Apr

12

2014

Trevin Wax|2:10 am CT

The Hollowing Effect of Sin

fyjudhb-Download wordleTim Keller on the banality of evil:

Evil does not usually make people incredibly wicked and violent – that would be interesting, and tends to wake people up. Rather, sin tends to make us hollow – externally proper and even nice, but underneath everyone is scraping and clutching for power, in order to get ahead. We continually just step on each other…

C. S. Lewis called these folk “men without chests” in The Abolition of Man. They may have reason (represented by the head) or visceral feelings and drives (represented by the gut), but they don’t have hearts. They are not really choosing, but rather are being driven by their desires for power and gain, by their fears and anger. We are all in danger of being just as banal and hollow and uninteresting, if we insist on making God “tame” and banal! Only by worshiping the real God can we escape this boring fate and know the blessing of coming to the house of God, the Lord Jesus, the One who has the words of eternal life.

Judges for You179.

 
 

Apr

11

2014

 
 

Apr

11

2014

Trevin Wax|1:10 am CT

SBC Panel Discussion on “Salvation and the Mission of God”

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In recent years, Southern Baptists have been involved in numerous discussions related to Calvinism, its rise among young evangelicals, its place in Southern Baptist life, and how it affects our mission. I’ve written about this topic from time to time:

At this year’s SBC, I’ll be joining Ed StetzerFrank PageDavid Platt for a discussion on how differing views of salvation impact the way we do mission:

  • Does one’s belief on the extent of the atonement affect their understanding of mission and the offer of the gospel?
  • Can two Christians disagree on soteriology and partner in ministry?
  • Does the order of salvation affect how one does evangelism?
  • When it comes to the theological particulars of salvation, what is the difference between compromise and cooperation?

Each attendee will receive a bag of free books including:

If you’re going to this year’s meeting in Baltimore, I hope you’ll join us for the free breakfast and books! There are only 500 seats available, so please sign up ahead of time.

 
 

Apr

11

2014

Trevin Wax|1:05 am CT

Know Your Southern Baptists: Mike Huckabee

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.Name: Mike Huckabee

Age: 58 (born August 24, 1955)

Why you’ve heard of him: Huckabee is the former governor of Arkansas and a 2008 presidential candidate.

Position: Currently, he is the host of the talk show Huckabee on Fox News.

Previous: Before entering into politics, the ordained Southern Baptist pastor served in Arkansas churches for 12 years and was also elected as president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. In politics, he went on to become the lieutenant governor and governor of Arkansas.

Education: Huckabee graduated from Ouachita Baptist University and attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Books: He has authored 10 books, including four New York Times Best Sellers: A Simple Government, Do the Right Thing, A Simple Christmas, and Can’t Wait Till Christmas. His most recent book is Dear Chandler, Dear Scarlett: A Grandfather’s Thoughts on Faith, Family, and the Things That Matter Most.

Why he’s important: As a former presidential candidate and current political talk show host, Huckabee is a prominent Southern Baptist voice in Washington D.C. He declined to run for president again in 2012, but has been rumored as a possible candidate in 2016.

Despite losing his first political campaign – an attempt to unseat incumbent U.S. Senator Dale Bumpers – Huckabee went on to become only the second Republican lieutenant governor in Arkansas since Reconstruction. Huckabee later assumed the governorship due to the sitting governor resigning over corruption. He then ran and won reelection as governor with the largest percentage of the vote ever received by a Republican candidate in Arkansas.

In the 2008 presidential campaign, Huckabee won the Iowa Republican caucuses and then finished second in delegate count and third in both popular vote and number of states won (behind eventual nominee John McCain and 2012 nominee Mitt Romney).

He has also been influential on health and fitness. After being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and weighing upwards of 300 pounds, Huckabee began exercising and changed his diet. As a result, he lost 110 pounds.

Notable Quotes:

“I think at the heart of the pro-life movement is the idea that all people are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights starting with life.”

“Fear is a very explosive emotion, but it has a short life span. It’s the sprint. The marathon is hope.”

“The Bible, however, was not created to be amended and altered with each passing culture.”

“I’ve always believed leaders don’t ask others to do what they’re unwilling to do.”

“Prayer reminds me it’s not just about me. It’s about all the people with whom I share this planet, and all of whom God has created, and all of whom he cares just as much about as he cares about me.”

Others in the “Know Your Southern Baptists” Series:

 
 

Apr

10

2014

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

Have Evangelicals Inflated the Orphan Crisis?

KnowOrphansRecently I had the chance to catch up with Rick Morton about his latest book on orphans and what churches need to know about the topic. His new book is KnowOrphans: Mobilizing the Church for Global Orphanology.

In the first part of our conversation, Rick discussed where the church has come from in the adoption and orphan care movement and what we need to do now.

Today, he responds to some of the critiques of the evangelical adoption movement and where we go from here.

Trevin: Evangelicals have been criticized for inflating the orphan crisis by increasing the demand for adoptable children in developing nations. Explain this critique a little more and why it doesn’t apply to us.

Rick: The line of logic is this: rich westerners (particularly evangelicals) have caused the orphan crisis to become worse by creating a demand for children through international adoption. Critics point to cases of fraud, child stealing, and child trafficking from within the international adoption community over the past decade or so as a “smoking gun” to give credence to their argument.

Undeniably, there has been unethical and criminal activity in international adoptions. No one would argue that point, but the truth is those cases are in reality a small fraction of the tens of thousands of international adoptions processed by the United States government in the past decade when the evangelical adoption movement took hold.

In fact, as the evangelical orphan care and adoption movement has hit its zenith in the last 6-7 years, there has actually been a precipitous decline in international adoptions. This is a result of more cumbersome policies by the US government and by more restrictive adoption policies from many countries resulting from a UN policy initiative to encourage countries to make international adoption the last resort option for orphan care.

Some of the more virulent critics seem to want to emphasize the bad without regard for the good, and I believe that it comes from a deep place of wanting discredit evangelicals at every turn. A respected voice in evangelicalism reminded me recently, ”These are the same people who would be criticizing us if we were doing nothing to help orphans and weren’t adopting.”

In addition, these same critics minimize the Christian adoption community’s role in advocating for better adoption laws and better adoption policies that protect children against the illegal practices they decry. Organizations like the Congressional Coalition for Adoption and the Christian Alliance for Adoption have been on the front lines of advocacy for laws that protect children and standardize ethical standards for adoption providers.

Ultimately, the critics want to frame this argument as an economic issue. They speak in terms of supply and demand. Their position is that money involved in adoption coupled with the poverty present in many nations causes people to orphan children or steal children en masse for economic gain.

At best they paint us as well-intentioned do-gooders who make a bigger mess by inflating the crisis by flooding money into countries and creating more orphans, or at worst, they portray us as indifferent consumers only interested in pillaging countries of infants for some twisted altruistic delight. I guess that makes for a great tale, but the numbers just don’t support their argument.

There are millions of orphans across the world available for adoption transnationally, and in the past 14 years, Americans have adopted less that 250,000 children. Adoption isn’t making a significant dent in the number of adoptable children.

Coupled with the fact that the greatest period of evangelical attention to the issue has come at a time when the pace of international adoptions by Americans has slowed by more than 50%, the argument falls flat.

Still, we can’t ignore that there is a grain of truth in their charges. People have used adoption for dishonest gain in the name of Christ. We shouldn’t be surprised. There have always been wolves in the church. Paul warned us about them, how to spot them, and how to deal with them.

Neither should we be surprised that there are critics outside the church that lob unfair attacks at the adoption and orphan care movement because they are opposed to the gospel. Our greater task is to remain sensitive and responsive to genuine critics and reformers.

All of the critics are not wrong and all of them do not critique out of a motive to harm Christ or His church. We have to acknowledge that the Christian orphan care and adoption movement is still young and we are still learning some lessons the hard way. We must continue to approach our critics and their criticisms humbly and prayerfully and to change when change is warranted.

Trevin: You write “It takes a village… and a church” to care for orphans and vulnerable children. Aside from financially supporting parents who are seeking to adopt, how can churches support these families long-term?

Rick: I believe that James 1:27 houses a call to every disciple of Jesus to care for vulnerable widows and orphans. Too often we take that call as optional, but it just isn’t.

We would never take the second half of the verse as optional. We think it is obvious that “keeping oneself unstained by the world” or personal holiness is a universal. So why don’t we take the first half of the verse as being as universal?

I think in many cases it is because we think that to care for orphans means that we have to do something like adopt or care for a child in foster care. In reality, only some in the church will actually ever step out to do those things. But there are things that everyone can do.

Many people think that the hard part of an international adoption is getting to a child. It isn’t. The hard part begins when you get home. I can tell you from experience that you will need a great deal of support in even the best situation.

Churches can help by doing simple things like providing meals or even giving a shower for a family even if the child is not an infant. Chances are that the family is going to need referrals to doctors, dentists, counselors, therapists, tutors, language development resources, and so on. The church can be a great wealth of help in providing this information (or even these services) for families.

Even helping with things like transportation as families have to run to appointments with all these professionals while trying to maintain a semblance of normal life for the rest of the family can be a ministry for some people in the church.

Older families can volunteer to be mentor families and extra grandparents for families who need a little extra support. Sunday School classes can adopt families to become consistent prayer supporters for them.

You would be surprised how much even collecting restaurant gift cards to give to adoptive families who may be experiencing tight financial circumstances after paying for an adoption can really be an encouragement. The ways that we can support families are limited only by our creativity and willingness to be engaged.

 
 

Apr

09

2014

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

Learning from Our Mistakes: The Orphan Care Movement Matures

Rick MortonRick Morton is Vice President for Engagement for Lifeline Children’s Services in Birmingham, Alabama. He is an international advocate for adoptions and orphans.

He is the co-author of Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan Care, which I reviewed here, and he has recently written a new book entitled KnowOrphans: Mobilizing the Church for Global Orphanology.

Rick was kind enough to answer some questions about his book and the way Christians and churches can engage in orphan care.

Trevin: The adoption and orphan care movement in the U.S. has flourished in recent years. You take a look at where we’ve been and where we are today. What are some mistakes we’ve learned from as we’ve promoted adoption and orphan care in the past decade?

Rick: There are several key mistakes we can point to that the evangelical orphan care and adoption movement is rapidly moving past.

1. We have over-romanticized adoption in some ways, particularly in our efforts to draw the connection between spiritual and earthly adoption.

Certainly, there are parallels between God’s adoption of us and our adoption of children, but there are some major differences as well. The analogy breaks down because we are not God, and we live in the presence of sin. We can’t talk about the adoption of our children without entering into a gospel conversation, but in the end, we adopted because we had a desperate desire to be parents.

We have to see adoption as more than missional activity, as we would see having and parenting any child. Although our adoption of children testifies to God’s character being active within us, our reasons for adopting children are not the same as God’s reasons for adopting us. I think we have to be careful not to overdo our theological rhetoric in advocating for adoption in our zeal to do good theology and good ministry.

2. Second, the over-romanticization of adoption may have led some families to fail to count the cost of adoption fully. In our first adoption, we believed that the hard part was getting to a child. In reality the hard part was just beginning.

We have to acknowledge that, before an adoption happens, some brokenness has taken place. That brokenness may or may not carry with it trauma and long-term consequences, but it will always carry adaptation in bonding, and there will be a moment for every family to deal with whatever brokenness is present.

Whether that moment is immediate or whether it comes later as a child sorts out his or her identity in adolescence, you must know that it is coming. I’m not sure we have always prepared people with that part of the story, but I am confident that more and more, we are now.

3. Finally, we have been guilty of oversimplifying the world’s orphan crisis. The orphan crisis is not an adoption crisis, at least not how most people think of it.

The vast majority of orphans and vulnerable children aren’t adoptable to westerners. But according to Scriptures, we are responsible for them. As the Church, we must respond to them in Jesus’ name. That is a big part of what KnowOrphans is about.

Trevin: About the church you write:

“We have the means, the opportunity, and the call from God to ease the suffering of orphaned and vulnerable children around the world in Jesus’ name.”

Which of these three things (means, opportunity, or call) are churches most likely to doubt they have, and how can we convince them otherwise?

Rick: That is an interesting question and a difficult one to answer because at various times churches may doubt all three. Still, I believe understanding the call of God is the key.

In the conservative evangelical church, we have doubted that we actually have a call from God to care for orphans because we haven’t understood how orphan care fits into God’s story of redemption and God’s plan to communicate the gospel.

When we see how orphan care and care for other vulnerable people are living object lessons that God uses to announce His redemptive character to the nations, it changes everything. In the Old Testament, God accomplishes that through His commands to Israel about care for the fatherless.

That care is extended through the New Testament Church by our brother James, and understood this way, we can easily see how orphan care must be part of the natural work of today’s church. When we believe that God has actually called us, we will act.

The means and opportunity have more to do with the scope of the problem. When we look at the magnitude of the needs worldwide, people, local churches and even entire denominations can feel overwhelmed.

I spend a significant amount of time in KnowOrphans detailing what God is doing in His church globally to awaken the church to care for orphans. It is unprecedented in history. God is doing what we cannot do on our own to foster cooperation to care for orphans and extend His gospel.

Our responsibility is to lift our gaze and see the opportunities to join the work among the nations and support it with the wealth of resources that God has given us. Those resources include social work expertise, medical expertise, theological training, discipling training, help with economic sustainability, and so much more.

Trevin: You recommend we be cautious with our statistics and illustrations, since orphans can be defined in different ways. What types of orphans and vulnerable children are there? 

Rick: As I said, I think many evangelicals have been awakened to the world’s orphan crisis, but still see it as an adoption issue. That is far from the truth.

The number that is most often quoted (153 million) as the number of orphans worldwide comes from UNICEF and is meant to demonstrate the vulnerability of the world’s children to HIV/AIDS. In other words, UNICEF is trying to communicate the message that “these children are orphans or could be in danger of becoming orphans because of the AIDS epidemic.”

In actuality, the UNICEF orphan statistic accounts for children who have lost one or both parents to death, but the children counted are actually living in homes. What the UNICEF statistic doesn’t take into account are children living in institutions, street children, stolen and trafficked children, undocumented children who are born without legal identities, and orphans who live in nations where statistics are not reported.

Some of these children have been abandoned or their parents are incapable of caring for them as a result of poverty, disease, addiction, or incarceration, but their parents maintain legal rights to parent them. These “social orphans” are vulnerable children, who fit the biblical concept of being fatherless, and their defense is our responsibility.

Trevin: How do our strategies change based on the type of suffering we intend to alleviate?

Rick: The question of how best to care for them is complex. Adoption is not the answer to their plight because they are not adoptable. We have to seek solutions that provide for their care in a way that best meets their need based upon where they are and how they can be best be transitioned into a loving, Christian home or home-like environment.

Our best hope to accomplish this goal is found in church-to-church partnerships as we work through the local church in other nations to address the orphan crisis in their own midst. Through adoption, foster care, and family-like group homes, indigenous churches have the best opportunity to care for children and to represent the gospel well to their communities.

Further, I believe that as part of the ministry of reconciliation that we are charged with in gospel ministry, we have to seek reunification for a family of origin whenever possible. Local churches are best positioned to do this work as well both geographically and culturally.

To that end, we have to be active in things like creating economic opportunity and addressing public health issues which are at the root of family breakup and the creation of orphans in partnership with local churches.

In seeking justice in these ways, we are able to demonstrate the evidence of gospel transformation like Jesus described in Matthew 25:34-40 and show the gospel to the world as we tell it to them.

There is a role to be played by denominations, parachurch ministries, and NGOs as well in coming alongside the church to help facilitate the cooperation and to provide necessary resources that are beyond the church’s normal reach. Bringing local churches together to cooperate and pool resources multiplies the impact they are able to have with partnering churches across the globe.

Tomorrow, Rick and I will discuss whether evangelicals have unintentionally exacerbated the orphan crisis and what else churches can do outside of adoption.

 
 

Apr

09

2014

Trevin Wax|12:05 am CT

Worth a Look 4.9.14

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKindle Deal of the Day: My book for group leaders and teachers, Gospel-Centered Teaching: Showing Christ in All the Scripture is available for $2.99 as part of T4G’s promotion.

Together for the Gospel 2014 continues today. Watch it live here.

The Incredible Story of a Rwandan Genocide Survivor:

My name is Alphonsine Imaniraguha.  I was born and grew up in Rwanda, a country flowing with honey and milk in the heart of Africa. ”Alphonsine” is a French name meaning “a noble warrior,” and “Imaniraguha” is a Kinyarwanda name meaning “God gives you.” I was the second-born of five siblings.

Gavin Ortlund – When You’re Waiting in the Wilderness:

Of course, it’d be nice if ministry meant 1 Kings 18 fire-from-heaven power from start to finish! But most of our ministries can likely relate better to the metaphors of 1 Kings 17: hanging on until the ravens come again, trusting the jug and jar won’t run out tomorrow, scraping by until the drought finally ends, wondering why God hasn’t removed corrupt Ahab, and, all the while, waiting, waiting, waiting.

The Gray Havens have released a new single – “The Stone.” Check out my interview with former American Idol contestant, David Radford, here and here.

 

 
 

Apr

08

2014

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

The Uselessness of the Twitter Battles

twitter-contextIn recent months, we’ve seen the rise of “the Twitter Battles” around hot-button issues like Hobby Lobby, gay marriage, religious freedom, evangelical orthodoxy, etc. They tend to develop this way:

  • A well-known person with a large following from a particular tribe says something shocking or inflammatory, intended to provoke a response from his or her ideological opponents.
  • Or the battle begins when one well-known person engages another well-known person on a hot-button issue where emotions run high.
  • The two ideological opponents banter back and forth a few times, reducing the complexity of their views into 140-character soundbites.
  • The followers from both tribes act like fans in the stands, cheering on their hero either by praising them or by bashing their opponents.
  • Everyone gets properly outraged and the conversation ends wearily.

I know what a Twitter battle is because I’ve engaged in them a time or two. After the last one, I came to the realization that these online interactions are virtually useless in creating and sustaining real and meaningful conversations about highly-charged issues.

Twitter is a place for conversation, but once we go into battle mode, I think the legitimate conversation is already over. Twitter battles are like putting on a spectacle for the perverse pleasure (or dismay) of the Twitter audience. Has anyone watching one of these debacles ever said, “You know what? You convinced me! I’m wrong and you’re right.” No one. Ever.

I’ve declined to engage in most Twitter debates, but after jumping into the ring a time or two, I’ve decided not to do so anymore. I love conversing on Twitter, but once I see the conversation devolving into the battle, from this point on, I’m going to step out. Here’s why:

1. Twitter Battles are Dehumanizing.

This is the big one for me. People tend to read their own emotions into a Twitter battle, which is why the rhetoric gets quickly ratcheted up and everyone comes across as angry and mean. At least, that’s what it seems like to me.

This is one place where social media and technology let us down (or where we simply aren’t up to the task). We don’t really know the people we are bantering with. It is all too easy to place people in camps, read into their every tweet the worst assumptions, and then create an ideologue of our own imagination rather than a real person.

I am not my avatar. Neither is my opponent.

I don’t want to assume the worst of people I debate, and Twitter makes that hard for me. Why? That leads to point #2.

2. Twitter isn’t the best place for thoughtful dialogue and debate.

Most of our deeply-held and sincere beliefs simply aren’t reducible to 140-character soundbites. I worry that in reducing everything to the world of Twitter, we’re not doing justice to the complexity of our positions or the people who agree or disagree with us.

It’s not a problem with the technology. Twitter is what it is. But maybe Twitter isn’t the best place for the biggest debates.

I have seen some good interaction on Twitter. If you are engaging with a good-faith critic who is gently probing wrong assumptions or a problem with a point you’ve made, then Twitter can become a place where you are sharpened. It can at least get you thinking.

But while Twitter may be a helpful tool in starting some good conversation, it probably shouldn’t be the place where such conversation ends. I’m not against criticism or critical interaction, but I don’t want anything to do with the flesh-pleasing spectacles that characterize many of the battles I’ve seen online.

Blogs have limitations too, but at least there is room for some thoughtful analysis and solid argumentation. If a good question comes up on Twitter, I’d rather give it some thought and devote a blog post to it, not try to answer from within the limitations of the Twitter format.

3. Twitter battles are a waste of time.

Chat and instant messaging can be an efficient form of communication within an organization, but Twitter is like a public chat with cheerleaders on both sides expanding the conversation until the balloon becomes full of hot air. The continually buzzing phone is a magnet that draws us into a vortex of increasingly hostile rhetoric until the true lines of division are hidden behind masks of outrage.

Twitter is a platform I enjoy and benefit from. But Twitter battles are another thing altogether. They simply serve to reinforce the worst stereotypes about us and our ideological opponents. That’s why we should yearn for thoughtful interaction with each other’s points of view, not immediate and incendiary reactions (and all sides of a debate can be guilty of this!).

Twitter may be the place where good interaction begins, but our time would be better served if we continued important conversations elsewhere.

 
 

Apr

08

2014

Trevin Wax|12:05 am CT

Worth a Look 4.8.14

WorthALook1Kindle Deal of the Day: How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture by Michael Williams. $3.99.

By explaining each book’s theme and raising pertinent questions about the contemporary importance of that message, author Michael Williams sets readers on a path toward purposeful, independent reading and application of the entire Bible.

3 Tips on Being a Friend of Sinners:

If Jesus was a friend of sinners, we should be too, it seems — somehow, someway. And instantly, this discussion can drift into a much bigger one about Christians and culture and all that. But instead of going there, let’s just talk friendship for a minute. Friendship, which is not without its implications, is more practical and relevant than a primer on the church’s posture in society. So in that light, here are three tips on being a friend of sinners.

Alan Jacobs on why the Book of Common Prayer is still a big deal:

If you’ve ever pledged to be faithful to someone “till death do us part,” mourned to the words “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” or hoped for “peace in our time,” you’ve been shaped by Cranmer’s cadences, perhaps without knowing it.

Ben Reed – 9 Unintended Benefits of Small Group Life:

Healthy small groups teach us more than they often set out to teach. We are molded and changed in so many ways, because God uses others in mighty ways to make us more like Jesus. In fact, you can’t be like Jesus without others. It’s impossible. You can’t serve others, love others, be generous with one another, or accomplish any of the “one another” commands in Scripture by yourself.

9 Things You Should Know about the Chronicles of Narnia:

The end of March marked the sixty-fifth anniversary of C.S. Lewis completing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Here are nine things you should know about the Lewis’ beloved novels…

 
 

Apr

07

2014

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

Famous First Tweets

I’m heading up to Louisville today for Together for the Gospel. My favorite part of this conference is hearing thousands of voices singing the greatest hymns of all time.

My second favorite part of conferences like this one is the opportunity to meet people face-to-face who I’ve only interacted with through email, blog comments, or social media.

Twitter is a big part of social media. It’s amazing to think of the ways this platform has changed the way we receive and communicate information.

Late last week, a co-worker of mine, Todd Adkins, who oversees Ministry Grid told me about Twitter’s new function for discovering your first tweet. I looked up mine and, lo and behold, found a Star Wars reference!

I decided to look up a few other people I follow on Twitter to see what they first said upon entering the Twitterverse (or is it Twittersphere?). The terms were up for grabs at first.

Ed Stetzer, certainly no stranger to Twitter, didn’t know the terminology when he first started. It’s “tweeting,” Ed, not “Twittering.”

At least Ed wasn’t alone. Russ Moore didn’t know either.

Some people felt pressure from others to get on Twitter. Like Tim Keller:

Others feared the platform’s propensity toward narcissism, or in Rick Warren’s case, out-of-context Shakespeare riffs!

Some folks didn’t really want to tweet, but they sure didn’t want anyone else getting their account.

Others weren’t impressed with Twitter at all. Guys like Matt Chandler were just excited about their Sunday sermon.

Or excited about a relaxing Sabbath. 

  J.D. Greear could barely contain his enthusiasm.

Some first tweets you have to google to figure out.

Cut open John Piper and he’ll bleed Bible. Put him on Twitter and out come Bible verses! 

Beth Moore warned us what was coming.

And then came the fake accounts. Where would we be without Church Curmudgeon?

And Bitter Blue Betty?

Or Fake JD Greear