Monthly Archives: May 2011

 

May

31

2011

Trevin Wax|3:09 am CT

Learning from the Bible's Unsung Heroes

We hear a lot about Paul, Peter, James, and John. But there are plenty of people mentioned in the New Testament that can slip by us unnoticed.

In Colossians 4, the Apostle Paul lists ten less-familiar names from the early church. Paul’s “shout-out” to these saints reminds me of the vast majority of Christians who quietly play important roles in the kingdom of God. Even though these mentions are brief, they contain life-long lessons for us today.

Tychicus – Encourage one another by speaking God’s Word.

Tychicus, our dearly loved brother, faithful servant, and fellow slave in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know how we are and so that he may encourage your hearts.

Tychicus had a job to do. He was to deliver news about Paul, as well as Paul’s letter to the people in Colosse. The result would be the encouragement of the Christians’ hearts. I want to be like Tychicus. I want to be a herald of the Word, so much so that it overflows from my heart at the right time and place.

Onesimus – The gospel turns uselessness into usefulness.

[Tychicus] is with Onesimus, a faithful and dearly loved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you about everything here.

Onesimus was a runaway slave. His name meant “useful,” but he had proven “useless” to his master, Philemon. Yet Paul commended him as a faithful and dearly loved brother, adding “he is one of you.” The cross unites what the world would keep separate. Early in life, Onesimus hadn’t lived up to his name. The gospel changed all that, and it changes us too. There is no way we can live up to the name “Christian” apart from the soul-sanctifying work of the gospel, the good news that takes useless sinners and turns us into useful co-laborers in God’s kingdom.

Aristarchus – Suffer with one another.

Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, greets you…

Aristarchus was one of Paul’s companions in ministry, and here he is shown as a companion in suffering. We need people like Aristarchus, who stay focused on the kingdom regardless of the consequences, who rejoice with us in times of joy and mourn with us in times of trial.

Mark – Keep getting up after you fall.

… as does Mark, Barnabas’ cousin (concerning whom you have received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him)…

Mark was the cause of one of the early church’s major splits. Paul and Barnabas disagreed over Mark’s desire to join them on a missionary journey. Why? Because Mark had been a drop-out. He had started out with them on a previous journey and then had gone home. This passage indicates that Mark was already restored to Paul. Mark fell, but he got back up. In fact, it’s likely that he wrote one of the four Gospels! The lesson here? Keep getting up. The righteous man falls seven times, and yet he gets back up every time.

Justus – Make your Christianity your first identity.

… and so does Jesus who is called Justus. These alone of the circumcision are my coworkers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.

Justus willingly set aside his identity twice in order to spread the gospel. First, though his name was Jesus, he went by Justus, probably to avoid confusion with the Jesus he was proclaiming. Secondly, he left his own people, the Jews, in order to spread the gospel among those in Rome. Justus grounded his identity in Jesus Christ. He wasn’t first and foremost a Jew. Neither was his name unalterable. He was “in Christ.” What about you? What is your main identity? The Christian whose primary identity is Jesus Christ can cross cultures and boundaries on behalf of the gospel.

Epaphras – Contend for others in prayer.

Epaphras, who is one of you, a slave of Christ Jesus, greets you. He is always contending for you in his prayers, so that you can stand mature and fully assured in everything God wills. For I testify about him that he works hard for you, for those in Laodicea, and for those in Hierapolis.

Epaphras was a prayer warrior. Burdened by the spiritual immaturity he saw in others, he went before the throne of grace and “contended” for God’s people in prayer.  He wanted the people in his church to have assurance of the will of God, to know how to act. So he took these burdens to God in prayer. What a privilege to carry the spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters to God!

Luke – Use your occupation for the glory of God.

Luke, the dearly loved physician, and Demas greet you.

Luke used his occupation as a doctor for God’s glory. Who knows how many times Luke treated Paul as he healed from terrible wounds to his back? Luke didn’t use his own gifts merely for his own gain. He gave those gifts to God. We learn from Luke that our vocations are not separate from our spiritual life. We are called to do all to the glory of God – with excellence, with beauty, with zeal.

Demas – Watch out that you do not turn back!

Paul’s letter to Timothy informs us that Demas fell in love with the world and turned away from God. Something other than God captured his affections. Demas’ example serves as a warning to us. Watch out that you do not turn back! Let his example warn us against turning away from God and abandoning our faith in the gospel.

Nympha – Do what you can with what you have.

Give my greetings to the brothers in Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her home.

Nympha opened up her home and let the church meet there. She gave of her resources for the sake of the gospel. You may think you have nothing to give. But Christ can take the most ordinary thing and shape it into a tool for the advancement of His kingdom. He asked to use the boat of some fishermen, and that simple boat became a pulpit to preach to the masses. With a small boy’s packed lunch of bread and fish, Jesus was able to feed more than 5000 men alone. With a little dirt from the ground, He was able to heal the blind man. The borrowed tomb of Joseph of Arimathea became the empty tomb that would prove Christ’s resurrection.

Archippus – Challenge one another to stay on the right track.

And tell Archippus, “Pay attention to the ministry you have received in the Lord, so that you can accomplish it.”

Paul’s letter to the Colossian church contains this personal challenge to one individual. It reminds me a little of an ordination service, where the pastor preaches a message that is directed to the candidate. Since it’s not a message for the whole church, people wonder, Why not give this message in private? The reason is because the whole church is supposed to challenge the candidate afterward to live up to the charge given him. Archippus is an example of how Christians are to challenge one another, sometimes in private, sometimes in public. We need the exhortation of brothers and sisters in Christ, in order to grow in holiness and faith.

Aristarchus, Archippus, Nympha, Justus… just a few of the Bible’s unsung heroes, “unsung” because they were primarily focused on making sure that the praises of Jesus Christ were sung by people from all tribes, tongues, and nations. When your most passionate desire is that Christ’s praises be sung, you too can be an unsung hero.

 
 

May

31

2011

Trevin Wax|2:15 am CT

Worth a Look 5.31.11

Topic-Modeling:

Topic modeling is a probabilistic, statistical method that can uncover themes and categories in amounts of text so large that they cannot be read by any individual human being. Applied to the Dispatch for the entirety of the war, topic modeling enables us to see both broad and subtle patterns in the Civil War news that we would otherwise be unable to detect.

The Soul’s Thirst:

Every soul thirsts. This thirst may not be obvious in every moment, but at some point and to some degree every soul thirsts after something, something it does not have. We are rarely content in our current condition, rarely content just the way we are. But while we all thirst, we do not all thirst in the same way. Donald Whitney identifies 3 ways in which our souls thirst…

Hiding Baby’s Gender:

By now, you’ve probably heard about the two parents in Canada who are keeping their infant baby’s gender a secret. Why are they doing this? It’s not because there is any physiological ambiguity in the baby. They are doing this because they don’t want their child shoehorned into culturally defined gender stereotypes. Rather, they want their baby (whom they’ve named “Storm”) to make his/her own decisions about his/her own gender.

The technological revolution hits the academy:

Think about it for a minute. If education moves to a teaching model in which students learn through online tutorials, exercises and evaluations created by a handful of the best educators in the world, then how many teachers will we need preparing lesson plans and delivering lectures and grading quizzes and tests?

 
 

May

30

2011

Trevin Wax|3:17 am CT

Gospel Definitions: Joe Thorn

“At its core, the gospel is Jesus as the substitute for sinners. We could summarize the whole by saying that in his life Jesus lives in perfect submission to the will of God and he fulfills his righteous standard (the law). In his death on the cross he quenches God’s wrath against sin, satisfying the sovereign demand for justice. In his resurrection he is victorious over sin and death. All of this is done on behalf of sinners in need of redemption and offered to all who believe. This is therefore very ‘good news.’

Jesus’ life is good news, for his obedience to the Father and fulfillment of the law is for us. While we as sinners fail to keep the law, Jesus was perfectly faithful. Jesus’ death is good news because his death was a payment for our sin, and by it we are cleansed from our guilt and released from condemnation. Jesus’ resurrection is good news because his victory over death is ours and through it we look forward to a resurrection of our own.”

- Joe Thorn, Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself

 

 
 

May

30

2011

Trevin Wax|2:45 am CT

Worth a Look 5.30.11

Matt Perman on the significance of the Piper / Warren conversation:

The main point here is that we don’t have to choose between deep thinking and effective practical action. Instead, they drive one another: thinking hard about truth motivates and directs wise, effective practical action for good. We should think theologically about the practical for the sake of love. The Piper-Warren interview models this well, and gives both the more practically oriented and the more doctrinally oriented something to think about.

Church Growth vs. Church SeasonsNot every church is in the “My, how you’ve grown!” stage, and that’s okay

Healthy churches do often grow, and sometimes for long periods of time (i.e. 20-25 years!). But healthy churches also plateau, decline, and receive pruning from God’s hand. Size is not in our hands.Size is in the hands of the Sovereign one.

Refocused: An Interview with Focus on the Family’s Jim Daly:

The reputation of Focus on the Family seems to be changing. For a while journalists made it seem to be an essentially political organization.

Our budget has always been roughly 90 percent toward the bread and butter, marriage and parenting issues, and 10 percent toward policy. That really hasn’t changed. What has changed is how we address the issues in terms of tone. . . . Everything I’m trying to do at Focus on the Family is to win the culture. I’m most concerned about our expression of the gospel preventing somebody from coming to the conclusion that Christ is who He said He was. I’m not saying that was the case before, but I am saying that as a Christian I want to make sure that my words, my rhetoric, my fervor for truth are balanced with God’s grace.

The 50 Best / Worst Childhood Fads

They were the best of fads, they were the worst of fads—all at the same time. The faddish objects of our childhood were sometimes loved and sometimes hated but they were hard to ignore. Here are a list of the 50 best/worst from the 1960s to today…

 
 

May

29

2011

Trevin Wax|3:31 am CT

Praying for Guidance

O Creator past all telling,
you have appointed from the treasures of your wisdom
the hierarchies of angels,
disposing them in wondrous order
above the bright heavens,
and have so beautifully set out all parts of the universe.

You we call the true fount of wisdom
and the noble origin of all things.
Be pleased to shed
on the darkness of mind in which I was born,
The twofold beam of your light
and warmth to dispel my ignorance and sin.

You make eloquent the tongues of children.
Then instruct my speech
and touch my lips with graciousness.
Make me keen to understand, quick to learn,
able to remember;
make me delicate to interpret and ready to speak.

Guide my going in and going forward,
lead home my going forth.
You are true God and true man,
and live for ever and ever.

Thomas Aquinas, 1225-74

 
 

May

28

2011

Trevin Wax|3:07 am CT

On My Own

I’m just now discovering the beauty of the Les Miserables musical (after having rediscovered the magnificence of the book last year). “On My Own” is my favorite song from the musical. In this clip from the 25th Anniversary Concert, Samantha Barks portrays Eponine. By the end of the song, the emotion she is able to project is simply astounding.

 
 

May

27

2011

 
 

May

26

2011

Trevin Wax|3:32 am CT

Guard Your Heart: A Conversation with the CEO of Covenant Eyes

Pornography is an insidious sin that eats away at the heart of our marriages, objectifies women, disqualifies men from ministry, and draws our eyes from the beauty of Christ. We should take every precaution to guard ourselves and our families against the onslaught of sexual temptation that comes through the internet. One of the precautions I have used for 6 years now is Covenant Eyes.

Today, I’m glad to introduce Ron DeHaas, the CEO of Covenant Eyes, to readers of Kingdom People. Ron pioneered the concept of Accountability Software in the spring of 2000 when he founded Covenant Eyes. He is also the founder of Nehemiah Ministries, a 160-acre retreat and counseling center in south-central Michigan (a center for pastors, missionaries, and their families offered free-of-charge).

Trevin Wax: Ron, you’ve been helping men in their struggle against lust for many years now. What do you think is the biggest danger online today?

Ron DeHaas: There are two, actually:

  1. Lack of knowledge
  2. Torn relationships

I could write extensively about these two. Regarding lack of knowledge… Our surveys indicate that 46% of parents are not sure if their families are safe on the Internet. And 79% of parents are not even aware of secure anonymizers—the most common way of getting around other filters.

But for now I’ll focus on the issue of torn relationships. We are all painfully aware how parents are losing their children’s attention to new technologies, the rise of cyberbullying, Internet predators, the growing access to pornography, and the way students are hurting their future relationships (and reputations) because of the pictures or information they share.

One of the great contributing factors of this “torn relationship” effect is anonymity—in a very real sense, the Internet makes us feel removed from relationship, it makes us feel “cloaked” (like the cloaking devices of Star Trek). Sitting in front of my computer screen or Smartphone, it is easy to believe that what I do, see, or say online won’t matter as much as what I do in the “real world.” As we sit all alone and surf the Web, we lose our inhibitions. We feel freer to say a sharp word to someone, freer to click on the tempting picture, freer to make flirtatious connections, freer to spend our time and money.

Think about it:

  • According to a survey published in the Journal of the American Psychological Association, 86% of men are likely to click on Internet sex sites if no one else will know about it. Is that a relationship building, or a relationship destroying tendency?
  • According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 68% of divorce cases involve one party meeting a new lover over the Internet, and 56% of divorces today involve one party having “an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.” Isn’t that shocking?
  • According to a survey published by Microsoft this year, 67% of teens have cleared out their browser history or cache to make sure their parents couldn’t view their online activity, and 31% do this “always” or “regularly.”
  • According to this year’s study from the Girl Scouts, 42% of teens girls said they are concerned they won’t get into their college of choice because of things they have published on their Facebook or Myspace pages.

There are many more statistics I could share. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

The words of Rachel Wade still loom large in my mind. Last year, she got into war of words through the Internet with another girl over a boy they both liked. These interactions became so heated and bitter, when they finally saw each other face to face, their argument became physical. Rachel stabbed and killed this girl and was eventually sentenced to 27 years for second-degree murder. When interviewed about it, when ask about how it all started, she said, “You can hide behind technology. You can be a whole other person.”

Trevin Wax: Some of my readers may be unfamiliar with the Covenant Eyes software. Can you explain how Covenant Eyes helps guard against some of these problems?

Ron DeHaas: There are two things we offer people to directly to counter the two threats I just mentioned.

First, to combat lack of knowledge, we offer free education. We have a free monthly e-zine for parents about Internet safety and purity. We have a blog that talks about everything from porn addiction to parenting, from cultural trends to current events. We have several free e-books for parents and church leaders. We also regularly host a free webinar, “5 Hidden Dangers Facing You and Your Family Right Now.”

Second, to combat torn relationships, we offer our unique software.

Trevin Wax: Isn’t it true, though, that good software in the wrong hands will have limited value?

Ron DeHaas: Yes, that’s right. Parents often rush too quickly to technology as the easy fix for their fears. They just want to have a stronger fence to keep the bad guys out. But the answer isn’t always about building stronger fences. It’s about equipping ourselves and our kids to live in a world where fences aren’t always available—and many times they aren’t.

This is why we pioneered the concept of accountability software 11 years ago. It is not just a technological tool: it is a relational tool. Imagine a program that tracks all of your Internet activity and then “rates” every web address your computer visits—and then reports all of that activity in an easy-to-read format—so easy that even the subject line of the e-mailed report tells you how closely you need to look at the report. And imagine having the flexibility of customizing your report so that only the age-based sites you want to see are highlighted. And imagine this report going to whomever you want—like a parent, a spouse, a friend, etc.

Trevin Wax: One way that Covenant Eyes helps me is that it keeps me from wasting time online. Knowing that other people can see a record of what I’m doing helps me think about the time I’m spending online. The accountability aspect is of great value. It’s not just a filter. It’s constantly causing me to do a heart-check. How are others using the system?

Ron DeHaas: Today we have 80,000 people in over 150 countries using this program and it has helped many adults and kids alike to avoid the traps and pitfalls on the Internet. The software correctly identifies the secure anonymizers most people use to get around other filters (yes, we also have a filter for those who need it, particularly children). And it correctly distinguishes, for instance, between the good and bad parts of Craigslist or YouTube.

Trevin Wax: Some people aren’t going to like the idea of other people knowing everything they do online. What’s the difference between healthy accountability and just being a snoop?

Ron DeHaas: Real accountability is a mutual and visible relationship. We didn’t invent our system to be an invisible program to spy on others. This goes for adults and kids alike. Parents should use our accountability service in an upfront way. Let your kids know they are being monitored. The reports are not only a reminder to talk to your kids about how they use the Internet, but they are also a perfect springboard of information to have that ongoing discussion.

Parents need to remember accountability isn’t a form of punishment or something you only do for trouble-makers. Often the mentality is, “If I am always checking on my kids, they will think I don’t trust them.” There are two things for parents to consider here:

  • First (countering the lack of knowledge), part of being a kid is pushing boundaries. Parents need to know when and how to push back. Wise monitoring and conversations shows kids how much you care about their character.
  • Second (preventing torn relationships), a parent may trust their child’s intentions, but they should never trust their child’s ability to handle all that the world throws at them. The fact is the Internet is a host for many scary things. Parents need to be present to help their child prevent and process those things.

We see this principle in businesses all the time: Only the best get accountability. When a person is being coached for a future promotion, accountability is an integral part of the process. We carefully train those was want to see succeed. The same should be true for our friendships and our relationships with our kids. If we want to see others overcome their bad habits and foster new habits, accountability is simply a part of that process. Why shouldn’t accountability be a part of our most valued relationships?

Trevin Wax: Great point, Ron. Thank you for stopping by and for the good work you are doing through Covenant Eyes.

 
 

May

26

2011

Trevin Wax|2:41 am CT

Worth a Look 5.26.11

Don’t Make Your Pastor a Statistic:

I’m hopeful at least some of God’s people would consider these statistics, reflect upon their church’s treatment of their pastors, and perhaps lead a conspiracy to make sure faithful elders receive “double honor” from those they teach and lead.

Two views on Mitt Romney. This evangelical says that a vote for Romney is a vote for the LDS Church. Another evangelical says that Romney is a co-belligerent on social issues.

Interesting article on the current state of publishing: “The Veneer of Media”

Do you want to break into publishing? Say something important, but more importantly, say it well. We don’t need more voices, and we certainly don’t need more celebrities. We need transcendent ideas. We need people that challenge us to see how the world ought to be, and inspire us to make it so.

The jury is still out on which film will be next in the Narnia franchise. According to this interview with Micheal Flahery, it’s still possible that The Silver Chair will be next. He also talks about the box office results for Dawn Treader.

What’s interesting in the United States is, ticket sales almost exactly mirror the book sales. So the number of people who saw Prince Caspian was half the number of people who saw The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. And the book sales are half. The people who saw Dawn Treader was about a third less than the people who saw Prince Caspian. And the book sales are about a third less.”

 
 

May

25

2011

Trevin Wax|1:08 am CT

Worth a Look 5.25.11

Alan Jacobs – “A Bachelor’s Degree in Atheism”

Secularism is moving slowly in America, but the story of religious belief and practice here looks even more complex if one takes a long view. More than 60% of Americans belong to some formal religious body today. In the late 18th century, that number was less than 10%.

Jared Wilson on finding Christ in the Old Testament:

The Old Testament is chock-full of Jesus. How do we preach him from its pages in a way that honors both Christ and the text?

Too good to be true:

The declaration of Psalm 103:12 is the most difficult for us to grasp and embrace: “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Or, as Corrie ten Boom once said, “God takes our sins—the past, present, and future—and dumps them in the sea and puts up a sign that says ‘No Fishing allowed.’” I know this seems too good to be true, but it’s true. No strings attached. No but’s. No conditions. No need for balance. If you are a Christian, you are right now under the completely sufficient imputed righteousness of Christ. Your pardon is full and final. In Christ, you’re forgiven. You’re clean. It is finished.

The Perfect Pill:

Imagine, for a moment, scientists inventing the Perfect Diet Pill that enabled people to maintain their weight while being able to eat anything, anytime. This pill allowed people to burn calories in their sleep so that never again would they have to give a thought to what they ate. How would this pill change the world?

I can relate to Charlie Brown here: