Monthly Archives: January 2008

 

Jan

31

2008

Trevin Wax|5:08 am CT

Evil Everywhere

118-danubedelta_letea_tractor-small.jpgJust a month after I moved to Romania in 2000, one of the school deans told me a disturbing story.

He and his wife had a fender bender one day. They were driving behind a tractor, when suddenly the man driving the tractor slammed on his brakes, causing the dean’s car to bump into the back of the tractor. There was no serious damage done to the dean’s car – only a broken headlight.

What the dean discovered upon talking to the tractor driver was shocking. The reason the man had slammed on his breaks was because a Gypsy woman had pushed her little boy out into the road in front of the tractor. In Romania, tractor accidents are insured up to thousands of dollars for the damages they cause (life, auto, medical expenses, etc.) The Gypsy lady was willing to sacrifice her son for the money. The dean’s wife saw the child make his way across the road without getting hurt, even though he was in tears.  This is one of those stories that I wouldn’t have believed had it not been for an eye-witness testimony. It’s just so troubling.

The length at which some people will go to obtain money is appalling. Anyone who denies the biblical doctrine of total human depravity should look again at stories like these.

Of course, we have our own versions of this kind of depravity even in America. Husbands murder their wives to collect the insurance; children kill other children in imitation of what they’ve seen in video games; parents drown their children in a river or the bathtub.

Evil is everywhere. Still, often you minimize its effects until it confronts you and you find yourself staring at it squarely in the face.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2008 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Jan

31

2008

Trevin Wax|4:22 am CT

Book Review: The Character of a Disciple

The Character of a DiscipleDaniel Doriani is senior pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in Clayton, Missouri. His book The Sermon on the Mount: The Character of a Disciple (P&R Publishing, 2006) takes the reader through the Sermon on the Mount with an eye to current scholarship on the Sermon and with a heart for regular church-goers. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a book on Jesus’ most famous sermon that so effortlessly combines top-notch scholarship and pastoral application.

Doriani’s book emphasizes how the Sermon serves as a description of the disciple’s character. The chapters read like short sermons, complete with helpful illustrations and exhortation to Christian living. Doriani expounds the meaning of each text and then offers sound, biblical advice on how we should put the text into application.

At times, I disagreed with Doriani’s exposition. He tends to see the Sermon through a Pauline lens at times when such interpretation is unnecessary. However, the good outweighs the bad. Whether you’re looking for a book that will help you understand the more difficult parts of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount or a book that will serve as a devotional guide as you work your way through the Sermon, you won’t be disappointed by Doriani’s work. The Character of a Disciple is one of the better books on the Sermon to appear in recent years.

written by Trevin Wax. © 2008 Kingdom People Blog

 
 

Jan

30

2008

Trevin Wax|4:19 am CT

Book Review: Consuming Jesus

Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer ChurchDoes the consumerist mindset of contemporary evangelicalism harm our witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ? In Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church, Paul Louis Metzger answers “yes.” And Metzger goes even further: consumerism affects the church by reinforcing the race and class divisions of society.

Consuming Jesus is one of the most engaging books I’ve read in recent days. Metzger exposes evangelicalism’s consumerism for what it is: a capitulation to the market forces of capitalist culture that is detrimental to the unity of the gospel across races and classes. 

Meztger begins by showing how evangelicals first retreated from culture and politics, which prepared the way for a disordered consumerist vision that blinds us to racialization, the market mindset, success, and social structures. He critiques the political aspirations of both the Religious Right and Left. He takes on the church growth strategists’ emphasis on homogeneity. He challenges churches to no longer prop up the materialistic lifestyles of congregations that keep rich and poor, black and white apart.

What I Liked

1. Metzger is prophetic in his call for evangelicals to open their eyes to the race and class divisions in our churches. I like how he pulls from all corners of the church for his critique: from Jonathan Edwards to Martin Luther King, Jr., from John Wesley to John Perkins. Metzger is not interested in promoting another already-in-practice agenda. He looks at the faithful witness of Christians throughout history to challenge the church to move back to its mission.

2. Metzger challenges us to avoid the moralistic trap. No one can accuse Metzger of advocating a social gospel that challenges societal structures while leaving individual human hearts unchanged. Throughout the book, Metzger praises the evangelical emphasis on personal regeneration, even as he chides us for being too self-focused sometimes to see even our own glaring weaknesses.

3. The first half of Consuming Jesus is heavy on critique, but the second half is heavy on practical application. Metzger does not merely complain about the current state of evangelicalism; he offers clear suggestions for changing things. Especially helpful is Metzger’s call for us to minister with the poor, not just to the poor as a way of bridging the divide.

What Needs Work

1. Metzger’s suggestions for changing things are sometimes superficial. He spends way too much effort on critiquing our current church architecture. While I’ll be the first to say I love a magnificent cathedral, I do not believe that aesthetic changes (like moving the communion table to the front of the church) will produce the type of transformation Metzger would like to see. The New Testament has little to say about what church architecture should look like. History shows that churches that look like Metzger’s proposal have had racial and class distinctions of their own.

2. Metzger is right to insist that we need to take responsibility for humanity’s total act of sin, not merely our individual sinfulness. That is why it is valuable for Christians to apologize for the actions of previous generations, for example. But Metzger does not take this as far as he should. If whites should apologize to blacks for previous injustice, so too should blacks apologize for injustice towards whites. The doctrine of original sin means we are all victimizers even as we are victims (a point that Metzger affirms, only he tends to emphasize the white’s reponsibility more than the black’s). What we need is an atmosphere of mutual grief and repentance toward one another.

Overall, Consuming Jesus is a book I highly recommend. Metzger’s book calls us to rethink the current structures of the church and he offers an “all-consuming” vision of the Kingdom which should work its way out into our local congregations and communities.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2008 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Jan

30

2008

Trevin Wax|3:01 am CT

Church Bulletin Humor 4

• Miss Charlene Mason sang, “I will not pass this way again,” giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
• “Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Don’t forget your husbands.”
• The sermon this morning: “Jesus Walks on the Water.” The sermon tonight: “Searching for Jesus.”
• Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
• Barbara remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Pastor Jack’s sermons.

 
 

Jan

29

2008

Trevin Wax|4:21 am CT

Dear Dad and Mom, Thanks for Shooting Mario

Dear Dad and Mom,

I’d like to use this space to publicly thank you for being parents that were willing to take the hard road instead of the easy road.

Thank you limiting my access to computer games and Nintendo when we were growing up.

I realize it would have been much easier for you to let the Nintendo babysit us four kids. But you put our well-being ahead of your own comfort and taught us to read, write, make music, create radio shows, play in the backyard, and make movies. We’re the better for it today.

Thanks for not giving in to our whiny pleas for the newest video games that our neighbors had. Thanks for insisting that we would be better, happier, more well-rounded children by causing us to entertain ourselves instead of sit like zombies in front of Mario and Luigi.

Thanks for not being legalistic about Nintendo. We appreciate the rainy days in which you brought down the Nintendo from the closet top shelf and let us play our hearts out. But thanks even more for putting the Nintendo back up when the sun returned.

Thanks for allowing us to play educational computer games. But thanks also for the thirty-minute timer you set for us each time we played.

Thanks most of all for being involved, for caring about what we were putting into our minds. Thanks for giving us a childhood that some of our friends missed out on – the backyard romps in the clubhouse, the creek Kingdom, all the cassette tapes we made as we created our own sitcoms.

Thanks for the parameters and guidelines you set up for us. We didn’t understand or like them then, but they look like good parameters we want to set for our own kids now.

Love,

Trevin

written by Trevin Wax © 2008 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Jan

28

2008

Trevin Wax|1:55 pm CT

Joel Osteen’s Negative Message

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Everywhere you turn nowadays, there’s Joel Osteen!

He’s on the cable news channels, pontificating about the political process, Mormonism and how “God is the judge of the heart.”

He’s on the bookshelves, smiling from the covers of Your Best Life Now and Become a Better You, promising new life and hope to the downtrodden.

He’s on TV, trumpeting his feel-good gospel of positive reinforcement to a watching world.

Osteen has legions of followers, but he has garnered a large group of critics too. Where is God in his message? What about sin? What about grace? What about Jesus?

Osteen answers his critics in the following way: I focus on the positive. Sin and punishment and all that isn’t my message. I want to help people and don’t want to beat them down all the time.

By answering his critics this way, Osteen has painted his critics as a bunch of denigrating, pulpit-pounding, sin-obsessed pastors. He wants to focus on “the positive.”

But does Osteen do this? I’m afraid not. I’ve listened to Joel Osteen’s messages. I believe he sincerely wants to help people who feel beaten down by life and who feel guilty for their failures and mistakes. The “positive” message he proclaims is this: Do better. Try harder. Believe you can succeed. In other words, you can change! Just do it! God will help you, of course, but you have to make it happen.

Though Osteen claims he has positive sermons, I believe he is proclaiming the most negative, unmerciful message possible. Like telling a clinically depressed person to “just snap out of it!,” Osteen is giving people burdened by sin, guilt and despair more reason to despair.

Do we really think that more willpower will solve our problems? What is this message but the Law on steroids? You won’t hear the gospel in Osteen’s message, regardless of his rare references to Jesus Christ. Osteen’s idea of “good news” is telling self-centered people to look for salvation in more narcissism. Osteen’s preaching is like giving sugar to a diabetic, telling people that the magic medicine will help them, when in fact, it is speeding up their death.

It’s unfortunate that Joel Osteen claims the evangelical label. Osteen’s acceptance of Mitt Romney as a brother in Christ because “he says he has a personal relationship with Jesus” is the same logic some evangelicals apply to Osteen. Nevermind that he implicitly denies the reason for Jesus’ death, the sin we need salvation from, and the only lasting solution that will bring life transformation. Joel says he has a relationship with Jesus. So that’s good enough for us?

Don’t be fooled by the smiling man on the book cover. Joel Osteen’s message is not positive at all.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2008 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Jan

28

2008

Trevin Wax|4:13 am CT

Longing for Judgment

For the next several Mondays, we will be looking at the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 25, specifically the scene of the Last Judgment, when the Son of Man judges all nations. 

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“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then he will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left.”
- Jesus, to the disciples (Matthew 25:31-33)

Jesus spoke of the coming Day of Judgment by comparing people to sheep and goats. In first-century Palestine, sheep and goats often intermingled during the day. But at night, the animals would have to be separated. Here, the one doing the separating is Jesus Himself, the Son of Man.

As the story unfolds, the nations are brought before the throne of Jesus. But nations do not face God’s judgment together. Jesus proceeds to separate the individual people one from another, putting some on His right and others on His left.

Every human being who has ever lived will stand one day before God. Before His throne, there is no middle ground, no separate section for the “good intentioned” or “sincere.” You are either on one side of Jesus or the other. Jesus sees only sheep and goats, no mutations in between.

Today, many Christians shy away from speaking of God as the Judge, perhaps because many preachers have manipulatively abused the imagery of judgment to force people to act a certain way. Aside from the religious rhetoric, though, judgment is the profound cry of the human race. When we hear of a father abusing his daughter, the governmental injustice endured daily by Christians in persecuted lands, or the evil attack of a terrorist, something deep within our soul longs for God to bring His justice to our world. This is, after all, what judgment means: God’s justice being pronounced and put into effect.

The problem is, the sin we would judge in others is present in our own hearts. Even the most honorable individual would still be unjust compared to God. That is why we must place our faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross in order to have our sins pardoned. Only those who have pledged their allegiance to the King will be able to stand to the right of His throne.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2008 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Jan

28

2008

 
 

Jan

27

2008

Trevin Wax|1:40 pm CT

A Follower's Prayer

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.37835-footprints-in-the-desert-0.jpg
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
     and the fact that I think I am following your will
     does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you
     does in fact please you.
And I hope I have the desire in all I am doing.
I hope from that desire,
     and I know that if I do this
     you will lead me by the right road
     though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust you always,
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

- Thomas Merton

 
 

Jan

26

2008

Trevin Wax|4:10 am CT

Cloud of Witnesses: Reflections

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My recent visit to the graves of famous Southern Seminary presidents and professors helped me put some things in perspective.

1. Our heroes are just people.

The resurgent emphasis on the Puritans in recent years has given young evangelicals the opportunity to connect with the past by reading and researching the lives of the Puritan faithful. And yet, our heroes were not always biblical, not always Christ-honoring, not always heroic. In short, they were fallible. The same is true of Southern’s heroes. The same will be said of us.

2. Death is coming.

It’s hard to visit a cemetery and not walk away with a sense of your own human fragility. What is your life? It is but a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away…

You think of the dignified, well-respected presidents and professors of Southern Seminary and you’re tempted to picture them with an aura over them. But then you visit the cemetery and see the founders buried together – Fuller and Mullins not too far away, Honeycutt and Moody close together, and you realize that though these men’s academic and pastoral careers spanned multiple generations, they are all united under the soft ground of a Louisville cemetery. Death is no respecter of persons. The bodies of our great Baptist heroes share the soil with everyone else in Louisville at the time.

3. Faithfulness Remains.

Though Southern’s presidents and professors have been silenced by Death, they speak to us now through their writings, their journals, their sermons. Their faithfulness echoes down the corridors of the Seminary, visible in the ongoing witness of students seeking to better know Christ and better understand the Scriptures. 

While we can count the number of pages in books written by these men, we cannot number the lives that have in some way been impacted by their faithfulness. Through their churches, their students, their classes, writings, and lectures – their faithful witness to Jesus as Lord lives on. The beauty of devoting your life to the gospel - something bigger than yourself and your own desires – is knowing that even after you die, the gospel you believed, loved and preached will continue to transform the coming generations. 

4. The Communion of Saints is an Important Doctrine

Of great comfort to me is the biblical doctrine of the Communion of Saints. We are united to our brothers and sisters who are on the Christian journey with us today, but we are also united to those who have gone before. We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses – men and women who belonged to a different era but who belonged to the same Savior.

Yet she on earth hath union
With God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won,
With all her sons and daughters
Who, by the Master’s hand
Led through the deathly waters,
Repose in Eden land.

- “The Church’s One Foundation”

As I look over my life, I pray that I will follow in the footsteps of the great men of faith, that I will keep my eyes on Jesus, see my life through the perspective of eternity, and leave a legacy of faithfulness for the generations that follow. May those who come behind us find us faithful.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2008 Kingdom People blog