Commentary: The Lord’s Prayer’s Hard Plea

Does God lead us into temptation? Do we have to ask him not to?

As most Christians know from painful experience, temptation is as easy to find as it is hard to resist. Every day, in a hundred ways, we face pressure to cut corners, mistreat others, and gratify our wayward desires. Sometimes we grasp the danger and paddle mightily against the current. Other times we sink into sin as if relaxing into an easy chair. But frequent failure leaves us demoralized and ashamed.

Temptation already feels like an unfair fight. So why would God ever ratchet up the difficulty?

This hypothetical lies at the heart of Pope Francis’s recent remarks on the Lord’s Prayer. During the Sermon on the Mount, Christ taught his disciples to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:13). Speaking on Italian television last December, the pope wondered whether “Lead us not into temptation” should instead be translated as “Do not let us fall into temptation.”

The trouble with the common translation, in the pope’s reading, is that it pictures God pushing us toward sin rather than pulling us away. After all, we wouldn’t ask him not to lead us into temptation if he weren’t capable of doing just that. But surely, argues the pope, a righteous and loving Father would never place his children in the path of spiritual peril. “It is Satan,” he says, “who leads us into temptation; that’s his department.”

On the whole, the pope’s theological instincts are not unsound. He is correct to absolve God of blame for temptation, which ultimately flows from our unclean hearts. As James reminds us, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, ...

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#ChurchToo: Andy Savage Resigns from Megachurch over Past Abuse

Memphis pastor who faced backlash after standing ovation: “Apologies are important, but more is required.”

Andy Savage, the pastor who disclosed his decades-old assault on a teen in his former youth group to an applauding congregation, stepped down from his position at a Memphis megachurch on Tuesday.

Savage’s January 7 remarks on his repentance regarding the 1998 incident launched months of discussion among Christians, coverage in national news media, and an investigation by Highpoint Church, where he served as teaching pastor.

Church leaders had been aware of his misconduct, which had taken place at a church in Houston, prior to hiring him. Though the recent investigation did not uncover further instances of abuse, Highpoint leadership “agrees that Andy’s resignation is appropriate,” the Memphis Commercial-Appeal reported. He has been on leave during the course of the investigation.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Savage’s victim, Jules Woodson, had spoken out publicly about the sexual assault that has haunted her since she was 17 and her disappointment with her church’s response to the crime.

She most recently shared her story, and her reaction to Savage’s initial remarks addressing the “sexual incident,” earlier this month in a haunting video by The New York Times. She told the Commercial-Appeal she was still “trying to process” the news of Savage’s resignation.

In a statement posted online, Savage addressed the criticism over his initial discussion of the assault, and announced his resignation:

After much prayer and counsel, I now believe it’s appropriate for me to resign from my staff position at Highpoint Church and step away from ministry in order to do everything I can to right the wrongs of the past.Apologies are important, but more is required. ...

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What Does Community Have to Do with Our Evangelism, Anyways? [Gospel Life Podcast]

Start each week with this encouragement to show and share the love of Jesus.

What Does Community Have to Do with Our Evangelism, Anyways?

Daniel Yang, Director of the Send Institute for Church Planting at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, talks about our first impression of evangelism and the mission of the local church. We are to naturally invite friends to learn about Jesus and to admit when we fall short in our walk of faith. We are to be in authentic community with others so that even if we falter, people will still see the light of Christ in us.

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Free Speech and Abortion Collide: Supreme Court Hears One of Its Biggest Cases of 2018

Pregnancy clinics are a crucial force in the pro-life movement, and the center of the argument before the justices today.

Americans on both sides often view abortion as the defining issue for the Supreme Court. But the case coming before its panel of justices today represent a legal fight that extends beyond the typical pro-life and pro-choice debate.

National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra is as much a free speech case as an abortion case; at stake is whether the government can require pregnancy resource centers to share information about the availability of abortion elsewhere—advertising to clients an option that the centers, by definition, oppose.

The suit involves a network of more than 100 pregnancy centers in California, where the state’s 2015 Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act mandates that such centers post contact information for obtaining state-funded free or low-cost contraception and abortions in their county.

Along with the wave of pro-life legislation at the state level in recent years, these faith-based clinics—often called crisis pregnancy centers or CPCs—represent a major force in the movement to end abortion; with more than 3,000 in the US, they outnumber abortion clinics three to four times over.

Their growing prevalence in local communities and online search results has also hurt their reputation among the pro-choice crowd, who often characterize pregnancy centers as “deceptive” for marketing to women in unsupported pregnancies while not offering resources related to abortion.

This negative perception is partly behind the California law; a legislative committee deemed it unfortunate that such centers “aim to discourage and prevent women from seeking abortion.”

“What California considers ‘unfortunate’ ...

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One-on-One with Tom Holladay on “Putting It All Together Again When It’s All Fallen Apart”

Nehemiah mourned, fasted, and prayed; that's where you start.

Ed: Tell us what led you to write your new book.

Tom: This book grows out of one of my life messages. For me, a life message is something I’ve been learning for decades, and is usually something learned out of pain. Thirty years ago, my wife Chaundel and I suffered a devastating loss when a flood hit the town we were pastoring in. Our own home was under nine feet of water, and many of our members’ homes and our church were also flooded.

So we needed to rebuild, and as a young pastor I needed to lead a whole church that needed to put things together again. My mind went to the Book of Nehemiah. Since I knew he’d needed to rebuild a wall in Jerusalem, I thought he might have some things to teach us about rebuilding.

I’ll never forget the joy I felt when I came across the promise in Nehemiah 2:20: “The God of heaven will give us success, we his servants will start rebuilding.” I knew it was his promise for us. I first taught the seven principles in the book to that small church, and we were able to rebuild.

Ed:You talk in the book about the promise of putting it together again being not just for a natural disaster, but also for many of the other struggles we face.

Tom: I start each chapter of the book with the story of someone who needed to rebuild a marriage, business, country, or life. Because we live in a fallen world, things tend to fall apart. It’s important to remember that we worship a God who has the power to put things together again. I love the prayer of Psalm 119:107 in the Message paraphrase: “Everything’s falling apart on me, GOD; put me together again with your Word.”

Ed:I was interested in what you learned from Nehemiah about where the process begins. We often ...

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Has Attachment Theory Made Us Anxious Parents?

How gospel truth and global perspective free us from guilt-inducing expectations.

Guilty feelings are common among mothers of my generation. We’ve come to the parenting task at a time when so-called “attachment theory” is common parlance. It’s being applied everywhere from inner-city preschools to executive coaching programs, according to The New York Times. For many of us, it’s a source of tremendous pressure.

According to attachment theorists, the quality of the early bond formed between children and their primary caregivers (usually mothers) influences emotional wellbeing for life. In response, many of us try to put into practice all the expert findings—how skin-to-skin contact at birth promotes bonding or how exclusive breastfeeding up until six months is best. Then we drive ourselves crazy with the possibility that we’re not getting it right and that all the missed moments will add up to a lifetime of emotional insecurity for our kids. (It’s worth noting that experts distinguish between official attachment theory and the pressures of attachment parenting.)

Some of my friends and I commiserate over our mom failures—and the expectations we feel to reach “attachment perfection.” All in all, we’re left wondering: Has parenting always been this hard? Is our intense contemporary approach the only way to parent well? And how does the gospel speak into our mothering angst?

Anthropologists Robert and Sarah LeVine have studied parenting in different parts of the world for decades. In their recent book Do Parents Matter?: Why Japanese Babies Sleep Soundly, Mexican Siblings Don’t Fight, and American Families Should Just Relax, they conclude that, although parenting has taken on vastly varied forms throughout history and across different ...

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Court: Pakistani Christians Must Reveal Religion to Vote or Apply for Jobs

Religious ID on passports has proven useful to asylum seekers. But expansion targeting Ahmadis threatens Christians’ employment prospects.

Pakistan’s citizens must now declare their religion when applying for identity documents, or if they want to work in government or register to vote, Islamabad’s High Court ruled this month.

Applicants who disguise their true religion defy the constitution and betray the state, the judge stated. Their true religion must now also be visible on birth certificates, ID cards, voters’ lists, and passports.

Those who apply for a job in the judiciary, armed forces, civil services, and other government jobs also need to submit an affidavit declaring the Khatm-i-Naboowat (that Muhammad was the final prophet), stated Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui in his ruling, as reported by Pakistani newspaper Dawn.

Human Rights Watch’s Saroop Ijaz said the judgement “would enable and incite violence,” in particularly directed at the Ahmadi community, Reuters reported.

“All [the judge’s] specific instructions are about ensuring and finding out who is an Ahmadi,” human rights lawyer Jibran Nasir told Reuters. He said the order would provide the government with lists of who belonged to which religious minority.

Pakistani passports already show the holder’s religious belief. A local source told World Watch Monitor (WWM) that minority groups, such as Christians and Ahmadis, did not object against this because it has benefited them in, for example, applying for asylum elsewhere.

A previous move by the government in 1992 to try to add citizens’ religious belief to their ID cards, however, was met with protests by Christians, who said they would face economic and social exclusion. The idea was then shelved.

Christians and Ahmadis are two of a number of minority groups in the Islamic Republic of ...

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The 10 Celebrities Evangelicals Trust Most and Least on Politics

Survey ranks political endorsements from Trump to Oprah to Jerry Falwell Jr.

Jerry Falwell Jr.’s political advice falls somewhere between President Donald Trump’s and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s when ranked by evangelicals—and Americans overall—in a new poll of registered voters.

According to Morning Consult, endorsements by prominent religious leaders hold more clout with self-identified US evangelicals than those by other celebrities, but still aren’t as impactful as endorsements by other politicians themselves.

Evangelicals were most likely to heed recommendations by top leaders from recent administrations; nearly half (49%) said Trump’s endorsement would make them more likely to vote for a particular candidate, more than any other figure.

Vice President Mike Pence (46%), President George W. Bush (43%), House Speaker Paul Ryan (34%), and President Barack Obama (33%) made up the rest of the top five for evangelicals, while a few spiritual and religious leaders ranked among the top 10: Oprah (31%), Joel Osteen (28%), and Jerry Falwell Jr. (27%).

(Editor’s note: Morning Consult’s survey, conducted online from February 28 to March 2, relied on a multiethnic sample of 565 evangelicals for its questions for all current and former US presidents (and spouses) in the survey, while questions on other celebrities had smaller sample sizes and thus larger margins of error.)

Pope Francis, Osteen, and Falwell Jr. were the only religious figures in the poll. During the 2016 campaign, Osteen called Trump “a friend of our ministry” and “a good man,” while Falwell Jr.—president of Liberty University and son of the late Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell—was among the first evangelicals to officially endorse him.

Trump—who ...

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Getting Small Churches on Mission (Part 4)

More ways small churches can serve their communities

8. Small churches could develop a jail ministry.

Local and county jails almost always appreciate any attempt to lower recidivism and the evangelism and discipleship of inmates is a proven way to lower repeat offenses. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world with over 2.5 million persons locked up. Of those, approximately 1 million are in city or county jails.

Unlike state or federal prisons, those in jail have often not yet been convicted of a crime. They have been charged with an offense (major or minor) and are awaiting trial. Persons convicted of sentences of a year or less often serve out their time in a jail. Jails are a fertile ground for sharing the gospel liberally.

Jail ministry, like all new ministries, must be birthed after a long time of prayer with those who are interested in such a mission. Let the Holy Spirit soften your heart to incarcerated persons. Mediate on Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:36–40. When you minister to those in jail, to the least of these, you are ministering unto Jesus himself.

After confirming a commitment to this ministry, set up a meeting with the local sheriff or chief of police. A face-to-face meeting is often more effective, allowing you to lay out your plan of weekly ministry. It may be that there is already an evangelical ministry to this jail. See about joining with them or asking for suggestions about nearby jails where no ministry currently exists.

The two components helpful for a fruitful jail ministry are an ample supply of Bibles to hand out to anyone who asks, and a consistent, weekly commitment to show up. The Bibles need to be in a contemporary translation that is easy to understand and the meetings must meet the spiritual needs of the prisoners. ...

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Faith in Russia: What Does It Mean?

Many Russians, be they Orthodox or Evangelical, will understandably view their homeland with affection, loyalty, and patriotism.

After brief instructions from the Lutheran Archbishop Dietrich Brauer, we processed up the center aisle of the St. Peter-and-St. Paul Lutheran Cathedral in Moscow, launching the 500th Anniversary observance of the Protestant Reformation.

Robed in gowns and hats of all colors and shapes, leaders of various Christian groups gathered in this important Moscow celebration: Lutherans, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Roman Catholics, but there were no Russian Orthodox representative in the procession. As we passed the front row moving toward the raised platform, I saw an Orthodox priest standing.

Even as we gathered around the altar for prayer, he remained apart. Later, I learned that while he would attend the service, he would not join in procession or prayer: according to the ancient Orthodox rule, a priest who prayed with heretics would lose his priesthood.

This is Russia. A country in curious shifts and alterations more mysterious than the Trump/Putin insults and bravados. I live with memory of a state, the Soviet Union, ruled by atheists insisting that the Communist and Marxist dictum of “no God” be their country’s mantra.

But it is wrong to assume that atheism rules, indeed, if it ever did. Make no mistake, this is a religious and, in fact, a Christian country, if one were to define a country by what its people believe. The Pew Foundation noted that 74 percent of Russians identify as Christian. However, even with this remarkable percentage of self-confessed Christians, Russia is dynamically secular, with a definite separation of Christian witness from its civil life, apart from official Orthodox ceremonies.

Its Varied History

To catch up on recent moves by Putin, a quick review of the role of faith in this grand country ...

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Changing Direction – Reflections on the Chicago River at St. Patrick’s Day

When we follow Jesus, we do what the Chicago River did in 1900: we change direction.

My husband and I live in downtown Chicago. Since I work at Wheaton College, people often ask, “Why don’t you live in the suburbs? Isn’t it a hassle to commute every day?” And from those who live in another state and only know the city fromknow the city the news, we often hear, “Is it safe to live in Chicago?”

Living in the city was an intentional choice for us. We wanted to rub shoulders with men and women from all different backgrounds who might be open to hearing about God’s love and his invitation into a relationship. Plus it’s fun! We love the hustle and bustle of the city, the cultural variety of people who live here, and the great activities that happen throughout the year.

As just one example, every year to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, the local Plumbers’ Union dyes the Chicago River green. This tradition is more than 50 years old and draws over 400,000 spectators to the banks of our river. Some years are a little more interesting than others. In 2013, we stood by the Wrigley Building and saw a flying leprechaun! Admittedly, most of the people who gather are just there to party, but it’s a tradition that we love to attend.

What makes the whole process most amazing to me is where the plumbers put the vegetable-based dye: at the mouth of the river by Lake Michigan. Then the dye flows back through the city, slowly turning the river green. Your see, the Chicago River flows backwards, away from the lake. Until the dye starts to mingle with the water, you don’t really see the direction the water is moving. Once that emerald color starts to mix in, you can begin to trace the currents moving west.

This reversed flow is because in the 1800s as the city boomed, ...

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Apples of Gold - - Discover Christian Gifts from the Holy Land