Monthly Archives: August 2011

 

Aug

25

2011

Trevin Wax|3:11 am CT

The Band That Played On: The Story of Titanic's Band Members

I suspect we’ll probably see a cluster of Titanic books in the next year or so. Next April will be the one-hundredth anniversary of the ill-fated ship’s first and last voyage. Look out for table-top books, collector’s items, biographies and fictional accounts – all based on the event. Some contributions will be better than others. The Band that Played On:The Extraordinary Story of the 8 Musicians Who Went Down with the Titanic by Steve Turner (Thomas Nelson, 2011) is one of the better offerings.

The world’s enduring fascination with the Titanic tragedy is peculiar. There have been any number of shipwrecks in the past two centuries, some of which led to even more loss of life. But there is something about the Titanic’s sinking that strikes a chord even today.

People once called it “unsinkable.”

It foundered on its maiden voyage.

The passengers were a microcosm of Europe: poor and rich, wealthy and immigrant, passenger and crew. 

In The Band that Played OnSteve Turner tells the story of the eight members of the band who played on the deck of the ship during the sinking. Turner’s tale gives brief biographical history of each of these young men. At times, his sketches are indeed “sketchy,” due mainly to the lack of surviving documents that relate to these men’s lives. But where Turner has good information, he is able to paint a remarkably accurate (and engaging) picture of these men. 

This book is meticulously researched. 40% of its pages are devoted to footnotes and additional information. I was surprised to see the amount of material that Turner was able to uncover in his pursuit of these men’s stories. As an historian, Turner lays out possible scenarios and refrains from making dogmatic assertions. But this way of approaching the book doesn’t hurt it. Instead, it allows the reader the chance to travel back in time and see the varied interpretations of eyewitness testimony that were present even then.

Every Titanic book has a villain. Most of them zero in on Bruce Ismay, whose greed and pride led him to urge the captain to speed through the iceberg field. But Turner never sets his sights on Ismay. Instead, he focuses on brothers Charles and Frederkick Black. By the time the Titanic set sail, these music agents had a monopoly on supplying musicians to the ocean liners. Musicians were treated unfairly and were forced to comply with substandard accommodations. One of the most disturbing tales in the book recounts how the Black brothers wrote the father of one of the musicians who perished, demanding that he pay off an outstanding bill for the tailoring of his son’s jacket to include the White Star insignia.

The hero of the story is bandleader Wallace Hartley, a devout Methodist who considered “Nearer, My God, to Thee” to be one of his favorite hymns. Though some historians have disputed the eyewitnesses who claimed that this hymn was the last song played by the band, Turner makes a persuasive case for believing that this hymn was indeed the band’s swan song. Details surrounding the discovery of Hartley’s body, his funeral, and the (possible) discovery of his violin make this book much more interesting than the over-told account of what happened the night of the sinking.

Here’s a trailer for the book:

 
 

Aug

25

2011

Trevin Wax|2:07 am CT

Worth a Look 8.25.11

Her.meneutics talks to Russell Moore about Michelle Bachmann, the divorce culture, and why a feminist reading of Scripture would often be easier than a complementarian one:

What complementarianism contributes to this discussion is to say that where there is a loss of self-sacrificial, other-protective male leadership, the result is not equality but the worst form of patriarchy. In the Bible, headship is not dictatorship, but instead the responsibility to sacrifice oneself for another (Eph. 5:25-30). In a Christian view of reality, women’s value is not determined by her sexual attractiveness or availability to men. A truly complementarian Christianity will value the full spectrum of gifts, and the cooperative economy that God brings about through the distinctions between women and men as well as through their commonalities.

ATTN: Children’s Ministers - Visual artist Mandy Groce, from Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, has created over 75 original coloring sheets. These are the best quality illustrations on the internet and always have a strong teaching focus. Much better than the “busy work” coloring pages on most websites. Take a look here.

Tony Reinke asks – “Should You Read My New Book?” As one who has gotten a sneak peek at it, I say “yes!”

I wrote this book to help Christians make book reading a priority in their lives. For us to prioritize any discipline in our lives, we must first have firmly rooted biblical convictions. This book is my attempt to explain and defend the most important convictions book readers need. Once those were settled, I wanted to explain certain practices that have helped me to become a more effective reader.

Al Mohler contrasts John Stott and Gordon Kaufman:

The obituaries of Gordon Kaufman and John Stott represent more than footnotes in Christian history. These were men who represented two very different and irreconcilable understandings of God, theology, and the Christian faith. Their obituaries may have been published side by side, but — in the truest sense — Gordon Kaufman and John Stott were never on the same page.

 
 

Aug

24

2011

Trevin Wax|3:16 am CT

What Romanian Believers Taught Me About Prayer

I love to listen to the testimonies of my American friends who have recently been to Romania to do mission work. They inevitably comment on the prayer practices of Romanian churches.

  • The prayer time blew me away!
  • I couldn’t believe how much time they spent praying! 
  • They are so fervent and passionate in their public prayers!

I always nod, smile, and – with great affection – recall the years I spent serving in Romanian churches that valued corporate prayer. For the Christians whose identities were forged through the fire of Communist oppression, prayer is an act of quiet desperation that manifests itself in bold supplication. I’ve never seen humility and confidence so perfectly married as when listening to (and joining) Romanians in prayer.

Here are five things about prayer I learned from Romanian believers:

1. Prayer is not wasted time.

Prayer takes up a big portion of a Romanian worship service. The typical service on Sunday morning begins at 9:00 a.m. The entire first hour is spent in prayer. Bigger churches open up the floor for spontaneous prayers about various requests. Smaller churches go pew by pew, so that every church member gets an opportunity to pray out loud. This tradition of soaking everything in prayer makes a strong statement: Prayer matters. It is not a waste of time. 

I often struggle with prayer because I am not fully aware of my utter dependence on God. I’m a “let’s get to it!” kind of activist. Prayer often seems passive. The Romanian testimony of prayer challenges me that it is never a waste of time to enter the throne room with our brothers and sisters and petition the King to act on our behalf. This is, in fact, the most effective type of activism for a child of God.

2. We should affirm one another as we pray.

Romanian Baptists pray out loud, one person at a time. But the prayers are never individualistic. The rest of the congregation listens carefully and affirms the requests of the person praying. When the public petitioner asks for something specific, other church members audibly affirm the request.

The Pray-er: “Lord, we thank You for giving us the privilege of coming into Your presence.” This petition is followed would be a chorus of spontaneous voices saying, “We thank You” or “Yes, Lord.”

When the pray-er starts making petitions, “Speak to us this morning, Lord!” the chorus gets louder and more united with their firm “Amen’s.”

Affirming others in prayer is hard for me to do in the United States. It seems like a charismatic or Pentecostal practice. No one else does it, so I’m the odd man out. Still, I miss leading people in prayer and hearing their “amens.” The public agreement in prayer reinforced the corporate blessing of my individual request. I often felt like I was being held up by my brothers and sisters in Christ, that I was lifted up to the throne room while I expressed the desires of everyone’s hearts. Then, when it came time for the next person to pray, it was like coming down and joining the chorus, reinforcing another brother or sister’s requests.

Audible affirmation during prayer is easiest for me when I’m praying with my wife. Affirmation reminds me that praying together isn’t just taking turns. It’s affirming each other’s requests, so that what the other is saying is also being delivered as the cry of our own heart.

3. Prayer is for everybody.

The Romanian church taught me that everyone can pray and that everyone should pray. That means that prayer in church is not the exclusive domain of the man in the pulpit or the church leadership. Men in the pews pray. So do women. Out loud. Children pray softly in their rows. Teenagers pray for their lost friends.

The Romanian practice of prayer embodies the priesthood of all believers. We are all granted equal access to the throne of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. This emphasis on prayer from all kinds of people in the church made the service seem like a family. We were there, affirming our mothers and sisters and fathers and brothers in the Lord as they prayed.

4. Prayer can be spontaneous and theological.

Once you make prayer the purview of everyone, you open the door to all sorts of messy requests, right? It’s true. New believers often prayed for odd things, or they mimicked phrases they’d heard that weren’t theologically precise.

Still, the majority of Romanian prayer services convinced me that prayers can be heartfelt, spontaneous, and theological. Head and heart go together. Many Romanian believers unconsciously followed the Lord’s Prayer pattern, beginning with praise to God for His salvation before moving into general requests and ending with specific desires for deliverance. Romanian believers peppered their prayers with snippets from psalms and other biblical petitions.

The cool thing was… no one felt “super-spiritual” by praying this way. It was the way we talked to God. One reason American evangelicals are increasingly fond of written prayers is that our experience has shown spontaneous prayers to sometimes be superficial. It doesn’t have to be this way. When you are immersing yourself in gospel truth, richly theological prayers pour forth from the heart spontaneously.

5. Prayer teaches.

Many churches want to be “gospel-centered” today. We want the gospel to be presented in our songs before the sermon even begins. I’m encouraged by these developments. At the same time, I’m convinced that one of the places we need to push for gospel centrality is in our corporate prayer life.

Prayer teaches. Often times, as I listened to the prayers of my Romanian brothers and sisters, I realized that the gospel was clearly articulated in these praises and petitions. Before the pastor even had the chance to get up in the pulpit, the gospel had been proclaimed through the prayers of the people in the congregation.

Conclusion

I’m grateful for my Romanian brothers and sisters, and for the prayer practices that they taught me. What about you? What are some prayer practices you have learned from brothers and sisters in other parts of the world?

 
 

Aug

24

2011

Trevin Wax|2:54 am CT

Worth a Look 8.24.11

Earlier this week, I posted about the “Rise of Blogs and the Demise of Traditional Media.” In response, a friend passed along this article from last month’s Economist, which proclaims “the end of mass media” and points to a return of sorts to the 19th century delivery of news:

There is a great historical irony at the heart of the current transformation of news. The industry is being reshaped by technology—but by undermining the mass media’s business models, that technology is in many ways returning the industry to the more vibrant, freewheeling and discursive ways of the pre-industrial era.

Katy Perry, Michael Jackson, and the Misnomer of Hit Singles:

Pop tart Katy Perry, who started her professional career as a contemporary Christian singer, recently made history as the first female artist to score five No. 1 hits off of a single album. The last album to do that was none other than Michael Jackson’s “Bad.” However, nearly a quarter century ago Jackson’s radio domination resulted in the sale of over 30 million copies of “Bad,” while Perry’s “Teenage Dream” hasn’t even cracked the two million mark. What has happened to the juggernaut that was the pop music business?

Makoto Fujimura on “Ground Zero and the American Dream”:

Theologically, the whole of earth is “Ground Zero.” We live in the fallen world in which every good, true and beautiful reality is quickly idolized to something selfish, greedy and destructive. Christ came to redeem this path to self-destruction by taking on all of our “pride of the flesh” on the Cross. Christ is the God of Ground Zero.

“Ground Zero,” in Christ, can also mean a cancellation point, a new beginning where we can stand on the ashes of the Wasteland we see and still seek renewal and “genesis moments.”

Maggie Gallagher on the reframing of the marriage debate to one of “equality” rather than morality:

Advocates of gay marriage are not slow to use any lever of power, including government, to impose their new morality on America. The primary goal of the existing gay marriage movement is to use cultural, social, economic, and political power to create a new norm: marriage equality. The governing idea behind “marriage equality” is this: there is no difference between same-sex and opposite-sex unions. If you see a difference, there is something wrong with you. “You’re a hater, you’re a bigot, and you need to be fired!” Watch out.

 
 

Aug

23

2011

Trevin Wax|3:16 am CT

What Finally Broke Louis Zamperini

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemptionthe riveting life story of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini, is easily one of the best books I’ve read… ever. As I was reflecting on the journey of this remarkable man, I was moved to tears by the wondrous power of the Holy Spirit to change a heart.

Louis was once a man “unbroken,” but not anymore:

  • The bullies he faced in high school in the 1920′s couldn’t break him.
  • The injustice done to him by other runners as he raced to beat records didn’t break him.
  • The severe homesickness that accompanied his military service couldn’t break him.
  • His plane crash into the Pacific on May 27, 1943 didn’t break him.
  • 47 days drifting on a raft in the ocean couldn’t break him.
  • The sharks that attacked him from the water while the Japanese strafed his raft from the sky didn’t break him.
  • Burying his close friend and fellow soldier at sea couldn’t break him.
  • A typhoon that nearly swamped his raft didn’t break him.
  • His Japanese captors who taunted and tortured and nearly starved him for two and a half years couldn’t break him.
  • The mental agonies stirred up by the tortures of “The Bird” didn’t break him.
  • But in September 1949, at a Billy Graham crusade, the gospel broke him.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.

 
 

Aug

23

2011

Trevin Wax|2:09 am CT

Worth a Look 8.23.11

Jared Wilson reviews Soul Surfer:

Here’s my beef, and I’m sure I will take some flack from somebody for this. Bethany Hamilton’s story is inspiring and encouraging, and I’m sure she has real saving faith in Jesus Christ, but the message of the movie Soul Surfer appears to be “I can do all things through moralistic therapeutic deism which strengthens me.” This doesn’t make it a bad movie; it just makes it as easily a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness movie as it does a Christian one.

Chaplain Mike is kicking off a week’s worth of reflection on “the gospel” at the Internet Monk blog:

This week our focus will be on The Gospel. You might think Christians would have this one nailed down, but many conversations continue in the church today about the definition and nature of the biblical Gospel.

Lisa Miller in The Washington Post: “Be Not Afraid of Evangelicals”

This isn’t a defense of the religious beliefs of Bachmann or Perry, whatever they are. It’s a plea, given the acrimonious tone of our political discourse, for a certain amount of dispassionate care in the coverage of religion. Nearly 80 percent of Americans say they’re Christian. One-third of Americans call themselves “evangelical.” When millions of voters get lumped together and associated with the fringe views of a few, divisions will grow. Here, then, are some clarifying points…

This highly unusual group of pictures were all taken in Ireland by medical student J.J. Clarke between 1890 and 1910. His images have a spontaneity and “snapshot” quality which is very rare in photographs of this time.

 
 

Aug

22

2011

Trevin Wax|3:14 am CT

The Rise of Blogs and the Demise of Traditional News

The Mainstream Media Needs Blogs?

A few months ago, a reporter from a major news organization contacted me about the evangelical debate over hell. Counterfeit Gospels was hot off the presses, and since the book includes a chapter on the “Judgmentless Gospel,” I understood the reason why the reporter contacted me. But I thought to myself: There are people out there who are more qualified to speak on this subject. But I’m happy to speak biblical truth whenever asked.

The reporter and I talked for about forty minutes. When we finished, I waited… nervously. I wondered if she would represent my position fairly and quote me correctly. I knew that this major news site was going to put the article on their website’s front page and that they would feature a link back to my blog. Having never been linked from a major news organization before, I wondered what that would do to my blog traffic.

A couple days later, the reporter wrote me back, informing me that the piece was now online and asking me to post a link on my website. I shot off a quick email back, to clarify the spelling of my name. When she responded, she asked again that I post the link on my website. At this point, I remember thinking, Strange. You’d think she was more concerned about what my piddly little link would do for her news organization’s traffic than what her mega-website would do for mine. 

I soon figured out why. On the day the article was posted, I monitored my blog traffic. Over the course of 24 hours, my blog sent hundreds of people to her article, whereas her website sent only a few dozen to my blog. Furthermore, one of the other two people quoted was a popular blogger/scholar. Out of all the people she could have interviewed for this story, she made sure two out of three had an online presence.

Then it dawned on me. The mainstream media needs blogs in order to get traffic to their own websites. The real reason the reporter called on me was not primarily because of my book or my education or my pastoral experience, but because of my blog platform.

The Changing Face of News

News is not what it used to be. Blogs and non-traditional news sources are seen for the audiences they have (and can transfer!). The mainstream media, still bleeding after the onslaught of cable and the internet, crave the attention that blogs already have. Media websites also need traffic in order to hold on to their advertisers.

I remember when the late Michael Spencer (Internet Monk) wrote a piece about the coming evangelical collapse. The Drudge Report linked to Michael’s article in The Christian Science Monitor. Michael later talked in a podcast about how much attention that link from Drudge brought him. What a shift! The iMonk was surprised by the attention given his article, not from CNN, Fox News, ABC, or CBS – but a popular blog.

Then there is an even crazier type of change. News stories are crafted more to search engines than to people (since search engines bring the people). Some writers use programs that change the language of their articles, effectively loading them with keywords that appeal to Google’s search engine. This leads us to news that is even more manufactured than before.

What Does This Do to News?

So I’m wondering out loud what all of this means when it comes to news reporting. At one level, the democratization of news is a good thing. News organizations are partnering with people to get the word out. Amateur cell phone videos are frequently used on news programs. Twitter allows us to witness and (at times) make history.

At another level, I wonder what the long-term ramifications are. Here are some questions that are still unresolved:

  • Does the desire for blog traffic determine what gets reported?
  • Do the mainstream news outlets post articles and news based on how much attention they will receive?
  • Do reporters write their articles based on how they might attract attention from search engines?
  • Do reporters choose to talk to people with perceived platforms, whether or not they are the most qualified people to speak to about the subject?
  • Does the need for advertising revenue on websites determine the kinds of news articles we see?
  • Does this explain while some news channels specialize in giving us talking heads (which are interesting and bring more viewers) while others go about the more boring task of reporting important events (even if they aren’t the most exciting)?

I don’t have answers to these questions. It’s true that news organizations have dealt with these pressures for decades now. (The nightly news shows need advertisers as well.) But the internet appears to have increased these pressures. What are the benefits for us? What are the drawbacks?

Thoughts?

 
 

Aug

22

2011

Trevin Wax|2:32 am CT

Worth a Look 8.22.11

City versus Country: Who is Healthier?

For many urban dwellers, the country conjures up images of clean air, fresh food and physical activities. But these days, Americans residing in major cities live longer, healthier lives overall than their country cousins—a reversal from decades past.

Michael Horton: How To Discover Your Calling

 We need to recover creation as a sphere of common grace activity. Christians need to be freed to embrace the world which God has created without being burdened with trying to justify everything in terms of its “kingdom value.” It is enough to serve one’s neighbor and society without having to figure out how it all contributes to the regime of “redeeming culture.”

Thabiti Anyabwile answers the question, “How much unity must elders and deacons maintain?”

A certain amount of agreement is necessary for the teaching ministry to make the same sound and for the unity to be deep and unshakeable.  But how much unity and in what things?  That’s the rub.

Joe Thorn: Is the Main Thing the Only Thing?

The gospel is the main thing, it is not the only thing. However, it is the only thing that brings life, power, and transformation. The gospel isn’t everything, but it does connect to everything, and preachers and teachers in the church must be able to show that connection lest we allow the church to drift (or even be lead) into various kinds of hopeless, powerless legalism.

 
 

Aug

21

2011

Trevin Wax|3:06 am CT

O God of the Open Ear

O God of the open ear,
Teach me to live by prayer as well as by providence,
for myself, soul, body, children, family, church.

Give me a heart frameable to Your will,
so I might live in prayer,
and honor You,
being kept from evil, known and unknown.

Help me to see the sin that accompanies all I do,
and the good I can distill from everything.

Help me not only to desire small things
but with holy boldness to desire great things
for Your people, for myself,
that they and I might live to show Your glory.

- from Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, adapted

 
 

Aug

20

2011

Trevin Wax|3:01 am CT

Error in Attractive Dress

Error, indeed is never set forth in its naked deformity,
lest, being thus exposed,
it should at once be detected.

But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress,
so as, by its outward form,
to make it appear to the inexperienced more true than truth itself.

- Irenaeus of Lyons