Monthly Archives: August 2010

 

Aug

24

2010

Trevin Wax|3:42 am CT

How the Church Prepares You For Judgment Day

One reason that Christians need to be part of a church too often goes unmentioned.

I need the church in order to be prepared for the Day of Judgment!

It is frightening to think that I would allow myself to be the sole judge of my spiritual condition here on earth. I know how easily I deceive myself. Am I so bold as to say I am the best judge of my spiritual character? No… I need the church to affirm my faith in Christ, to assure me when I doubt, and to lovingly rebuke me when I err. Judgment day is coming!

Have you ever noticed that older people tend be more faithful to church than young people? This isn’t true everywhere, of course. But even in multi-generational churches, it’s often the older people who are the most faithful.

There may be a variety of reasons for this fact, but I think one reason is clear: people who are older know that the Day of the Lord is drawing near. Either Jesus will soon come back, or they will soon go see Jesus. And the closer you get to the end of your life, the more likely a Christian is going to realize the seriousness of walking with Christ.

Why is that so many people showed up at church after September 11?

Why is the youth group room filled whenever a young person is killed in a car crash?

Because, for a moment, we are shaken out of our slumber. The brevity of life hits us hard. We realize that life is short and that we are not guaranteed tomorrow. If you live for Christ well, you will die with him well. One aspect of the Christian life is preparation for dying well.

One of the benefits of answering the summons of King Jesus to gather with the church – to be shaped by our confession and our practices, to be strengthened by the Body of Christ – is that it prepares you to be the kind of person who can face death boldly. You are shaped into someone who can deal with death.

When your wife has the sudden car crash, when your child dies of swine flu, when you get the bad diagnosis… The Christian can boldly look death in the eye and say, “You’re an enemy of God’s good creation. I’ll fight you with every fiber of my being. But even if I succumb to the cold clutches of death, I know that you are defeated. Your sting is gone. I will soon be with my Savior who has conquered you, and even my grave will one day release my glorified body.” And it’s your fellow church members who will minister to you, comfort you, cry with you, and – eventually – mourn your death and rejoice over your life.

 
 

Aug

24

2010

Trevin Wax|2:29 am CT

Worth a Look 8.24.10

What’s happening with Christian music?

CCM was once needed as young Jesus freaks set out to change the world — one that would not offer them record contracts. The result was a parallel universe that has outlived its reason for being. In the end, the future of CCM is linked to the future of two monoliths: the music industry and evangelicalism. What we see developing are nascent models of artistic expression (inspired by faith) that may very well be classified by style and not worldview.

Fred Sanders interacts with my “steak on a paper plate” article in a cleverly titled post, “Hey Everybody, Let’s Sursum a Little Corda, Kay?”

As a free church evangelical in suburban southern California, I participate in the general trend of casual service-openers. I think it’s a great, culturally appropriate way to start out a gathering…

But here’s the key: At some point in the service, and it has to be a pretty early point, one of the ministers presiding over the worship service needs to get our attention and let us know that we’re doing a very serious thing.

Ultraviolet light reveals how Greek statues really looked:

Original Greek statues were brightly painted, but after thousands of years, those paints have worn away. Find out how shining a light on the statues can be all that’s required to see them as they were thousands of years ago.

The peculiarity that is church:

Today, while listening to an excellent rendition of “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” at my stereotypical, evangelical, and Baptist megachurch, I was struck by how non-stereotypical church really is.

To think that, week in and week out, seemingly distinct individuals from different parts of the city, comprised of different races, socio-economic levels, educational levels, and family structures (widowed, single, etc), meet voluntarily to announce the Lordship of Jesus Christ is astonishing. In fact, it’s nothing short of absurd.

Tullian Tchividjian explains how Coral Ridge recently did away with both their traditional and contemporary service in favor of one type of blended worship. What a great picture of the gospel when a church is willing to lay aside personal preferences and unite around the cross!

When we separate people according to something as trivial as musical preferences, we evidence a fundamental failure to comprehend the heart of the gospel. We’re not only feeding toxic tribalism; we’re also saying the gospel can’t successfully bring these two different groups together. It’s a declaration of doubt about the unifying power of God’s gospel. Generational appeal in worship is an admission that the gospel is powerless to join together what man has separated.

 
 

Aug

23

2010

Trevin Wax|3:59 am CT

Writers, Don't Believe Everything You Learned in English Class

This is one of my favorite sections from one of my favorite books on writing, Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know about Writing.

I love how the author breaks many of the pseudo-rules in this section.

If grammar is supposed to help us make sense, why do some of the rules seem so nonsensical? Well, maybe those aren’t real rules, after all.

You’ve not doubt heard them all your life:

  • Don’t split an infinitive.
  • Don’t start a sentence with and or but.
  • Don’t end one with a preposition (of, to, with, and so on).
  • Don’t use contractions (including don’t).

None of them are true – including the one that says none is always singular.

These misconceptions, which serve only to make writing clunky and convoluted, are not real rules and never have been. Since the 1300′s, writers of English have gotten along fine without them. So where did they come from?

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, classics scholars set out to civilize the English of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton. They took a language that’s essentially Germanic and tried to clothe it in Latin grammar. No wonder the shoes pinched.

For generations, our most eminent grammarians have tried to lay these myths and Latinisms to rest, but they keep rising again like Jason from his watery grave. And like Jason, they’re not real, so feel free to ignore them. Our best writers do. George Bernard Shaw once complained to the Times of London about an editor who hadn’t gotten the word:

“There is a pedant on your staff who spends far too much of his time searching for split infinitives. Every good literary craftsman uses a split infinitive if he thinks the sense demands it. I call for this man’s instant dismissal; it matters not whether he decides to quickly go or to go quickly or quickly to go. Go he must, and at once.”

 
 

Aug

23

2010

Trevin Wax|3:52 am CT

Worth a Look 8.23.10

Andreas Köstenberger Joins B&H Academic Editorial Team:

Dr. Daniel L. Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, adds, “Andreas Köstenberger is one of evangelicalism’s finest New Testament scholars and a gift to our seminary. We are delighted to share this gifted academician with co-laborers in the gospel. This is a good thing for the work of the kingdom and the building up of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Terry Delaney live-blogged and posted his notes from the SBTS conference Connecting Church and Home.

My friend, Owen Strachan, is pulling the plug on his always-insightful blog:

Individually-run blogs do great things.  However, I do want to guard against pride in my own heart and against being a “personality.”  You can have an individual blog and not fall prey here; you can have an individual blog and not be a self-promoter.  But I can also see how I myself can be tempted in these areas.  Franky Schaeffer-no theological role model of mine-has some strong words on the nature of self-promoting evangelical culture that have resonated with me.

Amazing! Giant beach bubbles. (I bet these make you wet.)

 
 

Aug

22

2010

Trevin Wax|3:37 am CT

“Everything is Changed”: D.A. Carson’s Resurrection Prayer

We rejoice, heavenly Father,
in the truth that Jesus rose from the dead.

Yet we see that this is not simply a truth in the public arena of history
to be absorbed quickly and then set to one side.
For if indeed your dear Son, the God-man, rose from the dead,
then everything is changed.
His victory over death is confirmed.
The sacrifice he provided has been vindicated.
Already he is the head of a new humanity that will one day share in his resurrection-likeness.
And his people, heavenly Father,
rejoice to bow before him and cry, “My Lord and my God.”

Grant that each of us may cry,
“Forgive my sin as you forgave the sin of that paralyzed man,
my Lord and my God.”
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

- adapted from D.A. Carson’s The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story

 
 

Aug

21

2010

Trevin Wax|3:40 am CT

Les Misérables: Quotes to Ponder

I have thoroughly enjoyed Julie Rose’s new translation of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. I read the more common English translation a few years ago and enjoyed it (the story is a classic, after all), but Rose’s translation is like going from a black-and-white television to color.

As I read through Hugo’s novel this summer, I underlined thought-provoking sayings and comments. Over the next several Saturdays, I’d like to share some of them here.

“The free time left to [Bishop Bienvenu] by these thousand matters and by his church services and his breviary was given first to the needy, the sick, and the downtrodden; the time left to him by the downtrodden, the sick and the needy was given to toil. Sometimes he took a shovel to the garden, sometimes he did a bit of reading and writing. He had one word only for these two different kinds of work: he called both gardening. ‘The mind is a garden,’ he would say.” (17)

“…The beautiful is just as useful as the useful.” After a pause, he added, “Perhaps more so.” (21)

“Do not ask the name of the person who asks you for a bed for the night. He whose name is a burden to him needs shelter more than anyone.” (22)

“There is such a thing as priestly courage just as there is the courage of the colonel of the dragoons. Only,” the bishop would add, “ours should be quiet.” (22)

The best minds have their soft spots and sometimes feel somewhat bruised by the scant respect of logic. (37)

Those in quest of a future flutter around the leading lights of the present. (43)

A saint who leads a life of excessive self-denial is dangerous to be around. He could well infect you by contagion with incurable poverty, numbing of the joints used for climbing the ladder, and, in short, a tad more renunciation than you’d like. People flee from such squalid virtue. (44)

He did not study God, he was dazzled by Him. (48)

You can’t pray too much any more than you can love too much. (49)

 
 

Aug

20

2010

Trevin Wax|3:51 am CT

Trevin's Seven

Seven links for your weekend reading:

1. Mark Galli: How to become a successful religion

2. Greg Koukl: Abortion and human rights

3. One problem with modern church buildings

4. The illustrated guide to a Ph.D.

5. B.B. Warfield on creation and evolution

6. Tullian Tchividjian posts Tim Keller’s foreword to Unfashionable.

7. How to escape a riptide

 
 

Aug

19

2010

Trevin Wax|3:48 am CT

Book Notes: You Can Change / Surprised By Grace

Notes on two books I’ve read recently:

You Can Change:
God’s Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions

Tim Chester
Crossway, 2010
My Rating: ****

In this book, Tim Chester leads readers to think about what they want to change and then examine their underlying motivations for such a change. Encouraging us to turn from certain desires to certain truths, he grounds lasting change in daily repentance as a response to the gospel of grace. Best of all, he incorporates individual change into the context of the church and insists that sanctification is a community project. Each chapter ends with a list of hard-hitting questions that lead us to practical application of biblical truth.

Surprised by Grace:
God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels

Tullian Tchividjian
Crossway, 2010
**** ½

C.S. Lewis was surprised by joy. N.T. Wright is surprised by hope. Pastor Tullian Tchividjian is surprised by grace, particularly the grace he finds in the Old Testament story of Jonah. Although the Bible condenses Jonah’s story into four brief chapters, Tchividjian digs deep into the text and emerges with a book full of gospel treasure. Contrasting Jonah’s tribal mindset with the missionary heart of God, Surprised by Grace places individual salvation and calling into a cosmic context of redemption that emphasizes the need for Christians to be overwhelmed daily by God’s grace toward rebels. Tchividjian’s book combines insightful exegesis, pastoral wisdom, and personal passion. (Art admirers will also enjoy the illustrations: fourteen famous artist renderings of Jonah throughout church history.)

(These reviews first appeared in Christianity Today, June 2010.)

 
 

Aug

19

2010

Trevin Wax|2:30 am CT

Worth a Look 8.19.10

Christianity Today interviews Anne Rice. I’m encouraged to see the number of evangelical authors she reads, but I’m especially encouraged by this line:

Sometimes the most conservative people are the most biblically and scholastically sound. They have studied Scripture and have studied skeptical scholarship. They make brilliant arguments for the way something in the Bible reads and how it’s been interpreted. I don’t go to them necessarily to know more about their personal beliefs. It’s the brilliance they bring to bear on the text that appeals to me. Of all the people I’ve read over the years, it’s their work that I keep on my desk. They’re all non-Catholics, but they’re believers, they document their books well, they write well, they’re scrupulously honest as scholars, and they don’t have a bias. Many of the skeptical non-believer biblical scholars have a terrible bias. To them, Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, so there’s no point in discussing it. I want someone to approach the text and tell me what it says, how the language worked.

Teaching theology from a Great Commission perspective:

In a nutshell, every classroom at SEBTS should be a Great Commission classroom because every page of Scripture and every locus of doctrine relates in some way to the charge given to us above. Christian Theology is the most exciting thing that a person could possibly study, and one of the exciting things about it is that it not only drives us to ministry and mission, but shapes the same ministry and mission. At its heart, theology is missional.

More response on my “steak on a paper plate” article on worship. This from Jeff Ling:

There’s something oddly wonderful about embracing current styles while remembering on whose shoulders we stand and using those ancient words and symbols to enrich our expressions

Tod Bolsinger believes that one reason pastors burn out is because we are soul-starved:

The projection of others onto our roles, the requirement of being constantly “on”, the necessity “wooing” people who are growing more disinterested and resistant to our messages, and the stress of living professionally and personally in the “family-system” environment that is the church feeds our images and starves our true, whole, authentic-to-God selves.

“I’m not that perceptive, Lord”:

According to the Psalmist, there is another area that we become oblivious to…our sin.  The rhetorical question is asked as if the answer is obvious.  We all sin, both with the intent to break Gods law and unconsciously out of habit.  Sometimes we sin and don’t even know it.  It never registers in our heart or our head, and we move on about our day without conviction or repentance.

 
 

Aug

18

2010

Trevin Wax|3:11 am CT

Steak on a Paper Plate: A Response from Zach Nielsen

Yesterday, I posted a reflection on worship called “Steak on a Paper Plate” which questioned whether or not a casual, informal approach to worship will be able to sustain substantive expository preaching over the long run.

Today, a friend and fellow blogger, Zach Nielsen (Take Your Vitamin Z) responds to yesterday’s post. Zach is one of the pastors at The Vine in Madison, Wisconsin and has much experience leading music in church. I like what Zach has to say about the character of the worship leader and I’m glad he has agreed to stop by the blog and offer this response.

Formal or Informal is Not the Main Issue

Zach Nielsen

Being formal or not is more a function of the person who is leading and less about the structure that he imposes upon himself for leading the worship service. You can make a “contemporary” service feel very formal and you can make a strict PCA liturgy feel very informal. It depends on who is leading.

I grew up in a church that followed a very strict ELCA Lutheran liturgy, but the senior pastor had a way of making it feel personal and not simply a robotic recitation of words. On the flip side, I have been to services that are “contemporary” and “informal” that felt very stiff and awkward because those leading did not have the skill set to lead in a way that felt relaxed and more free.

So my question for those leading church services has less to do with the forms and much more to do with the right men leading those forms. Telling constant jokes and being silly can just as easily be placing into a “contemporary” form as it can be in a more strictly liturgical form. It is the man leading who will determines these things.

I do agree that if we never get a sense of the enormity, holiness, and majesty of God, we will produce shallow Christians who will fail to understand our deep need for repentance and forgiveness in Christ. But you don’t have to be wearing a suit and tie to get a healthy sense of the grandeur of God’s beauty, sovereignty, and holiness. Again, this has more to do with the men leading the service and less about what structure they choose to use for the service. The question is more who and then the how will follow.

It seems that the New Testament demonstrates this as well. We don’t see much detail in terms of how are services are to be held, but we see quite a bit of detail concerning the type of man who should be leading that service.

Formal or informal is not the main issue. In the end, shouldn’t there be a healthy sense of both in all our services if we are truly being human?

I believe that the more important question is “Who is leading and does that man have Biblical priorities in mind for the kind of service that he leads?” If the answer is “yes”, then in most cases the issue of formal vs. informal will take care of itself.