Monthly Archives: November 2008

 

Nov

30

2008

Trevin Wax|3:43 am CT

A Prayer for Parents

familyprayer

Father, grant us all that we need to be faithful in training up our children in the way that they should go. May we never forget that this training continues as long as we have breath.

Father, as you discipline us for our profit that we may be partakers of your holiness, may you help us to discipline our own children in a way that turns them to you. Help us not to provoke them to wrath but to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord that leads to holiness.

Lord, may our seed and our seed’s seed be found faithful unto you until you come.

- Tennessee Baptist Convention, Prayers for the Family

 
 

Nov

29

2008

Trevin Wax|3:32 am CT

Holy Love Wins

… The love that wins is a holy love.

The love that won on the cross and wins the world is a love that is driven, determined, and defined by holiness.

It is a love that flows out of the heart of a God who is transcendent, majestic, infinite in righteousness, who loves justice as much as he does mercy; who hates wickedness as much as he loves goodness; who blazes with a fiery, passionate love for himself above all things.

He is Creator, Sustainer, Beginning and End.

He is robed in a splendor and eternal purity that is blinding.

He rules, he reigns, he rages and roars, then bends down to whisper love songs to his creatures.

His love is vast and irresistible.

It is also terrifying, and it will spare no expense to give everything away in order to free us from the bondage of sin, purifying for himself a people who are devoted to his glory, a people who have “no ambition except to do good”.

So he crushes his precious Son in order to rescue and restore mankind along with his entire creation.

He unleashes perfect judgment on the perfectly obedient sacrifice and then pulls him up out of the grave in a smashing and utter victory.

He is a God who triumphs…

He is a burning cyclone of passionate love.

Holy love wins.

- Timothy J. Stoner, The God Who Smokes: Scandalous Meditation on Faith, 30.

 
 

Nov

28

2008

Trevin Wax|3:14 am CT

In the Blogosphere

How to encourage a blogger this Christmas

It appears that N.T. Wright and Martin Luther agree on their “definitions of the gospel” in a nutshell.

Tim Challies offers some good tips to better reading. I like his list, especially the variety of reading he promotes. (For my thoughts on reading “widely,” click here.)

Michael Haykin asks a piercing question. Are our churches centers of love?

Could the gospel centered only on ”going to heaven when you die” actually be another form of the happiness/prosperity gospel

Al Mohler reflects on his visit to Harvard’s Divinity School.

Donald Dayton on identifying evangelicalism. HT – Scot McKnight

Top Post this Week at Kingdom People: Are Short-Term Mission Trips Worth the Trouble?

 
 

Nov

27

2008

Trevin Wax|3:00 am CT

A Thanksgiving Prayer

I bless you, O Lord, for creating me and bringing me into life.

I thank you for setting me free from many sins,
    for enduing me with the gifts of grace,
    with the gifts of nature and fortune.

I praise you for your abundant mercy,
    for bringing us into a lively hope
    by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
    to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, 
    that will never fade away.

I thank you for Jesus,
    in whom you have blessed me with all spiritual blessings.

I thank you for comforting me in the time of trial,
   and for the knowledge that - 
   as the sufferings of Christ abound in me,
   so my consolation also abounds in Christ.

To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks!

I am the work of your hands,
     the price of your blood,
     the image of your countenance,
     the servant of your purchase,
     the seal of your name,
     the child of your adoption,
     a temple of your spirit,
     a member of your church.

- Lancelot Andrews, 1555-1626 (adapted)

 
 

Nov

26

2008

Trevin Wax|3:15 am CT

Book Review: Total Church

Lit)Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community (Crossway, 2008) is a book born out of longing: If only there were a different way of doing church! 

Authors Tim Chester and Steve Timmis seek to orient the Church around two main principles: gospel and community. The content of our message is the gospel. The context of our message is the Christian community.

Being gospel-centered means we will be word-centered and mission-centered. This book directly challenges the voices of some in the Emerging Church who downplay the Word in favor of community. But Total Church also challenges the traditional’s church’s failure to produce authentic community under the guise of “biblical faithfulness.”

The authors chose Total Church as the title in order to stress that church is not a place we go. Church is an identity that shapes our whole lives. Our life and mission must become “total church.” (18)

The book begins with the principles of gospel and community. I am glad the authors do not collapse these two principles into one. They rightly see the gospel as a proclamation. “The gospel is good news. It is a word to be proclaimed. You cannot be committed to the gospel without being committed to proclaiming that gospel.”

Reshaping the church around gospel and community leads to a rethinking of all aspects of church life.

Evangelism? The centrality of the gospel word as proclamation is combined with the importance of the Christian community living with gospel-intentionality.

Social involvement? Loving the poor means we will not only help them with physical needs but proclaim to them the gospel of salvation. The church is not to focus on being a respectable club for the upper class. We form a community that believes all worldly divisions are nullified at the foot of the cross.

Church planting? Let’s focus on multiplying small churches rather than growing big ones. Church planting is church growth.

Discipleship and Training? The gospel word means that we will learn from each other as we follow Christ. Authentic Christian community sees church discipline as a natural outgrowth of our close relationships.

Apologetics? Intellectual persuasion is not the answer. Our rejection of the gospel is a moral decision. Instead, we must combine rational apologetics with relational apologetics that spring from a community putting the gospel on display.

Success? We must see ordinary Christians who live out the message of God’s kingdom as “successful.” We are not to seek church growth for our own glory. Character matters more than charisma.

I enjoyed Total Church. It is filled with powerful insights. But the book has a couple of problems. It seems the authors advocate the house church model in a way that echoes some of the arguments of Viola and Barna’s Pagan Christianity. The authors believe the monologue-styled sermon was invented after Constantine. The historical record shows something quite different. If the only person experiencing good learning in a sermon is the preacher (as the authors assert), then it is a wonder any education has taken place in the past 1700 years!

The authors also overreact to the current desire for “spirituality.” In the chapter on spiritual disciplines, they downplay the importance of silence and solitude. They do not see stillness in prayer as helpful. “When the psalmists do talk of stilling our hearts, it is not the stillness of silence, but the stilling of self-justification or self-confidence.” (148) For the life of me, I cannot find even a hint of this concept in the biblical text itself. It seems that the authors conveniently explain away the commands that do not fit with their preconceived notions of active spirituality.

Surely there are ways we can engage in spiritual disciplines in a gospel-centered, community-centered way, without abandoning some of the historic practices of the church. What the authors want to avoid is the substitution of passive disciplines for active involvement. But why should we choose between the two?

Overall, Total Church is an important book. When I first began reading, I was not expecting their vision of church to be so comprehensive. It is indeed total church – in that this book addresses a wide variety of important issues facing the church. This book will lead to fruitful discussion about the church and the gospel. Total Church deserves to be read, pondered, discussed, and practiced.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2008 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Nov

26

2008

Trevin Wax|2:02 am CT

Gospel Definitions: Martin Luther

At its briefest, the gospel is a discourse about Christ, that he is the Son of God and became man for us, that he died and was raised, and that he has been established as Lord over all things.

This much St. Paul takes in hand and spins out in his epistles. He bypasses all the miracles and incidents (in Christ’s ministry) which are set forth in the four Gospels, yet he includes the whole gospel adequately and abundantly. This may be seen clearly and well in his greeting to the Romans, where he says what the gospel is, and then declares:

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,” etc.

There you have it. The gospel is a story about Christ, God’s and David’s son, who died and was raised, and is established as Lord. This is the gospel in a nutshell.

- Martin Luther, Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, pg. 94

 
 

Nov

25

2008

Trevin Wax|12:10 pm CT

Are Short-Term Mission Trips Worth the Trouble?

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In recent years, the ability to travel long distances in a (relatively) short amount of time has opened up a new world of opportunity for local churches to participate in cross-cultural missions. More churches are sending teams on short-term mission trips today than ever before.

Yet some mission strategists question the effectiveness of these mission teams. Do short-term mission teams leave behind a legacy that lasts?

Are short-term mission trips worth the trouble?

Should our churches and ministries devote time and money to short-term trips? 

Or should we concentrate our efforts on full-time missionaries and indigenous pastors?

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of short-term missions.

NEGATIVE ASPECTS

1. Expensive

A team of ten missionaries heading overseas might pay between $2000-3000 per person. That adds up to $20,000 or $30,000 for a church to send a team of ten to another country.

2. Drain on Long-Term Missionaries

The logistics of organizing teams that come from the United States can be very difficult. (Trust me, I’ve done it several times!) The stress is enormous. Hosting a short-term team can drain energy from those who need to stay focused on their long-term tasks.

3. Lack of Efficiency

Consider what a team of 10 costs to do work in another country. Roughly $30,000. Now consider what $30,000 could be done if given directly to the missionaries and indigenous pastors already involved in mission work. No wonder people question the efficiency of short-term mission teams! After all, it’s not just money… it’s also ministry. Native pastors and full-time missionaries can do ministry better and more effectively than those who parachute into a country for a week or two.

POSITIVE ASPECTS

1. Money Well Spent

Ask most full-time missionaries how God gave them a heart for missions and they will usually point back to a short-term mission trip. I took five short-term mission trips to Romania before buying my one-way ticket there in 2000.

So yes, the expense of a short-term mission trip may be large. But what would be the cost of never sending out short-term teams? We might save money in the short term, but would probably have less missionaries in the long term.

2. Encouragement and Accountability for Full-Time Missionaries

Yes, preparing for a mission team can be a drain on full-time missionaries. But most full-time missionaries will also say that hosting teams from their own country can give them a needed boost of energy. Interaction with a good mission team can give full-time missionaries a fresh passion and renewed zeal for ministry.

Short-term teams should seek out ways to encourage the full-time missionaries that they work with. Often, short-term teams minister as much (if not more) to the missionary as to the people! Short-termers can also keep missionaries accountable, encouraging them and challenging them in their mission efforts.

3. A Quest for Efficiency

It is true that short-term mission teams might seem inefficient and ineffective. But why do they have to be so? Why not simply recognize the inefficiency and then seek to rectify it in the future? Smaller churches should concentrate on one area of the world. After a learning period of three or four years, short-term missionaries can be incredibly effective. They know the needs, know the people, and have begun to understand the culture. I have witnessed short-term teams that do great work.

4. A Passion for World Missions in the Church

I have yet to find a church passionate about supporting world missions that never sends out short term mission teams. When church members come back from the mission field, they are encouraged to contribute to missions. This passion spreads to their church, leading to increased giving to missions and missionaries.

Overall, the positive aspects of short-term mission trips outweigh the negative aspects. Yes, we should seek to make our mission trips more effective and efficient. And no, short-termers are never as effective as full-time missionaries. But short-term missions can lead to a more comprehensive vision of the kingdom of God and world missions. And we should utilize every means possible to cultivate a holy fire for mission work.

[[On December 1, I was featured on a California radio show (Rich Buhler, Talk from the Heart - KBRT, Los Angeles), discussing this blog post. To download and listen to the interview, right-click here, choose "Save Target As..." and save to your desktop. The interview is about 24 minutes long.]]

written by Trevin Wax  © 2008 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Nov

24

2008

Trevin Wax|3:26 am CT

When "Thank You" Means "You Win, Lord"

“Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?”
- Jesus, to the Samaritan who returned to thank Him (Luke 17:17)

The account of such flagrant ungratefulness on behalf of nine lepers, healed graciously by Jesus, seems shocking to us today. How could only one of ten come back and say “Thank you?”

Yet, in Jesus’ day, the absence of vocal thanksgiving was not uncommon at all. In fact, thanking someone for hospitality or for an act of kindness could actually be considered an affront to the host!

If a person in Jesus’ day received a gift from his neighbor, he would not dare thank the neighbor verbally. Instead, he would begin thinking of how he could return the neighbor’s graciousness by doing something above and beyond that which had been done for him.

The culture of honor and shame created a climate leading each person to try to “outshine” the other in acts of generosity. Relegating gratitude to simply saying “thank you” essentially implied that one would not return the favor, thus ending the “give-and-take” relationship.

Understanding this ancient mentality opens up a deeper meaning to the Samaritan’s action of thanksgiving.

Instead of clinging to his cultural pride, the healed leper renounced the game of “outshining” the other’s honor and threw himself at Jesus’ feet in worship. He was announcing his utter weakness in trying to repay the Master for the gift of healing.

More than showing recognition for his healing, the Samaritan was recognizing that Jesus had “won” – the honor was His! It was pointless to try to return so great a favor, senseless to seek to uphold personal honor.

When we come before God with thanksgiving, we are doing much more than showing Him gratitude for certain gifts and blessings He has bestowed on us.

More importantly, we are renouncing the game of seeking our own honor, humbly acknowledging that God has given us more than we could ever repay! He is the only one worthy of praise and nothing we will do can ever compare with His amazing grace.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2008 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Nov

23

2008

Trevin Wax|3:07 am CT

A Prayer for Husbands and Wives

rings

Both: Lord, help us to submit to one another.

Husband: Help me to be the husband that you are, loving my wife as you love the church. May I never be slow to nourish her and cherish her and give myself for her.

Wife: May I never forget that in submitting to my husband that I am first submitting to you.

Both: May we live with one another with understanding and honor. Let us not deal treacherously with one another so that our prayers are not hindered. May the fullness of loving one another as you have commanded be obvious to others. May nothing be able to divide us, may we be one as you have always desired. May you hedge us both in so that the enemy cannot separate us. May we be found agreeing when we pray.

- Prayers for the Family, Tennessee Baptist Convention

 
 

Nov

22

2008

Trevin Wax|3:44 am CT

Love Beyond Our Desiring

In awful and surprising truth, we are the objects of [God's] love.

You asked for a loving God; you have one.

The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the “lord of terrible aspect,” is present; 
not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, 
not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, 
not the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests,
but the consuming fire himself,
the Love that made the worlds,
persistent as the artist’s love for his work
and despotic as a man’s love for a dog,
provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child,
jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes…

It is certainly a burden of glory not only beyond our deserts but also, except in rare moments of grace, beyond our desiring.”

- C.S. Lewis – The Problem of Pain, 46-47.