Jesus’ name is not a magic wand

In the last hurrah of instruction to his disciples, Jesus tells them he is going away but sending the Spirit so that they can bear witness to him. (John 14-16). He told them.

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name I will do it. (John 14:13-14)

Taken by itself, the passage seems to suggest that just by using the name Jesus, he will do whatever. But measured against the breadth of Scripture, and specifically in this pericope, praying in Jesus name relates to what he is instructing the apostles to do in terms of being witnesses. Tim Keller has recently wrote a book on prayer that looks pretty good. In this TGC interview, here is what he says about praying in Jesus’ name;

To pray in Jesus’s name means to acknowledge that we only have access to the Father’s attention and grace through the mediation and work of our Savior. So just using the words “in Jesus’s name” is not sufficient. We use the words to reinforce the required attitudes and motives. To pray “in Jesus’s name” is to come before God in both humility (knowing we don’t deserve God’s help) and confidence (knowing that we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness and worthiness), as well as grateful joy.

To pray in Jesus’s name, then, is to be aware of the grace of the gospel as the basis of prayer, and to have our attitude in prayer deeply enriched—both humbled and exalted. When we consciously or unconsciously expect God to hear our prayer because of our relative freedom from overt sin or because of our service and moral effort, we are praying in our own name.

Magic-WandI often get the impression that the name of Jesus is used like some kind of magic wand. All one simply does is declare “in Jesus name”, wave it around the target and wait for results. But it doesn’t work like that. Praying the name of Jesus is not an incantation that creates a mystical force that makes things happen. In fact, that is actually anti-Christian (like thinking that our words have power to change circumstances).

To pray in Jesus name represents our ability to come to the Father because of the mediating work that Christ accomplished on our behalf. That means praying in a manner consistent with his character and will in recognition of our union in Christ and what he delights in. Praying in Jesus’ name is an appeal to the Father for him to work according to his will. There’s nothing magical by using the name but there is something quite moving when we allow what the name of Jesus means in terms of our heavenly citizenship.  

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Have You Heard of My Pastor? Why it’s probably good that you haven’t

As the Mark Driscoll drama has unfolded, I continue to reflect on how this has happened and what it says about contemporary evangelicalism. Clearly, his behavior and myriad of charges against him have simmered under the surface for far longer than it should have. Now, that it’s boiled over, one thing is clear – everybody knows who Mark Driscoll is.

rock concert_man on stageIn fact, he was pretty popular even before the eruption . . . For a long time. And people praised and applauded him. They loved the splashes that he made, or more like the tidal waves he caused with machismo brand of Christianity and his (rather stunted) version of the new Reformed movement. And for me, this just further confirms the celebrity factor in evangelicalism.  Just look at how his story was displayed in Vox, Megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll was an evangelical rock star.

Yes, a rock star. Famous. Known. Applauded

I believe this was a contributing factor to the longevity of his antics. Over at Cripplegate, Jesse Johnson wrote a pointed but needed commentary, Driscoll Drama: to those who sold tickets. He rightly criticizes other notable evangelical leaders (we may be able to translate that “celebrities”) who not only gave a pass to what should have been obvious disqualifications for pastoral leadership, but actually endorsed it.

Let’s not be fooled. It’s not just the leaders but the fan base in general. Yes, fans. Because that’s what happens with celebrities. It really didn’t matter what was going on in the course of actual pastoral relationships, Driscoll drew a crowd. He got men to come to church. He wrote books (well, kind of). He spoke at conferences and challenged the status quo (or at least what he thought needed to be challenged). And, he had a big church. A really big church. And people praised him.

This is why I cringed when I saw this article on the Blaze, He Survived Brain Cancer and Now Leads a Church of 11,000 – but have you heard of him? No, not Driscoll but Matt Chandler. Now, I am in no ways comparing Driscoll to Chandler. I’ve heard him speak a few times and know people who attend the Village Church where he pastors. He certainly doesn’t have the reputation that has surrounded Driscoll. Continue reading

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We Really Do Need the Same Old Thing

I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. But it does seem to me as I observe the evangelical landscape today, that what is tried and trust and true gets overlooked for the ‘new’. So many in the church today are captivated by newness – new trends, new ideas, new innovations, new buildings, new predictions, new words from God, new movements, etc that the old seems irrelevant. But really its the old that we need – what God did through his Son, how the church has been established, what God has already spoken. This is how we are refreshed, by gathering according to what has already been established, by remembering what God has already said and what he has already done to gather a body of people to himself through the work of the Son. But somehow that gets too boring and we get antsy for something new. Why?

It reminds me of this portion of the Screwtape Letter #25. If you are not familiar with the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, they are instructions to Wormwood on how to frustrate God’s people and get the church off track:

But the greatest triumph of all is to elevate this horror of the same old thing into a philosophy so that nonsense in the intellect my reinforce corruption in the will…The Enemy loves platitudes. Of a proposed course of action He wants men, so far as I can see, to ask very simple questions; is it righteous? Is it prudent? Is it possible? Now if we can keep men asking ‘Is it in accordance with the general movement of our time? Is it progressive and reactionary? Is this the way that History is going?’ they will neglect the relevant questions. And they questions they do ask are, of course, unanswerable; for they do not know the future, and what the future will be depends very largely on just those choices which they now invoke the future to help them to make. As a result, while their minds are buzzing in this vacuum, we have the better chance to slip in and bend them to the action we have decided on. And great work has already been done. Once they knew that some changes were for the better, and others for the worse, and again others again indifferent. We have largely removed this knowledge. For the descriptive adjective ‘unchanged’ we have substituted the emotional adjective ‘stagnant’. We have trained them to think of the Future as a promised land which favoured heroes attain – not as something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.

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On Being on a Mission from God

Blues_brothers3If you recall the 1980 movie, The Blues Brothers, Jake and Elwood being determined to save the orphanage where they grew up, peppered their hijinxs with “we’re on a mission for God”. They remained undaunted by all the obstacles in their way, they were to achieve their mission at all costs.

It occurs to me that Christians adopt this mentality, also. Now, I don’t mean just mean being determined to live a good Christian life, follow Jesus and be obedient to his will. But it’s finding this one particular aspect of dogma that turns into a crusade.

I was reminded of that recently after a conversation with a friend about a topic that I’m a bit passionate about – God speaking. He was telling me of this conversation with a young lady who gave little interest in the Bible, exclaiming that the Holy Spirit can just tell her what she needs to know. Anyone who knows my passion for this topic, can imagine all the sirens that were going off in my head. It fueled that already existing desire to help people be thoughtful about how God has already spoken which is compatible to how he has revealed himself. I am convinced that the main reason the Bible is treated as a secondary means of communication is because it has been treated in a very fragmented way that provides little snippets for life principles and a guide to hear more words from God instead of being the very voice of God. The 66 books must be considered holistically for the redemptive narrative that it is.

It is precisely this desire that reminds me of Christians that I’ve encountered that become so fixated on a particular area, where passion for the dispensing of knowledge has turned into a crusade. I know first hand that it’s a pretty easy line to cross, if we are not careful. It’s usually accompanied by some kind of warning or danger that the church needs to know, whether it be a particular leader or ministry, some point of doctrine or Christian practice.  Continue reading

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I Am Not Gay…(and I have no idea what that’s like)

girl looking out windowI am a woman and I like men. From the time I was a little girl, I carried the fantasies that so many girls dream – to meet a guy, fall in love, get married, have kids, have a life  long companion etc etc.

Well, that happened, kind of , not in the way I wanted In fact, it has been pretty messy. Widowed now 10 years, that desire has not changed. There are longings in the heart for companionship, even deeper given all the fractured ways that has happened.

I have no idea what it is like to desire someone of the same sex. It doesn’t resonate with me because when I think of attraction, I think of men. I have no idea of the struggles that people with same sex orientations face, and even more so if they are Christian who believe that homosexuality is a sin.

I came across this really interesting read by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Gay, Christian and Celibate. The articles speaks of Christians who have a same sex orientation, believe that homosexuality is wrong and decide not to act upon it. They have no desire for the opposite sex, because they desire the same sex. But they choose to remain faithful and so they remain celibate.

I have no idea what that is like. Sure, I know my struggles with various issues. I know the issues in my own life that remain a battle. I know the repeated repentance and the desire to change. I know of change that has happened and also the change I wonder will happen. Continue reading

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