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January 22, 2017

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Praying for Trump as we resist

Mea culpa.

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John Piper

John Piper and I sing a different theological song, so I naturally assumed we’re in political disharmony. After all, the chancellor of Minneapolis’s Bethlehem College and Seminary is as Calvinist as they come. Not only does he agree with the 16th-century Reformer’s take on predestination, he relishes it. I’m an Arminian, which means I mostly agree with 17th-century Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius. He walked back from Calvinism’s determinism and tried to restore the teaching of most early church theologians. John Wesley popularized his theology a century later.

I thought Piper would invoke the God-is-in-control mantra visa-a-vis the serial tweeter now in the White House. Like I said, mea culpa; or, as CS Lewis once confessed: “Porcus sum” (“I am a pig”). I should have known better. Calvin’s followers developed political sophistication over the centuries, including provisions for jettisoning unjust rulers (landing in mildewed dungeons at the word of off-with-your-head monarchs will do that to you).

Piper is not Trumpian, nor is he a hater. We see that in his public prayer for the president on inauguration day. He prayed with sober realism. He prayed for him, not against him, with both eyes open. His prayer, perhaps unintentionally, recognized the validity of all the peaceful protests.

Witness his prayer’s first few paragraphs:

Father in heaven, we ask now that your name would be hallowed in this moment, in this room, and in this ministry; that your name would be hallowed in Washington, and hallowed by Donald Trump and his family, his cabinet, the congress; that your kingdom would come, that your will would be done there.

To that end Lord, we ask that you would bring Donald Trump out of darkness and into light. Give him a spirit of brokenness and humility. “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). I pray that you would break his heart, give him humility, show him what it feels like to be penitent and to admit he’s done wrong — to confess he was wrong, ask forgiveness from you, and ask for forgiveness from the people that he’s wounded or people that he’s set a bad example for. He needs to be given the gift of faith and humility and repentance, and I pray that you would give it to him.

Piper was both honest and loving; both frank and kind. He also issued a much-needed plea for the American church:

I ask that the church would not rely on government and would not rely on a Trump presidency. I pray for evangelical leaders not to celebrate Donald Trump’s presidency with no apparent qualification, no tears, no brokenness, no sadness that he set such an awful example for this land.

Open the eyes, I pray, of evangelical leaders who seem so triumphalist in this moment as to think their way has been brought about and now good things are coming because we can lean on the arm of the flesh the way so many seem to give the indication. Grant that there would be a rising tide leaning upon the Holy Spirit, leaning upon the word of God; that there would be a countercultural dependence upon prayer, rather than the dependence of a power in high places.

Grant that there would be a burden for spiritual awakening, a burden for sharing the gospel, a burden for building healthy, strong, biblical churches in the land, a burden for taking the gospel to the nations of the world. Lord, don’t let us exhaust our energies fretting about the little molehill of this presidency when we have a Himalayan Mountain range of blessings in Christ Jesus. Grant that we would operate out of the fullness of Christ in doing many good deeds in this land. Grant that the church would be purified, and all the corruption and all the worldliness would be removed so that the world would stand up and say, “That’s a strange people. That’s a different people. That’s a godly, humble, servant-like, sacrificial, loving people,” rather than just, “That’s just Republican. That’s just what the world is” …

… Make us willing, O God, to submit ourselves to the lordship of Jesus, not the lordship to any man who leads. We ask for your help. We humble ourselves under your mighty hand. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

The entire prayer is found here.

Piper prayed for the president because that’s what followers of Jesus do (“we pray for kings and all those in authority,”1 Timothy 2:2). We want, or should want, his welfare — if, for no other reason, than the welfare of billions hinges on it.

So I’ll take Piper’s cue. I’ll pray Trump will repent; I pray he’ll confess; I pray God will soften him and mold him into the image of the compassionate ruler in Psalm 72. I’ll pray for the transformation of Donald Trump. I’ll pray all those things as I resist almost everything he stands for.

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January 16, 2017

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Everyday bravery for civil rights

We all know, of course, that Martin Luther King, Jr., did not go it alone. The day named after him really commemorates a host of people of whom we barely hear. Real off some of the famous names: Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers, Ralph Abernathy, John Lewis, Bayard Rustin (the March on Washington’s organizer).

And then there are the lesser knowns.  One was Diane Nash. Listen to her story of courage in this snippet from a PBS documentary. May such a spirit bless us in the days to come.

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January 15, 2017

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Let’s slam a hero and an entire city this weekend

Insulting Congressman Lewis stands on par with calling John Glenn a wuss.

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January 12, 2017

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Go for it, Senator Rubio

I’ve shouted a question to the wind: “What would GOP senators say if a Democratic president-elect cozied-up to a former KGB agent and Russian dictator?” Several actually display concern, especially Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. And throw in Marco Rubio. The Florida senator shined bright in a confirmation hearing […]

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January 11, 2017

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A last glimpse of a classy guy

I felt pathos on January 10. Our nation heard eloquence and saw class, dignity, and poise bundled in a farewell speech. I’m already nostalgic in the face of a creepy future filled with belligerent tweet storms from a philandering, dictator-friendly, fact-denying president with microscopically thin skin. Hear the cracks of arctic and Antarctic ice amid […]

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January 9, 2017

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You’ll be missed, Nat Hentoff

Why would a Bible-thumping holy roller like me mourn the loss of left-wing, self-described “Jewish atheist” Nat Hentoff, the Village Voice columnist and author who died recently at 91? Maybe it’s because he loved jazz. Maybe it’s because the Bible favors the poor and “the least of these.” Maybe it’s because he slammed all group […]

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January 6, 2017

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I killed the dinosaurs, and I feel bad about it

“The Journey of the Magi” (1894) by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French painter and illustrator, 1836-1902), oil on canvas. I’m an artist at self-accusation and remorse. Accuse me of anything – lust, greed, pride, gluttony, laziness, work a-holism, launching the Vietnam War, bombing Pearl Harbor – and I’ll plead sweat-riddled guilt. It seems this day […]

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January 4, 2017

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Revelation in a hospital

It seems we live in a society “stripped of grace,” as Miroslav Volf noted in 2004. Callousness is a strength; compassion is a weakness; we all stand or fall as isolated individuals, at war with an untrustworthy and hostile society. Welcome to the moral and spiritual dystopia. Such a vision turns a blind eye to […]

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December 10, 2016

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Electors: No pressure, but you’re our last hope

I am one of many Americans deeply concerned about the welfare of the United States, the future of which is in your hands …

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December 9, 2016

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Gregory of Nanzianzus: Pondering the Nature of Christ

It’s Advent, the first season on Christianity’s calendar, traditionally a period of prayer, fasting, and meditation with an eye on Christ’s second coming, or Advent. Among other things, we can ponder the nature of Christ, who — quite literally — showed us God’s face.

Gregory of Nazianzus, one of the three fourth-century venerated Cappadocian Fathers and Archbishop of Constantinople, pondered Christ’s nature in this meditation. I’ve taken it to heart.

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