Temptation!

Have you ever faced it?

Of course!

Temptation is a universal human experience. It is almost as human as breathing or eating. We have all faced it. We have all yielded to it somewhere along the way.

Having said that, the words “Lead us not into temptation” ought to strike us as somewhat odd. Theologically they are strange. Yet even more than that, it just sounds inhuman. How is it possible to go through life without facing temptation? What exactly is Jesus modelling for us in this prayer?

In all the time I have recited the Lord’s Prayer, I have never quite gotten used to the words, “Lead us not into temptation.” I have to admit there are times when I pause and ponder while everyone around me continues reciting the words. Over the years as I have studied, looked at various translations, and read numerous commentaries; and I have never quite come away with an answer that fully satisfies my curiosity.

Here are some of my questions. This is hardly an exhaustive list, but I grouped them together by theme:

  • Does the petition mean that sometimes God can lead us into temptation?
  • Wouldn’t that contradict other passages like James 1, where it says God does not tempt us?
  • Is temptation the right word English word? Are “trial” or “testing” better words?
  • Yet does that not also contradict huge swaths of the biblical story?
  • Would that not fly in the face of James 1 again, where we are encouraged to endure trials?
  • Is temptation the real issue, or our yielding to it?
  • Why do my commentaries say the idea of yielding is a bad translation of the original words?

To be candid, I still do not have a great explanation, but I am not sure I need one. I suspect Jesus is pushing us to imagine something deeper.

What if Jesus’ point is simply this: we are human! We are frail. To err is human. We will face temptation. We will fall. On our own.

Is Jesus opening our eyes to where our desire for control, our penchant for doing life on our own, and our reluctance to yield our lives to Him actually leads? Is He helping us face the fact that without Him in control we are doomed to fall, and fall, and fall, and fall, and fall again? I suspect so.

Jesus is graciously guiding us to an incredible source of strength and help. He is inviting us to live life with Him, in His strength, in the power of the Holy Spirit. He is inviting us into everyday dependence on the guidance of the Spirit living within us. He is not asking us to throw up temptation SOS prayers when we are desperately at the end of our own ropes. If we wait until we are at the end of our own rope, we will likely hang ourselves.

Let me conclude with the words of Paul that seem to summarize our thoughts here:

“After starting your lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” (Galatians 3:3, 5:16)

Let us pray that the Spirit guides our lives this month.

True conversation is a give and take. It is an act of hospitality. We suspend our own agenda and invite someone else’s in. Conversation also changes us. It re-forms us as we honestly engage with the ideas and feelings of others. We may not agree with everything we hear, but it helps us think through our own preconceptions and biases. Prayer is conversation. Unlike our human conversations, we don’t have much room to disagree with God. We can choose to, but that is usually a dangerous game. Like other conversation, prayer also forms us. As we spend time with God, wrestling through what is important to him, the Holy Spirit re-forms us into the people he desires us to be.


I spent a few minutes this morning googling “forgiveness”. I wanted to step outside of my viewpoint to see a different understanding of the concept. According to Google (or at least the first several websites listed), forgiveness seems to be about an individual’s well-being. Forgiveness, for the most part, is defined as an intentional and voluntary process where by an individual undergoes a change in attitude and feelings toward someone who has caused offense. Almost immediately after defining it, most websites highlighted the release of tension, bitterness, and the personal peace and well-being this would bring.

All of the above is certainly true. Yet, is this Jesus’ point about forgiveness in the Lord’s Prayer? The phrase is, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This has always sounded a little strange to me. Is there a conditional element to the forgiveness here? Would that clash with what we read elsewhere in our Bibles? Does it really mean if we don’t forgive others, we won’t be forgiven? I certainly don’t have all the answers to those questions. I do wonder though, if these kinds of questions stem from an individualistic interpretation of the prayer as opposed to a more communal interpretation. Which leads me to ask, “What was Jesus’ purpose in asking us to pray these words”?

As I think of this phrase in the Lord’s Prayer, I wonder if this isn’t a re-forming conversation. Is Jesus giving us another way in which he can mold us into His image? As we pray these words, do they help to form us into healthy community? I think so. Here is how I could see that working:

– we intentionally pray for forgiveness, in doing so we hold up a mirror to our lives,
– we begin to see our sin and failures more clearly thereby humbling ourselves,
– in this humble posture we realize the offenses against us are not greater than our own,
– this makes extending forgiveness to others easier (not easy),
– which, through the power of the Holy Spirit, brings healing into our relationships,
– helping us grasp a greater appreciation, and appropriation of the forgiveness we have in Jesus.

It’s a big circle. Yet, the benefits of forgiveness are not mine alone. An entire culture of forgiving develops and a fellowship of the forgiven forms. James encourages us to “confess our sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” The context of that verse is in the middle of a passage on the power of prayer and healing, and the verse just prior to it speaks of forgiveness. So why do we not see this as a common practice in our churches?

This last week, as I have watched the news, and listened to the events in the Christian world, I am deeply disturbed. More than ever, it feels like our communities and churches are fragmenting. Unity seems next to impossible. I might be crazy, but I’m thinking praying through the implications of, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” as formational conversation would be a huge step in the right direction.


Post by:
Neil B.
National Mission Director

Bill TaylorGreetings Pastors! I trust that you are finding some time to refresh in the Lord this summer. I am excited at what God is doing among us.  A couple projects have made my summer busier than normal. First, we continue to investigate the feasibility of building a Home Office addition to the Fosmark Centre building here on TWU campus. This fall we will see if we have enough donor support to go public with the project – so stay tuned for further details! Additionally, in response to lay leaders reaching out to us, we are launching a new initiative focused on helping laity live out their faith and calling in this rapidly changing world: Lay Leader Training!

The training is designed to help followers of Jesus carry out their calling of making disciples, both inside and outside the church. Increasing numbers of laity are asking us how they can share the gospel more effectively in this changing culture. They also wish to be further equipped and affirmed for ministry in the church. We are answering that call and will be providing a series of modules with in-class sessions on a variety of key topics. They are as follows:

Module #1
1. EFCC History & Ethos
2. Canada’s Changing Culture 

3. How to Share the Gospel       
4. How to Make a Disciple

Module #2
1. EFCC Theology
2. Spiritual Formation 

3. Christian Leadership       
4. Mentoring/Coaching

In addition, we will offer an optional Module #3. This is an opportunity for a pastor to help lay leaders (selected by your church) to complete the requirements that lead to an EFCC Ministry Credential.

A key feature of the training will be the opportunity for participants to learn to mentor and coach others to be disciples and disciple-makers. We will also network participants with other lay leaders for support and continued learning.

For those of you in the BC Lower Mainland, our very FIRST Lay Leader Training is taking place soon! And near you!

Location……………………Fosmark Centre at Trinity Western University, in Langley BC
When………………………..Friday evening and all day Saturday, September 20-21, 2019
What…………………………Module #1
Cost………………………….$50/person (includes food & beverages for breaks, and lunch on Saturday)
Teachers…………………..
Bill Taylor, Dave Penner, and Neil Bassingthwaighte from EFCC Home Office

Deadline for Registrations is SEPTEMBER 13. There are a limited number of seats so register early!


Register Here


PS: If those of you in the Lower Mainland would like posters or bulletin inserts for this first event, please contact EFCC Home Office and we will send those out to you.

For our friends outside the Lower Mainland, feel free to contact me at bill.taylor@twu.ca or 604-513-2183 if you have further questions, or if you would like to host training in your area.

Thanks for your continued partnership in the gospel!
Serving with you,

Bill

Neil is our National Mission Director

Warrior Kings Need Humble Bread

As we continue our journey through the “Lord’s Prayer,” we get to the phrase, “give us this day our daily bread.” It’s a simple request. Straightforward. A petition to God for daily sustenance. There is no greed here, only dependence. No desire for a banquet, only bread enough for the day. No hint of hoarding desperation, only a daily journey of trust.

It’s a humble request. Yet we live in a world inundated with North American pride and self-sufficiency. So we have to ask ourselves, when we pray these words, do we really mean them?

Language is interesting. Sometimes an obscure word or phrase is suddenly everywhere. This is the case in church culture as well. The phrase “Warrior King” popped up on my radar recently. Someone used this term for Jesus. They were talking about what He will do at the end of the age. The phrase, for a variety of reasons, caught my attention.

As I began to listen, I heard this term elsewhere. Quite often! One particular theologian (who will not be named here because I don’t want to drag his name through the mud) in promoting an upcoming speech on Mature Manhood said, “We will only honor God as men when we understand Scripture’s warrior motif. We are not idiots; we are not goofballs; we are not boys. We are men of God. People do not understand the warrior motif that runs through the Bible like a stream underground. The ideal figure of Scripture is not a bureaucrat, a functionary, or a self-esteem expert. The ideal figure of Scripture is a warrior King.”

Wait…..what? Is he really suggesting that godly men ought to be warrior kings?

Suffice it to say, Jesus is the ideal figure of Scripture. Yes, he is King. There is even room to talk about Him as a warrior. However, that needs a lot of nuance. As I read my Bible, warrior is not the dominant picture of Jesus that I see. I can think of several descriptions I would use instead of warrior:  Savior, Lord, Suffering Servant, the Lamb that was slain, etc. Here is the bottom line: none of those descriptions applies to me. The closest I ought to come is suffering servant (small “s”), as I live out Jesus’ life with a basin and towel

I understand that men feel under attack in our culture. Yet getting men to believe they should all live out “warrior king” lives seems to be doubling down on a mentality that has enabled all kinds of abuse. Just an interesting side-note here: I’m writing this on the day when the Southern Baptist Convention released a significant report on sexual abuse in SBC churches. Issues like these are a black eye on the witness of Jesus that should concern all of us.

What also ought to concern us are the issues of pride, and self-sufficiency a warrior king mentality could bring, and the fractured society it would yield if all men (and women for that matter) ran around acting like warrior kings.

Is this not the antithesis of “give us this day our daily bread”?

Warrior kings don’t need to ask for daily bread, they just pillage and plunder. Asking is for the humble, the needy, the weak, the dependent; but not for warrior kings.

I might be reading too much into the “warrior king” idea. Yet, I believe it’s a cautionary tale. The warrior king motif directly appeals to the arrogance of our fallen nature. It stands as an example of what Jesus came to undo as He tears down our Babel edifices of human pride. When we mean the words “Give us this day our daily bread,” we step away from that pride towards a spirit of dependence on the one and only true King.


Post by:
Neil B.
National Mission Director

 

Neil is our National Mission Director

As I write this, a street in my neighbourhood is closed. The bomb squad is investigating. A university in the area also has all five campuses shut because of a bomb scare. You probably think I should move.

Bombs are destructive. They do incredible damage. What if that was not always the case? Imagine a bomb that could reorder matter for good; that could deconstruct what ought not to be, leaving what should be.

What if God were to take our prayers, which ascend to his throne, and hurl them back with divine power? A prayer bomb of God’s will, done on earth as it is in heaven.

The book of Revelation gives us so many great images. The problem is we don’t spend much time looking at them, because we don’t quite know what to do with this particular piece of literature. One of those images in found in Revelation 5:8, where we see golden bowls of incense in the throne room of God. In Revelation, John usually just relates what he is seeing. Yet here John gives us a brief word of explanation about these bowls. He explains that they are the prayers of God’s people. Is he making sure we don’t miss the point about prayer? That all of those fervent, and sometimes despairing, words offered to God are stored up before the throne. They are known! They are heard! They are precious! That is an awesome truth. Yet if that’s all there was to the story, it would end in disappointment.

It is not the end of this image, however. We see it again in Revelation 8:3-5.

Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.

God puts prayer into action in a powerful way. Prayer Bombs! The prayers of God’s people ignited by the divine power of God destroying what ought not to be, and bringing about what God desires. Did you notice where those prayer bombs landed? Right back on earth. This is the image that always comes to my mind when I read the words in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”.

Do we really pray with this picture in mind? I suspect not. Instead, I often find myself in Annie Dillard’s famous quote:

“Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.”

I would say it’s us who need to wake up. God is at work, powerfully. He desires us to join him. We have the privilege of doing that in a variety of ways. One of them is life-altering, earth-shaking, prayer. Strategic prayer strikes from the throne room of heaven. Bomb blasts that will significantly further God’s plan of lovingly caring for, and redeeming all things. Do you want to join the bomb squad?


Post by:
Neil B.
National Mission Director