Monthly Archives: September 2010

 

Sep

24

2010

 
 

Sep

23

2010

Trevin Wax|3:08 am CT

Engaging with God: Evaluation

Yesterday, I provided a brief overview of David Peterson’s book on worship, Engaging With God. Today, I want to follow up with some personal reflections.

Engaging With God is a treasure chest of biblical teaching on the subject of worship. Peterson leaves no stone unturned as he travels through the biblical text hunting for a solid, biblical expression of the meaning of worship. Peterson is at his best when he is eagerly describing the ways in which Jesus fulfills the Old Testament symbols.

  • Jesus replaces the temple as the mediator of God’s presence (80).
  • Jesus’ perfect obedience to the Father makes available the blessings of the new covenant (109).
  • Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross is the ultimate reality to which the Old Testament sacrifices were pointing (235).

Though Peterson’s survey of biblical teaching on worship is extensive, he does not pass over its relation to the realm of contemporary practice. Nearly every chapter contains practical advice on how to incorporate the Bible’s teaching on worship into our current worship services.

For example, while discussing the hymns found in Revelation, Peterson not only points out their teaching about worship, he uses their lyrics to recommend we take serious note of the hymns we sing and write. We must always be expressing the truths of the Gospel by what we sing (278).

Peterson also avoids the simplistic approach to the New Testament teaching on worship that would have us mimicking the early church gatherings in their formality or informality (160). Instead, Peterson takes the biblical testimony and, without divorcing it from its context, manages to distill the important truths and principles that span cultural divides.

My only quibble with this book is that I wonder if Peterson at times overemphasizes the worship that occurs in everyday life. By putting the accent on how we worship every day with all of our lives, he inevitably diminishes the importance of corporate gathering for worship. Since worship is an all-encompassing “lifestyle,” the church service’s purpose is relegated to the edification of other believers (206).

To be fair, Peterson never denies the crucial role of the church in redemptive history. Neither does he assume that belonging to a church is merely optional for the believer. Yet his emphasis on the individual’s worship before God in all of life could have the effect of overshadowing the corporate sense of worship that is made possible only when the church gathers. Certainly, edification is a large part of our worship gatherings, and Peterson is right to insist that we must be worshipping individually through all our actions. But he does not address the ways in which the church may be able to worship (in service, community, and edification) in a way that an individual cannot, thus making the church’s role necessary in offering true worship to the living God.

Engaging With God deserves to be read by a wide audience. Peterson’s insights into the nature of biblical worship are right on target. He does justice to the biblical testimony and offers sound, practical advice for all who are involved in corporate worship. He challenges us to see how worship must encompass all of our lives, and then he moves us on to obedience to the Savior who enables us to offer our lives as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God.

 
 

Sep

23

2010

Trevin Wax|2:23 am CT

Worth a Look 9.23.10

My friend Jesse has begun a blog called “The Salutation Project.” His concept is intriguing. Every day, he writes about a new person he has met:

The idea is simple; meet one new person every day for a year and post (anonymously as I can) what I’ve learned about them and, if possible, about myself.

Jed Coppenger gives a brief definition and overview of Baptist21:

In our minds, B21 carries the idea of continuity and discontinuity. In terms of continuity, we believe that the things that made Baptists distinctive in previous generations are still relevant today. So, we want to continue to advance Regenerate Membership, Local Church Autonomy, Redemptive Church Discipline, Believer’s Baptism by Immersion, Congregationalism, and Religious Liberty.

In regards to discontinuity, we believe that being Baptist in the 21st century will look differently than it did in the 20th century in many contexts. We believe that churches should have a greater awareness of the changing culture. Just as missionaries study the culture of the people that they are trying to reach so that they can communicate the gospel meaningfully and effectively, Baptists should have an awareness of these things as they advance the kingdom of Christ.

Michael Patton says “Give Rick Warren a break!”

If we are hanging out on theology corner looking for a fight, we can find one. We will also always have an audience who is willing to watch and cheer as we beat someone up. But what we will find is that we become blood thirsty after a few rounds. The cheers of the crowd will become our heroine. However, in the end, we might discover that we are punching the face of our brother.

We need to be theologically discerning. We need “appraise” things. But when we realize that this is all we are doing, I think we need to appraise ourselves.

Take a look at the armless piano player from China:

 
 

Sep

22

2010

Trevin Wax|3:00 am CT

Engaging with God: A Summary

Today, I’m providing a summary of David Peterson’s book, Engaging With God: A Biblical Theology of Worship (IVP, 2002), and tomorrow, I’ll offer some follow-up thoughts.

Peterson formerly served as the principal at Oak Hill College in London and as lecturer in New Testament at Moore College. In this book, Peterson tackles the controversial subject of worship by cutting through the rhetoric of the “worship wars” and by bringing his readers back to the biblical teaching that should inform these debates over worship.

Peterson’s book is designed to take the reader chronologically through the entire Bible, so that the overarching biblical picture of worship will become clear. As he walks us through the relevant biblical passages on worship, he seeks to prove that “the worship of the living and true God is essentially an engagement with him on the terms that he proposes and in the way that he alone makes possible,” (20).

Peterson avoids the temptation to begin his book on Christian worship by looking at the early church’s methods. He instead traces the roots of Christian worship back to Israel’s patriarchs and then embarks on a journey through the Old Testament history of worship.

In order to understand the Old Testament view of worship, Peterson insists that we must recognize the God of Israel who has made himself known to his people through his word and deeds. The system of worship manifested through the tabernacle and temple acknowledged the living presence of God in the midst of his chosen people. The Jews were required to live in acknowledgement of this presence in everyday life, not only in the religious ceremonies of the temple (49).

Before turning to the New Testament witness, Peterson analyzes the Hebrew and Greek words used to denote “worship,” and he places them in three broad categories:

  1. worship as homage or grateful submission (57-63)
  2. worship as service (64-70) a
  3. worship as reverence or respect (70-72).

Peterson makes the case that these broad categories prove his hypothesis that the biblical idea of worship, or “engagement with God,” actually refers to the whole of a person’s life and not merely the cultic regulations that God requires (73).

From here, Peterson launches into the New Testament witness to Jesus, and specifically, how Jesus represents the “new temple,” the presence of God. He consults the Gospels of Matthew and John to back up this understanding of God’s presence among his people, pointing to Jesus’ speech about the temple’s destruction in Matthew 24 (91), and John’s description of Jesus attending the Jewish festivals (100). God has acted significantly within human history, and in the person and work of Jesus Christ, he has accomplished all that the temple intended to do for Israel and the nations (102).

Peterson shifts to the “new covenant” established by Jesus and writes of Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law of Moses and how his sacrificial death is to be understood within the Jewish concept of Passover. By offering himself as a perfect sacrifice, Jesus fulfills the Old Testament sacrificial system (129).

The rest of the book sifts through the teaching on worship found in the remaining books of the New Testament. Peterson starts with Acts, by mapping out the steady inclusion of Gentiles within the nascent Christian communities, by describing the worship gatherings that Luke records, and by recording how the early Christian churches saw Jesus as the replacement of the Jewish temple. Peterson does not make the descriptions of early Christian worship binding on all believers today. The principles found in Acts are to remain in practice, but the specific descriptions of worship gatherings may or may not translate equally into every context (160).

When describing Paul’s teaching on worship, Peterson emphasizes Jesus’ sacrificial death that makes possible the offering up of our lives as living sacrifices (173). It is because of Jesus’ work on the cross that true worship is possible, and a new kind of service to God can take place through the preaching of the gospel.

Peterson goes into great detail to describe how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament Law by analyzing the theme of worship in Hebrews. The Old Testament themes of worship must now be reinterpreted in light of Christ’s atoning death. Obedience to God in gratitude for what he has done for us in his Son is the sacrifice that God desires (254).

Peterson closes the book by taking up the theme of worship in Revelation, specifically how worship takes place in the heavenly realm and how our knowledge of this worship must influence our worship today that takes place in anticipation of the future (270).

Tomorrow, I’ll provide some personal thoughts on Engaging With God.

 
 

Sep

22

2010

Trevin Wax|2:57 am CT

Worth a Look 9.22.10

Idolatry is like a pacifier:

This is what I know about my Sovereign Father: he loves his kids. This never changes. All who trust Jesus as Savior have inherited an invincible love relationship with the Father. And the reason the Father has ripped the pacifier from your clenched mouth is the same reason he chose you before the foundation of the world, justified you at your conversion, and will one day glorify you in his presence: because he loves you! Don’t just read these words, believe these words.

Ministry-to-Children now has a podcast. The first episode is about your church and children with special needs.

Faith Unbound:

The word religion comes from the Latin religare (re: “back,” and ligare: “to bind”), so the term is associated with being bound. In that sense, defining oneself as “spiritual, not religious” couldn’t be more apt, reflecting a desire to not be bound by any rules, community, or belief. Being spiritual but not religious is the perfect fit for people who don’t like the demands of religion but aren’t quite ready to say they have no soul.

The comprehensive nature of a Great Commission classroom:

I want my students to know that when I speak of the missio Dei and our role in it, that I not only believe it with my head, but I feel it with my heart.  Thus, a Great Commission classroom starts by capturing the heart with the things that are of most importance to God, namely the fame of His Name and renown and the spread of authentic Christ-centered worship among the nations.

 
 

Sep

21

2010

Trevin Wax|3:55 am CT

A 1-Way Ticket to Romania

Ten years ago today, I boarded a plane with a one-way ticket to Romania.

I was a bright-eyed (naïve) nineteen-year-old heading over to a formerly Communist country. I had very little knowledge of the language. I had no ties with any missionary agency. I had no salary and no way to support myself, except to live off the savings I had accumulated during my year of work between high school and college. I had no close friends in Romania, only a handful of acquaintances. I had no idea when I would be returning to the U.S., only that my place of residence would be a Christian university campus.

Truth be told, I wasn’t scared. The situation didn’t frighten me. Yes, I dreaded the loneliness that would overwhelm me when I said goodbye to my parents. I dreaded the time that would pass before I could speak Romanian fluently. But my decision had been firm. God had led me to this place. No time to look back.

In my journal, I wrote about arriving in Oradea:

“The streets of Oradea were soon before us. The sky was sunny and the weather was lovely. The city was bustling with activity; the leaves just beginning to change colors and surrender from the trees. Looking over the city, I realized that this was now my new home. The excitement, anticipation, and wait of the past few months were for this moment – to be in the place where I belong… to serve.”

The excitement soon turned to sadness. After I said goodbye to my parents, I went to my dorm room and wept. What have I done? I remember thinking. I have left everything I’ve ever known. I have left everyone who loves me. I don’t know the language. I don’t know the culture. I don’t even know any people. And I’m supposed to minister here?

The tears flowed as I seriously questioned my calling. Even now, I choke up when I recall the emotions of that moment. And as I think of the ways God blessed the following five years of my life, I am overwhelmed. He gave me more opportunities to minister than I could have dreamed of. He gave me the ability to speak Romanian fluently within a few months. He gave me my precious wife. He blessed us with our first child.

When I flip through the journal I kept during the first year in Romania, I am embarrassed at my immaturity, my naive expectations and unbridled idealism. My disdain for my former self, however, is kept in check by the thought that ten years from now, I may entertain similar thoughts regarding where I’m at now! If anything, the journal reminds me that life is a journey.

The big story is about God. And this God is the One who calls us, who equips us, who goes before us, and then sends us off into the sunset of his plan, as heralds of his Son and the salvation he has brought to earth.

Thank you, Father, for calling me to Romania ten years ago. Thank you for sustaining me, strengthening me, and using me for your purposes. Please do the same in the next ten years, and grant me faith so that I will continue to follow you wherever you lead.

 
 

Sep

21

2010

Trevin Wax|2:15 am CT

Worth a Look 9.21.10

Mark Lauterbach points us to Huckleberry Finn for a lesson on conflict:

We like fights.  We have argumentative hearts.  We enjoy pontificating and passing judgment with next to no facts.  We think we know the “real reasons” and know the hearts of men. Well, whenever I get into a fighting mood, or see a group of believers engaged in contention, or find a blog engaged in strife, I go back to this simple quote from Mark Twain’s work…

Denny Burk writes about a conversation he had recently with someone who works at an abortion clinic:

The encounter brought home again how indefensible the pro-choice position is. There is no morally significant difference between a person inside the birth canal and one outside. One is here, and one is there. But there’s no basis for arguing that one is human outside but not human while only inches away inside the birth canal (or for that matter in the womb). The pro-choice position is indeed ethically bankrupt.

Catholic Foxe:

While his rhetoric may strike our ears as heated and divisive, if he can prove what he says there is nothing overstated. But furthermore these few short quotations give us a glimpse into his overall project in the Book of Martyrs. His book is not merely a loose collection of martyr narratives. The overall plan and theme of the book is to tell the story of the true catholic Church.

Jason Hood:

For the joy of parody, and in something of the spirit of that great classic, Bultmann Reads Mother Goose, I offer the following:Tom Wright Reads Humpty Dumpty

 
 

Sep

20

2010

Trevin Wax|3:01 am CT

The Myth of "Universal Consensus" in Scholarship

A precious older lady in our church approached me last week with a concern:

“I ordered a book from Reader’s Digest on the great mysteries of the Bible. As I’ve looked through it, I don’t see our view is presented anywhere.”

She was concerned that the book’s viewpoint, though under the guise of Digest objectivity, was putting forth a “universal consensus” that was not so universal.

In recent weeks, I’ve been reading Jonathan Pennington’s book, Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew. If you’ve studied the Gospel of Matthew, you know that Matthew uses the phrase “kingdom of heaven” where the other Gospel authors write “kingdom of God.”

Almost every scholar calls this tendency a “reverential circumlocution”, meaning that Matthew (good Jew that he was) wanted to avoid saying “God” where he didn’t have to. Thus the “heaven” references.

Pennington challenges the near-universal consensus on this phenomenon. He doesn’t deny that Matthew chooses to use “heaven” instead of “God”. But Pennington doesn’t believe Matthew’s reason is because of reverence. Instead, Matthew’s choice reflects his particular theological emphasis on heaven.

One way Pennington challenges the consensus is by tracing the “reverence” argument back to the 1800′s where it started: in the scholarship of Gustaf Dalman. By all accounts Dalman was an impressive thinker, but on this issue at least his case doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny. Pennington points out:

  1. There is no clear evidence that the generic term “God” was being replaced in the first century out of reverence.
  2. Dalman uncritically utilizes rabbinic sources in his reconstruction of Second Temple and NT practices.
  3. Even the Rabbinic materials are mixed in their witness to this supposed phenomenon.
  4. There simply is not enough evidence of “heaven” as a reverential circumlocution during the time of Jesus.

Pennington makes a good case for disregarding an explanation that has been generally accepted by virtually all New Testament scholarship. It is striking that the “reverential circumlocution” argument – so widely accepted in scholarship today – can be traced back to one man’s theory (and a not very strong one at that!).

May this example give us with pause whenever we point to the “universal consensus” to bolster our point of view. Yes, the fact that the vast majority of scholars may think a certain way today can be a good indication of what is true. But scholars can be wrong. And sometimes, “universal conclusions” may be built on bad assumptions and faulty research from centuries ago.

 
 

Sep

20

2010

Trevin Wax|2:21 am CT

Worth a Look 9.20.10

Pope Benedict XVI’s theology summed up in 10 theses

Washington Post: Introverts in Evangelical America

Evangelicalism has a chatty, mingling informality about it, and no matter how well-intentioned that atmosphere is, it can be a difficult environment for those of us who are overwhelmed by large quantities of social interaction and who may connect best with God in silence. Sometimes our communities talk so much that we are not able to express the gifts that we bring to others. If we are given the space, we bring gifts of listening, insight, creativity, compassion, and a calming presence, things that our churches desperately need.

Berlin issues guidelines on integrating Muslim pupils in schools:

If you’re a teacher in Germany and are unsure whether to allow your Muslim pupils to pray at school, to skip swimming lessons or wear the veil, you may want to consult a new handbook aimed at dealing with the sometimes tricky task of reconciling Muslim practices with German schooling.

For my Romanian readers, Marius Cruceru admonishes Christians to think carefully about the image they put forth on FaceBook:

Poate că în ziua judecății Dumnezeu ne va lua și contul de Facebook să-l pună să mărturisească împotriva noastră…. ce-ar fi să ne imaginăm a 11-a poruncă: să nu fii obscen pe twitter, a 12-a să nu provoci pe facebook…

 
 

Sep

19

2010

Trevin Wax|3:52 am CT

A Prayer for When You're Anxious

Grant that I, Lord,
may not be anxious about earthly things,
but love things heavenly;
and even now, while I am placed among things that are passing away,
hold fast to those that shall endure;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

- The Book of Common Prayer