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Christmas and Cricket: Rediscovering Two Lost C. S. Lewis Articles After 70 Years

“A Christmas Sermon for Pagans” is quintessential Lewis at the height of his renown. “Cricketer’s Progress” is more of a mystery.

Would you imagine that, with all of the cataloging technologies we have working around the clock, one could still discover unknown articles by a very well-known author? While doing research for my PhD, I discovered two such articles by C. S. Lewis. Although published in the 1940s, these articles have been overlooked ever since and don’t appear in the many lists of his works. The thrill of discovery has brought home a few points (of encouragement) in a time when it sometimes seems as though all the stones have been overturned.

In 2013, I was spending my days pouring over old journals and forgotten newspapers from the early 20th century. I wanted to understand just why Lewis had become a household name in Britain during the height of the Second World War for his Christian writings, and why, in the decades since, it has been Americans, rather than the British, who have continued to relish Lewis’s defenses of Christian doctrine.

On one particular, ordinary day, I made my way to the National Library of Scotland in the Edinburgh rain. I stored my dripping coat in a locker and settled myself among the industrious scholars. It was chilly underneath the fluorescent lights. Someone’s phone was chiming intermittently, disrupting the quiet and concentration. After a while, my back ached from hunching over the delicate pieces of paper spread across the table in front of me. I rose to stretch my legs and consult yet another index of British periodicals in the reference section. This small exertion set my blood moving a little freer through my veins. I took down an unfamiliar volume from a nearby shelf, an index to The Strand Magazine. From what was by then a reflex, I flipped to “Lewis, C. S.” To my surprise, ...

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Friends of Zion’s Christians?

Overtures by US evangelicals to Arab churches tested by Trump’s Jerusalem decision.

American evangelicals rediscovered their brethren in the Middle East in recent years. The promise of the Arab Spring, followed by the threat of ISIS. Beheadings and other martyrdoms, followed by forgiveness.

Many decided we must become better friends, and work harder for the persecuted church’s flourishing in the land of its birth.

However, President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is putting that new friendship to the test, as Middle East Christian leaders have almost unanimously rallied against the decision.

Trump’s decision would “increase hatred, conflict, violence and suffering,” said the patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem in a statement in advance of his anticipated announcement.

The Coptic Orthodox Church warned of “dangerous consequences.” The head of Egypt’s Protestant community said it was “against justice” and “not helpful.”

But the strongest testimony may have come from Jordan, where the national evangelical council pleaded against “uncalculated risks” that “may well expose Christians in this region to uncontrollable dangers.”

Despite these dire cries, many conservative US evangelicals rejoiced in Trump’s announcement. Support for Israel is a longstanding mark of much of the community.

“Evangelicals in the US don’t spend enough time thinking about Arab Christians,” said Joel Rosenberg, a dual US-Israeli citizen who last month led a friendship-seeking delegation of evangelical leaders to Egypt and Jordan. Many were members of Trump’s unofficial faith advisory team.

“People who love Jesus haven’t been talking to each other. But we should.” ...

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Johnson Amendment Repeal Removed from Final GOP Tax Bill

Trump promise to let churches make political endorsements blocked by Senate rule.

President Donald Trump’s biggest religious freedom policy promise to evangelicals—repealing the Johnson Amendment—will no longer take place via Republican tax reform.

A Democratic senator announced Thursday night that the repeal included in the House version of the tax bill, which would allow churches and other nonprofits to endorse candidates without losing their tax-exempt status, was removed during the reconciliation process with the Senate version, which did not include a repeal.

According to Senator Ron Wyden, the senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, the Johnson Amendment repeal was blocked by the Senate parliamentarian. Because of a requirement called the Byrd Rule, reconciliation bills—which are passed through a simple Senate majority—cannot contain “extraneous” provisions that don’t primarily deal with fiscal policy, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Trump made political speech by churches a major part of his president platform, and since taking office has repeatedly brought up his pledge to “totally destroy” the 1954 tax code provision named for Lyndon B. Johnson. Trump saw the Johnson Amendment as a restriction on religious groups’ free speech rights, since it prevents any nonprofit from opposing or endorsing a political candidate—therefore keeping political contributions from becoming tax-deductible.

Democrats have opposed the measure, and Wyden said he was pleased they prevented the repeal and would “continue to fight all attempts to eliminate this critical provision.”

Republican Senator James Lankford, a Southern Baptist and religious liberty advocate, criticized the move to block the measure.

“The federal government ...

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A Letter to the Church from R.C. Sproul (1939-2017), His Theology, and His Work in the Gospel

A faithful servant has entered into the joy of his master.

“We are secure, not because we hold tightly to Jesus, but because he holds tightly to us.” – R. C. Sproul (1939–2017)

Today, a legendary theologian passed into the hands of our heavenly Father. Dr. R.C. Sproul went home to be with the Lord this afternoon. He was 78. You can read more from Ligonier Ministries here.

Probably best known for his books The Holiness of God, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, and What Is Reformed Theology?, he was hugely prolific in his writings, including dozens of critical question short books, longer books, and Bible commentaries. As my friends here at Christianity Today wrote, “Sproul’s legacy lives on in generations of laypeople and Reformed leaders whose theology was strengthened and shaped by Ligonier Ministries, the organization he founded in 1971 to fill the gap ‘between Sunday school and seminary.’”

And Twitter is alight with praises and thanks for his life and ministry. Ronnie Martin, pastor of Substance Church in Ohio, explained Sproul this way:

Thanking God for the life and ministry of R.C. Sproul. What I learned and am learning from him:

1. The truth of reformed theology
2. The awe of God’s holiness
3. The comfort of God’s sovereignty
4. The simple, yet profound depths of the gospel

Forever grateful.

For many of us, Sproul was an early shaper of our theology. I remember listening to cassette tape series like The Holiness of God, Chosen by God, and many more. I actually had every single cassette they released. (Full disclosure, my brother-in-law worked at the ministry so I got them cheaply!)

But to be honest, I would have paid much, much more.

I fondly remember watching him write on the board a list of great theologians ...

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Died: R. C. Sproul, Reformed Theologian Who Founded Ligonier Ministries

Late PCA leader influenced generations of Christians by filling the gap “between Sunday school and seminary.”

When Reformed theologian and Ligonier Ministries founder R. C. Sproul was once asked what he wanted written on his tombstone, he replied cheekily, “I told you I was sick.”

That was in 2015, after the esteemed teacher and author’s health declined severely following a stroke. This December, the 78-year-old was hospitalized and was forced to rely on ventilator support to breathe during his 12-day stay, due to complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). He died on Thursday.

“His tombstone wouldn’t be able to hold the words of what he’s meant to so many,” tweeted Kansas pastor Gabriel Hughes. “Well done, good and faithful servant. Now great is your reward.”

Sproul’s legacy lives on in generations of laypeople and Reformed leaders whose theology was strengthened and shaped by Ligonier, the organization he founded in 1971 to fill the gap “between Sunday school and seminary.”

Ordained in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), Sproul brought theological education to the masses through his radio show Renewing Your Mind, his ministry’s Tabletalk magazine, over 300 lecture series, 90 books, and dozens of articles.

“Through his teaching ministry, many of us learned that God is bigger than we knew, our sin is more deeply rooted than we imagined, and the grace of God in Jesus Christ is overwhelming,” wrote Ligonier in a tribute.

The global organization shares 2 million “biblical and theological resources” annually, with hundreds of thousands of students, readers, and subscribers in 105 countries.

Earlier this year, Sproul said, “There are only two ways of dying. We can die in faith or we can die in our sins.” ...

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The Sanctification Gap

The call to die is really a call to experience life the way we were meant to.

There is a gap of action and desire in Christian holiness today. The Christian is called to follow Jesus, become more like Him, and die to self. Most Christians know that God is calling them to live a life of holiness and submission to Christ, yet few actually act on these desires. This is what we call the “sanctification gap.”

Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:34-35, ESV). The dichotomy of losing life to find it, denying self to find our true selves, and following Jesus to find our true purpose is at the crux of the Christian experience. It’s a beautiful opportunity to experience life and spirituality outside of ourselves and, as I say in the article: “The death of self and submission to Christ is not a sad end to an otherwise great life, it’s a huge gasp of air after living underwater.”

Sadly, many Christians see the Christian experience as the opposite of a breath of fresh air: a confining list of rules, regulations, and heaping levels of guilt and shame when failure comes. Churches have been complicit in this idea, either watering down the necessity of sanctification or creating incredible burdens that no one can bear. We need to understand the Gospel to help us come to solutions.

To help us think through this, Influence Magazine asked me to write an article that outlines some of the problems inherent in this gap and what to do about it.

In the article, I quote some helpful statistics to get our minds around the holiness gap:

39% indicate that they “confess . . . sins and wrongdoings ...

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Two Marvelous Truths Help Me Say No to Sexual Sin

As a same-sex-attracted woman married to a man, I was struggling to ward off temptation on my own power. Then God showed me I didn’t have to.

Author’s Note: In October of this year I had the privilege of publicly sharing my story of coming to Christ from a background of same-sex attraction and atheism. The response to that story was deeply personal for many. A great number of readers—some straight, most not—wrote to ask me about what my married life looked like now. Specifically, how did I live with an attraction to women that had not been taken away, while following Christ and married to a man? This piece is an attempt to show how God has met me in this. But more importantly, I hope it can be an encouragement to you—that God desires and is able to meet you as well, whatever your persistent temptations may be.

The driving clamor of my heart was the most physical sign of my despair, attended by tears. But it was the emotional weight that truly bore me down. The sickening feeling of complete impotence, the mania of a trapped animal. I had committed no sin—wait, had I not? Was that right?—yet I seemed on a collision course with the sure destruction of my ministry, my marriage, my sense of self in Christ, and my relationship with him.

That this was happening after years of obedience increased the dread. Would I never be safe or free? In my early years in Christ, sexual disobedience had been a frequent, painful tripping point. But slowly, my muscle of obedience grew stronger.

I wonder now if that was less spiritual victory than victories of my will. Each time I chose sin after coming to Christ, the pleasure was adulterated with pain. The embarrassment of failure and the crush of relational strain between myself and God blighted my Christian life, like stubborn weeds. The ugliness of this had a strong deterrent effect over time.

This ...

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Yes, 100 Christian Kids Are Being Raised by Muslim Families. Here’s the Actual Problem.

The real threat to foster children in the UK (and the US) lies within our own hearts.

For the past few weeks, headlines in the United Kingdom have been full of outrage over Christian foster children being placed with Muslim families, and vice versa.

It began in August, when The Times of London—one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious newspapers—ran a sensational article about a Muslim family fostering a 5-year-old Christian girl. According to the article, they deprived her of bacon, suggested she learn Arabic, and took away her crucifix necklace.

The Times reported that several of the girl’s caretakers wore a niqab or burka, inferring that “generally indicates adherence to a conservative, Salafi-influenced interpretation of Islam that is often contemptuous of liberal Western values.” The reporter blamed government social services for placing the child without considering her religion.

The story was investigated by a senior social worker and almost entirely debunked: no food had been rejected for religious reasons; English was spoken in the home; and the crucifix was so large and valuable that the foster parents had returned it to the child’s grandmother for safekeeping. The social worker concluded the girl received “warm and appropriate care” while she waited for her grandmother—who is also Muslim—to gain approval to take custody of her.

But the damage was already done. The Daily Mail tabloid followed up with a story detailing the reactive anger of members of Parliament, and The Sun tabloid reported that at least 101 Christian children have been placed with Muslim foster families, while 394 Muslim children have been placed with Christian foster families.

Right-wing extremist groups such as Britain First and the English Defence League jumped ...

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Should the Lord’s Prayer Be Changed?

Experts weigh in on Pope Francis' recent support for changing the wording "lead us not into temptation."

The church has a long history of fiddling with the Lord’s Prayer and debating the right wording.

Scripture itself isn’t unified on the wording. The Bible gives us two versions of the prayer—often referred to as the Our Father—one from Matthew’s gospel (Matt. 6:9–13) and one from Luke’s gospel (Luke 11:2–4).

Additionally, today we often forget that the last two lines (“for thine is the kingdom…”) aren’t from Scripture but were added later by well-intentioned churchmen who felt that ending with sin didn’t tell the whole story.

Then there’s the question of translations and traditions. If Matthew’s wording probably borrows a term that refers to financial debts in the original Greek, is it okay that many traditions say “trespasses”?

Pope Francis recently waded into the wording of the Lord’s Prayer by supporting a decision by the French Catholic church to change the wording of a line in the French translation of the prayer.

In an interview last week, Francis agreed that the new wording adopted by the French Catholic church was theologically clearer, suggesting that the previous version was not a “good translation.”

The phrase, “Ne nous soumets pas à la tentation” (roughly “Don’t subject us to temptation”) was updated this Sunday to be “Ne nous laisse pas entrer en tentation” (meaning “Don’t let us go into temptation.”) In English, the phrase is traditionally rendered “lead us not into temptation.” The concern for the French church and the pope is that the wording may suggest that God causes people to sin.

“It’s not about letting ...

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How #BlackWomen Saved Evangelicalism

For Black Christians, sexual harassment and assault are as much of a gospel issue as abortion.

The Alabama Senate election was many things to many people, but one of them impacts evangelicals directly. You see, yesterday’s election was a monumental moment for evangelicalism.

Yesterday, evangelicalism found itself at a cultural crossroads. A Roy Moore victory would support the narrative that, when it comes to politics, many evangelicals have all but thrown morality out the door for the sake of values voting (the irony).

Exit poll numbers, on the surface, seem troubling. When asked if they considered themselves a born-again or evangelical Christian, 80% of Moore’s supporters answered affirmatively. Evangelicalism—at least those who self-identify as evangelicals—was in line for another reckoning.

Saving the Day

Instead, Black voters, many of whom don’t self-identify as evangelicals (though are deeply committed to Christ), stepped in to save the day. Overall, exit polls showed that 96% of Alabama’s Black voters voted for Doug Jones.

And Black women led the charge.

In fact, it might be safe to say that #BlackWomen saved evangelicalism, with 98% of Black women voters in the state voting for Jones (93% of Black men voted for Jones).

Today, at the very least we can admit: Black Votes Matter.

The complacency of Black voters in off-year elections since Barack Obama’s time on Pennsylvania Avenue has been well documented. Over the past eight years, Black voter turnout for off-year elections has been paltry. This election was different. This election meant something. It was an opportunity for Blacks to do what they did best—recalibrating our nation in the voting booth. But that wasn’t always the case.

A little over 50 years ago, I wouldn’t be writing this article. Blacks would ...

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