Monthly Archives: January 2010

 

Jan

31

2010

Trevin Wax|3:17 am CT

Away…

get-out-of-town-poster-c12395296.jpg
I am taking a brief, mid-winter vacation with my family this week. Though I will have internet access, I am intentionally limiting the time I spend online.

Don’t let that stop you from visiting Kingdom People. Since the blogosphere is such a temporary medium of communication, I am resurrecting some older posts and some “Worth a Look” links from way back that will hopefully be beneficial to you. Thanks to WordPress Time-stamps, these posts should launch even if I’m away from a computer.

I suspect I won’t be interacting with comments very much during this time. I’ll respond to comments and emails when we return.

 
 

Jan

30

2010

Trevin Wax|3:00 am CT

The Beginning of Love…

Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in CommunityI found this quote to be a good supplement to my post last week on “Holy Humdrum.” It’s from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community:

The beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them.

We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks, as the priest passed by the man who had fallen among thieves, perhaps-reading the Bible.

 
 

Jan

29

2010

Trevin Wax|3:11 am CT

Trevin's Seven

1. President Obama’s State of the Union rebuke of a recent Supreme Court decision is one of the most unusual breaches of political etiquette we have seen for quite some time.

2. Tim Keller takes a look at The Shack and says, “Anyone who is strongly influenced by the imaginative world of The Shack will be totally unprepared for the far more multi-dimensional and complex God that you actually meet when you read the Bible.” For some reason, the blogosphere has been abuzz with reviews and further commentaries on this book. I still stand by what I wrote last fall.

3. Could it be that Ulysses S. Grant, often considered one of the worst U.S. presidents, may be making a comeback in popularity?

Grant may be on the verge of finally receiving his due. Quietly, outside the view of most readers—including professional historians who do not specialize in the Civil War era—Grant’s reputation, including his service in the White House, has enjoyed a friendly revision over the past fifteen years.

4. I’m glad I got to visit Dr. Mohler’s famous library when I graduated from Southern last month. (See picture to the right!) Still, this video with Dr. Mohler giving a personal tour is about as good as being there!

5. The pro-life sentiments of young people are worrying those committed to abortion rights, as pro-choice journalist Robert McCartney reports:

I went to the March for Life rally Friday on the Mall expecting to write about its irrelevance. Isn’t it quaint, I thought, that these abortion protesters show up each year on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, even though the decision still stands after 37 years. What’s more, with a Democrat in the White House likely to appoint justices who support abortion rights, surely the Supreme Court isn’t going to overturn Roe in the foreseeable future.

How wrong I was. The antiabortion movement feels it’s gaining strength, even if it’s not yet ready to predict ultimate triumph, and Roe supporters (including me) are justifiably nervous.

6. Please keep praying for Michael Spencer (iMonk). Here is a health update.

7. Darryl Dash on “flunking kingdom economics”

I’m flunking kingdom economics. It’s especially embarrassing because I pass myself off as one of the teachers.

I’m flunking, but I refuse to drop out. I’m still hoping that I will one day I’ll get it. I take comfort from the fact that the disciples seemed to get it eventually. Maybe one day the world’s economy will seem upside-down, and the kingdom economy will make much more sense.

I’m a pretty poor learner. Good thing that Jesus is a good teacher.

 
 

Jan

28

2010

Trevin Wax|3:20 am CT

Solzhenitsyn's Masterpiece Uncensored

In the First Circle: The First Uncensored EditionI’m a fan of long Russian novels. Whenever I peruse the literature section of a bookstore, I cannot resist the urge to dive into big books by Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, or Solzhenitsyn.

Over the Christmas holidays, I spent some time with Solzhenitsyn’s book In the First Circle, now available uncensored in English for the first time. Many times, when you think of a book or movie being “uncensored,” you worry about sexually explicit content. But that is not the first reaction you have if you are intimately familiar with the ways of the former Soviet Union. Those who grow up in oppressive societies immediately think of censorship in terms of free speech that criticizes the government.

Solzhenitsyn’s novel is a fascinating look at the people caught in the crosshairs of Soviet imperialism in the 1940′s and 50′s. He takes the reader into Stalin’s prison camps and introduces us to a memorable cast of characters. There are scoundrels and heroes; poets and mechanics; philosophers and inventors.

Solzhenitsyn has an uncanny ability to “get into the head” of the people he is describing. Drawing from his own experience in Stalin’s camps, he describes the mental thought processes of the prisoners and the people in charge.

Two scenes from this book stand out to me. The first is Solzhenitsyn’s portrayal of Joseph Stalin. Solzhenitsyn’s Stalin comes across as the brilliant, yet paranoid man that he was. As you read the Stalin chapters, you cannot help but be drawn to the dictator’s magnetic power, even as you recoil from his warped personality and distorted view of the world.

Another scene features Eleanor Roosevelt visiting the Soviet Union in order to inspect the prisons. (Since this is a work of fiction, one hardly expects Roosevelt to show up!) Solzhenitsyn’s account of her visit is filled with humor and pathos. The prisoners receive special treatment for one day. But everything is a facade. Though she walks away impressed by the level of dignity given to those behind the barbed wire, everything goes back to normal immediately after her departure. Solzhenitsyn’s portrayal of American naivete is humorous, yet tinged with sadness.

The book contains moments that spotlight the best and worst of humanity:

  • The philosophical and political discussions of the prisoners.
  • The tender scenes between husbands and wives, separated for years.
  • The struggles and temptations of compromising your convictions or standing your ground.
  • The dehumanizing treatment of the prisoners.

In the First Circle is an in-depth look at life in Stalin’s prison camps. Through the window of Solzhenitsyn’s suffering, we catch a glimpse of the inner workings of the human mind and heart. Highly recommended!

 
 

Jan

28

2010

Trevin Wax|2:38 am CT

Worth a Look 1.28.10

Kevin DeYoung on the temptations of self-promotion.

Other forms of self-promotion are more insidious, more complicated, harder to discern. For starters, there’s the fact that publishers, conference organizers, and magazine editors have a vested interest (and I’m not saying it’s necessarily a bad interest) in you promoting yourself. Is it self-promotion if you’re trying to help someone else by putting yourself forward? And what about all the mixed motives the human heart must navigate?

John Piper fills us in on his writing leave in 2010. I can relate to this part especially:

There is an inner impulse that I cannot explain that drives me to write. I would write if there were no possibility of publication. I have hundreds of pages that no one has ever seen but me, and it would not matter ultimately if they were destroyed. I wrote them not to be published but because there is an impulse from within.

Separation of “pro-life” and state. Sad.

Why, I asked, can I not wear a religious or political symbol inside a federal building? Bringing to bear the full weight of the supreme law of the land, the guards informed that it was a violation of the First Amendment of the United States’ Constitution: The combination of me, wearing a pro-life pin, in a federal building was a violation of the separation of church and state.

James Grant interviews me about Holy Subversion. Good questions from James!

The Burpee: the one exercise to rule them all!

The burpee is the ultimate full body exercise. There’s a reason why football teams, CrossFit practitioners, and elite military forces use the burpee in their workouts. Just one simple movement tests both your strength and aerobic capacities. Below we go into a few more details on the benefits of the burpee.

 
 

Jan

27

2010

Trevin Wax|3:43 am CT

So You Think You Can Write…

Occasionally, I receive questions from blog readers who are curious to know how I wound up writing a book. Many bloggers have similar aspirations of writing for a larger audience. So questions inevitably come up:

“How did you get published?”

“What kind of proposal did you do?”

“What is the key to getting a book deal?”

Of course, the questioners are not merely interested in my personal story; they want to follow the same road and get published themselves.

The only advice that I can give about publishing comes solely from the author’s standpoint. I usually recommend that you try to get published in some magazines first. Building a blog audience is a good idea. Try to get your work into other places (whether there is a financial benefit or not). Sometimes, I will tell someone to consider self-publishing, especially if they have many traveling and speaking opportunities.

Of course, all this advice is from the author’s standpoint. The best thing you can do is hear the editor’s point of view.

The world of Christian publishing differs quite a bit from the world of non-Christian publishing, but enough of the same rules apply to non-fiction that one can glean important insights from editors of secular non-fiction. Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction–and Get It Published (W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 2003) by Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato is a good place to get started.

Aspiring authors need to know what editors look for when they see a book proposal. They also need to know a little about the decision-making process. I learned from experience how to craft a book proposal, but it would have been helpful for me to have known some of the suggestions in this book before starting the proposal.

For example, when I first began speaking with an editor of a Christian publishing house, I quickly came to discover that although my editor really liked my proposal, the decision was not his alone. He was going to have to “sell it”, so to speak, to the board of editors that makes these decisions.

It’s a little like American Idol. The first major step forward is simply getting your work to an editor’s desk, just like the thousands of Idol contestants hope they will get the chance to audition for the judges. Once you have an editor who is in your court, you move pass the initial round of going “solo” and now must compete against all the other proposals. (It’s like Hollywood Week.) It’s no longer just you and the editor. Now your proposal has to stand out in a room with lots of other proposals, each of which has support from other editors. If you pass this test, you’re on your way.

If you want think like an editor, I recommend this book. It comes highly recommended by my friend, Justin Taylor, editor at Crossway. And no wonder. This book takes you through the thought processes of a non-fiction editor. The five big questions that every editor wants to answer are:

  1. What is this book about?
  2. What is the book’s thesis and what’s new about it?
  3. Why are you the person to write this book?
  4. Why is now the time to publish this book?
  5. Who makes up the core audience for the proposed book, and why will they find it appealing?

If you can satisfactorily explain all five of these things, you have at least a shot at getting published.

The book also includes a couple of chapters on how to write well. The authors give tips on writing, using narrative tension, and treating other arguments fairly, etc. There is also a good deal of advice for authors once they have a book proposal that has been accepted. What can an author expect from the publisher? What can an author expect in terms of marketing?

Reading this book after going through the publishing process was especially enlightening. Looking over my initial proposal for Holy Subversion, I can see some of the things I did right. And thinking ahead, I can see some things I will do differently when making future proposals.

Thinking Like Your Editor is what I’m going to start recommending to people when they ask about being published or how to be published. You really don’t need to talk to an author so much as you need to talk to an editor. If you don’t know an editor, this book is the next best thing for writing non-fiction and getting it published.

 
 

Jan

27

2010

Trevin Wax|2:46 am CT

Worth a Look 1.27.10

A different kind of Pharisee:

Authenticity is a funny thing. God desires it, but He doesn’t need it. He already knows us from the inside out. We can’t keep secrets from God. Authenticity is more about how we act with each other. It’s important to be “real” with each other but if we’re not careful, our authenticity can turn into a badge that we wear. God hates masks…but he also hates badges.

Don’t let your hipster jeans, modern worship bands or iPhone bibles fool you into thinking that you’re somehow closer to God than the suit-wearing guy sitting in the pew.

President Obama recently mentioned his desire to be a great “one-term” president versus a mediocre two-term president. Joe Carter writes of some one-term presidents in the past.

That leaves only twelve Presidents that would be comparable to Obama’s situation: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, James Polk, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Rutherford Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush.

Controversy over Tim Tebow’s pro-life ad at the SuperBowl. Where’s the tolerance?

Odd isn’t it? Freedom, they cry! Liberty and equality for all and don’t you attempt to force your view of morality on others. And yet it is that very same group that is now demanding that CBS not allow this perfectly legal and approved spot to air. Their desire for freedom is so specifically and narrowly defined as their own right to destroy inconvenient human life that the hypocrisy of this stance remains hidden from them. It is not freedom but fiat that they seek, and this fact is embarrassingly clear every time they seek to bully and quash the basic right to express contrary opinions.

90 Days of Joy and the Serious Life:

There is appropriate seriousness but there is also seriousness that is a mark of pride.  Our society cultivates people who are serious about themselves — and the church does too.  One mark of this: people who are so serious about life have very little sense of humor. They are busy doing important things.  How can they smile?  The world is coming apart.  Global warming is going to ruin us all. There is ijustice in the world. We must do something. There is little place for humor.

 
 

Jan

26

2010

Trevin Wax|3:54 am CT

Holy Humdrum

Life is filled with interruptions.

We had a tire blow out on our van last week. I unexpectedly spent several hours resolving that situation and then getting new tires.

Julia recently had a new tooth come in. My wife and I endured two sleepless nights listening to her wake up every hour and moan in her crib.

Early last week, I was excited at the thought of getting ahead in my teaching and preaching preparation. Instead, the church office became a revolving door of visitors. At the end of the afternoon, I felt like I hadn’t gotten anything done.

Life is filled with interruptions. Sometimes, these interruptions keep us from activities that we consider very important. We want to use our time wisely, to be on mission for the kingdom of God, to be proclaimers of the gospel while we still have breath. We go to conferences and get pumped up to make a difference. We download mp3s of sermons and benefit from others’ insights. We want to feed the hungry, comfort the grieving, and give the gospel to the lost.

But then we catch with the stomach flu and spend two days at home in bed. Our responsibilities pull and push us in a gazillion directions. We get saddled with additional responsibilities that don’t seem to get us anywhere.

Much of our life is spent reacting to boring interruptions. Even our daily routines can be a drudgery.

  • Taking a shower.
  • Brushing teeth.
  • Changing diapers.
  • Carting the kids across town for sports events.
  • Cleaning the house.
  • Paying bills.
  • Mowing the lawn.
  • Fixing the car.

The truth is… life is rarely as exciting as we would like it to be. In fact, when things are exciting, we’d give anything for life to “settle back down”.

But all of life is sacred. All of life is the outworking of a story dreamed up in the heart of a mighty and loving God.

The more I grow in my faith, the more I realize that there is a holiness to this humdrum. There is indeed rhyme and reason to these responsibilities. Interruptions can be sacred, though we often don’t recognize them as such. Whatever ideas I have about “ministry” in the abstract are usually shot down by the reality of “ministry” among real, living, breathing people. Life is messy. So is ministry.

I enjoy reading biographies of great men and women of the faith. One of the lessons I have learned from these biographies is that these people were busy too. Though we may know them primarily from their sermons or writings, they too had lives filled with interruption.

  • Charles Spurgeon responded to hundreds of letters a week.
  • John Calvin wrote his theology with nearly a dozen kids in the house.
  • The founders of Southern Seminary established a thriving institution, and yet spent months at a time recovering from illnesses that plagued them.
  • Up until a century ago, traveling to a distant place could take days. If we think our life is filled with wasted time, imagine the long walks and rides they had to endure.

I’ve come to realize that I can either view interruptions and mundane daily routines as a necessary evil, or as a sacred reminder from the Lord himself:

  • A reminder that I am not the master of my life.
  • A reminder that I am called to serve in ways seen and unseen.
  • A reminder that along with God’s good gifts come great responsibilities.
  • A reminder that I am called to minister to the actual people in front of me, and not wait around for a “ministry” that exists only in my mind.

Nothing is humdrum if done to the glory of God. I can spend all evening wondering what God’s plan is for us ten years down the road… or I can decide that God’s immediate will is for me to help my wife with the dishes.

God is no stranger to the mundane and menial task. His Son was a carpenter, after all. But God specializes in using ordinary items for extraordinary purposes.

Jesus takes a little boy’s packed lunch – bread and fish – and feeds thousands.

He takes a creaky fisherman’s boat and makes it a pulpit for him to preach to the masses.

He spits on the ground and uses dirt to heal a man’s blindness.

He takes the most ordinary of all foods – bread, breaks it, and says, “This is my body.” He takes the cup and says, “This is my blood.”

He fills a basin with ordinary water and washes dirty feet.

The cross is just two planks of wood. Yet through the cross, the world is saved.

So next time, you change diapers, wash dishes, fix your car, mow your lawn, or have your schedule interrupted – spend some time with the Lord. Remember the sacredness of time. And then, thank God for holy humdrum.

 
 

Jan

26

2010

Trevin Wax|2:09 am CT

Worth a Look 1.26.10

Why you may be having trouble finding volunteers at church:

Vibrant churches are very reliant on the power and number of their volunteers.  Mark Beeson, the pastor at Granger Community Church has written a piece on why good people volunteer.  His insights may help you in building a successful volunteer base at your church.  See if you are offering your people these opportunities…

Why the term “African-American” should be reserved for those who are truly from Africa:

Last year the number of Africans here topped a million, and we could use that as a numerically convenient time to let go of the conceit we have gotten used to over the past twenty years, that black people born here are ethnically hyphenated people of half “African” ancestry.

It just doesn’t go through. The black American does not look back on a childhood in the African “old country.” The black American speaks English natively, not Twi or Hausa (and in truth, it’s possible that not a single slave brought to the United States spoke Swahili). Barely a black American alive today knows anyone who ever even knew a slave born in Africa.

In Missing the Missional Mark, Ed Stetzer reflects on the current discussion about the term “missional”:

Clearly there is a misunderstanding at some level. Either men like Leeman are not putting much effort into understanding missional thinkers, or some missional thinkers are not being clear enough. My guess is, guys like Leeman can try harder, and some missional thinkers could be more clear.

Tullian Tchividjian keeps the individual and cosmic dimensions of salvation together. May his tribe increase!

In my opinion, there’s way too much needless debate in Reformed theological circles on whether the finished work of Christ — the gospel — effects salvation for individual sinners (the “penal substitionary atonement” group) or if it brings about a renewed creation (the “God is on a mission to restore all things to Himself through the person and work of Jesus Christ” group). Maybe I’m missing something, but it just doesn’t seem that complicated to me.

 
 

Jan

25

2010

Trevin Wax|3:32 am CT

Introverts in the Church: A Review

Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted CultureI have never been a fan of personality tests. Every time I take one, I feel like I am being forced to decide between false choices.

For example:

“Which sounds more appealing to you? Reading a book at home alone or attending a party with lots of people?”

I could spend a long time debating that one. Sometimes, I need a break from people and find refuge in solitude with a good book. Other times, I crave being with other people in social settings. Does that make me an introvert, an extrovert, or someone with tendencies that vascillate?

Adam McHugh’s new book Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture (IVP, 2009) goes beyond superficial personality tests to address a real problem in evangelical churches today. McHugh makes the case that most churches are led by and geared toward extroverted personalities. Evangelicals tend to measure progress in discipleship by participation in essentially extrovert-focused activities. Even the wider society rewards extroverted traits, which leaves people with more introverted personalities feeling left out.

Introverts in the Church is helpful on a number of levels. Extroverted church leaders will learn about people in their congregations – people they have never quite understood before. They will come to realize that a person’s reticence to participate in every church activity or ministry might not be rooted in apathy. Likewise, a person’s silence in a meeting or gathering does not always signify disapproval.

People with introverted qualities learn how to navigate their way through the evangelical churches that may (unintentionally) exclude them or neglect their gifts. And McHugh believes that introverts do have gifts to offer the kingdom. By pointing to introverts in the Bible and throughout church history, he demonstrates the unique gifts of people with introverted personalities.

So Introverts in the Church is part therapy for those who are introverted – many will say, “Finally, a book that understands me!” – and it is part prescription. The book is an eye-opener for pastors who have never considered this subject. McHugh shows introverts how they can learn from extroverts, and then encourages the church to open its eyes to the gifts of their quieter members.

Introverted pastors can and should lead as introverts, McHugh says. They do not have to go through a transformation of personality. However, he rightly admits that pastoral leadership is essentially a people business, so an introvert must be willing to stretch the borders of his personality. Just as extroverted pastors should seek to be sensitive to introverted members, introverted leaders must work on ministry to extroverted people.

In one of the best prescriptions in the book, McHugh encourages introverted pastors to lead the way in putting to rest evangelicalism’s love affair with the idea of having a “celebrity pastor”. McHugh writes:

“Though the cult of personality woos, personal attention is what truly impacts.” (157)

That’s a good word, and it goes against the flow of many evangelical churches today.

Though I believe McHugh’s critique of evangelical extroversion is generally correct, I am not convinced that introverts are always or even usually the “targets of misguided arrows.” What bothers me a little about his book is that even though he makes a case for the accepting the unique gifts of introverts, he seems to write as if introverts suffer from an inferiority complex.

Also puzzling to me as a reader was trying to figure out where I am on the scale of introversion and extroversion. Perhaps he could have included a substantive personality test that would help readers figure out where they land.

In his chapter on evangelism, McHugh helpfully lays out ways in which introverts can be evangelistic. But I question a few of the places he puts his emphasis. At times, it appears that he equates spiritual conversations with sharing the gospel. Although spiritual conversations are needed (and most people do need more than a quick gospel presentation), such conversations should not be considered “evangelism” unless Christ crucified and raised is presented clearly.

Minor quibbles aside… this is an important book. I told a few introverted church members that I was reading this book. Each one of them seemed thrilled at at the thought of a book like this. I am convinced that this book is needed. McHugh blazes a trail through an area that very few have dared to go, and introverts and extroverts alike are the beneficiaries of his work.