Latest


Trevin’s Seven

Oct 10, 2014 | Trevin Wax

TrevinSeven1webKindle Deal: Called Together: A Guide to Forming Missional Communities by Jonathan Dodson & Brad Watson. $2.99.

1. Six Lessons I Learned as Rookie Pastor

2. Two years ago, I jotted down 10 Questions a Pro-Choice Candidate is Never Asked By the Media. This year, a reporter asked a variation of one of these questions. Progress!

3. Mark Coppenger – Gordon and the Accreditors

4. No More Museums to Faith in Boston – Gordon College’s Accreditation “Not In Jeopardy”

5. A review of Bryan Loritts’ Right Color, Wrong Culture

6. David Murray – 9 Vital Answers about Depression and Suicide

7. Stunning photographs of icebergs in the icy sea around Antarctica

View Comments

Richard Hays and the New Testament’s Witness on Homosexuality

Oct 09, 2014 | Trevin Wax

006063796XOur journey through The Moral Vision of the New Testament continues as Richard Hays devotes a series of chapters to the New Testament’s witness regarding specific, controversial issues. (If you’ve gotten behind in the reading or you’re just joining us, see the reading schedule here.)

Two weeks ago, we looked at the question of Christians using violence in the defense of justice. Last week, we looked Hays’ treatment of divorce and remarriage. Today, we tackle the controversial issue of homosexuality by asking Hays’ question: How is Scripture rightly to be employed in our deliberations about this matter?

Key Texts

Hays admits that the Bible rarely discusses homosexual behavior, but in both Old and New Testaments, the texts are “unambiguously and unremittingly negative in their judgment.”

  • Gen. 19:1-29: Hays believes the story of Sodom and Gomorroah is irrelevant to the topic because its focus is gang rape and other passages focus on the city’s pride and excess (Ezekiel 16:49).
  • Leviticus 18:22, 20:13: The holiness code explicitly prohibits male homosexual intercourse.
  • 1 Cor. 6:9-11, 1 Tim 1:10, Acts 15:28-29: The early church adopted the Old Testament’s teaching on sexual morality, including the prohibition of homosexuality.
  • Romans 1:18-32: Hays believes this to be the most crucial text for Christian ethics concerning homosexuality because it condemns homosexual behavior from a theological framework. In this context, it is an example of idolatry, an expression of humanity’s rejection of God’s design, and the consequence of God’s wrath.

Synthesis: Homosexuality in Canonical Context

Hays does not see diversity in the New Testament corpus, since the witness against homosexual practice is univocal. But how do we understand this prohibition within the larger canonical framework?

  • First, we note that God’s creative intention for human sexuality is the backdrop for New Testament teaching.
  • Secondly, the Bible describes our fallen human condition as being in “a state of self-affirming confusion” as a result of our bondage to sin.
  • Third, the Bible undercuts our cultural obsession with sexual fulfillment by “demythologizing sex.” Sexuality is never the basis for defining identity.

Next, Hays looks at the question through the three focal lenses:

Community: Sex is not a purely private affair, but something that concerns the church. To engage in sexual immorality defiles the body of Christ.

Cross: The cross models the way the church should respond to persons of homosexual inclination: not in condemnation but sacrificial service. The power of the cross means “no one in Christ is locked into the past or into a psychological or biological determinism.”

New Creation: Christians struggle to live faithfully in the present time. The transforming power of the Spirit is already present, and yet we live with the reality of temptation.

Hermeneutics: Responding to the New Testament’s Witness Against Homosexuality

Where do we go from here? How do we apply the New Testament texts to the issues of today, “as the church faces new and forceful demands for the acceptance and ordination of homosexuals?” Hays starts by showing how the New Testament speaks to the issue:

  • Rule: The New Testament affirms the witness of the Old, but does not clearly articulate a rule against homosexual practice.
  • Principle: The prohibition is part of what it means to honor God’s creative design and glorify Him with our bodies.
  • Paradigm: In the paradigmatic mode, the New Testament is emphatically and entirely negative.
  • Symbolic world: Homosexual activities are “explicitly and without qualification” identified as symptomatic of humanity’s rebellion against God.
  • Other Authorities: Tradition of the church has considered homosexuality as contrary to God’s will. Reason makes the case for sexual orientation that is unchangeable, but research is disputed, and even if a genetic link for same-sex preference were proven, it would not make homosexual behavior morally appropriate. Experience of homosexuality today may be different than in biblical times, but the Bible’s witness is clear.

Hays concludes:

“Marriage between man and woman is the normative form for human sexual fulfillment, and homosexuality is one among many tragic signs that we are a broken people, alienated from God’s loving purpose.”

Living the Text: The Church As Community Suffering with the Creation

  • Should the church support civil rights for homosexuals? Hays says yes.
  • Can homosexuals be members of the Christian church? Yes, they already are, but like all believers, they must reshape their identity in conformity with the gospel.
  • “Is it Christianly appropriate for Christians who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation to continue to participate in same-sex erotic activity?” No. Unless they enter a heterosexual marriage, they should seek disciplined sexual abstinence. “Sexual gratification is not a sacred right, and celibacy is not a fate worse than death.”
  • Should the church sanction and bless homosexual unions? No.
  • Is the imposition of celibacy on homosexually oriented persons different? No. Heterosexually oriented persons are also called to abstinence apart from marriage.
  • Should homosexuals expect to change their orientation? Hays gives an eschatological response of “already / not yet.” Unless we live with the hope of the Spirit’s transforming power “already” available, we are hoping for too little from God. Meanwhile, the “not yet looms” large and many may not experience freedom from this struggle in this life.
  • Should persons of homosexual orientation be ordained? Yes, if seeking to live a life of disciplined absence.

Some Personal Considerations: The opening of this chapter differs from the other in that Hays tells the story of his friend, Gary, a gay man who wrestled with the biblical teaching on sexuality and eventually came to the conclusion that he must renounce homosexual activity as part of his pursuit of Christ. Hays was wise to begin this chapter with a personal story. Too often, the perception of the church is that Christians are more concerned about having the right position on homosexuality than loving and serving our gay and lesbian friends and neighbors. By beginning and ending this chapter with reference to Gary, Hays reminds us that the discussion concerns people made in God’s image, people we are called to love and serve.

Hays’ chapter on homosexuality, recommended by N. T. Wright as the best brief treatment of the issue, puts forth a consistent ethic of sexuality that is based in God’s design, Scriptural support, and the tradition of the church. I have quibbles here and there: his brushing aside the sexual element of Sodom’s sin (referenced in Jude 7), and his blanket endorsement of “civil rights” without qualification. (Does supporting protections for gays and lesbians against unjust discrimination mean he would support the civil redefinition of marriage?)

Hays’ words of counsel for the church are based in love and Christ’s call to holiness, but it is hard to imagine how his vision would play out in real life unless one is part of a community that practices meaningful church discipline. Implementing his suggestions seems almost impossible apart from a biblically functioning church.

What do you think of Hays’ summary of New Testament teaching on this controversial issue? 

View Comments

Worth a Look 10.9.14

Oct 09, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Worth a Look MagnifyingKindle Deal of the Day: How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart. $3.99.

A few essential insights into the Bible can clear up a lot of misconceptions and help you grasp the meaning of Scripture and its application to your 21st-century life. More than half a million people have turned to How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth to inform their reading of the Bible.

Bart Barber – A Ragamuffin Fundamentalist:

Mullins’s complaints about fundamentalism are often right on-target. We indeed ought to care more about the poor if Jesus really is our Lord. We do have a problem with materialism. There are parts of the Bible that are more confusing or more difficult or more troubling to our established patterns of living than we are often willing to let on. We do indeed struggle with a tendency toward elevating our own invented rules over the plain teaching of what God has revealed in scripture. But Mullins had a way of enjoining us to consider those failures that always prompted me to want to be MORE faithful, not to give up on the whole enterprise and sell out to the culture.

Thom Rainer – 9 Trends in Pastor and Church Staff Compensation:

Some of the current trends in pastor and church staff compensation are surprising to me, while others are about what I expected.

Damon Linker in The Week - Why Do So Many Liberals Despise Christianity?

Liberals increasingly want to enforce a comprehensive, uniformly secular vision of the human good. And they see alternative visions of the good as increasingly intolerable

Andrew Wilson – Sexuality and Silence:

I’ve heard rumours of a silent trend beginning to take hold in some city churches in the UK and the US. I don’t just mean a trend that takes hold silently; presumably most trends do that. I mean a trend towards silence: a decision not to speak out on issues that are considered too sticky, controversial, divisive, culturally loaded, entangled, ethically complex, personally upsetting, emotive, likely to be reported on by the Guardian or the New York Times, uncharted, inflammatory, difficult, or containing traces of gluten.

View Comments

The Ripple Effect of Our Leadership Influence

Oct 08, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Jenni-Catron_Rec-ReadsMy reading pile always has a leadership book or two. If you’re like me, you’ve probably noticed that after you read a dozen or so of the most popular and respected books on leadership development, you start to see similar patterns and arguments. Many of the books sound alike. So whenever I pick up a book on leadership that says something unique, I stop skimming and start reading.

My copy of Jenni Catron’s book Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence (Thomas Nelson, 2014) is all marked up with sentences I’ve underlined and notes I’ve made in the margins. Jenni spent years in the Christian music business, she served alongside Pete Wilson at an influential Nashville church – Cross Point, and she is now on the leadership team at Menlo Park, where John Ortberg is pastor. Today, she joins me on the blog for a conversation about stewarding our gifts and influence for the good of God’s people.

Trevin Wax: You define “clout” as “the influence that God has given to you and to no one else.” Leadership impact is determined by how you manage this clout. Why is it important to know the particular ways God has gifted and called you?

Jenni Catron: I believe that God has designed each of us to impact the world in a way that no one else can. You have a specific purpose – a calling – that only you are qualified to fulfill. The unique combination of your gifts, talents, experiences and opportunities equips you to lead and influence those around you unlike anyone else.

I like Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Galatians 6:4-5:

“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”

This truth brought to life for me the significance of understanding our influence. God challenges us to “make a careful exploration” of who He has made us to be so that we can do our “creative best” with the life He’s called us to lead. Knowing how God has gifted you and understanding His calling for you is critical to unleashing your clout.

Your God-given influence is a gift to you and others. We need you to thrive so that you can help others thrive.

Trevin Wax: I appreciated the way in which you distinguished between different ways “clout” will manifest itself. The arena of influence may be different. Billy Graham has influenced more people than an ordinary pastor. The key is to recognize that we have significant impact on the people around us, no matter how large the arena of influence. How do you encourage and challenge people who wish they had a bigger arena of influence?

Jenni Catron: It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others, but in doing so we miss what God wants to do through us. When we fixate on what someone else is accomplishing, we squander the opportunities right in front of us.

Influence has a ripple effect. We never know who might be impacted by our investment. I’m sure there were people who had a significant influence on Billy Graham’s early life. Little did they know that being faithful to invest in this young leader would result in tidal waves of influence for generations to come.

We never know how God is using us; so be faithful to steward the opportunities and the relationships He’s given you right now. When we can find peace with the gifts that we’ve been given and aren’t tempted to compare ourselves with others at every turn, we begin to enjoy the freedom and purpose of living from our unique God-given influence.

Trevin Wax: I was struck by your candid confessions of vulnerability and insecurity throughout this book. In almost every chapter, as you deal with certain “clout-killers,” you speak from personal experience as having manifested many of these negative character traits (jealousy, insecurity, fear, etc.). Why do you think it’s important to lead from a position of weakness, not just trumpet your strengths?

Jenni Catron: I believe that leaders must lead themselves well to lead others better. Leading ourselves well includes taking a hard look in the mirror to identify our weaknesses. Leading from this place of vulnerability allows me to be honest with myself and others. It forces me to humbly acknowledge where I need to grow and what I need to learn.

In his book, Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer says it this way:

“Good leadership comes from people who have penetrated their own inner darkness and arrived at the place where we are at one with one another, people who can lead the rest of us to place of ‘hidden wholeness’ because they have been there and know the way.”

I think people appreciate this in leaders today. We don’t need to go to an unhealthy self-deprecating extreme but humble transparency is refreshing. Honest leaders are simply willing to acknowledge where they need to grow, admit when they’ve gotten it wrong and reflect a desire to keep growing to get it right.

Trevin Wax: When you talk about the paralyzing nature of fear, you mention how often the Bible contains the phrase, “Don’t be afraid.” My favorite line in the book – “God doesn’t say, ‘Do not be afraid. You’ve got this!’ He says, ‘Do not be afraid. I’ve got this.”” You write about your church’s leadership during the Nashville flood of 2010. What did you learn from this experience about confronting fear?

Jenni Catron: The Nashville flood was a defining moment for me as a leader. Everything in me wanted to hunker down with my family, watch the dramatic news footage and eat comfort food until everything was alright. But that wasn’t what God was asking us to do. People needed help and they needed hope and someone needed to step up to fill in the gap.

I learned through that experience that we often confront our greatest fear at the crossroads of influence. We face our greatest fear at the threshold of our greatest opportunity to make an impact.

Because our church leaders were willing to confront our own fears, we were able to make a significant impact in our city. We earned influence that may not have come any other way. It was an opportunity for our faith to grow as we experienced God’s work through us in spite of our own fear.

Trevin Wax: Another great insight in your book – “Comparison twists what should be unique about us into something that we are either grossly dissatisfied with or disproportionately proud of.” How does the comparison trap lead to a leadership train wreck in either of these two directions?

Jenni Catron: For most of my life I thought comparison was the way to navigate the world – see what others are doing, compare that to my life, make adjustments, and compare again. I believed that comparison was a necessary skill for survival in a world that compares and competes over everything. The problem with comparison is that it doesn’t end with a simple sizing up. Our temptation to compare distracts us from being who God has called us to be.

The pendulum swing of comparison has us envying one person one minute and then diminishing the value of another the next. In one direction we can fixate on what we don’t have and how we don’t measure up. This type of comparison leads to jealousy, envy, greed, dissatisfaction, and ungratefulness. We wind up feeling grossly inadequate.

In the other direction, comparison leads to pride. We begin to see ourselves above others and consciously or not diminish the value of others. Even the disciples were guilty of asking Jesus who was greatest among them (Luke 9:46-48).

Trevin Wax: Patrick Lencioni, one of my favorite writers on team dynamics and leadership, wrote the foreword and says it’s one of the best books he has ever read. How did you connect with Lencioni and why do you think he appreciated this book so much?

Jenni Catron: I connected with Patrick via a mutual friend and was ecstatic he agreed to write the foreword. Patrick works with leaders and their teams all over the country and I think he sees firsthand the need for leaders to get more honest about the issues that hold them back personally. Patrick resonated with the idea of the “clout killers” and the need for leaders to understand how these issues might be hindering their leadership. I think that Patrick would agree that the healthier a leader is, the healthier the team will be.

Trevin Wax: Thanks for stopping by, Jenni. And thank you for writing a helpful book on leadership.

View Comments

Worth a Look 10.8.14

Oct 08, 2014 | Trevin Wax

WorthALook1Kindle Deal of the Day: Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence by Jenni Catron. $2.99.

This is a journey toward dismantling what stands in the way of your influence and leadership, discovering your God-given clout, and using it to answer God’s calling on your life.

John Piper interacts with criticism of his interpretation of Romans 7:14-25 as “Christian experience:”

Paul is at pains to make clear in Romans 7:25 that the difference does not put the warfare behind us. Our death in Christ “to that which held us captive” and our “serving in the new way of the Spirit” (Romans 7:6) does not mean we never stumble back into experience of captivity. In fact, the “therefore” of Romans 7:25 explains that the victory does not make the warfare past; it makes it possible and real.

Russ Moore – Political Engagement and the Kingdom of God:

Being gospel-centered and seeking first the kingdom of God should not dampen our concern for political and cultural engagement, then, but should instead heighten it. After all, the priorities of the King—seen in his restoration of the creation—must become the priorities of his kingdom colony, the church. The question is the “why” and the “how.”

Eric Geiger – 2 Leadership Imperatives in a Difficult Season:

When facing a major challenge or a difficult season, wise leaders offer both reality and hope. To offer only hope is to fail to tell the truth or to build urgency, to offer solutions without building understanding that there is a problem. To fail to offer hope is to demoralize a team, to burden a team with a problem with no opportunity to push forward to the future. Leaders must continually define reality and give hope, but this is especially critical during a challenging time.

R. C. Sproul, Jr – Husbands, Hold Your Wife’s Hand:

That is likely my deepest regret, that I did not hold her hand more.

It’s not, of course, that I never held her hand. It is likely, however, that I didn’t as often as she would have liked. Holding her hand communicates to her in a simple yet profound way that we are connected. Taking her hand tells her, “I am grateful that we are one flesh.” Taking her hand tells me, “This is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” It is a liturgy, an ordinary habit of remembrance to see more clearly the extraordinary reality of two being made one. It would have, even in the midst of a disagreement, or moments of struggle, communicated, “We’re going to go through this together. I will not let go.”

View Comments

Facing the Music with Jennifer Knapp

Oct 07, 2014 | Trevin Wax

FacingtheMusic_JKIf I were to create a soundtrack for my teenage years, the contemporary Christian music of the late 1990’s would dominate the playlist, including Jennifer Knapp’s first album, Kansaswhich rocked my world in more ways than one.

Here was a singer, songwriter and musician whose memorable lyrics combined biblical truth with authentic experience. One minute you were singing the declaration of Romans – “I don’t have to be condemned! Jesus saved me from the law of sin!” and the next you were in the throes of confession, asking for God’s refining fire to root out hidden sins.

Like many, I was captivated. The yearning for redemption, the beauty of a sinner’s quest for holiness, the resting in God’s gracious embrace… it was all there on Kansasan album I still consider one of the best in Christian music.

Fast forward fifteen years and Jennifer Knapp is releasing a memoir of her life. Facing the Music tells the story of her painful childhood, her passion for music, her career in CCM, and her journey “coming out” as gay.

How to review a book like this? Do I come at it from the artistic elements of the writing? Or do I assess its theology? How does a reviewer critique someone else’s story? Is it best to cite Scriptures that contradict some of her conclusions? Or should we set Jennifer’s memoir within the larger context of evangelicalism in order to see this movement’s beauty and flaws?

All of these approaches may have merit, but I’m not convinced it’s possible to do justice to any one of these avenues. So, I’ve decided to simply offer several thoughts about the book and what we can learn from it.

Divorce is a Big Deal

Facing the Music will get press for being about homosexuality, but that aspect of Jennifer’s life doesn’t come into view until the last third of the book. This memoir is first and foremost about divorce and the unspeakable pain it creates in the hearts of little children.

The early tension of the narrative is due to the damage Jennifer’s parents’ divorce does to her sense of security. Everywhere she turns, she is haunted by the divorce and its aftermath. Being shuttled from one family to another wrecks her relationships and eventually drives a wedge into her relationship with her twin sister (who curiously is never named).

In high school, Jennifer turns to sex and alcohol in an attempt to overcome the dysfunctional family dynamic and emotional scars from being straddled between two worlds. But even as she opens up about her struggles, Jennifer doesn’t blame her problems on her family members. She doesn’t shy away from her own hurt and pain, but neither does she paper over her own selfish decisions that have caused others to suffer.

It’s no secret evangelicals are worried about gay marriage and the false message it reinforces about the true nature of marriage. But in all the attention given to the detrimental effects of redefining marriage, we must not ignore the damage caused by divorce. The children of divorce are understandably jaded by the breaking of the bonds of marriage, and Jennifer Knapp’s story is just one shard of broken glass in the aftermath of divorce’s path of destruction.

The Wacky World of Evangelical Churchlessness

Jennifer converts to Christianity while she is in college. She describes the oddity of some of her Christian friends and is both offended and charmed by their insistence on praying for her, keeping her strong, and encouraging her in her newfound faith. Even though there is a sense of warmth in how she describes her initiation into the world of Christianity, she maintains a respectable distance from some of her friends’ more fervent displays of religiosity.

What’s most intriguing about Jennifer’s rise in music and her subsequent immersion into the world of evangelicalism is that she never truly belongs to a local church. Her conversion happens in college when she is participating in a campus group, and before college is over, she’s already on the music scene, leading worship at camps and playing concerts. Like many who would say they are “spiritual, but not religious,” her experience of Christian community is largely something of her own making.

“For years, I’d adopted the ‘where two or more are gathered’ idea of church, where a strong beer and long buzzy night of hashing out my faith experience with friends in a bar was much more rewarding the feeling like a Sunday morning disappointment.”

The evangelical stage of Knapp’s journey is about seeing lots of church culture without ever belonging to one particular congregation. And not surprisingly, during this phase the wackiness of evangelicalism is on full display. She recoils from the scare tactics used to manipulate conversion decisions. She resists the expectations foisted upon her by well-meaning evangelicals who see musicians as church leaders and de facto theologians. And she is drained by the churches and Christians she serves with her music.

When Experience Trumps Everything Else

What becomes clearer and clearer as the narrative progresses is that Jennifer Knapp was never comfortable with the teachings of Scripture that counter contemporary sensibilities. For example, she never believed Jesus is the only way to salvation. Although she expresses gratitude for the compassion she has experienced through Christ, she never ceases to see Him as merely way to the divine. Her personal faith journey is not a story of repentance and adherence to Christian truth but of quelling her own inner turmoil, learning to be at peace with God and with herself, no longer humiliated by imperfections and hounded by pressure to conform.

The longer she stayed in evangelical circles, the more she felt the tension of inconsistency. ”Everyone around me seemed to travel in only one direction, toward a conservative school of religious thought, hyperfocused on Jesus,” she writes. There are worse things than can be said of evangelicals than that we’re “hyperfocused on Jesus,” but it’s clear from the narrative that for Jennifer, evangelical beliefs about Jesus were too extreme and threatened her own self-expression. Knapp’s Jesus is a means to personal peace, not an end in Himself.

Likewise, Jennifer sees faith as deeply personal with something of an untouchable quality. For this reason, one’s faith is beyond the ability to be criticized or questioned. She writes:

“One might argue that I had lost my religion, but no one could take away my faith. I struggled (and still do) with the language of how to express the inner, holy, transformative experience I had when I decided to follow Jesus. This kind of following is an act of faith that is different from belief. Beliefs are the certainties you’re encouraged to hold about Jesus so that you can stay a voting member in your church, but faith is the thing that changes the human heart.”

In this paragraph, we see both the beauty and flaw of pop evangelicalism. The beautiful emphasis on personal experience with God runs into the rocks of orthodox beliefs about who this God is. Many evangelicals would like to hold onto both, but when experiential faith and doctrinal belief come into conflict, experience often wins. Within this framework, reading Scripture is simply another means to a personal goal, and experience becomes the arbiter of truth. The Bible is no longer the authoritative interpreter of our experiences; our experiences are the authoritative interpreter of Scripture.

Eventually, the grinding tours and recording schedule leave Knapp fatigued and weary – emotionally and physically. So, she walks away from it all. For seven years, she disappears from the music scene. During her time away, she falls in love with her manager, travels across Europe, and moves to Australia.

The end of the book is about her return to the music scene. She no longer sings about Jesus, but about her journey of self-discovery and her willingness to reject society’s constraints and embrace the person she was meant to be. Jennifer never tries to make a biblical case for same-sex relationships; she doesn’t need to. What the Bible says is not the most important thing. Instead, compassion is about listening to others’ stories and recounting our experiences, affirming one another in our journey. Affirmation and companionship is the way of love, of life, of grace.

Conclusion

Most of my CDs from the late 1990s and early 2000s are in a box in our laundry room collecting dust. Jennifer Knapp’s music is an exception. Today, whenever I listen to “Whole Again” or “Undo Me” or the spine-tingling “Martyrs and Thieves,” I’m sad.

Sad because of the painful choices Jennifer’s parents made in the name of “self-discovery” and “self-expression” that led to harmful repercussions in the lives of their children.

Sad because evangelicalism’s lack of ecclesiology and reliance on experience has led to so many strange and harmful expressions of faith.

Sad because even though Jennifer had the integrity to be honest about her life rather than continue to make money under false pretenses, she received ridicule and insults from Christians she once wrote for.

Sad because of the way faith gets privatized to the point that the exclusive Savior’s inclusive call to repentance seems too narrow a road to freedom.

Sad because evangelicals are so quick to catapult converts into the limelight before they’ve had time to grow in wisdom and truth.

Sad because of the pain many of our gay and lesbian neighbors have endured within a church culture that calls sinners to repentance but not the self-righteous.

Sad because, apart from affirming her sexuality, I can’t see any way that Jennifer would think someone could love her.

Sad because many Christians find it easier to love positions rather than people, while others believe it is impossible to love people without adopting their position.

One song on Kansas stands out to me. It’s one of the few that Jennifer didn’t write, but the words echo in my heart and become a prayer – not only for my own sinful heart, but maybe again for hers as well:

Lord, come with Your fire,
burn my desires,
refine me.

Lord, my will has deceived me,
please come and free me,
come rescue this child.
For I long to be reconciled to You.

View Comments

Worth a Look 10.7.14

Oct 07, 2014 | Trevin Wax

WorthALook1Kindle Deal of the Day: Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace for Us by Preston Sprinkle. FREE.

Take a journey into Charis - where harlots are hugged, enemies are enjoyed, and really bad people receive really good things from a Creator who stubbornly delights in undelightful people … like us.

Jonathan Dodson – Evangelism After Christendom:

A fundamental question in evangelism is often overlooked: “How is the gospel good news to those we evangelize?

Asian Americans: Silent No More

It’s still possible to miss the ways Asian Americans are shaping American Christianity. With just a few exceptions, Asian Americans rarely headline major conferences, attract media attention, or top Christian publishing’s bestseller lists. But thanks to their bicultural heritage and the particular challenges it brings, Asian American Christians are finding they have unique voices and gifts that allow them to connect with both non-Asian American audiences and segments of the church that no one else can reach.

Matt Perman – Becoming an Influential Leader:

Leadership, at its essence, is influence. And therefore you can lead wherever you are. But these principles are still important, even if you are not in a formal leadership role in your organization, because leading where you are involves more than just doing your work. You need to look outward, develop networks, motivate people, and rally them to a better future.

Traditional Sexuality, Radical Community:

I’m now convinced any church that holds a traditional view of sexuality must also foster a radical practice of Christian community in which living out a biblical sexual ethic becomes possible and even attractive.

View Comments

4 Ways G. K. Chesterton Engaged His Culture and Why He Still Matters Today

Oct 06, 2014 | Trevin Wax

g-k-chestertonIf you’ve read C. S. Lewis, you’ve read G. K. Chesterton, indirectly at least. Lewis listed Chesterton among his influences, and those who are familiar with both apologists can hear the echoes of Chesterton in the work of Lewis.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was a poet, a journalist, an essayist, a literary critic, a novelist, and apologist. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, he was the first writer to refer to “Western” culture and civilization.

Chesterton was a big man (in more ways than one) who made a big splash. How did he engage his culture and why does he still matter? I offer four reasons:

1. Chesterton saw the big picture and would not compartmentalize the world.

Chesterton was a thinker who believed the purpose of education was to make sense of the world and our role in it. Thinking and education are not ends in themselves; they are about “connecting things.” Because he believed everything connects, Chesterton could speak knowledgeably on so many different subjects. He believed that Christianity, if truly all-encompassing, must speak to everything.

  • Economics: Chesterton promoted Distributism, an economic ideology rooted in Catholic social teaching.
  • Art: Chesterton criticized modern art and literature for “scorning the audience.” His biography of Charles Dickens led to a widespread reassessment of Dickens’ legacy and reestablished him as one of the great authors in English literature.
  • Family: Chesterton defended the family as a microcosm of the world (“the home is larger inside than out,” he wrote) that must withstand constant assaults from social engineers who believe the family unit is an obstacle to progress.
  • Government: Chesterton doesn’t fit the “right” or “left” paradigm of contemporary American politics, but he believed Christianity should influence government by reinforcing its responsibilities and warning of its imperialistic and overreaching tendencies.

2. Chesterton unmasked false presuppositions as he promoted a Christian worldview.

Chesterton often turned things upside down so his readers could then see them right side up. He made a winsome case for Christianity by poking holes in the assumptions of his opponents. It’s not by force of will, but force of wit that he startles you and makes you think. A few examples:

  • On human depravity: “The man who denies original sin believes in the Immaculate Conception of everybody.”
  • On miracles, he turns the tables to show that it’s believers, not unbelievers who are always appealing to evidence (“This is why I believe this miracle took place”). Meanwhile, it’s unbelievers, not believers who are always appealing to dogma (“Miracles can’t happen”).
  • On naturalism, he flips the common picture of Christians held captive by their ancient superstitions while the “freethinkers” challenge religious dogma. Instead, he demonstrates that Christians are free to believe in an ordered nature, while the materialist can’t admit the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle into his machine. The Christian is freer to think than the freethinker.

Chesterton loved to point out that arguments against Christianity are often contradictory. For example, Christians are accused of being too joyful in the face of evil and suffering; they are also accused of being dour prudes who want to squelch the joy of everyone else. How can both be true?

The takeaway from Chesterton’s apologetic strategy was not just his defense of the faith, but the manner in which he went about his task. He debated his ideological opponents as friends, not enemies. He intended to convert enemies, not crush them. ”The aim of argument is differing in order to agree,” he wrote. “The failure of argument is when you agree to differ.”

3. Chesterton was not swayed by arguments that appeal to progress.

C. S. Lewis coined the term “chronological snobbery,” a description of our temptation to look with disdain on previous eras as if they have little to nothing to offer our advanced society. You can trace the line from Lewis’ warning against chronological snobbery back to Chesterton’s consistent refutations of faddish ideas of “progress.”

Chesterton was always warning his readers about people who fancy themselves reformers who want to do away with social institutions without understanding their historical significance. A few quotes:

“While the truth… is outside time, the heresies are always tied up with the times.”

“The Catholic Church is the only thing that saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.”

“Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”

For Chesterton, Christianity must not be burdened by whatever is fashionable. It is an act of dignity to defy the fads of contemporary society. The dead fish floats downstream. It’s a sign of life to resist the flow of your culture and stand against the tide.

4. Chesterton exhibited a joyful exuberance at the wonder of existence.

Chesterton was never bored or boring. “There are no uninteresting things,” he wrote. “Only uninterested people.” The emotion that infuses all of Chesterton’s writing is gratitude – a sign of joy and life, a sense of wonder at even the most mundane gifts we take for granted. ”Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese,” he wrote, and then proceeded to rectify this egregious oversight.

According to Chesterton, one way we pay tribute to our Creator is by our endless fascination with His creation. Take, for example, the classic essay “What I Found in My Pocket,” which gives insight into the clever and creative ways Chesterton’s curiosity led him on fantastic journeys of thought.

John Piper once explained why Chesterton’s Orthodoxy is one of the few books he has read twice:

“I will keep coming back to anyone who helps me see and be astonished at what is in front of my face – anyone who can help heal me from the disease of ‘seeing they do not see.'”

I echo the sentiment. Chesterton still matters for the model of cultural engagement he provides: a comprehensive vision of Christianity that touches all of life, challenges our modern sensibilities, and leads us back to childlike wonder at the world God has made.

View Comments

Worth a Look 10.6.14

Oct 06, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Worth a Look MagnifyingKindle Deal of the Day: Letters to a Young Pastor by Calvin Miller. $3.81.

In this honest, engaging, and humorous collection of letters, he encourages you to fight the good fight, stay the course, and keep your eye on the Author and Finisher of the faith … to serve well every Sunday so you’ll never feel the urge to resign on Monday.

Kingdom Opportunities Mean Kingdom Adversaries:

I suppose that despite everything I’ve seen, read, and been told about Christian ministry, I still have this sense that if God is for a thing, there shouldn’t be any opposition; if it’s a real opportunity for the kingdom, that will automatically mean the field is clear and there are no obstacles or enemies. My assumption seems to be that if God is with me, then everything will go smoothly and all will embrace me.

And yet nothing in the story of Scripture leads us to believe that’s true.

Ross Douthat – The Christian Missionaries who are unsettling secular assumptions:

Palmer seems less hostile to Christian missionaries and their work than he is confused by what they’re doing: He clearly has a set of ideological frames through which he sees the world, a set of assumptions (the separation of medicine and religion should be absolute, proselytization is wicked/backward/ignorant, helping people is what governments and secular groups are supposed to do) that simply don’t fit with what’s happening on the ground in Africa and who’s actually there, which in turns leaves him both unsettled and subtly resentful at all these Christian missionary doctors for unsettling him.

Jen Wilkin – When Your Child’s Personality Annoys You:

God gifts our children with unique personalities. Sometimes we love the way emerging personality traits shape our child’s behavior, but other times they can drive us crazy. The overly talkative child, the bossy child, the child with endless energy, the child who collapses in tears at the smallest upset, the child whose imagination means homework never gets turned in – these are a few of the personalities that plant themselves in our orderly homes, posing a threat to our expectations and our patience.Our first temptation may be to bring those behaviors to an immediate end. But I want to suggest a better way.

Why a Leading Professor of New Media Just Banned Technology Use in Class:

I teach theory and practice of social media at New York University, and am an advocate and activist for the free culture movement, so I’m a pretty unlikely candidate for Internet censor. But I have just asked the students in my fall seminar to refrain from using laptops, tablets, and phones in class.

View Comments

Saeed Abedini’s Letter to His Daughter on Her 8th Birthday

Oct 05, 2014 | Trevin Wax

0927 local prayervigil01Three birthdays have passed since Pastor Saeed was imprisoned in Iran. This letter is a beautiful testament to God’s grace in the midst of suffering, and I hope it encourages you to pray for Saeed and his family, and all the Christians in the world who face persecution for their faith.

My Dearest Rebekka Grace,

HAPPY 8th BIRTHDAY!

You are growing so fast and becoming more beautiful every day. I praise God for His faithfulness to me every day as I watch from a distance through the prison walls and see pictures and hear stories of how you are growing both spiritually and physically.

Oh how I long to see you.

I know that you question why you have prayed so many times for my return and yet I am not home yet. Now there is a big WHY In your mind you are asking: WHY Jesus isn’t answering your prayers and the prayers of all of the people around the world praying for my release and for me to be home with you and our family.

The answer to the WHY is WHO. WHO is control? LORD JESUS CHRIST is in control.

I desire for you to learn important lessons during these trying times. Lessons that you carry now and for the rest of your life. The answer to the WHY is WHO. The confusion of “WHY has all of this happened?” and “WHY your prayers are not answered yet” is resolved with understanding WHO is in control…LORD JESUS CHRIST, our GOD!

God is in control of the whole world and everything that is happening in it is for His good purpose, for His glory, and will be worked out for our good (Romans 8:28). Jesus allows me to be kept here for His glory. He is doing something inside each of us and also outside in the world. People die and suffer for their Christian faith all over the world and some may wonder why? But you should know the answer of WHY is WHO. It is for Jesus. He is worth the price. And He has a plan to be glorified through our lives.

I want you to read the book of Habakkuk. He had the same question as you. But see that the Lord answered him in Habakkuk 2:3, “the vision comes and doesn’t delay on time, wait for it.” Mommy and I always had big desires to serve Jesus and had great vision to be used for His Kingdom and for His Glory. So today we pay a cost because God, who created us, called us to that.

And so I want you to know that the answer to all of your prayers is that God is in control, and He knows better than us what He is doing in our lives and all around the world.

Therefore declare as Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-­‐Nego did in Daniel 3: 17-­‐18!

17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

And learn and declare as Habakkuk did that even if we do not get the result that we are looking for, God is still good and we WILL praise His Holy Name.

Habakkuk 3:17-­19

17 Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— 18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19 The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.

Then my dear beloved daughter Rebekka Grace, I pray God will bring me back home soon. But if not, we will still sing together as Habakkuk did HALLELUJAH, either separated by prison walls or together at home.

So, let Daddy hear you sing a loud Hallelujah that I can hear all the way here in the prison!

I am so proud of you my sweet courageous daughter. Glory to God forever, Amen.

Kisses and Blessings,

Daddy

(Source)

View Comments
1 2 3 4 5 426