Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Review of The Gospel According to Isaiah 53

Cover photo of The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 from Kregel Publication

The Gospel According to Isaiah 53, edited by Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser, is a great resource for understanding and studying the Old Testament prophecy of scripture Isaiah 53.  This book is a collection of short essays, written by a variety of contributors, covering interpretations of Isaiah 53, Isaiah 53 in Biblical theology, and Isaiah 53 and practical theology.  This book is incredibly helpful in understanding the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy in Isaiah 53, by Christ in the New Testament. 

The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 is an amazing resource and tool for Bible teachers as well.  It is also extremely helpful in sharing Jesus with a Jewish audience; true to the book’s description, which says, “The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 presents the redemptive work of the Messiah to the Jewish community, exploring issues of atonement and redemption in light of Isaiah chapter 53.”  The book’s introduction, by Mitch Glaser, also stresses the importance of Isaiah 53 calling it “one of the clearest prophecies of Jesus the Messiah in the Hebrew Scriptures.”

As a Bible teacher, one of the common teachings I share with my students is the reality that the Old Testament helps us more fully understand the New Testament.  One of my goals in all my Bible classes is to get the students in my class to see scripture as the singular metanarrative that it is.  This book, The Gospel According to Isaiah 53, makes this connection beautifully and is a very important tool in understanding the interconnectedness of the Old Testament prophecies with the New Testament gospels. 

One of the common realities that we encounter when studying the scriptures is this “call and response” between the Old and New Testaments.  It has been said, “the Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed” and “the New Testament is in the Old Testament concealed.”  This is exactly the case with Isaiah 53, and The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 unpacks this idea comprehensively.  When we understand the Suffering Servant prophecy in Isaiah 53, we can better understand what Jesus has done in His perfect atoning sacrifice for us in the Gospels as our Suffering Servant. 

The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 beautifully explores and illuminates this connection between the Old and New Testament for us and helps us to more fully understand Isaiah’s prophecy as well as its fulfillment in Christ in the New Testament.  I am excited to use this text in my 10th grade Bible class when we begin our study of Isaiah this year.

I highly recommend this book for those interested in studying the Old Testament or who are interested in better understanding their New Testament.  To learn more about this book, its editors or its many contributors, or to make a purchase, you can visit the book’s page at Kregel Publication or its page on

In exchange for this unbiased review, I have received a copy of The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 from the publisher, Kregel Publication, free of charge. 

This review has also been posted on My Two Mites,, Christian Book Distributors, CBD, GoodReads, and  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Art and Theology

“Storms at Sea,” painting by Irene Pruitt, © 2004

The arts are an important part of being a Christian and a very important part of being human, shaping culture and being stewards of creation in this world.

Often Christians neglect the arts.  This neglect stems from fear, poor instruction about the arts, a misunderstanding of the arts and a bad theology of the arts.  Because of this neglect and fear of the arts, Christians should seek understanding through a Biblical worldview and theology of the arts from the scriptures. 

As Christians, we should have a solid Biblical theology of creation’s intended state of goodness.  We should also look at creation as the work of art that it is, with God as The Great Artist, and we should see that creation communicates God (see Psalm 8, Psalm 19, and Romans 1:19-20).

Philip Graham Ryken says, “The calling of artists reflects a deep truth about the character of God, namely, that He Himself is the supreme Artist.  We know this because the very first thing God does in the Bible is to produce creative works of art (see Genesis 1-2).” 

Believing that creativity and the arts communicate, we should look at the theology presented in various forms of artwork.  We should be reading about the arts, be aware of how we are creating art in our own lives, and be educated in the arts and in our critiquing of the arts.  In short, Christians should be participators in the arts.

If we do this, our fears, misunderstandings, and apprehension toward the arts will turn into an appreciation of the arts through a proper understanding and a Biblical theology of the arts.  This will also free us to pursue our art and champion the arts in the church and in the world to God’s glory.

A great resource to begin a deeper understanding of the arts and to develop a Biblical worldview and theology of the arts is Francis Schaeffer’s Art and the Bible.  Francis Schaeffer has some profound insights into the arts, into the Bible, and into theology in the arts.  "The lordship of Christ should include an interest in the arts," writes Schaeffer. "A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God, not just as tracts, mind you, but as things of beauty to the praise of God."

Another great resource to foster a deeper understanding of the arts and to develop a Biblical worldview and theology of the arts is Art for God's Sake: A Call to Recover the Arts, by Philip Graham Ryken

Art for God’s Sake is a simple, straightforward and easy to read book about recovering the arts and restoring them to their right place in God’s kingdom, for God’s kingdom purposes, and to God’s own Glory. In his book, Ryken says, "Christian art is redemptive, and this is its highest purpose. Art is always an interpretation of reality, and the Christian should interpret reality in its total aspect, including the hope that has come into the world through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

May we enjoy exploring the arts as the “things of beauty” they are “to the praise of God.”  May we participate in recovering the arts to the glory of The Artist Himself.

To explore the subject of art and theology further, I have written an article addressing the Christian’s engagement in the arts.  This article, “Theology and Art,” can be found at here.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Review of Culture Making: Cultivating Our World

Cover photo from

Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling is a great book for studying how to be cultivators and influencers of culture. God has called us to be creative and to influence culture and we should, indeed, be attuned to this calling. Andy Crouch gets us back to our call in this well-done and extremely helpful book.

Andy Crouch addresses culture making in his book Culture Making, as well as on his web site,, when he says: "It is not enough to condemn culture. Nor is it sufficient merely to critique culture or to copy culture. Most of the time, we just consume culture."

We are to be leaders of culture, not just consumers of culture. We are to be pioneers of culture who will determine the future of our world. To quote again from Andy Crouch, from Culture Making, "The only way to change culture is to create culture." If we are to change the world, we must be creators and cultivators of the cultures around us by the power of God at work in us.

Crouch says, "The essence of childhood is innocence. The essence of youth is awareness. The essence of adulthood is responsibility." We have responsibilities to the culture around us as Christians and should be seeking to be influencers and cultivators of culture.

Andy Crouch asserts in his book: "Something exciting is happening at the intersection of Christianity and culture. Christians are becoming dissatisfied with the postures they adopted toward culture in the twentieth century: condemning it, critiquing it, copying it, or just consuming it. More and more, we want to be people who cultivate: people who tend and keep what is good. And we want to be people who create: adding new cultural goods that move the horizons of the possible in places as wide as the world and as small as a home."

This is what Paul asked the Colossian church to do in Colossians 3:23-24, "Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ." Paul also talked about resisting conformity to this world, and shaping culture, in Romans 12:1-2.

We are called to join in with God in His work, and cultivate our culture. We are not to conform to this world, but be transformed by God, and become transformation agents of God in the world.

As leaders, as believers, our calling is a high calling. We are called not to mimic or imitate the world around us; we are called to shape it. We are called to create culture and not merely fall into it, or be shaped by it. We can lead, or we can follow. We can shape, or be shaped. The choice is ours.

This is what Paul was telling Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12. Paul said, "Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, and in purity."

These were the elder Paul's words to younger Timothy and they are equally as relevant to all of us today. Paul was telling Timothy to lead, pioneer the way, shape the culture of the church and the world, to serve and to influence, recognizing that it is not about him, and thereby shape the world for Christ.

We are good to remember Colossians 3:17, "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

As Crouch asserts in his book, Culture Making, we are to be culture makers and cultivators to the glory of God.

This book review was adapted from my review posted on goodreads.  This review is also posted on

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Living in The Story

Photo of The Story from

We are living in the greatest story ever told, God’s story of love and His plan for redemption.

This grand narrative is larger than us, but it includes us nonetheless.  The story is not about us, however, it is about the love of God in His son Jesus.  This story involves four main parts: God’s creation, the fall of humanity, Jesus’ redemption, or rescue, of humanity, and God’s restoration of all things. 

While the Bible is composed of 66 individual books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament, the Bible is a single narrative, a unified story.  There is a “big picture” in the scriptures.  We tend to only see the Old and New Testaments and individual books, but the Bible is a “Whole Testament.”  Scripture is a meta-narrative.  N.T. Wright calls this “The whole sweep of scripture.”

In looking at this overarching survey of the scriptures, there is a great new resource called The Story, which is a simple and straightforward website and booklet that outlines the whole Biblical narrative.  You can read the story by clicking this link here.

The following is an excerpt about The Story:

“If the Gospel is the true story of God’s redemptive plan (and it is!), then we in the Church must become master storytellers heralding this Good News both near and far. So in the chapters of this guide, you will find a summary of the four key points of the Bible’s grand narrative: Creation, Fall, Rescue, and Restoration. For these reasons, this resource is not only helpful in evangelism, but also provides a fantastic tool to help in making disciples whose lives are built upon the Bible that stands as its basis (from the Foreword to The Story, by George G. Robinson).”

We are living in this great story because of the Great Storyteller God.  As G.K. Chesterton wrote, “I had always felt life first as a story and if there is a story there is a storyteller.”  We have a greater understanding of the Storyteller by looking at the story we are in through the scriptures.  And the closer we get to the Storyteller, the clearer the His story becomes. 

The Story is an exciting resource, which aids us in studying the storyteller and His great story. You can learn more about the story by visiting The Story’s website here.

Friday, August 3, 2012

A review of Teaching the Faith, Forming the Faithful, guest post by Abram Kielsmeier-Jones

Cover photo from CBD,

The following is a guest post by my friend Abram Kielsmeier-Jones.  Abram and I have had the opportunity and blessing to serve in ministry together.  I think the world of him and his ministry.  Abram has written Sustainable Youth Ministry: The Study Guide for Mark Devries' Sustainable Youth Ministry, which I had the privilege of reviewing for Youth Worker here.  You can read more of Abram's work on his blog Words on the Word and can learn more about Abram K-J here.

A Review of Teaching the Faith, Forming the Faithful
By Abram Kielsmeier-Jones

"[Elliot] Eisner [in The Educational Imagination] contends that what a teaching institution does 'not teach may be as important as what they do teach. Ignorance is not simply a neutral void; it has important effects on the kinds of options one is able to consider, the alternatives that one can examine, and the perspectives from which one can view a situation or problems. The absence of a set of considerations or perspectives or the inability to use certain processes for appraising a context biases the evidence one is able to take into account….'" (quoted in Teaching the Faith, Forming the Faithful: A Biblical Vision for Education in the Church, p. 128).

Churches and ministries and schools all ought to give constant attention to what they teach. Gary A. Parrett and S. Steve Kang refer to the "explicit" curriculum--the content of teaching that teachers mean to teach. There is also "implicit" curriculum--the milieu in which teachers teach, and even the things they communicate to students while they teach. (Implicit curriculum can be deliberate or not!)

Then there is "null curriculum"--that which teachers do not teach. Parrett and Kang say that this is no less important than explicit and implicit curricula. They say, "[If a] course--set, we are supposing, in a North American context--never deals with issues like racism or poverty or warfare, then students are learning, by what is not taught (the null curriculum), that such issues must not be of vital concern for Christian ethics" (p. 129).

Few enough churches, ministries, and schools take the time to deliberately mark out their explicit curriculum. Even fewer think about implicit curriculum. What about null curriculum? What are we not teaching our students, and what impact is that having?