I first read C.S. Lewis just after I arrived in the United States as a nine-year-old girl. Born in Iraq, I was still learning English when I first read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and it captured my attention and my imagination.

Life moved on, I settled into this country, I became an adult, and I later read other non-fiction and philosophical books by Lewis. But what breaks me — even to this day — are a few pages in his fiction book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Anonymous Youth Pastor’s Letter to a Parent

Trevin Wax:

Dear _____________,

I need to get something off my chest.

When I first came to this church, you told me how excited you were that I would be showing your kids what it means to love Jesus, be part of His Church, and grow as a Christian. You told me you were praying for me and that you had my back. You had high hopes for the youth ministry.

I had high hopes too. But I must confess that I am frustrated right now because I feel like you’re working against me, not with me.

5 Reasons Why Our Small Groups Stopped Doing “Book Studies”, And I’m Glad

Mike Leake:

For the last couple of years our small groups went through various books. We’ve been through Crazy LoveRadicalJesus + Nothing = Everything, and a few other books. I believe that people have benefited from these books. It also as helped to create a reading culture in our church.

But we’ve stopped…

“What do you mean by fault?”

Matt Perman:

Sometimes people argue that we should not help those in need when the need is a result of “their own fault.”

This is a deadly view. For example, imagine if Christ had said that about us? “I will not go help them and deliver them from their sins — they brought their misery upon themselves by their own obedience. I will give to the good angels instead.” To refuse to help someone on the grounds that they “did this to themselves” is a denial of the gospel itself.

This view, however, is not just deadly; often, it has just plain misunderstood the situation.

Soli Deo Gloria: To God Alone Be the Glory

R.C. Sproul:

Soli Deo gloria is the motto that grew out of the Protestant Reformation and was used on every composition by Johann Sebastian Bach. He affixed the initials SDG at the bottom of each manuscript to communicate the idea that it is God and God alone who is to receive the glory for the wonders of His work of creation and of redemption. At the heart of the sixteenth-century controversy over salvation was the issue of grace.

Jesus frees you from the tyranny of “success”

bulls-eye

Trying to figure out what makes ministry “successful” is always tricky business. Too often we try to determine our value based on what we would call “fruit”—or more crassly, baptisms and bums in seats. Healthy organisms grow, after all. Which is true… but so do unhealthy things. Cancerous cells spread to overcome their host. Weeds spread beyond our ability to keep up with them.

When we get too focused on the wrong things, particularly a wrong view of success, we risk going off-course. We need to get to where we think we’re “supposed” to go, and it consumes us. For most, it’s less a concern about doctrinal fidelity than about methodological consistency. More simply: we fall prey to the deadly snare of pragmatism.

This is why I so appreciate the corrective Jared Wilson offers in The Pastor’s Justification. He writes:

Don’t settle for the false heaven of a “successful ministry.” Because real success is faithfulness. Big or small church, growing church or declining church, well-known church or obscure church—all churches are epic successes full of the eternal, invincible quality of the kingdom of God when they treasure Jesus’s gospel and follow him. Jesus did not give the keys of the kingdom with the ability to bind and loose on both sids of the veil only to those who reached a certain attendance benchmark. So do well, pursue excellence, and stay faithful. God will give you what you ought to have according to his wisdom and riches. (37-38)

That, friends, is the perspective we need, regardless of our role in ministry or the size of the ministry God has called us to. Jesus frees us from the tyranny of growing attendance and giving, of gaining and maintaining “influence.” God gives you as much as you ought to have according to His wisdom—and that ought to be enough for us.

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She is Beautiful

Lore Ferguson:

I am a Church-girl, I have always known it. There is nothing, nothing, I love more on earth than a diverse community of believers wrought together by one common thing: an uncommon man. On a local level, this means I serve her, I love her, I pray for her, I believe in her. On a broad level, this means I see her place in the manifold plan of God.

Don’t Cancel That Short-Term Mission Trip

Chelsea Kingston:

I’m grateful to belong to a church body that emphasizes church empowerment in our mission strategy. Sometimes we have healthy dialogue and even disagreement about the usefulness of short-term missions. But who says students can’t participate meaningfully in the same kind of church empowerment we champion in our overall global missions strategy? I’ve seen firsthand that students can be the catalyst of these types of relationships, and when it happens, it’s beautiful.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Save on Crazy Busy at Westminster Books

Kevin DeYoung’s new book, Crazy Busy, officially releases today (look for a review tomorrow-ish), and Crossway and Westminster Books have teamed up to give readers great savings on it! Single copies are available now for $6 each (50% off), or pay only $5 each when you buy five copies or more. This sale ends on September 30th.

Studying or reading?

Kim Shay:

Over ten years ago now, I read David Wells’s book No Place for Truth. I can still remember many things about that book. Is the difference my brain, or perhaps, my reading practices? I read the David Wells book when we were homeschooling, in the days of dial up, when I checked the internet once a day, for about thirty minutes. I simply was not presented with the vast array of books available. There was no WTS Books or P&R Publishing telling me about new releases. My reading habits and dynamic in life meant that I couldn’t read a lot of my own material because homeschooling meant reading what the kids read, and knowing it well.

I think my situation is that I’ve stopped studying what I read. In a hurry to consume as much as I can, I’ve stopped slowing down to really think about the books I read. It’s probably my own fault. I see everywhere that so-and-so has read fifty books this year, or someone else has set a goal of 150 books in a year, and I wonder if I should be reading more than I am.

Suffering service

Peter Hughes:

Life is pretty good at the moment. I have three great kids. My marriage is going well. We planted a church a few years ago, and we are starting to get some traction. The problems we have are because of growth. All in all, this is one of those seasons people dream about. Life is good.

And yet…

 

A perspective calling forth unqualified obedience

second_coming

We live in a day when we are being reminded again and again of our temporal privileges and responsibilities as Christians: we enjoy abundant life now, and we must remember to help the poor, seek justice for all, insist on integrity and demonstrate it ourselves. Such reminders are important, precisely because it is possible in a superficial sense to be heavenly minded yet morally and socially useless. At the same time, Christians must avoid identifying the goals of the kingdom of God with political, economic, or social goals; or, more accurately, such identification must never be exclusive. Just as the kingdom of Jesus Christ is not of this world (18:36), so also is it not restricted to this world. Our ultimate goal is not the transformation of society, as valuable as that may be. Our ultimate goal is pure worship in the unrestricted presence of God.

That perspective, and that perspective alone, is powerful enough to call forth our unqualified obedience. Such an eternal vantage point enables us to be more useful in our society than we would be otherwise; for, following an exalted Master, we learn something of service while walking in self-denial that eschews personal empire-building. Empire-building is so common a temptation for idealists that today’s revolutionaries commonly become tomorrow’s tyrants. The Christian has the potential to escape this snare, for his highest goal transcends the merely temporal. He magnifies integrity coupled with meekness because he recognizes that such graces are gifts from the Master who exemplified them.

D.A. Carson, The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus

What’s different in Canada?

Whenever I’m talking with Americans, the conversation inevitably turns to the differences between Canada and America. Although we’re similar in a lot of ways, we’ve also got more than a few things that make us distinct. Thankfully, someone has started documenting these for all the world to see on Tumblr. Here are a few of my favorites:

Foyer

The entrance to a house. In Canada, pronounced the French way: “foy-AY” as opposed to the flat-sounding American “FOY-er.” This is generally where you’re supposed to take your shoes off, Americans.


Homo milk

image

“Homo milk” is short for homogenized whole milk. This isn’t even colloquial, it’s just straight up printed on milk containers. Almost any milk you buy at a grocery store is homogenized, but in Canada, “whole milk” refers to creamline (unhomogenized) milk. Still, homo milk sounds pretty funny.

See also “bagged milk.”


Duo tangs

A cardstock folder with a built-in three ring binder is called a Duo-Tang in Canada. This is another example of a “proprietary eponym,” where a brand name becomes synonymous with the category. Duo-Tang.  What a whacky name.


And one more…

Smarties

image

In the US, “Smarties” is a chalky, tart, stackable candy that comes in little plastic wrappers. (This candy is called “Rockets” north of the border.) In Canada, Smarties are candy-coated chocolates – sort of like unlabeled M&Ms that come in dark blue boxes.

American friends, I hope this helps you better understand the peculiar land that is Canada.

Pray for your pastor

praying

Today’s post is by Dave Jenkins. Dave is the Director of Servants of Grace Ministries. You can follow him on twitter@DaveJJenkins or read more of his work at servantsofgrace.org.


Pray for your pastor.

Those four little words may not currently be on your radar, I pray they will be by the time you’re done reading this.

Pastoral ministry is difficult and demanding work. The pastor is expected to be on call 24/7, preach one to three messages a week, lead Bible studies, small groups, speak at funerals, weddings, make hospital visits, or to meet many other needs as required of a shepherd of a church. The demands of pastoral ministry can wear down a pastor to the point of exhaustion.

The Schaeffer Institute’s research paints a disturbing picture:

  1. 50 percent of newly appointed ministers will not last 5 years;
  2. Over 1,700 pastors leave the ministry every month;
  3. 70 percent of pastors constantly fight depression; and
  4. 80 percent of pastors believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.

Prayer is a mighty weapon and a means of grace God has given His people—and your pastor needs your prayers. Here are four ways you can be in prayer for your pastor:

1. Pray for your pastor’s growth in the gospel.

Paul tells the Colossians to “continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word…” (Colossians 4:2-4). And again, “Brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you” (2 Thessalonians 3:1).

Your pastor spends a great deal time reading, studying and meditating on the Word. Pray as he studies that he would be freshly affected by the text he is studying. Your pastor faces an immense amount of pressure to do anything but grow in and preach the gospel. Pray that he would be faithful to constantly saturate his heart and mind in the gospel so the overflow of his life will result in the outpouring of God’s grace into the lives of those under his care.

2. Pray for the integrity of your pastor’s heart.

Pastors are not super human. They are normal men, facing the same temptations, struggles, and even circumstances you do. He faces temptations on every side, temptation to compromise the gospel, temptation to engage in immorality, among other things. When you pray for integrity of heart for your pastor, you are praying not only for your pastor to grow in grace but also that he guards his heart, marriage, and that he hides the Word in his heart. Integrity begins with the Word of God massaged deep in the heart of the pastor. The result of this is godly character and conduct that, while not perfect, is worthy of imitation (1 Corinthians 11:1).

3. Pray for your pastor to lead courageously.

Making decisions that affect others is taxing and stressful. It is easy to raise a voice of criticism against certain decisions, and your pastor gets criticized all the time. Even the thickest skinned pastor can be negatively affected by criticism.

Rather than criticize, pray for your pastor’s leadership. Pray God would bless it as he seeks to keep watch on his doctrine and life. Pray for his family as he seeks to lead them. Pray that he would not sacrifice his family on the altar of ministry. Encourage your pastor to love Jesus, love his family, and to care for God’s people through preaching, teaching and pastoral care.

While the pastor is the one preaching the Word, church members can create a culture where the ministry of the Word and your pastor can flourish. This is accomplished by being a people who properly submit to the pastor and church leadership as they seek to follow the Word and declare the Gospel through the act of praying for the church leadership.

4. Pray for your pastor’s time.

Pastors have huge demands on their time and often have to make hard choices on who to spend time with. They need to go visit the ill person in the hospital and the couple struggle in their marriage, but they also need to meet with the young man seeking to grow in the grace of God and pursue a call to minister. Which one is more important? These are questions the pastor must deal with and you must learn to be okay with what they decide. Pray for wisdom for your pastor. Pray that God would give him the necessary level of wisdom to know how to balance his time in the Word with time among God’s people.

Conclusion

Pray for your pastor. Pray for his growth in the gospel, for his integrity, for his courage and for his use of time. In doing so, you are not only lifting up your pastor, but helping to create a culture of prayer in your church—a culture where the gospel may speedily advance. A praying people are a gospel loving people, and a gospel loving people create a gospel-centered culture where the gospel is declared to the glory of God.

Links I like

Can Evangelical Chaplains Serve God and Country?

Albert Mohler:

Can chaplains committed to historic biblical Christianity serve in the United States military? That question, though inconceivable to our nation’s founders, is now front and center. And the answer to that question will answer another, even more important question: Can religious liberty survive under America’s new moral order?

How To Spot a Manipulative Church Leader

Donald Miller:

The devastation from a manipulator goes beyond the loss of life. Too many to count walked away from their faiths because of his tactics. Manipulators are skillful movers of people, so we often see their many accomplishments, but they are even more skilled at hiding the devastation caused behind the scenes. Christian leaders who are manipulators bring people to Christ at the expense of pushing many, many more people away.

Here’s how to smell out a manipulator in a religious setting.

Get Living By God’s Promises in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get Living By God’s Promises by Dr. Joel Beeke for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • By Grace Alone by Sinclair Ferguson (hardcover)
  • Dealing with Difficult Problems teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio and video download)
  • Great Themes in Puritan Preaching by Mariano Di Gangi (paperback)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

Why Do We Say, ‘God Told Me’?

Nancy Guthrie:

When someone begins a sentence with “God told me . . .” I have to admit a silent alarm goes off somewhere inside me—unless the phrase is followed by a verse of Scripture. I know that many see this as the way the Christian life is supposed to work—that if we are really in fellowship with God we will be able to sense him speaking to us through an inner voice. But I’m not so sure. And it’s not because I think God is incapable of or uninterested in speaking to his people today. In fact I resist this language precisely because God is speaking to his people today. He speaks to us through the Scriptures.

What is truth?

Jeremy Walker:

It has been hard going to make Christ known here. In an attempt to engage a little more with the people that we meet and speak with, as well as to provide some kind of impetus and framework for some upcoming gospel meetings, we have been using a brief survey (six questions with multiple choice answers) to prompt discussion and thought as we go from house to house. We ask, on a number of points, “What is truth?” The results to date have been profoundly grievous.

Busyness goes after everyone’s joy

photo by Piotr Bizior

photo by Piotr Bizior

Whenever people ask me how I’m doing, I’m always tempted to answer in the same way: “Busy.”

I really hate answering that way. A lot. I hate it because it sometimes seems like a badge of honor—”dude, I’m so busy right now; I don’t have a clue how to keep on top of all this stuff.” I also hate it because I’m not always sure it’s true. Am I really that busy, or am I just not using the time I’ve been given well? (And don’t get me started on the difference between busyness and productivity; they’re not remotely the same thing.)

But more than these reasons, I really hate saying I’m busy because—when I legitimately am—it’s usually my family that’s hurt the most by it.

For example, when I was writing my first book, Awaiting a Savior, I was working a full-time job, then after the kids were in bed writing researching for four-five hours a night. Every night. For three-four months. On top of that, I had preaching opportunities and a ton of work at my day job.

When I wrote Contend, it didn’t get quite as bad, but we had a few weeks where I was stretched pretty thin, especially when I was in the midst of a massive website overhaul project (again, a day job thing).

This week I’ve been digging into Kevin DeYoung’s upcoming book, Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem, and came across a passage where I think he nails the problem. DeYoung writes:

Busyness is like sin: kill it, or it will be killing you. Most of us fall into a predictable pattern. We start to get overwhelmed by one or two big projects. Then we feel crushed by the daily grind. Then we despair of ever feeling at peace again and swear that something has to change. Then two weeks later life is more bearable, and we forget about our oath until the cycle starts all over again. What we don’t realize is that all the while we’ve been a joyless wretch, snapping like a turtle and as personally engaging as a cat. When busyness goes after joy, it goes after everyone’s joy. (28)

I really resonate with this—the cycle we go through, again and again. We’re like the guy who gets trashed at the bar, makes a promise to God that we’ll never do it again… at least, until the next time.

“Busyness is like sin: kill it, or it will be killing you.”

If that’s true, it can mean only one thing: it’s not a godly thing to be “busy”—it might actually be something that’s killing you and ruining the joy of others around you. So, if you, like me, find yourself always too busy, always stretched too thin, what do you want to do about it?