Monthly Archives: April 2011

 

Apr

30

2011

Trevin Wax|3:20 am CT

He Drew Heaven With Him

“When our Lord came down to earth, He drew heaven with Him. The signs which accompany His ministry were but the trailing clouds of glory which He brought from heaven, which is His throne. The number of miracles which He wrought may easily be underrated. It has been said that in effect He banished disease and death from Palestine for the three years of His ministry. One touch of the hem of His garment that He wore could medicine whole countries of their pain. One touch of that pale hand could restore life.”

- B.B. Warfield

 
 

Apr

29

2011

Trevin Wax|3:14 am CT

Trevin's Seven

Seven links for your weekend reading:

1. Gospel Overtones in the Royal Wedding: Longing and Looking for a Good King

2. Watch the The Gospel Coalition 2011 Plenary Sessions. Video now available.

3. Ron Paul on abortion

4. Mike Wittmer on “The Charity of Clarity”

5. Do You Have to Respond to Every Blog Comment?

6. Endeavor to Stop Endeavoring

7. The Adoption Crusade: What a Misleading Article in The Nation Can Teach Evangelicals

 
 

Apr

28

2011

Trevin Wax|3:47 am CT

Book Notes: Clouds of Witnesses / Read the Bible for Life

Notes on two books I’ve read recently:

Clouds of Witnesses:
Christian Voices from Africa and Asia

Mark Noll & Carolyn Nystrom
IVP, 2011

Clouds of Witnesses puts a human face on the statistics that filled Mark Noll’s previous book The New Shape of World Christianity. The authors profile 17 key figures from recent church history in Africa and Asia, giving readers a compelling look at Christianity’s growth in a context quite different from our own. Noll and Carolyn Nystrom report these stories as fairly as possible and do not gloss over controversies in other parts of the world, including polygamy, miracles, syncretism, and Keswick-inspired “holiness” theology.

Read the Bible for Life:
Your Guide to Understanding and Living God’s Word

George Guthrie
B&H, 2010

For many believers, the Bible itself appears intimidating, not to mention the hefty, seminary-level hermeneutics books teaching people how to read it. Union University professor George Guthrie seeks to make the Bible accessible by making hermeneutics accessible. Emulating Lee Strobel’s approach in The Case for … series, Guthrie travels the country, interviewing biblical scholars and church leaders about how to understand the Bible. The result is an easy-to-read yet in-depth approach to hermeneutics that focuses on connecting the dots of the big storyline of the Bible.

- first published in Christianity Today, March, April 2011

 
 

Apr

28

2011

Trevin Wax|2:48 am CT

Worth a Look 4.28.11

Registration for the B21 Lunch Panel at this year’s SBC is now open.

A lunch panel discussion on Mission, the SBC, and more… with John Piper, David Platt, Albert Mohler, Danny Akin, Kevin Ezell, and Bryant Wright

Michael Kelley: The Sin Behind the Sin

We tend to think of sin in a very isolated, small view kind of way. We look at porn. We gossip. We cheat on our taxes. We use foul language. We eat too much. These are all actions, and usually we try and battle these sins in the realm of action. But what about the sin behind the sin? What about the “why” behind the action? That’s taking the battle to another level.

Russell Moore: Arousing Ourselves to Death

The powers want any child of Adam, especially a brother or sister of the Lord Jesus, to cringe in hiding from accusation. Through the confession of sin, though, any conscience, including one darkened by pornography, can be cleansed. By the blood of Christ, received in repentance and faith, no satanic indictment can stand, not even one that comes with an archived Internet history.

Cheating and Seminary: An Open Letter to Students

This isn’t the “social-gospel liberals” compromising on academic integrity; rather, this is an indictment of people who profess to believe the Bible on social issues, ignoring the blatant dishonesty of their actions. How did we get here? I think there are three probable answers.

 

 
 

Apr

27

2011

Trevin Wax|3:27 am CT

Urban Legends: The Preacher's Edition

Those of us who are entrusted with the task of expositing the Scriptures in a local church must take care to verify our sources, illustrations, and stories. No matter how helpful an illustration may be, it is dishonoring to God if it is untrue.

Here are a number of urban legends that get repeated in sermons. Some are more pervasive than others, even appearing in commentaries and scholarly works.

1. The “eye of the needle” refers to a gate outside Jerusalem.

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God,” says Jesus in Mark 10:25. Maybe you’ve heard of the gate in Jerusalem called the “eye of the needle.” The camel could pass through it only after stooping down and having all its baggage taken off.

The illustration is used in many sermons as an example of coming to God on our knees and without our baggage. The only problem is… there is no evidence for such a gate. The story has been around since the 15th century, but there isn’t a shred of evidence to support it.

2. The high priest tied a rope around his ankle so that others could drag him out of the Holy of Holies in case God struck him dead.

Various versions of this claim have been repeated by pastors, but it is a legend. It started in the Middle Ages and keeps getting repeated. There is no evidence for the claim in the Bible, the Apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, the Pseudepigrapha, the Talmud, Mishna or any other source. Furthermore, the thickness of the veil (three feet) would have precluded the possibility of a priest being dragged out anyway.

3. Scribes took baths, discarded their pens, washed their hands, etc. every time they wrote the name of God.

As a way of getting across the reverence of the Jewish and Christian scribes toward God, preachers like to describe the honor given to God’s name. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence that scribes did these sorts of rituals every time they came across the name of God.

4. There was this saying among the sages: “May you be covered in your rabbi’s dust.”

This is one of the most pervasive and fast-spreading stories to flood the church in recent years. The idea is that as you walked behind your rabbi, he would kick up dust and you would become caked in it and so following your rabbi closely came to symbolize your commitment and zeal. Joel Willitts explains:

This is powerful stuff isn’t it? Well the only problem is that it just isn’t true… The context in which it is given in Mishnah Aboth 1:4 is expressly not what is assumed by those who promulgate this idea.

5. Voltaire’s house is now owned by a Bible-printing publisher.

Voltaire was famous for saying, “One hundred years from my day there will not be a Bible in the earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity seeker.” There is a myth out there that within 50 years of Voltaire’s death, his house was owned by a Bible society that used his own printing press to make Bibles. Sounds like a great story, but it’s not true. Regardless, Voltaire’s prediction of the demise of the Bible was vastly overstated.

6. Gehenna was a burning trash dump outside Jerusalem.

I’ve used this illustration many times. But there isn’tevidence to support this idea. Still, because it seems like a reasonable explanation for the origin of the Hinnom Valley as “hell,” commentators and preachers have accepted it. It’s possible that the verdict may still be out on this one, but not if Todd Bolen is right:

“The explanation for the ‘fire of Gehenna’ lies not in a burning trash dump, but in the burning of sacrificed children. Already in Old Testament times, the Valley of Hinnom was associated with the destiny of the wicked.  That the valley was just outside the city of Jerusalem made it an appropriate symbol for those excluded from divine blessing.”

7. NASA scientists have discovered a “missing day” which corresponds to the Joshua account of the sun standing still.

Please don’t repeat this myth. There has been no “missing day” discovered, and the legend has been circulating longer than NASA has been in existence, with different scientists playing the part.

What are some other urban legends we should avoid as pastors?

 
 

Apr

27

2011

Trevin Wax|2:12 am CT

Worth a Look 4.27.11

Tullian on God’s Final Solution:

We Christians have a remarkable tendency to focus almost exclusively on the  fruit of  the problem. We do this as parents with our children, pastors with our parishioners, husbands with wives and wives with husbands. We do this with ourselves. The gospel, on the other hand, always addresses the root of the problem. And the root of the problem is not bad behavior. Bad behavior is the fruit of something deeper.

Sojourn has just released a new album of Isaac Watts hymns, The Water and the Blood. Zach Nielsen writes an extensive review.

Jared Wilson reviews David Platt’s Radical Together:

The good news is that Platt appears to have taken the concerns to heart, and he really does demonstrate having listened to his critics, given their challenges due consideration, and being willing to soften in some places and sharpen in others. Thus, Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God takes on the implications of the cost of discipleship on the corporate aims of the body of Christ.

I love this video of a flashmob in Beruit singing “Christ is Risen” in Arabic and Greek.

 
 

Apr

26

2011

Trevin Wax|3:18 am CT

The Arrogance of Inclusivism

An increasing number of evangelicals find the “inclusivist” view of salvation appealing. This view maintains the traditional Christian belief that “Jesus is the only way to God” while denying the necessity of placing personal conscious faith in Christ for salvation. In other words, there is the possibility that other religious paths lead ultimately to God through Christ, even if the adherents never profess faith in Christ.

Some evangelicals find this view attractive because it softens the exclusive claims of Jesus without completely doing away with them. We can go right on saying “Jesus is the only way” while acknowledging the possibility that people outside the Christian faith may still be saved. It appears more humble and openminded than the traditional view that insists – not only that Jesus is the only way, but also that our response to Christ in this life matters for eternity.

Despite the veneer of humility, I believe the inclusivist position to be more arrogant than traditional exclusivism. Here are three reasons why:

1. If our response to Christ in this life doesn’t matter, then evangelism is merely an attempt to force one’s religious preference upon another.

Let’s say you’re trapped in the middle of a forest that is on fire. The blaze is all around you, and you don’t know how to escape the dense underbrush. Someone comes up to you and says, “There are multiple paths out of the forest, but I really think you should follow me out this one.”

“Why should I follow your path if I can escape the fire any other way?” you ask.

“Because my path is the best,” he says. “If you join me on my path, you’ll find that it’s the best possible way to live.”

“Thanks, but I’m not that concerned with the best path. I just want to escape.”

Transfer this illustration to the inclusivist position and you can see how smug it sounds. Evangelism for the inclusivist isn’t telling people, “Trust Jesus before it’s too late.” Instead, it’s telling people, “It may not matter what you do with Jesus in this life for your eternity, but I still think you should trust Him because He’s the better than all the other religious options.”

It’s one thing to say that Jesus is the only way and to call people to repentance based on that truth. That’s not arrogant; it’s loving. It’s another thing to say that there are multiple ways to God, but that people should still choose Jesus because He’s just better than Buddha, Mohammed, or another religion’s holy person. That’s like trying to force someone to choose your favorite flavor of ice cream.

2. Inclusivism is patronizing to non-Christians.

Evangelicals may feel better about themselves when they adopt inclusivism, but most of my non-Christian friends find it patronizing. That’s why Lisa Miller confronted Rob Bell about this matter. She took umbrage at the thought that her Jewish relatives wound up in heaven through Jesus when they most assuredly did not believe in Christ. She’s right. Inclusivism fails to take into account that our choices and beliefs in this present life really do matter and really do have eternal consequences.

Inclusivism lightens the burdened conscience of the Christian who is not active in fulfilling the Great Commission. It does not soften the offense of the gospel to those who want nothing to do with Christ.

3. Inclusivism isn’t as inclusive as the call to evangelism.

Evangelism takes place because the call of salvation is radically inclusive. We are to call all people everywhere to repentance and faith: people from every tongue, tribe, and nation; people of every color, ethnicity, and background; yes, even people who claim other religious identities.

The truly narrow-minded, prejudiced Christian looks at a Buddhist or a Hindu and stays quiet about Jesus. Their silence says this: Jesus isn’t for you.

On the other hand, the evangelistic Christian recognizes the radically inclusive call to salvation. It is because of the exclusive nature of Christianity that the offer of the gospel is so radically inclusive. Christ calls all people everywhere to repentance. Forgiveness in Jesus Christ is available for all… even those outside our faith.

 
 

Apr

26

2011

Trevin Wax|2:43 am CT

Worth a Look 4.26.11

James K.A. Smith on the new universalism:

The new universalism is not the old universalism. Fair enough. But those of us who reject even the new universalism aren’t gleeful about it. We might even wish it were otherwise. But we also recognize that even our wishes, hopes, and desires need discipline.

Are Frequent-Flier Programs Losing Their Luster?

Many of the airlines’ most important customers, frequent business travelers, are grumbling, though. They’re bothered by non-frequent fliers reducing the availability of seats on planes by earning miles with credit cards and in other ways that don’t involve taking a flight. And they’re annoyed by an inability to book a free flight at the lowest mileage-redemption levels.

Tim Challies on the celebrity-culture of American conferences:

Trueman is telling you that America is particularly prone to a celebrity culture. Listen to him. He is telling you that American Christians are particularly prone to blindly following certain leaders or styles. Listen to him. He is telling you that you may be inadvertently feeding these things with these super-sized conferences and their a-list speakers. Listen to him. He has that outside perspective that so easily sees what you may be so blind to. You’d do well to listen humbly, to listen with an open mind and an open heart.

This is neat. A colorized portrait of Abraham Lincoln.

 
 

Apr

25

2011

Trevin Wax|3:20 am CT

Break My Plans: A Tribute to Nicolae Moldoveanu

The song “Break My Plans” was composed by a group of Americans as a tribute to Romanian hymnist Nicolae Moldoveanu. The music  video clip below shows a reenactment of Moldoveanu’s journey to prison in Communist Romania. While in prison, he composed more than 360 hymns – all without any instruments, pen or paper.

I wish that many of Moldoveanu’s hymns were translated. Several of them are personal favorites: “Numai harul” (Only Grace), “Dacă ne-adunăm în Domnul” (If We Gather Together in the Lord), “Nu te-ndoi, ci crede!” (Don’t Doubt, but Believe!),and  ”Învață-mă să făptuiesc” (Teach Me to Do Your Will).

In Counterfeit Gospels, I mention Moldoveanu as an example of how we should find our joy in God alone:

The therapeutic gospel makes Christ a tool for getting something else. The biblical gospel says “Christ is all.”

The writer of Hebrews commends his readers, saying: You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. (Hebrews 10:34) The therapeutic gospel has no category for pleasing God through times of suffering, because pain is always, somehow caused by your own lack of faith. And yet the writer to the Hebrews can commend people for joyfully losing everything because their ultimate treasure was God alone.

What kind of gospel would lead someone to be joyful even in the midst of great earthly loss? Not the therapeutic gospel. Only the biblical gospel that magnifies Jesus Christ as the treasure of greatest worth can lead someone to great joy in the midst of great loss.

The most prolific Romanian hymn writer of the 20th century was Nicolae Moldoveanu. He wrote thousands of hymns during his long life, composing many of them in prison as he suffered at the hands of the Communist authorities. One of Moldoveanu’s most beloved songs was written just after the police had plundered his home and left him without any belongings. Only someone gripped by the biblical gospel could pen these words. His song (“Ție-Ți Cânt Dumnezeul Meu”) is translated like this:

I sing to you, my God

For your goodness, for your great grace,
I will bless you in whispers and in shouts.

I sing to you, my God,

For all that you have given to me, for your sweet care
For all that you have taken from me,
I worship you with thanksgiving.

I sing to you, my God.

In words I wish to tell you, my song my burning plea,
You are the greatest treasure of all

The following music video of “Break My Plans” begins with these words from Moldoveanu:

1959 was the year when my life was split in two. The work of the Lord needed men who were tested.

 
 

Apr

25

2011

Trevin Wax|2:18 am CT

Worth a Look 4.25.11

Drive grows for states to recognize personhood:

Mississippi voters are likely to be the first in the nation to add to their state constitution “personhood” language that declares unborn children to be persons, effectively outlawing abortion and setting up a potential Supreme Court showdown — if they get a chance to vote on it in November.

Thomas Sowell on bullying:

There is a lot of talk from many people about bullying in school. The problem is that it is all talk. There is no sign that anybody is going to do anything that is likely to reduce bullying.

6 Things Christ Accomplished By His Death:

Here’s a very brief summary of the six core things Christ accomplished in his death.

Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?

People don’t need the experts to tell them that sitting around too much could give them a sore back or a spare tire. The conventional wisdom, though, is that if you watch your diet and get aerobic exercise at least a few times a week, you’ll effectively offset your sedentary time. A growing body of inactivity research, however, suggests that this advice makes scarcely more sense than the notion that you could counter a pack-a-day smoking habit by jogging.