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Sep 19, 2014 | Trevin Wax

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Know Your Southern Baptists: H.B. Charles Jr.

Sep 19, 2014 | Trevin Wax

HB-Charles-JrName: H.B. Charles Jr.

Age: 41 (February 11, 1973)

Position: Charles is the pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL.

Previous: Before coming to Shiloh, he lead Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles.

Education: Charles has degrees from Master’s Seminary and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, as well as an honorary doctorate from Jacksonville Baptist Theological Seminary.

Books: He has written three books: It Happens After Prayer, On Preaching, and The Difference Jesus Makes.

Why he’s important: Charles came to faith and surrendered to a call to ministry at an early age. He began serving under his father and other pastoral leaders at Mt. Sinai when he was 11. After the death of his father, Mt. Sinai concluded a year long search for their next pastor by calling Charles when he was only a senior in high school. He stayed there for 18 years until Shiloh voted unanimously to make him their next pastor, the role he has held since 2008.

He is hosting the inaugural Cutting It Straight Expository Preaching Conference at Shiloh this month. The conference, designed to “train, model, and promote expository preaching,” will feature speakers such as Al Mohler, Mac Brunson, and Bryan Loritts. Currently, he blogs at HBCharlesJr.com and hosts the On Preaching Podcast.

Notable Quotes:

“There are two biblical offices in the NT church: elders and deacons. Elders serve by leading. Deacons lead by serving”

“There are some preachers you can’t listen to, some you can listen to, and others you must listen to. Strive to be a preacher they must listen to.”

“Biblical preaching is the central, primary, and decisive function of those God calls to shepherd the church.”

“Our preaching is not the reason the Word works. The Word is the reason our preaching works.”

“If you sweat in the study, you can relax in the pulpit.”

Others in the “Know Your Southern Baptists” Series:

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How 5 Different Ethicists Approach the New Testament

Sep 18, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Our journey through Richard Hays’ The Moral Vision of the New Testament continues this week with two lengthy chapters in which Hays provides an overview of five representative hermeneutical strategies. This is Hays’ take on five ethicists’ use of Scripture.

(If you’ve gotten behind in the reading or you’re just joining us, I recommend skipping ahead to this section. See the reading schedule here. But make sure to check out last week’s post on three focal images for New Testament ethics.)

Before examining the five different strategies, Hays asks some preliminary questions about how we move from Scriptural exegesis to application for the church.

How can we read the New Testament as a message addressed to us? When we confess these texts to be authoritative for the church, what precisely do we mean?

Hays begins by examining the different ways in which Scripture comes to us, and how they relate to Scriptural authority.

Modes of Appeal to Scripture

  • Rules: direct commandments or prohibitions of specific behaviors.
  • Principles: general frameworks of moral consideration by which particular decisions about action are to be governed.
  • Paradigms: stories or summary accounts of characters who model exemplary conduct.
  • Symbolic world that creates the perceptual categories through which we interpret reality.

Next, Hays eschews the sola Scriptura slogan, since he believes “the interpretation of Scripture can never occur in a vacuum.” Scripture may be supreme, but other sources of authority matter.

Other Sources of Authority

  • Tradition: the church’s time-honored practices of worship, service, and critical reflection.
  • Reason: understandings attained through philosophy and science.
  • Experience: religious experience of individuals and of the community.

Theologians have always wrestled with the interplay between Scripture and these other sources. The Reformation was a battle between Scripture and tradition. The Enlightenment wrestled with Scripture and reason. And postmodernity has led to a day in which the battle is between Scripture and experience.

The Enactment of the Word

Hays closes this section with a strong appeal to praxis. The Word is not merely to be understood, but obeyed. As such, it is appropriate to put every interpretation to the “fruits test.” What kind of community is formed and shaped in light of this hermeneutical approach?

In light of these three questions, Hays is ready to give us a crash course in five representative hermeneutical strategies through the approaches of five Christian thinkers.

5 Ethicists Take On the New Testament

Reinhold_niebuhrReinhold Niebuhr: Christian Realism

The major task of Christian social ethics is to formulate realistic policies, working through existing political systems to achieve a social equilibrium that maximizes equal justice.

  • Descriptive: Niebuhr focuses on big theological ideas and themes, not close exposition of the text.
  • Synthetic: He uses a narrow range of biblical sources.
  • Hermeneutical: Scripture provides us with principles for moral reflection. Niebuhr emphasizes reason and experience in the reflective process.
  • Pragmatic: The result is a theology without ecclesiology. The primary focus becomes a Christian’s responsibility in politics.

karl barth 300Karl Barth: Obedience to the Command of God

Barth seeks to construct a hermeneutic that eliminates the necessity of independent human reckoning and moral calculation.

  • Descriptive: Barth gives sustained exegetical treatments of many texts.
  • Synthetic: Barth makes a serious attempt to deal with the whole canon. Jesus is the unifying center.
  • Hermeneutical: Barth emphasizes rules, not principles. He downplays the role of reason and experience in ethical reflection.
  • Pragmatic: A church with confessional identity, uncompromising in its witness to the lordship of Christ in the world.

yoderJohn Howard Yoder: Following the Way of Jesus

The primary social structure through which the gospel works to change the world is that of Christian communities that empty themselves and relinquish their coercive power.

  • Descriptive: Yoder engages in careful exegesis based in historical-critical scholarship.
  • Synthetic: Yoder deals with the entire canon, though passion narratives are the “canon within the canon.”
  • Hermeneutical: New Testament is primarily a paradigm / symbolic world. Yoder makes use of reason, tradition, and experience.
  • Pragmatic: A church as an alternative order that anticipates God’s reconciliation of the world.

hauerwas-2Stanley Hauerwas: Character Shaped By Tradition

Only a community already formed by the story of the kingdom of God can begin to read Scripture rightly. We learn the truth through the example of the saints and the church’s liturgy.

  • Descriptive: The role of exegesis is less important than role of obedience in understanding.
  • Synthetic: Wide-ranging but scattered. (He rarely cites the Gospel of John, for example.)
  • Hermeneutical: Stories as paradigms and symbolic world. Of the five ethicists, Hauerwas places the greatest weight on tradition.
  • Pragmatic: A profession without practice is worthless. But, Hays asks, does this vision of a professing church actually exist and if Hauerwas does not belong to such a community, is his analysis self-defeating?

fabc67e69b55afdfed10ae051e27134bElisabeth Schussler Fiorenza: A Feminist Critical Hermeneutic of Liberation

We undergo the difficult process of sifting through patriarchal texts in order to recover a lost history of women’s experience that has been buried there. The goal is to empower the struggle of women for liberation.

  • Descriptive: She engages in exegesis, but through an historical imagination that strains credulity.
  • Synthetic: Her method is to subject texts to historical exegesis and ideological critique.
  • Hermeneutical: She reinterprets texts through the symbolic world of modern ideology. Experience plays a huge role.
  • Pragmatic: The results are small, intensely committed women-church communities.

Some Personal Considerations: Hays’ fourfold understanding of hermeneutics (text, tradition, reason, experience) is helpful, although his discounting of sola Scriptura is unfortunate, since he continues to subordinate the other sources of authority to Scripture (a move which is very much in line with Reformational thinking). He appears to conflate sola Scriptura (Scripture alone as ultimate authority) with solo Scriptura (only Scripture is our authority).

The overview of five ethicists is informative. Hauerwas and Yoder are so similar in their conclusions that I felt myself wishing for a section on how ethical reflection on the New Testament has developed throughout church history. Hays’ inclusion of Fiorenza is generous, but her proposal is so far outside the mainstream of the church as to make this section of limited use for most Bible scholars.

What about you? What do you think about Hays’ four sources of authority? What about his treatment of these different strategies for New Testament ethics?

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Worth a Look 9.18.14

Sep 18, 2014 | Trevin Wax

WorthALook1Kindle Deal of the Day: Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. $4.27.

Urban Outfitters and Kent State: The Aesthetics of Violence

Here’s my own hunch: there is more at play here than simply bad judgment on the part of Urban Outfitters. Specifically, we’re witnessing an example of a broader trend related to aesthetics, morality, and truth. To simplify, art and design have been influenced in at least some sectors by an amoral mindset grounded in a post-modern, anti-foundationalist worldview.

This is neat. The mystery of a wedding picture found at Ground Zero is solved, 13 years later!

Every year on September 9th, Elisabeth Stringer Keefe posts the crumpled photo of a wedding party found at Ground Zero on social media, hoping to find its owner, alive and well.

Marc Cortez – The Rise of “Emerging Adulthood:”

Emerging adulthood is now viewed by many as a distinct stage of life in America, one that covers the period between high school and “real” adulthood. And according to Christian Smith, Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame, it’s a stage of life that is powerfully shaping the way people in their 20s view the world, how they understand the church, and how they approach their own formation.

Al Mohler has some good thoughts on the biblical-theological response needed to current debates over sexuality:

Biblical theology is absolutely indispensable for the church to craft an appropriate response to the current sexual crisis. The church must learn to read Scripture according to its context, embedded in its master-narrative, and progressively revealed along covenantal lines. We must learn to interpret each theological issue through Scripture’s metanarrative of creation, fall, redemption, and new creation. Specifically, evangelicals need a theology of the body that is anchored in the Bible’s own unfolding drama of redemption.

 

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The New Abortion Absolutists

Sep 17, 2014 | Trevin Wax

abortionondemandsignBeing pro-choice is passé nowadays.

According to The New York Times, younger supporters of abortion on demand are done with the “pro-choice” label, choosing instead to counter their “right to life” opponents with terms like “reproductive rights” and “women’s health.”

One might think this vocabulary change is just a new marketing strategy, a face-lift for an aging movement Nancy Keenan famously called the “Menopausal Militia.” But what if something more substantive is going on?

Are abortion rights supporters fully embracing an absolutist agenda, one that legitimizes and praises a woman’s choice to abort, no matter the circumstances?

It sure seems that way. In the past few years, activists have moved away from Bill Clinton’s philosophy that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.” Or that abortion is, in Hillary Clinton’s words, “a tragic choice.”

Why leave behind words like “rare” and “tragic?” Because speaking of abortion this way lends credence to the pro-life position that there is something wrong with ”terminating a pregnancy.” If the abortion-rights agenda is to succeed, then, abortion must be de-stigmatized. And nothing will remove the stigma from abortion faster than making it common and celebrated.

That’s why Wendy Davis, the abortion rights hero who tried unsuccessfully to block last year’s tightening of abortion clinic standards in Texas, received a mixed reaction when she told the story of her past abortions. Two tragic cases: the first pregnancy was ectopic and the second had fetal abnormalities. Davis worried that her baby was suffering. Many women cheered Davis’ courageous transparency, but the abortion absolutists worried that Davis’ difficult circumstances reinforce the idea that there are “right” and “wrong” abortions, or situations that make the choice either “good” or “bad.” For example, Emily Shire writes:

Davis’ abortion narrative has helped diminish the social stigma surrounding abortion. But until the “bad” abortion stories are just as acceptable, pro-choice advocates have a long way to go.

So, prepare yourself. There is an aggressive wave of in-your-face abortion talk that seeks to end the social stigma.

  • It’s a wave that has crashed onto charities, as Melinda Gates discovered when her foundation’s decision to not fund abortion was derided by those who claimed she was reinforcing the stigma surrounding abortion.
  • It’s a wave that’s crashed into the entertainment world, as Mindy Kaling’s claim that a sitcom-treatment of abortion would “demean the topic” was met with fierce opposition.
  • It’s a wave that’s crashed into the theaters, with the arrival of Obvious Child, a film dubbed by critics as “an abortion comedy.” (One of the howlers in this movie is when the main character is about to go on stage and is told, “You’re going to kill it up there!” To which she replies, “No, that’s tomorrow…” in reference to her unborn child. Cue the canned laughter.)
  • It’s a wave that’s flooded social media outlets, where women like Emily Letts have decided to “film their abortions,” to demystify the procedure and show other women that there’s nothing to be scared of.

Of course, we aren’t really seeing abortion or its aftermath in these movies or YouTube stunts, only the woman undergoing the procedure. Abortion absolutists may be “in your face,” but there’s one face we never see. The broken body of the little victim is always off camera.

The agenda for abortion absolutists is clear. We must dispense with the mystery and gravitas surrounding a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy. It is time to talk frankly about the abortion procedure as if it were just a normal part of a woman’s range of reproductive health choices.

But even among abortion absolutists, there is disagreement about the effect of all these ”positive” abortion stories.

Alex Ronan in New York Magazine recently wrote a chilling article about her year as an abortion doula, when she provided women with “emotional and physical support” during their abortions. Ronan worries that the positive narratives about abortion, intended to protect abortion rights around the country, “isolate and silence patients who struggled with their abortions, even if they know getting an abortion was the right choice.”

Ronan is just as absolutist in her fervent support of a woman’s right to abortion as others are. The difference is that she thinks putting a positive spin on the procedure ignores the variety of responses she sees from women:

Some of the first-trimester patients scream and cry and shake. Others remain calm, barely seem to register any pain, are thrilled to have it over with.

Then, she confesses: “I find it hardest to tend to the patients who don’t seem to struggle.” But not because there’s any morality involved. “It’s not that I’m judging them: Pain breaks down barriers, and without it, I’m more hesitant to touch, less certain of my role.”

Ronan’s version of abortion absolutism isn’t dependent on “positive abortion narratives.” It’s all about the mother’s autonomy. The baby, fetus, or “stuff” is whatever the woman says it is.

I’ve been taught to follow the patient’s lead. If she calls it her baby, then I do too. But with the next patient, just as far along, it’s fetal tissue, it’s the products of conception. One stumbles over her words, says “all the stuff inside,” and that feels right, too.

The result of abortion absolutism, no matter its form, is the dehumanization of the unborn. Ronan’s article ends with this disturbing description of an abortion:

The fetus comes out easily; they put it in the bucket and shove it near me. It is fully intact, curled on its left side, fists closed, knees bent up. He sleeps just like you, I think. Then, a second thought, an act of distancing: He looks more like an alien than a person.  

I have, by this point, seen lots of women and lots of fetuses, and the sight of the second doesn’t change my feelings about the first. The mourning for what could have been is countered by an appreciation for what is — a woman’s life, allowed to proceed as she wants it to. When it is over, I say, “You did great. You were so brave,” and I tell them they’re done now, because sometimes they don’t know. “It’s all finished,” I say.

Here it is in all its horror: a violent procedure, a corpse, a pang of conscience, and then the race to mentally distance oneself from the victim. It is striking in its resemblance to the tactics employed by white Americans who justified the enslavement of blacks as “brutes” or the Germans treating Jews as an inferior race, barely above the animals.

The abortion absolutists want to put a positive spin on the culture of death, to whitewash the bloodstains and dispense with the guilt we collectively feel over this atrocity. But the positive stories cannot bury the baby.

Abortion absolutism is about “freedom” that tramples over human remains. And in the end, it’s not just the unborn. In our celebration of death, we are chipping away at our own humanity.

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Worth a Look 9.17.14

Sep 17, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Worth a Look MagnifyingKindle Deal of the Day: Preparing Expository Sermons: A Seven-Step Method for Biblical Preaching by Ramesh Richard. $1.99.

“The Bible is what God has made. Sermons are what we make with what God has made.” This is the foundation for developing expository messages, according to Ramesh Richard. His method, explained in Preparing Expository Sermons, has been field-tested in training seminars for thousands of preachers around the world.

Wesley Hill in Christianity Today - Why Can’t Men Be Friends?

Men and women alike increasingly say they are lonely. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Eric Geiger – 2 Unintended Consequences of the Idea that “Anyone Can Lead a Group”

The motivation behind the message was good—and a motivation I don’t want to see lost—getting more people into groups, more people into biblical community. But there are at least two unintended consequences to the “anyone can be a group leader” mantra…

Dane Ortlund – What’s All This “Gospel-Centered” Talk About?

The label “gospel-centered” is neither here nor there. There’s nothing sacred about it. But the heart of what is being recovered, both in terms of worldview and in terms of growth, is vital for calm and sanity amid the ups and downs of life in a fallen world.

Time says Niebuhr’s theology is behind Obama’s speech on ISIS:

President Obama gave a speech last week on what to do about it. It was a sane and sensible speech, and one that may have drawn some inspiration from a Protestant minister who was a profound political thinker and one of America’s great public intellectuals of the mid-20th century.

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Making Sense of Life After a Parent Leaves: A Conversation with Jonathan Edwards

Sep 16, 2014 | Trevin Wax

authorYesterday, I posted the foreword I contributed to Jonathan Edwards’ book, Left: The Struggle to Make Sense of Life When a Parent Leaves. 

Left is a raw and riveting series of reflections on life in the wake of parental abandonment. Those who have been through similar circumstances will find in Jonathan an articulate voice for this particular pain. Those who have not been through this experience will find a window into how best to minister and serve their friends from broken families. (You can order the book in print or on Kindle.)

Today, I’ve asked Jonathan to stop by and answer a few questions about his experiences that led him to write to this book.

Trevin Wax: Jonathan, this is a gut-wrenching book to read, and I imagine it felt that way to write it. What compelled you to tell your story in this way with this honesty? Why is it needed?

Jonathan Edwards: I wanted to be open about my struggles and every little detail I felt and experienced when my dad was around, as he was leaving, and after he left. I missed him when he moved out but it wasn’t just a general, “I miss you.” I missed him in every circumstance and was aware that he wasn’t around when he should’ve been and when he wasn’t at certain things he should’ve been.

I wanted children and adults who have gone through the same questions and hardships to know that yes, someone else is asking the same things and wondering around in the same confusion. It’s so weird thinking that the word “dad” isn’t in my vocabulary and it’s not a word I use or have used on a regular basis for 10 years. That’s different. That’s not normal. That’s hard. I wanted the honesty to convey real hurt and like-minded struggle for those that wonder if other people are in the same situation they’re in.

And you know, I feel like this kind of honesty is needed because we need to talk about it. We need to talk through the little intricacies in our hearts that no one knows about. We need to bring light to darkness. We need healing to invade every broken piece of our heart. And that comes when we are honest with ourselves and honest with those around us. It comes when we say, “I’m 29 years old and I miss my dad” It comes when we say, “I’m 16 and I sit in school wondering why my mom left me. I feel like I got traded for something she thought was better.” We ought to open up and be able to say, “I’m hurting and I wish things were different, but in this I will trust the Lord.”

Trevin Wax: Many people have experienced divorce in some way, whether parents who split and have children affected, or children whose parents have left. What does your book do for people who have suffered the loss of a parent in this way?

Jonathan Edwards: My hope and my prayer is that it shows them they aren’t alone. My prayer is that it will lead them to some form of healing. Whether they are holding on to anger or bitterness or apathy, I hope the book would allow them to let go of those things by grabbing ahold of the Savior.

It’s hard to trust and love and value Jesus the way Scripture calls us to when we are holding on so tightly to other things. Things that, truthfully, are actually holding onto us and gripping us.

I love seeing comments or getting emails about people who have made their way through the book and come out on the other side with lighter load than they started. For them to see Christ in such a way that they release bitterness and anger and turn and offer forgiveness. For them to truly believe God the Father is nothing like the parent that abandoned them.

Just the other day I received this text from a friend:

“My mom told me she wants your book. Her dad left her mom while my mom was in college. It still affects her to this day.”

It’s stories and confessions like that that are my prayer for what this book will help people through and to by the working of the Spirit.

bookTrevin Wax: What are the theological complications for children who have struggled in how to deal with their parents’ divorce? How does one’s family life affect their understanding of the gospel?

Jonathan Edwards: Man, the theological complications are huge. And these are the things that I didn’t realize until I was older. These are the things that people don’t actively think about because these complications happen slowly. We stop trusting God. We don’t believe that He is working for our good. These are things I still struggle with.

Growing up, I was so scared of my dad and so confused by his leaving. As this continued to eat away at my heart, I began to have the same questions about God. I was scared of him. I was hesitant to talk to him or ask him for things because I thought he’d get mad. I thought God would find a reason to leave me too. I thought God wouldn’t love me for who I was.

It wasn’t until 2010 that I was able to call God Father. This was something I dealt with for so long. I didn’t call Him father because it was a concept I was cloudy on. I didn’t know how to think about God in a way that I didn’t think about my dad.

The family is so huge in God’s economy. It shows us love and sacrifice and deep affection. It shows care and concern for each member, bound by family ties. At least it should. How we understand our own families affects how we understand God’s family. If our family is not a place of comfort, support, love, affirmation, and safety then we will have to battle hard to believe that God’s family isn’t that way. The gospel, that Jesus died in our place, won’t make sense. If our family hasn’t shown us a shadow of that sacrifice, we will refuse to believe it.

But I believe most importantly, when we struggle to forgive and we hold onto anger and refuse to offer forgiveness, we aren’t completely understanding the gospel. The gospel says, as Paul writes in Ephesians 2, that we were all children of wrath. This was all mankind. We all were unrighteous. We all were with sin. We all were following the desires of our wicked hearts.

But God, because of his grace and his kindness, offered us hope and saving through the sacrificial death of his Son. The gospel is that Jesus died in our place and that we all equally need the salvation he offers. When I understood that, I began to think differently about my dad. I realized that the way he sinned against me and my family was no different than the way that I daily sin against God. And I realized my sin against God was so far worse than my dad’s sin against me.

And there it is: sinner first, sinned against second. Thinking this way radically transformed my heart and how I was able to forgive my dad. It radically transformed my understanding of the gospel. And before that, I realized I actually didn’t fully grasp the weight of Ephesians 2 as it pertained to me and my dead soul.

Trevin Wax: Say someone comes from a home where their parents loved one another well and provided them with a biblical view of marriage. (That’s my experience.) Why should someone who doesn’t have divorce in their background read this? How is it helpful to them?

Jonathan Edwards: I think it will give them a real and honest look into the experiences faced when growing up with only one parent. It will help people who don’t know anything of this reality to care for and better understand their friends and co-workers who are living and battling this right now.

David Horner, pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC, said that everyone knows someone who needs to read this. And I believe that’s true. Coming from a home wrecked by divorce or not, there’s something in here for everybody because I think this will help in how we care for each other. It will help people get a glimpse into other people’s lives and their brokenness.

I truly hope this allows us to love Christ’s church better and serve Her more sacrificially in how we walk alongside those that are hurting; to fight with them through their battles, even if we haven’t fought the same battles before.

Trevin Wax: You dedicated this book to your mom. Tell me a little about that and why.

Jonathan Edwards: My mom is honestly the strongest, most encouraging, and godly person I know. She is incredible. The way she mothered my brother, sister, and me through every difficult circumstance was such a powerful testimony to her dependence and trust in the Lord.

I only tell a few stories about her in the book, but there is an endless list I could pull from; stories that show her steadiness and her reliance on God’s strength. She has shown me what it truly looks like to love and value Jesus above all things. She told me earlier this year how waking up at 5:00 a.m. to spend time with the Lord until 6:30 just wasn’t allowing her the time she wanted and needed so she was going to start getting up earlier. I laughed when she told me and I told her she was crazy. But it’s little things like that. She sends us Scripture almost every morning so it’s the first thing on my phone when I wake up.

I will say one more thing about her. She asked me, either in 2009 or 2010, if I was praying for my dad. I said no. She responded by telling me that if we as a family weren’t praying for him then nobody was. She proceeded to tell me that she prays for him, my dad, the man who left her, every day. That blew me away and at the same time convicted me to the core of my soul. I don’t know where I’d be without her. This book would be very different if it weren’t for her. And that’s why I wanted to dedicate it to her, her faithful life of living for the Lord, and her being grateful to Him for all He’s done for her.

Trevin Wax: What have you learned about yourself through writing your life down and sharing it through this book? How have you personally been shaped and affected by the absence of your father?

Jonathan Edwards: It’s shown me that I notice a lot more things than I think I do. It’s shown me that a lot more things affect me than I think.

When writing this, it was crazy for me the details that I remembered and the smallest of things that vividly remember. From the t-shirt my dad was wearing when something happened, to the sheets that were on my bed when I would hear him yell downstairs. I’ve learned that those memories and those feelings haven’t gone away. I still can feel those moments of terror or sadness. Those moments of anger and confusion are all still so real to me.

But through it all, I have learned just how much I still love my dad. I’ve learned how much I still feel for him and miss him. And I’ve learned that I truly have forgiven him. There are always times where there’s a heart-check and you’re really tested to see if you have truly given forgiveness to someone. That’s what the book did for me, in a way. It was a heart-check. It allowed me to reflect when I wrote that I loved my dad and forgave him and let the past go to truly ask myself and pray through if I had honestly forgiven him. And coming out the other side it was refreshing and such a wind of release and freedom to know that I do, in the deepest parts of my being, forgive him and love him.

To the second part of this question, there is so much about me now that is a result of my dad not being around. I feel like the biggest thing is that at 29 I still feel like a kid inside. I still want hugs and I still want to feel protected, like someone is going to fight for me and protect me from “the bad guy.” I crave affirmation from older men. And really, men in general. I want to know that I’ve done a good job or that someone is proud of me. That was something I never heard from him, and I talk about that in the book. But all of that is still there. It comes and it goes, but it never leaves completely.

Relationally, I fear a lot of the time that friends will leave and find a better friend. I think the fear of being abandoned again by someone, friend or family member or co-woker, is crippling at times. I have to fight hard against that. I have to pray and depend on the Lord that He be sufficient for me and He, through his Word and fellow Christians, dispel that lie from my mind. But it’s hard. It’s a daily fight. But man, am I so thankful for grace and the things He has done in me and taught me over the past 21 years!

For more information on Jonathan’s book, check out Left-Book.com or on Kindle.

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Worth a Look 9.16.14

Sep 16, 2014 | Trevin Wax

WorthALook1Kindle Deal of the Day: Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley. $4.99.

It’s about time that someone wrote church history that tells about people, not just about “eras” and “ages.” Church History in Plain Language taps the roots of our Christian family tree. It combines authoritative research with a captivating style to bring our heritage home to us.

Eric McKiddie – The Blessings and Curses of Being an Introverted Pastor:

When people think of an introvert, they tend to picture someone who keeps to himself, doesn’t care for company very much, and perhaps lacks confidence. I doubt that many people imagine someone who is wise (remember, it’s the fool in Proverbs who does all the talking), reflective, studious, observant, or a thinker. But this is often what introverts are.

How 727 Megachurches Spend Their Money:

Two organizations that know megachurches well have released a new study they describe as “by far the biggest-scale, cross-denominational response anyone has ever collected about church finances.”

Comfort Food is a Myth:

What’s your favorite “comfort food”? You know you have one—a treat you use to soothe bruised feelings following some distressing event. Well, guess what: You’re kidding yourself. A new study finds comfort foods are no more effective at lifting moods than any other foods—or even sitting quietly without consuming a calorie.

Micah Fries – The Faith of Another:

Often, one of the most difficult things for a member of the religious majority to do is to accurately understand the faith of religious minorities. I see this happen all the time in the US as Christians struggle to understand those of other faiths. When I travel overseas I see the same scenario play out, only in those cultures it is someone else’s faith that often struggles to understand my own.

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Fatherlessness and the Father who Never Fails

Sep 15, 2014 | Trevin Wax

bookParents are important.

We know this. We recognize the need for a solid education, a stable home, and parents who are present and involved in the lives of their children.

But too often we think of parenting in generic terms, and thereby minimize the distinctive contribution of a father to a family.

How important is fatherhood?

Sometimes, you don’t know how important something is until it’s missing.

A few years ago, my wife and I were caught up in the popular television drama, Lost. The intriguing storyline and compelling characters had us coming back every week to see what would take place next.

Midway through the series, I was struck by how many of the main characters had “daddy issues.” Much of the ongoing struggle and personal conflict was traced back to the characters’ unresolved issues with their fathers – some who’d been present (and bad) and others who were absent.

Most disturbing was how, in some cases, the anger toward fathers led to patricide. Lost presented a frightening picture of what can take place when the biblical vision of fatherhood is missing. Suffering, anger, pain and violence followed a father’s abdication of responsibility.

Flash forward a few years, and I’m sitting in my living room with a group of college students. We’re talking about the subject matter for a new book I am writing – a work of fiction that teaches theological truth in story form. As I talk with them about the main character, a young college student struggling with big questions about Christianity, they advise me.

There needs to be a dad problem.

I was puzzled. But they insisted.

If you want this book to resonate with lots of guys, the dad needs to be absent. College students will relate.

There needs to be a dad problem.

Those of us who seek to proclaim the gospel today cannot ignore the massive implications of a distorted vision of fatherhood – fathers who have failed or fathers who have left. Due to fickle fathers and distant dads, our culture’s view of God has been massively affected by the failures of our fathers.

And yet, the gospel becomes all the sweeter when it gains a foothold in the heart of someone longing for a Father who never fails. A Father whose gracious love for His creation led Him to reveal Himself as our Creator and Redeemer. In the gospel, we encounter a Son who was abandoned that we might be accepted, cast out that we might be brought in, crucified that we might be raised.

Jonathan Edwards understands the pain of fatherlessness. He also understands the sweetness of the gospel. His book, Left, is a raw and riveting series of reflections on life in the wake of parental abandonment.

If you are fatherless, you’ll resonate.

If you are like me and you’ve been blessed with an earthly father who faithfully models our heavenly Father, you will find this book to be a window into how best to minister and serve our friends from broken families.

Here is a book that gives us a taste of a particular kind of pain, a pain felt by those who are seeking to remember what’s good and forget what’s bad, cherish the true and discard the false, love and forgive…and hope again.

adapted from my foreword to Jonathan Edwards’ book, Left: The Struggle to Make Sense of Life When a Parent Leaves. Available in print and on Kindle.

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Worth a Look 9.15.14

Sep 15, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Worth a Look MagnifyingKindle Deal of the Day: Contending with Christianity’s Critics: Anwering New Atheists and Other Objectors by Paul Copan and William Lane Craig. $2.99.

This second installment, featuring writings from eighteen respected apologists such as Gary Habermas and Ben Witherington, addresses challenges from noted New Atheists like Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) and other contemporary critics of Christianity concerning belief in God, the historical Jesus, and Christianity’s doctrinal coherence.

More brain research showing benefits to learning another language. (I wrote about this last year – “The Brainy Benefits of Being Bilingual“)

Learning a foreign language can increase the size of your brain. This is what Swedish scientists discovered when they used brain scans to monitor what happens when someone learns a second language. The study is part of a growing body of research using brain imaging technologies to better understand the cognitive benefits of language learning.

The Illusion of Neutrality:

My point here is that for certain questions, neutrality is an illusion. The nakedly secular state is not a neutral thing. It is something utterly different from, and irreconcilable with, every human polity that has existed until a few anthropological minutes ago. It is itself a set of choices which, like all such, forecloses others; a way of living that makes other ways of living unlikely, practically impossible, or inconceivable.

One of the ways the earliest Christians stood out from their surrounding culture:

This sampling of texts from the second century demonstrates that one of the main ways that Christians stood out from their surrounding culture was their distinctive sexual behavior. Of course, this doesn’t mean Christians were perfect in this regard. No doubt, many Christians committed sexual sins. But, Christianity as a whole was still committed to striving towards the sexual ethic laid out in Scripture-and the world took notice.

Encourage One Another: Giving Grace with Your Words

In one sense, encouragement is like oxygen in the life of a church. It keeps hearts beating, minds clear, and hands inspired to serve.Because encouragement is so important to the church, God doesn’t merely recommend it, but He explicitly commands it

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