Shepherding Gods Flock“The importance of church leadership can so easily be either overstated, or understated.” (283)

It is common knowledge that when it comes to the leading of people by people, everything rises and falls on leadership. Whether it is a small business or a large multi-billion dollar corporation, both can be brought to their knees under bad leadership. Moses’ father-in-law realized as much when he approached him and suggested that he divide his oversight by appointing capable men to rule over the Israel with Moses. People need competent men and enough of them to lead them rightly.

For centuries Protestant churches have debated over proper and biblical polity, particularly regarding the office of elder and deacon and the roles they play within the local church and beyond. It seems that within the literature, this issue does not die down and there are new books on both sides of the debate being published regularly. Writing from a Baptist perspective, Benjamin Merkle and Thomas Schreiner have teamed up with a number of Baptistic pastors and theologians to bring us Shepherding God’s Flock: Biblical Leadership in the New Testament and Beyond from B&H (2014). This book provides a thorough presentation of Baptist polity while also looking at Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian forms.

Overview

While the book contains 10 chapters and no sections, there are essentially two sections to the book: chapters that address the issues raised theologically and those that handle them historically.

Historically, in chapters five and six Michael Haykin and Gregg Allison address the rise and development of the papacy within the western church (Haykin) and from Leo I to Vatican II (Allison). Both men ably handle the historical development of the papacy and its well-developed polity. Haykin begins at the first few centuries after the establishment of the New Testament church and builds on the early Catholic understanding of Peter’s role and significance as the one upon whom Christ said He would build His church. Gregg Allison picks up where Haykin leaves off (mid 400’s) and walks the reader right through to Vatican II. After all of the historical survey it is concluded of course that the idea of the papacy as a model of church polity is unbiblical and smacks of men grasping for power which is not theirs to have (195-96).

Following these chapters Nathan Finn outlines and critiques the Presbyterian model of church polity and in doing so he touches briefly on its historical development and context. His historical survey is by no means comprehensive but he lays out the relevant data nicely. Of particular focus is the Presbyterian differentiation between teaching and ruling elders and the role of the Jerusalem council in Acts 15.

The final historical chapter addresses the Anglican form of church polity by Jason Duesing. Jason provides an overview of the historical and theological development Anglican polity from the Church of England to the Modern eras. Like the critiques of the Catholic churches view of polity, Duesing concludes that one of the central problems with the Anglican view is that it not see the terms for bishop and elder as interchangeable. (247) Further, like Catholicism, Anglicanism has a dependence on tradition that clouds its ability to see what is revealed in Scripture. (248)

Theologically, this book makes a defense for Baptist polity which defines itself as seeing the terms for bishop and elder as interchangeable, places a different emphasis upon congregational rule, and does not see the events in Acts 15 at the Jerusalem council as paradigmatic for the church today.

The first three chapters lay the ground work for describing the essence of church leadership – the suffering righteous shepherd. This is of course patterned after Christ. So how do we get there?

In the first chapter James Hamilton Jr. compares and contrasts the Old and New Testament qualifications for church leadership. He notes that in the OT the qualifications were not laid out as they are in the NT because of the difference between the covenants and how one is admitted into those covenants. In the OT “elders are never defined and no qualifications are ever given” because “the evidence in the Old Testament indicates that eldership arose from the standing that derives from age and the wisdom and stature that tends to accompany life experiences.” (15, 22) Qualifications for leadership are spelled out in the covenant so separate ones are not needed.

The event that makes the change from the OT to the NT is the “new birth”. The change of structure from Israel to the church initiates the need for specific requirements for church leadership. “This change in what makes people members of the people of God changes the pool of candidates from which the elders will be drawn. The making of converts into disciples introduces people into the congregations who have little or no background in the Torah, resulting in the need for qualifications to be spelled out more explicitly.” (24-25)

From here Hamilton works his way to establishing the pattern of leadership as seen through the suffering righteous shepherd. This is picked up by Andreas Kostenberger in the second chapter as he walks through the Gospels and the life of Jesus to show how He fulfills the suffering shepherd motif. Kostenberger fleshes out three aspects to the shepherding motif: teaching, training, and modeling. (51-57)

In chapter three Benjamin Merkle works through Acts to establish a pattern of leadership by elders. Merkle points out that while the office of elder is not as emphasized in Acts as much as the function, there is a recognizable emphasis on the role of certain believers who are gifted in such as way as to be primarily responsible for the teaching and leading of the churches. (70, 75, 85)

In chapter four Thomas Schreiner addresses the character and role of elders and deacons within the church. While there is a lot of discussion in the Pastoral and General Epistles regarding the teaching ability of elders, “what stands out in the list is the emphasis on character qualities instead of skills.” (95) Schreiner rightly sees a marked difference in the text between the role, and therefore requirements, for deacons and elders. Elders are to be gifted in teaching and leadership while deacons are servants in the church attending to the physical needs. (109-12) In regards to the “wives” mentioned in I Timothy 3:10 Schreiner is under the impression that they are not the wives of male deacons but are in fact women who serve alongside the men as deacons. (111) Later, Bruce Ware echoes the same sentiments when he says, “if Paul is so concerned with the qualifications of the wives of deacons….then why dos he not also propose this same requirement when it comes to elders?” (302) In my mind this has always been the issue for me as well.

Chapter seven by Nathan Finn is one of the best chapters in the book. In it, Finn lays out and critiques the Presbyterian view of elders. Essentially, they make a distinction with the biblical text between teaching and ruling elders. (200) This is grounded in Ephesians 4:11-13 where shepherds and teachers are listed as offices “for building up the body of Christ.” Further, Presbyterians see the Jerusalem meeting in Acts 15 as a prototype for the church in all times. But, as Finn points out, they must make a number of assumptions about the text in order to arrive at this conclusion, namely, that “the decision made by the general assembly is a binding church law rather than a contextual decision for a particular season in redemptive history.” (219)

The final three chapters provide a conclusion to the book in regards to Baptistic understandings on the plurality of elders, Christ as the head of the Church, and the qualifications of elders and deacons.

Conclusion

From start to finish Shepherding God’s Flock is a short (considering the issues covered) but packed book on the nature of Baptist polity. It is excellent in its treatment of the related biblical passages. This is the perfect kind of book to use for college or grad school in teaching this subject. Additionally, its treatment of Catholic, Anglican, and Presbyterian polity from an historical and theological angle are thorough and fair. This book should be in every pastors library.

I received this book for free from Kregel for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Acts by Guy WatersOne of the most fascinating historical books in the Bible is Acts. If you want a fast paced historical walk through the first century church then Acts is the place to go. Written by the detailed author Luke, Acts gives us a look at the birth of the church at Pentecost, the vast ministry of Paul and his missionary journeys, the ups and downs of the growth of the church, and the clear work of the Holy Spirit as He drives the gospel along into the hearts of those who hear it.

While there is no shortage of commentaries on the book of Acts, not all of them are worth while to have. One such worth while commentary is the new Evangelical Press Study Commentary Acts by Guy Prentiss Waters (2015).

Having skimmed through most of the book and read through several sections thoroughly, Waters has done a good job of steering the reader through the text in a faithful manner. He interacts with the Greek text, emphasizes the rich historical details of the text, and in some cases makes you wonder what else a more thorough commentary would add.

At just over 600 pages long, Waters has managed to produce a commentary that is textually grounded, historically focused, theologically rich, and with an eye to practical application. Waters book is not exhaustive such that it tracks down every single historical detail but enough is touched on as to satisfy the reader and not feel like you missed a lot. The book is very readable and focuses on clarity versus nitty gritty detail. Waters writes from a Reformed perspective and as such all theological interpretations and practical applications are guided by those commitments.

I recommend Acts by Guy Waters for any serious student of the Bible whether it be a college course, sermon prep, or Christians wanting to gain a better understanding of the book.

I received this book for free from Evangelical Press through Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Exodus by RykenThere are times when reading the Bible that I have to sit back and laughingly say to myself, “You can’t make this stuff up!” The events that take place and the people involved provide for comic relief and sobering self-reflection, among many other thoughts and feeling. The book of Exodus is one such book that draws upon the reader a wide array of thoughts and feelings. Its characters, like Moses and Pharaoh, seem larger than life and the events that take place send ripples throughout the rest of history.

As part of the Preaching the Word series, edited by R. Kent Hughes, pastor and theologian Philip Graham Ryken has has written Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory. Theses commentaries are the book form of sermon series preached on the books of the Bible. They are written by pastors for pastors. As such they are intensely tied to the text of Scripture with plenty of relevant application that is personally and socially aimed. For those familiar with Philip Graham Ryken you will not be disappointed. Ryken provides the insightful commentary that he is known for which is tied closely to the text. He shows an adept ability to draw the reader into the text through commentary and contemporary observation.

Theologically, Graham is Evangelical, Reformed, and his outlook on Exodus is that it points to the glory of God in the salvation of His people and points towards Christ at very turn. Graham sees the life of Moses and Jesus as intimately tied together. Also, “the exodus set the pattern for the life of Christ.” (23) Just as Moses came out of Egypt so did Jesus. Just as Moses led God’s people through the wilderness so did Jesus. Further, because the exodus is a pattern of what Christ has done for His people, it is also a pattern of the Christian life. “Since the exodus is a story of deliverance from bondage through the work of a savior, it is the story of the Christian life.” (24) Thus, Graham affirms with Paul that Exodus is practical for the Christian life (1 Cor. 10:11).

Historically, Graham does not shy away from dealing with the vast array of competing historical views on the various events like the plagues in Egypt, the Exodus event itself, and the Mt. Sinai account. While seeing a good case to be made for an early or late date of the exodus, Graham favors the early date (22). He views the plagues as a picture of the battle between God and Satan which has played itself out in history. For Graham, all of the plagues actually happened as they are presented. While some are happy to see the first plague (river of blood) as the water turning into something like blood, Graham is insistent that it was literal blood (219-20). The crossing of the Red Sea, the death of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea, the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai and the golden calf incident are all events that happened in history. They are not myth,  they are not legend, and they are not metaphorical stories made up in order to make sense of Israel’s past and give them hope for a future.

Practically, Graham weaves the lessons learned about God and His people into the lives of his readers. Since Moses and the exodus are a pattern of Christ’s person and work and the exodus is a pattern of the Christian life, Graham is equipped to make ample application for us today. Just as God brought Israel out of bondage in Egypt so He brings His people today out of bondage from sin. It is through Jesus that this is accomplished. Graham sums up the book of Exodus in the last paragraph of the book:

Once we we re in bondage to sin, enslaved by its tyranny. But through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – our Passover Lamb – God has delivered us from the Egypt of our sin. Now he is leading us through our earthly wilderness, with all its difficulties and dangers. The great God of the exodus will never leave us or forsake us. In the church he has set up a sanctuary where even now we may enter his presence for worship. And one day son Jesus will come down in glory to take us up into the glory that will never end. Everyone who trusts in him will be saved for the glory of God. (1164)

For more reasons than I can list here I heartily recommend Graham’s commentary on Exodus. It is a faithful mix of exegetical and biblical groundedness and theological sharpness. Graham shows that even a book like Exodus is not boring and is full of spiritual life for the church today. This commentary reaches to both the needs of pastors and layman alike and I recommend it for all to use.

I received this book for free from Crossway for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

A Theology for the ChurchSystematic theologies are invaluable resources for the church. They are as varied as the authors who write them and some are more beneficial than others.  The preponderance of systematic theologies are written by individuals within a denominational/theological tradition. While there are many books on specific topics written by various contributors, this is not the case with systematic theologies. So it is unique and a bit refreshing when a systematic theology does comes along that breaks the individual author mold.

One of these few contributions is A Theology for the Church, Revised Edition edited by Daniel L. Akin. First published in 2007, the revised edition has new chapters on theological method from a missional perspective by Bruce Ashford and Keith Whitfield and a theology of creation, providence, and Sabbath by Chad Owen Brad which engages current research in science and philosophy. Additionally, the chapters on special revelation by David Dockery and human nature by John Hammett have been updated.

Outline

A Theology for the Church follows the standard outline of systematic theology starting with the doctrine of revelation and concluding with the doctrine of the end times. Each chapter approaches these doctrines through a fourfold pattern: (1) What does the Bible say? (2) What has the church believed? (3) How does it all fit together? and (4) How does this doctrine impact the church today?

In addressing What does the Bible Say? the authors approach their work by walking through the unfolding of Scripture (Genesis to Revelation) and so so in a variety of ways. Some chapters (natural revelation and person of Christ) walk through specific passages of Scripture to answer this question. Others (special revelation, human nature, and the church) address the doctrine topically while supporting it with Scripture, much like most systematic theologies are written. Still others employ these methods and more. In the chapter on the doctrine of God Timothy George explores the nature of God by looking at His attributes and names as revealed in Scripture. In R. Stanton Norman’s chapter on human sinfulness he looks at the various terms in Scripture used to describe the nature of man and the chapter on eschatology breaks it down between the testaments.

What marks the first section of the chapters is a clear desire to be faithful to the text of Scripture. The original languages and context are considered exegetically. The relationship between the testaments are mentioned where applicable. The contributors are not seeking to carve out their own names but are focused on declaring “Thus says the Lord” on every doctrine.

Following the first section is the section on What has the church believed? in which the authors provide a brief 30,000 foot view from the sky outline of how the church, in different denominations, eras, and significant theologians, has understood these doctrines. Most of the chapters provide a summary of thought from the Patristic, Medival, Reformation, and Modern periods. Some chapters (like natural and special revelation, angels, and eschatology) have an additional section on the Baptist understanding in history. Further, some chapters are much more expansive in their historical treatment such as the chapter on natural revelation which presents the theology of individuals and eras.

While an historical look at a doctrine can often be the weakest section of a systematic theology, this section is helpful, if for no other reason, then to show that the history of Christian thought on doctrine is not as monolithic as some suggest or wish. In a book like this that is decidedly Baptist in nature, it is welcoming to see the writers show where their understanding fits against the backdrop of 2,000 years of previous thought and reflection on Scripture. My only critique of this section is that for a book that is Baptist in nature it would have been more fitting to have a Baptist section in every chapter and not just some.

The third section How does it all fit together? seeks to systematize what was explored and discussed in the What does the Bible say? section while drawing on the What has the church believed? section. Here the doctrinal conclusions are formulated while humbling acknowledging the tension that we, as theologians and readers of the text, though finite in our understanding, can know and understand when God speaks because we are made in God’s image with the ability to communicate. While there is some overlap in this section and the first section because the Biblical text is discussed in both, this section seeks to systematize the Biblical data and draw reasonable conclusions.

While all of the contributors are Baptist it is in this section that one can begin to see differences in theology that go beyond their polity. For instance, while Al Mohler Jr., Timothy George, Mark Dever are Calvinists in their soteriology, those who wrote the key chapters covering salvation issues (Paige Patterson covering the atonement in The Work of Christ and Kenneth Keathley covering election in The Work of God: Salvation) are not Calvinists. This is not a criticism, merely an observation. Further, there is a clear difference between the eschatology of Mark Dever, who wrote the chapter on the church and is an amillennialist, and Russell Moore, who writes the chapter on eschatology and is a pre-tribulationalist. While Dever does not believe the Church is Israel (606) he does seem to pair them in closer connection together than Moore does (706-08).

In the final section How does this doctrine impact the church today? the contributors seek to bring relevance to what has been discussed in the three previous sections. Most of these sections are good and some are much shorter than others. It is here that some of the theological differences between the contributors will come more to light and readers might express more disagreement with. All in all, there is much to learn from these sections.

Conclusion

A Theology for the Church tips its hat to whom it serves in its title – the Church. While they do not shy away from theological language and interaction with the original languages, the contributors have written a systematic theology that serves their Baptist audience. This book is thoroughly Evangelical, exegetically grounded in Scripture, historically sensitive, and its practical application is both timeless and timely.

I recommend this systematic theology alongside others that have become staples for Baptists and all Evangelicals alike.

I received this book for free from B&H for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Chance_comps.inddIt is easy to think that much of the activities in our lives are nothing more than a string of random chance events that have no significance beyond their occurrence or connection to the bigger picture of our lives, let alone the lives of others. Further, when it comes to the good events in our lives we are quick to attribute them to God. But what about the bad events? Is God in those somewhere? Did He ordain them? Allow them? Is He indifferent to them?

Chance. Randomness. Unpredictability. Is there such a thing? What do they look like in everyday life? How would they work with a sovereign God? Is there a place for them within the Christian worldview? Seeking to answer these questions and more, Vern Poythress has written Chance and the Sovereignty of God: A God-Centered Approach to Probability and Random Events. This book is a continuation of his previous books like Logic and Redeeming Philosophy in which Poythress seeks to understand these sciences in light of Scripture and the the existence of God as the foundation for all of life.

Overview

The book can be broken into two essential parts. In the first half of the book Poythress establishes the sovereignty of God as laid out in Scripture. From texts like Heb. 1:3 and Col. 1:17 it is established that God ‘s continual sustaining of the universe places God in sovereign control of it. From Scripture Poythress shows how God in involved in many kids of events:

  1. Coincidences – The arrow that kills king Ahab in battle (1 Kings 22:20-22), Abraham’s servant finding Rebekah at the well (Gen. 24), and the two spies sent into Jericho finding Rahab (Joshua 2).
  2. Disasters and Suffering – The book of Job, natural disasters (Isa. 45:7; Amos 3:6), and the unjust death of Christ (Acts 2:23).
  3. Human Choices – Joseph being sold into slavery in Egypt (Gen. 50:20) and Jesus’ death (Acts 2:23).
  4. Small Random Events – Lives of animals (Matt. 10:29), growth of grass (Job 38:26-27), everyday needs of humans (Matt. 6:25-34), and the casting of lots (Prov. 16:33)

From these passages, and many more, we can see that God and the Biblical writers saw God as sovereign over all things that happen in the universe – no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.

So if God is sovereign over all things then how does, or can, chance play into the Christian worldview? Poythress presents two views of chance from Websters Dictionary:

  1. something that happens unpredictably without discernible human intention or observable cause,
  2. the assumed impersonal purposelessness determiner of unaccountable happenings.

Essentially, Christians should not be afraid of the first definition but should reject the second. Christians can, Poythress says, accept the first definition because from the perspective of the person in a random event, such as Abraham’s servant meeting Rebekah at the well, both parties see their meeting the other person as unintentional. They do not see the cause of their meeting at the time. There is no “discernible human intention or observable cause” at the time of the event, and for many events, the causes may never be known, and therefore, leaving the event shrouded in the mystery of chance proper.

What the readers of Scripture see when they read events like Abraham’s servant meeting Rebekah at the well is a view of the event and the entire story from hind sight. In this case, hind sight is 20/20 when it comes to seeing the providence of their meeting. It becomes part of redemptive history.

So a proper understanding of chance can be embraced by Christians (the first definition) while at the same time realizing that the sovereign God has intentions and purposes behind everything whether we know it or not. Luck (the second definition), on the other hand, is to be rejected because to embrace it would mean a denial of the existence of God, and therefore His sovereignty. Poythress is wise to suggest that “chance is properly used to describe the limitations of human knowledge, not the limitations of God’s power.” (121)

Further, because God is sovereign over all he is involved in the inner workings of unpredictable and predictable events.

Unpredictable events arise in the midst of predictable irregularities. For example, the well to which Rebekah regularly walked had water in it. She could predict that she could find water when she arrived. She could not predict that she would meet Abraham’s servant. Unpredictable and predictable go together. (101)

As is common for Poythress, he uses the analogy of the trinity to explain and apply God’s involvement in and explanation for everything. He does so by applying it to the “random” flip of a coin:

God the Father plans the flip and its result. He speaks through the speech of God the Son, sending out his command to govern the coin. The Holy Spirit is present, applying the word of command to the coin. The coin comes up heads, according to his plan and his speaking and his power. According to God’s wisdom, the process and the result for the coin cohere with all other events in his plan. (108)

But Poythress is keen to the fact that mankind makes a god out of chance through idolatry. When we apply the definition of luck to chance, chance replaces God. This is true whether it is referring to astrology, sorcerers, or games of chance like Black Jack or 21. (see chap. 14)

The second part of the book deals with probability, and its varied aspects, and how it relates to mathematics. If readers are not familiar with logical formulas and probability, the second half of the book will prove some hard reading. The reading is good if you can wade through it but it is definitely slower reading. One does not have to grasp all of it to benefit from it.

Essentially, Poythress argues that despite the seemingly randomness and unpredictability of many events in the universe (coin flip or atoms moving), it is only possible because of God’s sovereign presence and control. God makes them possible and actual.

Some of the best reading in the book is Poythress’ discussion of gambling it its utter foolishness. Most gamblers think they can beat the house. But because of the existence of probabilistic independence (PI), there is no system one can learn or master to beat the house. PI is used to describe events in which no amount of knowledge can have an influence on the outcome of a given situation, event or act. Applied to the game of roulette, this means that the outcome of 100% of the throws a person makes are 100% independent from one another. There is no system to master that will enable a person to influence the ball to fall on the number they have bet on. The house has the advantage – and it knows it. Casinos only exist because of the law of PI.

Conclusion

Chance and the Sovereignty of God is a great addition to the ever growing books by Poythress on various scientific fields. Poythress is well qualified to address the issue of chance and probability, not only from an education standpoint, but also from a Biblical standpoint. He interprets all of life through the lens of Scripture, as every Christian should.

I recommend this book for Christians looking for a biblical view of chance and probability. This is not an exhaustive book but it will get readers feet wet and lay a foundation for further reading and study. While readers will not always agree with Poythress’ conclusions, there is much to be learned and agreed with.

You can purchase this book from Westminster, Crossway or Amazon.

I received this book for free from Crossway for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Look and Live by Papa“We worship our way into sin. We must worship our way out.” (14) It is a long established belief of most religions that whoever one believes their creator to be, that creator created their creatures to worship. Christianity believes no less. Worship is part of the warp and woof of humanity. We cannot not worship. Since we are always worshiping, the only thing we need to concern ourselves with is to what, or whom, our worship is being given to.

For Christians, our worship and affections are to be directed towards God in Christ. Anything less is idolatry. It is towards this goal that, recording artist and worship leader, Matt Papa has written Look and Live: Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Destroying Glory of Christ (Bethany House, 2014). Matt says, “My goal is to help you overcome idolatry and certain sadness by pointing you to the all-satisfying, sin-destroying glory of Jesus.” (15)

Overview

Look and Live has several features that make it stand out.

First, Matt writes with an open heart as he opens himself up to his readers by sharing some of the most deeply destroying sins in his life. From the opening pages, Matt opens up about his long time struggle with sexual sin. This is no easy task for a well-known music artist. Matt shares the struggles of his own battle against idolatry as a means of exemplifying how one can practice what he is preaching in his book. He admits

I would love to tell you that today I stand ‘cured’ of these things, but I’m not. I have been radically changed, and these wounds of mine, these diseases that I thought might bury me, have been tremendously healed. But I’m not ‘fixed.’ I’m still longing for the cure – that final blessed remedy that happily waits in one place – the glory on His face. Until then its all out war. (21)

Second, Papa gets what it takes to turn from idolatry to worship of God. As the title indicates, the freedom of worshiping Christ is accomplished by looking to Jesus so that we can live with Jesus – both in this life, and the next. In explaining his continuing journey from idolatry to worship of Christ, Matt describes the process as an exchange. “The change came, but only by experiencing a greater Thrill. It was by beholding a greater Beauty. God.” (22) This exchange happens when we see the glory of God in Christ over against the things our hearts wander after. What happens, Papa explains, in idolatry is glory exchanged from God to the idols of our hearts. “We have all seen glory, and exchanged it. Betrayed it. We have all seen the dazzling silver of His excellence, and sadly, we have misaimed it.” (61)

It is glory that Papa wants the readers to clearly understand, lest the point of the book is lost. After distinguishing between glory-within (a quality that someone or something possesses) and glory-given (the response of someone to something or someone that possesses glory-within), Papa hones in on glory-within. It is here that the book takes it focus. Idolatry is the worshiping of the reflection of glory in things and people rather than the source of that glory in Christ.

Third, Papa understands how to read Scripture which serves him in defining glory and working it throughout the book. Recognizing that glory is used in Scripture to describe more than just God, Papa seeks to draw the reader into Scripture’s use of the word in its varied contexts. Essentially, while all things God has created reflect, to a degree, the glory of God, God Himself possesses the glory those things reflect. This is of course most clearly seen in Christ. This is glory-within. Christ possesses the glory of the Godhead and as such His creatures are to worship Him – alone. While is can be an act of worship to enjoy the reflection of God’s glory in His creation, it is not an end in itself. The glory we see in God’s creation is that of “scattered beams.” Papa explains, “When we merely look at creation, we are bored. We are disappointed. It is dim. But when we look along creation to its Source, it becomes exponentially brighter.” (142)

Fourth, if we are to look to Christ, because He possesses glory, then through what do we look to Him to see that glory? The answer to this question is what Papa is building up to through the entire book. Simply enough, we are to look to Scripture and prayer (among other spiritual disciplines) in order to behold and confront the glory of Christ into which we grow from faith to faith.

It is in the final chapter, Show Me Your Glory, that Papa brings home what he has been working towards all along. Christ only walked the earth for a little over 30 years. Then He left. Though He was gone physically, He did not leave us without Himself. What He left us with of Himself can be found in the pages of inspired Scripture. It is in Scripture that we see the glory of God in Christ. It is in reading it that the Spirit of God illumines our hearts and minds to the glory of Christ revealed in it.

While we may read the Bible for many reasons, and asks many questions of the Bible as we read it, the most important question Papa wants us to consider is, “Where is the glory?” (229)

Conclusion

When I agreed to read this book I was not sure what I would get. I am typically skeptical of books that tend to speak to the spiritual aspect of the Christian life because too many of them try to interpret Scripture in light of their experience in a way that is unnatural. Look and Live is far from that. Though Papa weaves in his personal battles with sin, He allows Scripture to interpret his experience and shape his response to it. When I read the line I quoted at the beginning of this review I knew this was going to be a good book – no, a great book.

Papa gets glory and you need to get this book. Papa’s writing is engaging, honest, poetical, musical, biblically sound, and on target. He is well read in Scripture and wide array of Christianities best thinkers like Jonathan Edwards and C.S. Lewis. This book will easily make my top ten books for the year!

You can purchase this book from Bethany House or Amazon.

I received this book for free from Bethany House for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Whats Up TG by Harrell and KlumpenhowerThe message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important thing for all of humanity to hear and for Christians to build their faith around. For a few years now a lot of books have been published on defining the gospel and its implications for our lives. In addition to writing books on a more adult level, there are a number of books out that aim to explain the message of the gospel to children.

Last year Jack Klumpenhower released his book, Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids, through New Growth Press. This book is great tool for helping teachers of Sunday School aged kids the teach the gospel through the stories of the Bible and not merely moral lessons. Following this book, Jack has teamed up with Deborah Harrell, author and educator, to write What’s Up?: Discovering the Gospel, Jesus, and Who You REALLY Are.

What’s Up? is a workbook curriculum designed for 5th-8th to teach them the basics of the gospel and its implications for their lives. The book uses various interactive teaching methods such as lecture, hands on activities, question and answer time, and projects for the students to do in class and at home. While written by Deborah and Jack, many of the lessons are heavily influenced by material produced by Serge in their Sonship and Gospel Transformation courses. There are fifteen lessons that are designed for 90 minutes of class time. Most of the lessons have two parts to them so the book can be expanded into twenty -seven lessons.

The Teachers Guide

In this curriculum, the role of the teacher is to guide the students through the material. All of the material that is in the Student Guide is also in the Teacher Guide but the Teacher Guide has additional material to help guide them on teaching the lesson. The lessons are divided into a beginning review of the previous week, the lesson for the current week and then it closes with an activity to make the lesson stick throughout the week as the student works on it at home. While each lesson is written to be done in a week, most of the lessons have two sections in case the teacher wants to expand the material into two weeks making it twenty-seven lessons.

The Teacher Guide has a lesson summary outlining where the lesson is going along with a preparation section guiding the teacher on how to prepare for the lesson. Inserted throughout the lesson are short boxes with helps for the teacher to further explain the purpose of the material and how to walk the students through it.

The Student Guide

Like the Teacher Guide, the Student Guide has the entirety of each lesson in the book. Each lesson has well-done graphics that are sure to draw Whats Up by Harrell and Klumpenhowerstudents into the lesson and that they can identify with. While the teacher will be guiding the student through the lesson, the lesson explanations are clear enough that the students can easily understand the content and what is being asked of them.

One of the primary uses of the graphics is to articulate for the student, in the language they would most likely use to say it, things they, or others, might say or think about the lesson content. Whether it is answering a question or asking one, the pictorials of kids their age will greatly aid the learning process for the student.

Lesson Content

The main objective of the What’s Up? workbook is to drive home the gospel message. The lessons follow a three-fold outline. First, the gospel message itself is presented to the students. This focuses on Jesus, the gospel, sin, our hearts, justification, and holiness. What teachers and students will see is a natural progression of the gospel message as it is presented in Scripture.

Following the presentation of the gospel are five lessons that deal with heart issues. These tackle things like moralism, idolatry, and unbelief. These lessons help to take the truth of the gospel and root out false thinking about ourselves and God that keep us from the truth.

Finally, the last five lessons address applying the gospel to the students lives. These lessons address repentance, forgiveness and living the Christian life in faith. These lessons really take the message of the gospel and make it the driving force in the believers life. Everything in the lesson is built around the gospel shaping the students daily life

Conclusion

What’s Up? is the perfect example of what Jack Klumpenhower was driving at in Show Them Jesus. This material is gospel-saturated, Biblically grounded, age appropriate, engaging, easy to follow, and easily adaptable. This is a model for how to teach the gospel and its implications to kids. I hope to see more of this material made for kids younger than 5th grade and older than 8th grade. If you are looking for new material for Sunday School, homeschooling, or even a Wednesday night program then this is for you!

You can purchase these items from the following retailers:

Student Guide: Westminster Books, Amazon & New Growth Press

Teacher Guide: Westminster Books, Amazon & New Growth Press

Teacher Guide w/ 5 Student Guides: Westminster Books

I received this book for free from New Growth Press for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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