Results tagged “Leadership” from Reformation21 Blog

Praying for Our New President-Elect

What has been termed the most contentious and discouraging Presidential election in my lifetime has finally come to an end. America has spoken. For many Christians, a Trump presidency marks the end of a now fractured Republican Party's fall from unity, integrity, wisdom and stability. For others, our President-Elect Trump's victory is a welcomed win for the religious right in the stand against the current progressive regime's perceived threat to religious freedom, national security, economic stability and Judeo-Christian bio-ethics in America. Whether you are discouraged or elated by the outcome of the election, here are some ways that we should be praying for President-Elect Donald Trump:

Pray that the Lord would give President-Elect Trump biblical wisdom as he, his cabinet and his administration face some of the most daunting challenges of our lifetime. Pray that he and Vice President-Elect Pence will together seek the Lord in His word and in prayer. Our new president will have the unique challenge of being our commander-in-chief. He will lead our military in protecting our citizens and will, therefore, need enormous wisdom to navigate unique defense challenges.

Pray that the Lord would protect our new President. President-Elect Trump and his family will inevitably be the object of threats from wicked men and women. We must pray for their safety during a time of national division. Similarly, we must pray that the Lord keeps our country internally at peace during a time when it is rife with division. 

Pray that the Lord would surround President-Elect Trump with men and women who will serve as wise and competent counsellors. Pray that he would seek out that counsel on a regular basis in order to make good decisions for the future of our country. 

Pray that President-Elect Trump would follow through with his promise to appoint supreme court justices who will protect the unborn. Millions of babies continue to be slaughtered in the womb every year in our country. We must pray that the Lord would bring this unparalleled evil to an end. We must not become callused to this greatest of evils. We should long for a day when the most helpless image bearers are protected in the womb. After all, "God's designated place of safety...has become, tragically, the most unsafe place in the world." 

Pray that our new President would care deeply for the poor and the needy in our country. We must not only pray that he will make wise decisions that will result in a healthy economy, but that he will genuinely care for the well-being of the economically impoverished citizens of our land. 

Pray that President-Elect Trump will defend religious freedom in such a way that men and women in our land will be free to worship and to live out their faith without fear of unjust imprisonment. While many have suggested that persecution would help awaken the church in America from materialistic complacency and compromise, we should never want to be persecuted for worshiping and serving Jesus in truth. The Apostles never wanted persecution for the church in the world, the anticipated it. 

Whether we are discouraged or elated by the election of Donald Trump, we are called to be subject to him. If we are discouraged, we must remember that God commands us to respect, honor and pray for him--as we are for all those who God puts in authority over us (Rom. 13:1, 5, 7; 1 Pet. 2:13-14, 1 Tim. 2:1-2, Rom. 13:7; 1 Pet. 2:17). This is not a time for disrespectful banter--it is a time for prayer. 

On the other hand, if we are elated by the election of Donald Trump, we must pray that the Lord's purposes would triumph over our now President's unbiblical actions. After the 2008 election of Barack Obama, Ligon Duncan wrote an outstanding post--from which I have borrowed much--in which he suggested that we have a responsibility to pray that God's purposes would overrule any unjust Presidential decision making. He wrote:

"Where our new president opposes or undermines biblical moral standards in our society, fails to uphold justice for the unborn, undermines religious liberties or condones an ethos that is hostile to the Gospel, we will pray for God's purposes to triumph over our President's plans and policies." 

It is just as appropriate for us to pray accordingly for President-Elect Donald Trump. Now is not the time for compromising biblical standards in the name of political interest--it is a time for us to pray to the infinitely righteous God who rules over all. 

Whatever our response to the recent news that Donald Trump has been elected our next President, we need to be praying for him and his administration. The next four years will potentially bring unprecedented new dangers and challenges to our nation. Now is not the time for bickering or banter--it's time to bring our new President (and all of our leaders) to the throne of grace and to the One who rules over all. 

Masculinity and the Priority of Love

If you were asked to identify the primary quality which defines a true man of God in his specific relation to a true woman of God - distinctively within the marriage relationship - what one-word answer might you give? What if the opposite question were asked: what single quality ought to characterise a woman of God in relation to her husband in particular?

In pondering the answers to those questions, rest assured that I am not having a sly dig at anyone or seeking to make unreasonable or unfair assumptions. I am on record in The New Calvinism Considered (US and UK) as being what is generally now defined as a complementarian, but also as being uncomfortable with some of the excesses that I have perceived, and those in both directions.

Most germane to the purposes of this post are those excesses in which biblical masculinity is celebrated but potentially or actually exaggerated toward a caricature of (Western?) masculinity - "a sort of hairy, Neanderthal, chest-beating machismo." This caricature, it seems, is now being used by some to justify not just a strangely exaggerated form of masculinity but a horribly perverted abuse of it.

I wonder if this can be traced in some instances to a fundamental misunderstanding of what true masculinity looks like in relationship to true femininity? As so often, perhaps there is a danger of reactionary theology: a position formed not from the Word of God but from a response - proper in kind but not in degree - to some opposite aberrance. So, for example, think of someone so (rightly) horrified by the suggestion that the Lord Jesus, in some way, was not fully human that he responds in such a way as actually (wrongly) to undermine his divinity. Such is the skewed reaction to the cultural pressure by which many men have become milk-livered geldings that the goal becomes the embodiment of the rutting stallion. Neither is it a matter of finding some kind of middle ground. The aim should not be some anodyne mean, but a biblical fulness.

But what does that look like with regard to male leadership, especially leading to and in marriage? A simple passage like Ephesians 5 helps us here. I will not go into the substructure of male-female relations, grounded in both being made in the image of God, both being fallen in Adam, both able to be redeemed and restored in Christ. In such a relationship there is a genuine correspondence, a profound cleaving, a total commitment and a joint commission. Furthermore, I am persuaded from the Word of God that there are some distinctive roles within that relationship. In Ephesians 5, the apostle sounds two abiding keynotes, one for the woman and for the man. The primary element for the woman of God is submission, and I recognise that that must be carefully and scripturally defined and worked out. Paul, in this passage, then moves on to the keynote for the man. And what is it? If we make a merely reactionary leap (and I fear this is, in essence, what many are doing) we start looking for the counterpoint to submission. The husband is to be marked by ... what? Authority? Rule? Headship? Leadership? Some other near-synonym for being in charge that emphasises the difference between the sexes?

No, the distinctive feature of masculinity in this relation to femininity is love. Leadership or headship may be implied, but the focus of the apostle is on the motive and nature of the husband's relation to his wife. This love is neither physical lust nor romantic delight, and neither one can or will supply a lack of intelligent and principled love.

Let me briefly spell out several things about this love. Note first its character, for it is Christlike. As such, it must be principled, realistic, intelligent , sweet and - ultimately - sacrificial. Its great pattern is Christ's coming for and dying for his church. This is not a matter of occasional spectacular demonstrations, though it may include them. It is not a notional knight in shining armour who, fortunately for the husband, never actually needs to make an appearance. It is to labour for the good of your wife regardless of the cost to yourself, a daily death of a thousand cuts to male selfishness and laziness.

Secondly, see the quality of this love: it is purposeful. Like Christ's love to his church, it aims not at a wife's slavish subjugation, but at her proper liberation. A husband's love aims to raise his beloved wife to the highest point development and her greatest blessing. He invests in and serves her so as to bring her, by all legitimate means, to the highest pitch of spiritual and moral excellence to which she is able to attain, as defined by God himself. There is a deliberate goal in such love.

Thirdly, consider the anchor of this love: union. Paul grounds this love in the one-flesh union between husband and wife. For the married man, she is one with me. Whatever I would do or have done for my true good and real blessing, by God's estimation, I should pursue for her. As it would be both unnatural and ungodly to ignore, neglect, despise or injure your own flesh, so - if our love is remotely Christlike - it ought to be recognised as unnatural and ungodly to do the same with regard to our wife.

Finally, observe the activity of such love: it is a nourishing and cherishing affection. Whatever the origin of this language, it is clearly not meant to be demeaning, because it refers both to the way in which a man is expected to be caring for himself, and representative of the way in which Christ cares for his church. The words communicate a profound tenderness and principled care, to develop by nurture and to envelope with affection. Some men show more of this toward their car or their home than they do toward their wife - investing more time, energy and money in a hobby than in their God-given wife. The call is for words backed up by deeds, and deeds adorned with words, just as with Christ.

So, brothers, how do you assess your distinctive relationship toward your wife? What ought to lie at the root of your dispositions and actions toward other women who are not your wife? Do you perceive your relationship toward your spiritual sisters (or, indeed, unconverted women), and especially with regard to (but not merely) your wives, to be characterised primarily by rule - by the robust exercise of the authority which has been so largely abandoned by our generation and culture? If so, you are missing the mark. The characteristic quality of the true man of God is a Christlike love, first and primarily with regard to his own wife, and then to other women in appropriate measure and framed by the parameters of a legitimate relationship. If, to paraphrase the apostle elsewhere, you are getting other things right but have not love, you have failed to follow and to show Christ at this point.