Monthly Archives: November 2006

 

Nov

30

2006

Trevin Wax|8:32 am CT

The Image of God: Starting with Jesus

What does it mean that we bear the image of God? The “default” answer of many Christians surrounds the difference between human beings and animals. Many Christians almost immediately assume that the “image of God” is what separates us from the animal kingdom, and thus our understanding of the image of God should come from our showing how we are different than animals.

While I do not doubt that “the image of God” is perhaps the most important feature of humanity that distinguishes us from animals, I find it hard to believe that the answer to this question lies in a simple contrasting of humans and animals. After all, Scripture says we are made in God’s image, which means this is more a question of how we mirror God than how we do not mirror animals.

There are three main ways for understanding the “image of God.” Some theologians believe it to be a substantive understanding, in that we mirror God’s attributes. Our nature models God’s nature. The second main understanding is functional. We discover what the “image of God” is by examining what human beings do. The third main understanding is relational. Our relationships with God and with others are a reflection of God’s inter-Trinitarian relationships and His love for humanity.

I believe that many scholars who have written on this subject have set up false antitheses. There is biblical support for each of the above views; therefore, we should seek to understand how the “image of God” in humanity is substantive, functional, and relational. We do not have to choose one to the exclusion of the others.

It is also interesting that many Christian theologians seek to answer this question without ever bringing up Christ. The New Testament is explicit in its affirmation of Jesus Christ as the perfect “image of God.” Instead of looking at fallen humanity in seeking to discover how we model God, we should look at Christ and see how His perfect humanity reflects God.

This inevitably brings us to a difficult question as Christians: Was Jesus’ humanity (sinless and perfect) the same as our humanity? If we say no, we are on shaky theological ground, because we are admitting that to be human means to be tempted and to sin. If we say yes, we are affirming that sin is not an essential part of human nature, the way it was created by God. Yes, we are fallen creatures. We are born in sin and without Christ’s sacrifice, we die in sin. But humanity, in its essence, was not sinful at creation. “God saw that it was good!”

Therefore, the question must change. Instead of judging Christ’s humanity by ours, we should start analyzing our humanity by His. “Was Jesus really as human as us if He didn’t sin?” is the wrong question. It is better to ask, “Are we as human as Jesus?” The answer is clear: no! Jesus is not less human for not sinning. He is more human! He fulfills the original intention that God had for the crown of His creation. Jesus (just like Adam and Eve before they sinned) experienced humanity in its original purity – in its God-intended form.

 
 

Nov

29

2006

Trevin Wax|8:09 am CT

The Image of God: A Reflection of His Glory

Today I’m beginning a series of posts (4 actually) on ”the image of God in humanity.” We will look at the issues of “Image and Likeness,” why we should begin with Jesus when seeking to understand the Image of God, how Jesus reflects God, and how the image of God is renewed in believers. 

Although the Bible absolutely affirms humankind’s creation in the image and likeness of God, theologians through the centuries have puzzled over just what that affirmation means. Scripture offers us several clues, but remains surprisingly quiet on the matter. Since the inspired authors of Scripture did not lay out a systematic understanding of what it means to be made in God’s image and likeness, we must deduct from the relevant passages what this biblical doctrine means for us today.

Image and Likeness

The Bible first introduces the concept of the “image of God” as part of the creation narrative, in which the story of God’s special creation of Adam and Eve is told. God’s deliberation before the special creation of humanity is the context for the first saying. In Genesis 1:26-27, God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Two Hebrew words are used here: tselem for “image” and demut for “likeness.”

Some theologians have understood these two terms to mean there is a distinction between “image” and “likeness.” It is possible that there are major differences between “likeness” and “image,” but it is more likely that these are synonyms. The biblical text seems to use the terms interchangeably. James 3:9 prohibits the cursing of people, because they have been made in God’s “likeness.” Genesis 5:1 speaks of God making people in His “likeness.” In Genesis 9:6, the prohibition of murder has as its reason the fact that people have been made in God’s “image.”

Scripture does not support the idea that human beings were made in the image of God and the likeness of God and that we lost one of these attributes in the Fall and maintained the other. Instead, it is easier to see these texts as using two terms to describe one concept. Both terms point to “reflection” as a main idea. Human beings reflect God. We have His image stamped upon us. We were made in His likeness. It is similar to the way one would say, “I saw my reflection, my mirror image, when I looked at the window.” This sentence contains two terms that express the same idea.

Tomorrow we will discover how Jesus should be the starting point for all reflection on the image of God.

 
 

Nov

28

2006

Trevin Wax|6:03 am CT

Ten CDs to Make the Season Bright

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Here’s a list of some of our favorite Christmas CDs. If you have some to add to this list, please do!

1. CHRISTMAS COLLECTION
The Carpenters
The Carpenters’ Christmas Collection is a double-CD set that includes all of their Christmas music from the late 70′s, and early 80′s. There is nothing like Karen Carpenter’s warm voice on a cold wintery day and Richard Carpenter’s fantastic arrangements. I like these two CDs because each song leads into the next, as sort of a suite of Christmas music.
Highlights on these CDs: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” the slowed down version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” the awe-inspiring quietness of “Christ is Born,” and the fun “Sleigh Ride”

2. CHRISTMAS & CHRISTMASTIME
Michael W. Smith
Even if you’re not a big Michael W. Smith fan, you’ll probably enjoy his Christmas music. The first CD (from the 80′s) is arguably better than the second, but both are terrific. The orchestral sound and terrific original compositions make these two CDs classic. Highlights: “No Eye Has Seen” with vocals from Amy Grant, the boy choir on the spine-tingling “All is Well,” the revved up “Gloria,” and the instrumentals on Christmastime.

3. A CHRISTMAS STORY & WINTER WONDERLAND
Point of Grace
There’s just something about the harmonies of Point of Grace that go over great at Christmastime. Both of these CDs are terrific. Point of Grace follows the Carpenters’ formula and utilizes the “suite” mentality on the first CD, letting songs flow right into each other.
Highlights: the big band version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “One King,” the a cappella “In the First Light,” “Let it Snow/Sleigh Ride,” and “Jingle Bells.”

4. A FRESH AIRE CHRISTMAS 2
Manheim Steamroller
20 years might have passed, but this instrumental CD from Manheim Steamroller remains a Christmas staple for our family every year. Creative sound, standard Christmas hymns, beautiful orchestration.
Highlights: “Carol of the Bells,” “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “Still, Still, Still,” “O Holy Night,” “Little Drummer Boy,” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”

5. THE MUSIC OF CHRISTMAS
Steven Curtis Chapman
I’ve enjoyed this Christmas CD the past few years. There are some fantastic arrangements of classic Christmas songs, as well as a few original songs that quickly become favorites.
Highlights: “Christmas is All in the Heart” with CeCe Winans, “Carol of the Bells” played on the guitar like you’ve never heard it before,” “Music of Christmas,” a medley of Christmas songs done instrumentally, “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” to a different tune.

6. A CHRISTMAS ALBUM, HOME FOR CHRISTMAS, A CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER
Amy Grant
No Christian artist does Christmas quite like Amy Grant. Her 3 albums get spun a lot around our house during the Christmas season.
Highlights: “Emmanuel,” “Christmas Hymn,” “Breath of Heaven,” “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Silent Night,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

7. THESE ARE SPECIAL TIMES
Celine Dion
It took a while for this one to grow on me. Now it’s a favorite for our family. There are some terrific songs on this album.
Highlights: the breath-taking “O Holy Night,” a terrific arrangement of “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “The Prayer” with Andrea Bocelli, and “Don’t Save It All for Christmas Day.”

8. MERRY CHRISTMAS
Mariah Carey
Another diva who has a great Christmas CD.
We especially like: “O Holy Night,” “All I Want for Christmas,” “Miss You Most at Christmastime,” “Joy to the World,” and “Jesus Born on this Day”

9. MIRACLES & FAITH & WISHES & GREATEST HOLIDAY CLASSICS
Kenny G
Nothing quite compares with the sweet sound of the saxophone at Christmas time. Kenny G captures the Christmas sound with some fantastic arrangements of great Christmas songs.
Highlights from these CDs: “The First Noel,” “We Three Kings/Carol of the Bells,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Away in a Manger,” “O Holy Night,” and “Jingle Bells”

10. HOME ALONE & HOME ALONE 2
John Williams
The original scores for these two movies make for great Christmas music. A must-have for Christmas fans. “Somewhere in My Memory” is one of the prettiest Christmas tunes ever composed.

What favorite Christmas CDs are you listening to this year?

 
 

Nov

27

2006

Trevin Wax|8:24 am CT

Our Daily Bread

This is the sixth in a series of posts on The Lord’s Prayer. Click here for previous posts.

“Give us this day our daily bread.”
- Jesus, The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:11)

When the disciples heard Jesus mention “daily bread,” a festive banquet probably sprung to mind – that magnificent meal God had promised for His people, who would find their seats reserved at His table of abundance. Asking for daily bread signifies much more than food, yet according to Jesus, our needs should be part of our prayers. When we pray for our bread today, we are asserting our rights as God’s children, asking today for the benefits of sharing the table with God tomorrow.

We don’t have to hang our heads in shame when we unload our problems on God. Paul prayed that God would remove what he called a “thorn in the flesh,” but God instead told him that His strength was made perfect in Paul’s weakness. Hannah begged God for a child, hardly a request one would consider important for the Kingdom of God. Yet, He gave her Samuel, the prophet who would anoint King David, ancestor of the King of Kings.

Praying for God to fulfill our needs is perfectly acceptable, because God can use our neediness to further His kingdom. Our concerns and desires can play a big role in God’s universal plan of salvation. That’s why we must pray for needs beyond our own. We don’t exist in a bubble, demanding daily bread for ourselves without giving a thought to those who yesterday went to bed hungry. We don’t just pray for the hungry. We pray with the hungry.

Often, we’re tempted to pray, “Give us our daily bread for the rest of our lives,” wanting to know that all our future needs will be provided for. Jesus, though, instructs us to pray daily for the bread for that day, just as God commanded the Israelites to not gather more manna than necessary for a day’s sustenance. May we have the spiritual maturity to trust God, allowing Him to work through our needs and desires to further His kingdom work on earth.

 
 

Nov

25

2006

Trevin Wax|9:07 am CT

On the Incarnation

Man’s maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.

- Augustine of Hippo (Sermons 191.1)

 
 

Nov

22

2006

Trevin Wax|8:02 am CT

A Call for Humble Bloggers

In the Southern Baptist Convention, the blogosphere is both promising and threatening. To have a voice in Convention life ten or fifteen years ago, you had to climb a ladder of committees, be in a prominent parachurch ministry, pastor a growing church, or be a seminary professor or author. Not today. Any Baptist with internet access can start a blog, publish their thoughts, cause controversy, and gather a following.

Blogs feed egos. The more brash, bold, arrogant you can be – the better. Of course, there are some really great, growing blogs that haven’t followed this path. But generally, arrogance and pride is the way to get a base of readers.

After visiting some different Baptist blogs and reading the self-righteous rhetoric and outright mockery of other believers, I feel compelled to ask: And who are you? What have you done for the Kingdom that gives you the right to criticize so heartlessly your brothers and sisters in Christ?

Furthermore, bloggers overestimate their importance. Last year, the SBC elected Frank Page as president, instead of Ronnie Floyd (the candidate endorsed by Paige Patterson and some of the other leaders of the Conservative Resurgence). The media reported that bloggers were crucial in the election.

But were we really that influential? I think not. Ultimately, Page was elected over Floyd because his church was more supportive of the Cooperative Program. The Southern Baptist pastors I have spoken with all said they voted for Page because they wanted to make a statement about the importance of the Cooperative Program. Not one mentioned blogs as influential in their decision.

So, did Baptists make a statement about the Cooperative Program? Yes. But no one was listening. Instead, bloggers let the media attention go to their head and then started assuming that they were responsible for Page’s election. So, instead of Baptists making a statement about the importance of the Cooperative Program, bloggers turned the election into an affirmation of their own grandeur.

I encourage bloggers who disagree with me to go out and ask pastors outside their circle why they voted for Page. Let’s let their answers deflate our egos. As the Rich Mullins song goes… “We are not as strong as we think we are.”

The missing ingredient in the blogosphere today is humility. We need a good dose of reality. Just because see ourselves as hip and technologically savvy does not mean we automatically deserve a platform for whatever ideas we have or pronouncements we make. Godly influence cannot be manufactured. It comes with maturity and wisdom. And usually, the people who most deserve to be heard are the ones who refuse to participate in biting criticism and attacks on other believers.

The blogosphere is here to stay. Now let’s hope humility makes a comeback.

 
 

Nov

21

2006

Trevin Wax|8:10 am CT

Ten Commandments for Short-Term Mission Trips

As a former missionary to Romania who has experience with short-term mission teams, I can only give a hearty ”Amen” to this list of Ten Commandments for short-termers. There are teams that obey these laws and have great, effective ministries overseas. Other teams break all the commandments and their ministries suffer for it! 

1. Thou shalt always remember that the primary function of a short-term team is to learn, and not to help.

2. Thou shalt always defer to the long-term missionaries, even when thou dost not agree with them.

3. Thou shalt surely leave all they agendas at home before thou arrivest on the mission field.

4. Thou shalt be prepared to spend large amounts of time doing nothing, for thus verily is the way of the mission field.

5. Thou shalt be careful to obey in all details, the security rules and advice of the project which thou visitest.

6. Thou shalt be both attentive and accurate in the communication with the mission base before they visit.

7. Thou shalt be careful to pay for all the expenses of thy visit.

8. Thou shalt take great care in thy giving and spending, lest thou appearest to be filthy rich.

9. Thou shalt be careful to respect the doctrinal and theological views of the project which thou visitest.

10. Thou shalt surely keep thy word in regards to follow-up activities.

(from Paul Cull, leader of Projeto Casa Esperanza in Brazil)

 
 

Nov

20

2006

Trevin Wax|7:55 am CT

Your Will Be Done

This is the fifth in a series on the Lord’s Prayer. Click here to see the previous posts.

“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
- Jesus, The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:10)

The first few phrases of The Lord’s Prayer teach us to pray to God on the grand scale. Pleading for God’s glorious Kingdom to break into our sin-soaked world can be exhilarating. Still, in case we would forget that God wants us to take part in His Kingdom work, Jesus adds that we should pray for God’s will to be done. Praying according to God’s will does not mean shrugging one’s shoulders, saying, “Well, whatever God wants.” Jesus does not teach us passivity in prayer – to simply stand by so God can do whatever He wants with or without us while we resign ourselves to fate.

What it means to pray in the will of God can be seen in other circumstances during Jesus’ life. Writhing in anguish in Gethsemane, Jesus begged that God would allow Him to be spared the suffering of the cross, yet He added, “Your will be done.” Jesus’ praying for God’s will to be done did not mean God must fulfill His plan some other way. He knew that God’s will would be done through Him! Thus, His praying for God’s will to be done meant that He was ready to step up to the plate, to be the one through whom God would carry out His plan.

When we pray The Lord’s Prayer, we’re saying, “God may Your will be done in us! Make us Kingdom people – the people who implement Your will! We will be those who live according to Your Son’s victory over sin and death.” More than just a coy phrase we attach onto a list of our prayer requests, “Your will be done” means we are ready to jump headfirst into God’s plan as it floods our world. “Your will be done, Lord! Your Kingdom come – on earth as it is in heaven.”

 
 

Nov

19

2006

Trevin Wax|7:54 am CT

Neither Poverty Nor Riches

Lord,
Give us neither poverty nor riches.
Feed us with the food that is needful for us,
lest we be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest we be poor and steal and profane the name of our God.
- Proverbs 30:8-9
- Prayer for the Week

 
 

Nov

17

2006

Trevin Wax|6:46 pm CT

Spurgeon's Admonition to Seminarians on the Gospel

“Avoid a sugared gospel as you would shun sugar of lead. Seek that gospel which rips up and tears and cuts and wounds and hacks and even kills, for that is the gospel that makes alive again.

“And when you have found it, give good heed to it. Let it enter into your inmost being. As the rain soaks into the ground, so pray the Lord to let his gospel soak into your soul.”

- Charles H. Spurgeon (48.538)