Monthly Archives: February 2012

 

Feb

29

2012

Trevin Wax|3:29 am CT

Book Notes: Loving the Way Jesus Loves / Why Jesus?

Notes on two books I’ve read recently:

Loving the Way Jesus Loves
Philip Ryken
Crossway, 2012
My Rating: *****

Phil Ryken takes readers through “the love chapter” (1 Cor. 13: “Love is patient, love is kind …”) and illustrates it with snapshots from the life and ministry of Jesus.

Ryken’s reflections are profound, his stories engaging, his quotes well chosen, and his exegesis accessible. Loving the Way Jesus Loves challenges our loveless attitudes and behaviors in light of the Savior who loved us “to the uttermost.”

 Why Jesus?
Rediscovering His Truth in an Age of Mass Marketed Spirituality
Ravi Zacharias
FaithWords, 2012
My Rating: ****

In Why Jesus?, the popular apologist examines humanity’s deep spiritual hungers and the common solutions presented by mass-marketed leaders of pop spirituality (Deepak Chopra, Oprah Winfrey, Eckhart Tolle, and so on). Ravi Zacharias exposes the empty promises of those who peddle spiritual advice at the expense of careful thinking and experiential wisdom.

The book shows why issues of exclusivity, authority, and relevance are always pertinent to conversations about spirituality, and ends with a plea for people to understand Jesus as Truth.

- These reviews first appeared in the February 2012 edition of Christianity Today.

 
 

Feb

29

2012

Trevin Wax|2:47 am CT

Worth a Look 2.29.12

Did the Titanic Sink Because of an Optical Illusion?

An unusual optical phenomenon explains why the Titanic struck an iceberg and received no assistance from a nearby ship, according to new research by British historian Tim Maltin. Atmospheric conditions in the area that night were ripe for super refraction, Maltin found. This extraordinary bending of light causes miraging, which, he discovered, was recorded by several ships in the area. He says it also prevented the Titanic‘s lookouts from seeing the iceberg in time and the freighter Californian from identifying the ocean liner and communicating with it.

Black pastors take heat for not viewing same-sex marriage as a civil rights matter:

All of a sudden, they are bigots and haters — they who stood tall against discrimination, who marched and sat in, who knew better than most the pain of being told they were less than others.

Don’t Assume:

As sinners, we are apt to assume the worst about people. We are eager to find favorable comparisons that make ourselves look good at the expense of others. We are quick to size people up and think we have them figured them out. But I have learned over the years-both as the giver and receiver of judgmental assumptions-that it’s best not to assume.

Minister who stole 100K receives restoration:

“I call upon you to forgive and to forgive completely Bro. Charles,” the pastor said, noting that Lohn would be baptized in a few weeks. When asked by a reporter why the public service was held, Sims noted that because Lohn was publicly disciplined by the church, he needed to be restored publicly.

 
 

Feb

28

2012

Trevin Wax|3:11 am CT

On Your Face Before God, On Your Feet for His Mission

A pastor recently asked me about the missional strategy behind The Gospel Project curriculum“We’ve got people in small groups who study the Scriptures but aren’t involved in reaching out to their community with the gospel,” he said. “How can I get them motivated?”

In response, I mentioned how our natural tendency as church leaders is to reinforce the commands related to our mission, to tell people again and again what they should be doing. We think, If they aren’t reaching out to represent and proclaim Christ, they must not know what to do. 

But is this really the case? In my experience, the problem isn’t that we’ve forgotten our responsibility to love our neighbor and share the gospel. The problem is that even when we know what our duty is, we still don’t do it.

That’s why I’m convinced that focusing most of your teaching on our missional duty isn’t the best way to motivate people to serve Christ long-term. It may result in some initial fruit, but it doesn’t effect the heart-change necessary for long-lasting obedience.

So what to do?

Exalt God. Magnify His holiness. Praise His greatness. Exult in His grace.

Set the magnificent, majestic God of the Bible before your people week after week, and pray that they will encounter Him for who He is. Why? Because it’s an encounter with an awesome God that motivates us to mission.

Case in point: our biblical heroes. As you read through the Bible, you’ll notice that whenever people come face to face with God’s greatness, the next scene often shows them on mission.

  • Moses trembles before God in the burning bush. Next he is standing before Pharaoh saying, “Let my people go!” The majesty of God displayed before Moses’ eyes on a faraway hillside is the same majesty God displays before the greatest empire of the day.
  • Isaiah caught a vision of the Lord in His temple that was so staggering that he fell on his face like a dead man. Notice God didn’t even have to tell him what to do. God simply asks, “Who shall go?” and the awestruck Isaiah volunteers: “Here am I. Send me!”
  • The Samaritan woman at the well was amazed at the supernatural knowledge of Jesus. Next we see her running into town telling her friends and family about His greatness.
  • The women at the tomb are the first to witness the resurrection power of God. Next we see them telling everyone, “We have seen the Lord!”
  • Peter denies Christ and hides. After encountering the greatness of King Jesus, we see him boldly proclaiming Christ as Messiah and Lord before thousands of people.
  • After Paul’s encounter with the risen Jesus, he spends the rest of his life seeking to help the Gentiles see the very One who initially blinded him.

Why should it be any different with us? Missional fruitfulness comes from a heart gripped by God’s greatness and enthralled with His grace.

May we be so mesmerized by the glory of Jesus Christ that we count it as nothing to lose our lives for the spread of His fame! Let’s get on our faces before God and then get on our feet for His mission.

 
 

Feb

28

2012

Trevin Wax|2:03 am CT

Worth a Look 2.28.12

A Surprising Side-Effect of Playing with Your Kids:

My attitude only improved slightly, until I suddenly had the striking thought that I really think was from the Lord:

I have never once felt this way when you have wanted to spend time with me.

Does Typology Require Sovereignty?

As far as it goes, many of the types of Christ in the Old Testament narrative are workable in an open theist framework. After all, God is always planning an Incarnation (Eph. 1:10), and much of what it means for Jesus to be Jesus is based solely on his own character and his own mission. But there’s more to typology.

A Personal Testimony from King David:

What would it be like it King David came to your church to offer his “testimony,” especially related to God’s grace and his pain regarding his three sons? Here’s a Scripture-saturated sermon (weaving together 2 Samuel and the Psalms), creatively presenting such a testimony.

New Orleans pastor poised to lead Southern Baptist Convention:

The Rev. Fred Luter II stood in the ruined sanctuary of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans for the first time after Hurricane Katrina, the air thick with the smell of decay.

Nine feet of floodwaters had scattered pews and debris throughout the 2,000-seat auditorium and left a residue of Mississippi River mud. The church’s 7,000 members had fled the city, and most would never return. Luter and his wife had been sleeping for weeks on a futon at their daughter’s apartment in Birmingham, Ala.

He was ready to give up.

 
 

Feb

27

2012

Trevin Wax|3:20 am CT

The Kingdom of God in the Middle of Nowhere

During my second year of mission work in Romania, I was given the opportunity to serve one Sunday a month in a tiny village church close to the Hungarian border.

As the months passed, it seemed the village became more desolate. The people were aging. Their children and grandchildren had moved to the cities. Whenever we walked down the main street, we passed rows of abandoned houses and saw brush overgrowing the courtyards.

The local Baptist church was merely a remnant of ten or so elderly members who, despite the decline of their village, were filled with hope. They loved the Lord, faithfully attended services, and consistently shared the gospel with their neighbors. They had been praying for a pastor, so they received great encouragement from our willingness to visit their church and minister to them once a month.

One day, I was talking with a Romanian man who had just returned to the country, fresh out of seminary in the United States. He told me of his ongoing search for a church in which to serve. I informed him of the little village church that had long been praying for a pastor. His reply came swiftly:

“I want a city church. I don’t want to fool with the villages. City churches have a future. What can I do with a handful of people? I want a church I can grow.”

The next time I ministered in the small village church, I could not help but wonder if maybe the seminary graduate was right. A pastor who would take such an insignificant church would be giving up any possibility of gaining power or influence within the Baptist Union. How foolish for a pastor with a seminary education to take a church with “no future!”

But as I listened to the joyful voices of the church members, believers remaining faithful even as their way of life crumbled around them, I came to see the power of God’s kingdom in a unique way. The presence of the Lord seemed palpable in that little village church in the middle of nowhere. Somehow, serving in the place of powerlessness stirred up within me a powerful sense of hope and joy. I then felt sorry for my pastor friend. He was missing out on such a blessing!

The Great Reversal

God’s view of our world is radically different than our own.

History books about ancient Egypt list all the Pharaohs and their accomplishments. It is interesting to note that the Bible never tells us the name of Pharaoh during Moses’ day. However, in the book of Exodus, we are given the names of the two Hebrew midwives who protected the Israelite babies and defied Pharaoh’s orders. From God’s point of view, the faithfulness of Shiphrah and Puah are far more important than the pyramids of Rameses the Great.

And nowhere is the Great Reversal more evident than in the seeming weakness of the Lamb that is slain and yet sitting on the throne in Revelation. The slain lamb would appear to be a picture of ultimate weakness, and yet a glimpse of God’s throne room shows us that Jesus is the conquering king who has won the victory through his death and resurrection.

Power in the biblical sense affirms God’s glory, not our own. We should take the earthly power and authority that God has given us and exercise it in such a way that it shines a spotlight on God’s magnificent grace.

In order to subvert the Caesar of Power, we must be ready to question the world’s derision of apparent weakness. It is often in our weaknesses that God’s strength is most clearly perceived. It is often in doing something the world sees as backwards that we are taking spiritual steps forward.

The Puritan prayer captures this truth well:

              Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up,

              that to be low is to be high,

              that the broken heart is the healed heart,

              that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

              that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

              that to have nothing is to possess all,

              that to give is to receive,

              that the valley is the place of vision.

- adapted from  Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals

 
 

Feb

27

2012

Trevin Wax|2:20 am CT

Worth a Look 2.27.12

How the Potato Changed the World:

Today the potato is the fifth most important crop worldwide, after wheat, corn, rice and sugar cane. But in the 18th century the tuber was a startling novelty, frightening to some, bewildering to others—part of a global ecological convulsion set off by Christopher Columbus.

World magazine reviews Dane Ortlund’s Defiant Grace:

If you’re a Pharisee by nature—and you are—then this book is for you. It relentlessly focuses on the gospel, as revealed in Jesus’ life and teaching. “It’s time to blow aside the hazy cloud of condemnation that hangs over us throughout the day with the strong wind of gospel grace,” Ortlund writes.

How Exercise Fuels the Brain:

Now a series of animal studies from Japan suggest that the exercising brain has unique methods of keeping itself fueled. What’s more, the finely honed energy balance that occurs in the brain appears to have implications not only for how well the brain functions during exercise, but also for how well our thinking and memory work the rest of the time.

The Vision Without Which People Perish:

But what if a leader’s good idea for church growth or success was not the vision Proverbs 29:18 had in mind? What if we aren’t free to insert anything we come up with, no matter how spiritual or “inspired by God”?

8 Ways to Pray During Sermon Preparation:

I knew that I should pray, that in fact I must pray, as part of getting ready to teach God’s Word. But I don’t remember getting much advice about how to pray when preparing a message. And while there’s obviously not just one helpful way to do it, here are eight brief prayers that can be used while writing a sermon…

 
 

Feb

26

2012

Trevin Wax|3:14 am CT

“O That Christ May Be…” – A Prayer of John Wesley

O merciful Father,
do not consider what we have done against You;
but what our blessed Savior has done for us.

Don’t consider what we have made of ourselves,
but what He is making of us for You our God.

O that Christ may be “wisdom and righteousness,
sanctification and redemption”
to every one of our souls.
That His precious blood may cleanse us from all our sins,
and that Your Holy Spirit may renew and sanctify our souls.

May He crucify our flesh with its passion and lusts,
and cleanse all our brothers and sisters in Christ across the earth.

O let not “sin reign in our mortal bodies,
that we should obey it in its lusts.”
But, “being made free from sin,
let us be the servants of righteousness.”

Let us commend our hearts to you,
and let all our ways be pleasing in your sight.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who live and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

- John Wesley

 
 

Feb

25

2012

Trevin Wax|3:10 am CT

The Internet: 4 Mediums in 1

These four technological mediums—print, image, telegraph, and telephone—each uniquely transform an aspect of our lives.

Print transforms our thinking, images transform our feeling, telegraphs transform our informing, and phones transform our relating.

What do we get when we combine text, images, information access, and direct human-to-human connection? The answer is the most powerfully transformative technological system humans have ever created. The Internet and all of the websites, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and so on that we use to share information and connect to one another are now an essential part of our culture, and they both reflect and inform our values.

- John Dyer, From the Garden to the City

 
 

Feb

24

2012

 
 

Feb

24

2012