Monthly Archives: June 2008

 

Jun

30

2008

Trevin Wax|3:56 am CT

A Blog Sabbatical

Tomorrow marks the beginning of a personal sabbatical from blogging. No new material will appear at Kingdom People during the month of July. On August 1, I will resume blogging here at Kingdom People. I will also be making an announcement that my regular readers may find exciting!

I know that the short-term nature of the blogosphere makes an extended absence unwise from a blogger’s standpoint, but I have several good reasons for taking a 31-day hiatus this summer:

1. Need for Spiritual Refreshment
I look forward to directing some of the time I would have spent blogging to more prayer, Bible study, and devotional reading.

2. Other Important Responsibilities Vying for My Time

  • Less than a month ago, my wife gave birth to our second child. I believe I will better serve my family if I devote a little extra attention to my wife, son, and new daughter during this month.
  • Also, my parents-in-law have just arrived from Romania. They are staying with us for the next five weeks, and I look forward to some quality time with them.
  • My responsibilities at church this month are many: including the preparation for a renewed discipleship emphasis in August as well as a mission trip to Moldova in September.
  • I will be taking a J-Term in Louisville this month – a class which demands much of my reading time.
  • I am also planning to attend a conference at the end of the month.

3. Blogging can be addictive.
I do not want to be constantly concerned about blog statistics, comments, and links. The best way to avoid the danger of caring too much about a blog is by taking a break from it for awhile.

4. Blogs are also inherently self-promoting.
My blog may have good and helpful content in the short-term, but if I ever view the blog as a way to promote myself before others, I will become a self-centered, self-absorbed person whose contributions to the Kingdom will be diminished in the long-term. Having blogged consistently for almost two years now, I think it would be wise to take a step back and evaluate the spiritual effects (both good and bad) that blogging has on me.

I appreciate the readers who subscribe to Kingdom People and those who visit this site regularly. If you happen upon this site during the month of July, you might enjoy looking through the archives. I believe you will find some articles, interviews, or devotional thoughts that may be helpful.

So, until August 1… I pray you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.

 
 

Jun

29

2008

Trevin Wax|3:35 am CT

Display in Us Your Grace

O. Father of glory, this is the cry of our hearts -
to be changed from one degree of glory to another,
until, in the resurrection, at the last trumpet,
we are completely conformed to the image of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Until then, we long to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord,
especially the knowledge of his glory.
We want to see it as clearly as we see the sun,
and to savor it as deeply as our most desired pleasure.

O merciful God, incline our hearts to your word and the wonders of your glory.
Wean us from our obsession with trivial things.
Open the eyes of our hearts to see each day
what the created universe is telling about your glory. 
Enlighten our minds to see the glory of your Son in the gospel.

We believe that you are the All-glorious One, 
and that there is none like you.
Help our unbelief.
Forgive the wandering of our affections
and the undue attention we give the lesser things.

Have mercy on us, for Christ’s sake,
and fulfill in us your great design to display the glory of your grace.
In Jesus name we pray, Amen

- John Piper, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, pgs. 17-18.

 
 

Jun

28

2008

Trevin Wax|3:33 am CT

C.S. Lewis on Overcoming Temptation

“I know all about the despair of overcoming chronic temptations. It is not serious provided self-offended petulance, annoyance at breaking records, impatience et cetera doesn’t get the upper hand. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes are in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present to us: it is the very sign of his presence.”

- C.S. Lewis, in a letter to Mary Neylan, January 20, 1942

 
 

Jun

28

2008

Trevin Wax|2:19 am CT

The Importance of Wise Counsel

A few days ago, I wrote about a period during my Romanian sojournings that I refer to as the “Letdown.” My responsibilities in the village church had been dramatically reduced, mainly because of a fall-out between my home church and the village pastor.

During this stressful time, I rarely spoke of my feelings regarding the issues between me and the village pastor or between my church at home and my church in Romania. At times, keeping quiet was a challenge. But I did not want to cause problems or dissension in the church.

Eventually, some people began asking questions. Some began asking why I was not as involved. Realizing that I could not avoid at least some discussion of the events, I decided to meet privately with the most prominent elder of the church. He was one of the most devout and spiritually minded men that I’d ever met – never one to cause dissension. Never one to lend an ear to gossip or talking. I knew if I were to speak to anyone, he would be the one. 

My feeling “underused” in the village, and also the possibility of being seen as “money” brought this unofficial and undisclosed meeting between the two of us. He was wise and knew something was wrong, but he had not been filled in on what exactly had transpired between the churches.

What encouraged me most about our brief meeting was that neither of us spoke negatively about the pastor. It was not my intention to question the leadership, even though I felt hurt by some of the pastor’s actions that spring. It was not my intention to speak badly of anyone, only to address my concerns to the elder, who had been asking me why I was no longer speaking in church. I knew that I would have to explain to him the fall-out between my church and his pastor. My purpose for working in the village was not to bring money. My purpose was to work with the youth. It needed to be clear.

The elder quickly realized what was going on. There were some problems sweeping through the church, and I was getting bogged down into issues that were not really mine to begin with. He encouraged me and told me to continue on in the work, to not let these problems take away our joy and courage, and to continue in our work with the youth, for God was truly working among the young people there. “Do what you can, Trevin,” he said. “Leave the money issues aside and just do what you can.”

The elder’s words sustained me during the upcoming months of village work. The relationship between my home church and the village church was never quite the same. The relationship between me and the village pastor needed some work too, but we pressed on together toward a common goal. By this point in my Romanian ministry, I felt like I was in over my head. That’s why the counsel I received was so beneficial. No one should underestimate the importance of wise counsel.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2008 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Jun

27

2008

Trevin Wax|3:13 am CT

In the Blogosphere

I’m quoted in this Washington Post article about a new version of my favorite game, Stratego.

Pray at the Pump: A Meditation on Jesus and Economic Discipleship

Christianity Today interviews Tim Keller about his book The Reason for God.

Mark Seifrid’s “fresh response” to N.T. Wright. (PDF)

The Gentleman’s Guide to Tipping

Check out Jared’s terrific picture of Yosemite Valley.

How you can keep your car running at peak fuel efficiency.

Al Mohler on how a Canadian court is undermining parental authority.

Top Post this week at Kingdom People: Book Review - The Courage to Be Protestant

 
 

Jun

26

2008

Trevin Wax|3:41 am CT

Romanian Letdown

Even though I blended into the church and the village, living just like the Romanians and now speaking the language fluently, I was still seen as the American. Try as I may, I could never totally assimilate into Romanian culture. One of the reasons I did not want to be seen as American was the tendency for Romanians to view all Americans from a financial perspective. American equals Money.

During my first six months in Romania, it seemed like my responsibilities in the village church were endless. The pastor of the church had me preaching once a week, sometimes even more than that. I was active in the Friday night Bible studies. We held Saturday youth meetings, and I had several Sunday youth meetings as well.

But during this time, the village church leadership mistakenly expected my home church in the States to help finance their new building campaign. This led to misunderstanding and then to a fall-out between my church in America and my church in Romania. I was caught in the middle, unaware of how to handle the situation.

Due to external circumstances and internal misunderstandings between me and the pastor of the church, my leadership in the church changed drastically in the next few months. I still actively participated on Saturdays in the youth service, but my opportunities to preach on Sundays disappeared. The pastor suddenly stopped giving me opportunities to minister to the church as a whole.

My first year in Romania could be divided into two parts. The Fall and Winter months had me almost overused in the village, involved in everything possible! The Spring months had me underused. Other than the Saturday Bible study, I was hardly involved in anything.

The fall-out between my church in America and my church in Romania affected my ministry opportunities in the village. I was no longer utilized in any public fashion at all. During this time, I had to work to keep a good attitude and avoid becoming bitter. It would’ve been easy for me to just shake it off and say, “I’ll go somewhere else,” since other pastors had been inviting me to work with the youth in their churches. But I loved the youth in this village too much to simply shrug my shoulders and try to find a church that would better benefit from my ministry. It would have been wrong to see things that way. Instead, I decided that I would serve God in whatever capacity He gave me, even if that meant that my role would be minimized.

Through this situation, I came to understand that not all ministry is up-front, speaking in church. Much of what constitutes important ministry takes place behind the scenes, in one-on-one conversation with the youth, and in being an example.

I understood my role during the Spring as being behind-the-scenes while my friend and co-worker in the village quickly took on responsibilities that put him in front of the church. While he was given the pulpit more often on Sundays, I dedicated myself to discipling the youth through one-on-one ministry over the course of the entire weekend. We sought to complement each other as a team. He could do what I could not. I could do what he could not.

Despite the discouraging feeling of being “underused” during those difficult months, I learned some valuable lessons about what it means to reject the “seat of honor.” Christian servants must be willing to be “last” and behind the rest, to not seek the credit for the ministry successes and to accept blame for ministry failures.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2008 Kingdom People blog 

 
 

Jun

25

2008

Trevin Wax|3:42 am CT

Book Review: The Courage to Be Protestant

Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern WorldIn his newest book, The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2008), David Wells launches a stinging critique of contemporary evangelicalism, particularly in its market-driven and Emerging forms. Bundling together the insights from his previous books, Wells advocates a return to doctrinal fidelity and a renewed trust in Scriptural authority.

David Wells reminds me of a curmudgeonly grandfather – a man full of wisdom who is also highly opinionated. The Courage to Be Protestant contains piercing insights into the problems of today’s evangelical movement along with a good dose of “attitude” that keeps the book entertaining. (Take for example Wells’ description of the hip-hop culture “set apart by their getups, their tattoos, their piercings, jewelry, hoodies, off-kilter baseball caps, and pants that look like they were made by a drunken tailor.” [15])

Wells is at his best when offering insight into why our culture is going through its contemporary turmoil. He rightly notices how our terminology has shifted (for example, we no longer look at lost people as “unconverted” but as merely “unchurched” [45].) He sees through the market-driven mentality of many churches, where “the benefits of believing [Christianity] are marketed, not the truth from which the benefits derive. (53)”

Wells’ chapter on God is terrific. He writes: “Culture does not give the church its agenda. All it gives the church is its context. The church’s belief and mission come from the Word of God.” (98) He argues that we have lost our center, and this because we have lost the God that is outside of ourselves. We have misunderstood God’s nearness and immanence as if he were inside us. The truth of the God that stands outside of us is what gives us the Law, defines sin, and makes the cross necessary. Here, Wells calls us to recover God’s transcendence.

In later chapters, he makes his case for the public nature of Christian truth claims. Particularly insightful is the way that Wells shows how many Christians have become both secular and spiritual. “Secularization does not mean that all religion and spirituality must wither away. It simply means that all religion and spirituality need to be kept private.” (187) Wells articulates a robust understanding of the penal substitutionary atonement, and yet he nuances it in all the right places. For instance, he believes we should make the distinction that Christ took upon himself the penalty of our sin, not that he was punished for sin. (201). In other words, God condemned sin in the flesh of Jesus; God did not condemn Jesus.

Yet The Courage to Be Protestant has several problems. Wells puts too much stock in surveys and polls. For example, he worries that only 32 percent of evangelicals believe in absolutes (93). I cannot help but wonder if most evangelicals even speak in these categories enough to be able to answer such a survey question accurately.

Other times, he makes sweeping generalizations without the documentation to back up his point. For example, he argues (without any documentation) that the overwhelming majority of evangelical pastors have become seeker-sensitive (44). A brief glance at the layout of the large number of smaller, rural evangelical churches might change that perception.

Or take his common refrain that Americans are “spiritual, but not religious” (60, 185). Researchers are beginning to see how this generalization is not only undocumented, but simply untrue. (See Robert Wuthnow’s After the Baby Boomers for some surprising statistics.)

Throughout the book, Wells advocates a return to the doctrinal convictions of previous eras, but he sometimes conflates doctrinal conviction with the re-adoption of certain forms and traditions not specifically prescribed in Scripture. In a terrific chapter that takes the evangelical church to task for making Christianity “for sale” through the embrace of a market mentality, Wells shows how consumerism has changed American evangelicalism. But the chapter is marred by his lament over the contemporary preacher who sits on a barstool (which replaced the Plexiglas stand, which earlier replaced the pulpit). Wells seems to think the pulpit is the most sacred place for a pastor to stand (29). The absence of pulpits might indeed be due to the market mentality of some mega-churches, but surely the answer to our consumerism is not merely returning to the pulpit!

Other problems surface in some of Wells’ contradictions. For example, on page 80, he argues that “Scripture is… the truth. Scripture is not only a measure, not only a standard, but is also truth.” Two pages later, he distinguishes between Jesus and Scripture by saying “Scripture is true, but he is the truth.” And then, “…only of Christ can it be said that he is the truth.” Without further elaboration, the reader is left wondering what the relationship between Jesus and the Bible might be.

The Courage to Be Protestant is a book that should be read and digested by evangelical leaders today. Most of Wells’ analysis is correct. He puts his finger on many of the foundational problems that are corroding our evangelical identity. Though his tone is often pessimistic and he offers little evidence or hope for a resurgence of biblical orthodoxy, Wells’ counsel and instruction are worthy of receiving and hearing. Readers may disagree at times with the “grumpy Grandpa,” but I, for one, am glad that the wise curmudgeon had the courage to write such a book.

written by Trevin Wax. copyright © 2008 Kingdom People Blog.

Check out SaidatSouthern.com for a chapter-by-chapter analysis of The Courage to Be Protestant.

 
 

Jun

24

2008

Trevin Wax|3:27 am CT

Phantoms of Devotion

I have recently been reading Francis de Sales (1567-1622), specifically his writings on a life of devotion. One of the most convicting insights that Francis has regarding the devotional life is the danger of defining devotion as whatever you like to do and think you do well.

“…Everyone paints devotion according to his own passions and fancies. Someone given to fasting thinks himself very devout if he fasts although his heart may be filled with hatred. Much concerned with sobriety, he doesn’t care to wet his tongue with wine or even water but won’t hesitate to drink deep of neighbor’s blood by detraction and gossip.”

“Another person thinks himself devout because he daily recites a vast number of prayers, but after saying them he utters the most disagreeable, arrogant, and harmful words at home and among the neighbors. Another gladly takes a coin out of his purse and gives it to the poor, but he cannot extract kindness from his heart to forgive his enemies. Another forgives his enemies but never pays his creditors unless compelled to do so by force of law.”

“All these individuals are usually considered to be devout, but they are by no means such… Many persons clothe themselves with certain outward actions connected with holy devotion, and the world believes that they are truly devout and spiritual whereas they are in fact nothing but copies and phantoms of devotion.

Phantoms of devotion. Mere copies. Fakes. Phonies. The ghost and outward form of devotion without any substance.

So often we look down on others for not excelling at the spiritual disciplines that we ourselves undertake. We decide to fast for a time, in order to humbly reflect on God’s work in our lives, but we turn our period of fasting into an occasion for pride and thinking highly of ourselves.

We commit to reading through the Bible in a year, ready and eager to hear the Word of the Lord, but we turn our new commitment into an occasion for pride, gently reminding everyone around us how much Bible we are reading (often masked in terms of, “I just love reading the Bible half an hour every morning!”).

“Genuine, living devotion presupposes love of God, and hence it is simply true love of God,” Francis says. How often have I substituted living devotion and true love of God for the watered down version of disciplining myself for selfish reasons: perhaps to assuage my own guilt, to make myself feel “holy,” or to set myself apart from all the “nominal” Christians who haven’t discovered the disciplines and methods I have.

Francis de Sales reinforces the biblical portrait of the Law. “Anyone who does not observe all God’s commandments cannot be held to be either good or devout.” This reading convicted me of pride and boasting in my spiritual life. I have no reason to boast. I am a transgressor of the Law and even the disciplines I hope to keep, I do not keep as I should. Devotion to Christ without being informed by the gospel of grace is empty ritual. 

Devotion is not merely the commitment to a list of religious duties. True devotion is drenched in charity – the ability to do good to all people because of the One who has done good to us.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2008 Kingdom People blog 

 
 

Jun

23

2008

Trevin Wax|3:31 am CT

Are Your Converts Children of Hell?

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte,
and when he becomes a proselyte,
you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”
- Jesus to the disciples and crowds gathered around (Matthew 23:15)

The only thing worse than being a hypocrite is passing on your hypocrisy to others.

Jesus’ painfully explicit accusation against the Pharisees and scribes is a warning for any Christian who wishes to bring others to Christ.

We are commanded to preach the Gospel to all nations, but if in our proclaiming the good news, we spread the hypocrisy that we have masterfully hidden in our own lives, we are guilty of a great sin. When we dogmatically push our own man-made rules and personal stipulations on others as essential to the Gospel, we make clones of ourselves (“little hypocrites”) rather than true Christians (“little Christs”).

Every missionary, evangelist, or witness for Christ must pay close attention to their motives. Many of us aim, not for the glory of God and the salvation of lost people, but for the credit of making converts.

There are pastors who want to draw crowds and be seen as “soul-savers,” and thus, the kingdom of man is advanced rather than the kingdom of God.

There are Christian workers who want to establish worldly keys and methods of success in the church to be seen as “church growers” and thus man’s name is lifted high instead of Christ’s.

There are missionaries who count numbers rather than names and who press human agendas rather than pursue God’s will.

Christ has called us to proclaim His gospel for His glory, and that is precisely the reason why we must make sure we are preaching and glorying “only in the cross” and not in our own accolades. As Jesus so clearly reminds us in this passage, there are terrible consequences for those who make disciples that are more hypocritical than they themselves are.

written by Trevin Wax. copyright © 2008 Kingdom People Blog.

 
 

Jun

23

2008

Trevin Wax|2:46 am CT

Gospel Definitions: Derek Webb

“What a great question. I guess I’d probably…my instinct is to say that it’s Jesus coming, living, dying, and being resurrected and his inaugurating the already and the not yet of all things being restored to himself…and that happening by way of himself…the being made right of all things…that process both beginning and being a reality in the lives and hearts of believers and yet a day coming when it will be more fully realized. But the good news, the gospel, the speaking of the good news, I would say is the news of his kingdom coming the inaugurating of his kingdom coming…that’s my instinct.”

- from SaidatSouthern podcast #2