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The Gospel Coalition Blog


Zondervan Reformation Week eBook Sale Ends Sunday

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 10:02 PM PDT

I have five copies of Tim Keller’s Center Church behind my desk. A seminary student at Beeson Divinity School once exclaimed, “Wow, you must really like that book.” Yes, I do, but I have five copies because I’m always looking to give one away. At a time when young ministers in training look for church models that guarantee success, I’m thankful that Keller avoids this error and focuses on the principles of gospel-centered ministry. That way we can trust God to tease them our for our particular contexts around the world.

If you haven’t already, don’t waste any time and pick up an eBook copy of Center Church while it’s discounted by Zondervan to just $7.99 for Reformation Week. Check out the complete list for many other excellent titles at steep discounts. PROOF by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones is one of the newest titles in the sale (just $3.99). Whether you hate Calvinism, wear the label proudly, or don’t even know who or what I’m talking about, you will learn a great deal from this important book. I haven’t yet read The Crucified King by Jeremy Treat, but this enthusistic review of the new book we ran at TGC this summer convinced me to make the time. It’s just $7.99, less than half of the list price of $17.99. Among the other new releases in this sale are the Practical Shepherding Series by Brian Croft, including Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals,Visit the Sick, and Prepare Them to Shepherd (each $2.99).

I’ll link the entire list of eBooks for sale below. Zondervan’s Reformation Week eBook Sale ends Sunday at 11:59 p.m. ET.


Gregg R. Allison, Historical Theology. Sale: $6.99. Original: $34.99 

D. A. Carson, Gagging of God. Sale: $6.99. Original: $19.99

D. A. Carson (General Editor), Telling the Truth. Sale: $2.99. Original: $6.99 

D. A. Carson (Editor), Worship by the Book. Sale: $2.99. Original: $6.99 

Bryan Chapell (Editor), Hardest Sermons You’ll Ever Have to Preach. Sale: $2.99. Original: $6.99 

Brian Croft, Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals (Practical Shepherding Series). Sale: $2.99. Original: $7.99 

Brian Croft, Visit the Sick (Practical Shepherding Series). Sale: $2.99. Original: $7.99 

Brian Croft, Prepare Them to Shepherd (Practical Shepherding Series). Sale: $2.99. Original: $7.99 

Brian Croft and Cara Croft, The Pastor’s Family. Sale: $3.99. Original: $9.99 

Everett Ferguson, Church History, Vol. One: From Christ to Pre-Reformation. Sale: $7.99. Original: $25.99 

Ajith Fernando, Reclaiming Love. Sale: $3.99. Original: $9.99 

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology. Sale: $19.99. Original: $32.99 

Wayne Grudem, Politics: According to the Bible. Sale: $7.99. Original: $26.99 

Wayne Grudem, Christian Beliefs. Sale: $3.99. Original: $7.99 

Collin Hansen and John D. Woodbridge, A God-Sized Vision. Sale: $2.99. Original: $10.99 

Michael Horton, Pilgrim Theology. Sale: $7.99. Original: $22.99 

Michael Horton, The Christian Faith. Sale: $19.99, Original: $38.99. 

Michael Horton, For Calvinism. Sale: $2.99. Original: $6.99 

Michael Horton, A Place for Weakness. Sale: $2.99. Original: $6.99 

Timothy Keller, Center Church. Sale: $7.99. Original: $19.99 

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers. Sale: $3.99. Original: $10.99 

Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones, PROOF. Sale: $3.99. Original: $9.99 

Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson (General Editors), Is Hell for Real or Does Everyone Go to Heaven? Sale: $3.99. Original: $5.99 

Randy Pope with Kitti Murray, Insourcing. Sale: $3.99. Original: $9.99

Scott Thomas and Tom Wood, Gospel Coach. Sale: $2.99. Original: $6.99 

Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert, The Gospel at Work. Sale: $3.99. Original: $9.99 

Jeremy Treat, The Crucified King. Sale: $7.99. Original: $17.99. 

Michael Williams, How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens. Sale: $2.99. Original: $11.99

Michael E. Wittmer, Heaven Is a Place on Earth. Sale: $2.99. Original: $6.99 

Michael E. Wittmer, Don’t Stop Believing. Sale: $2.99. Original: $6.99 

John D. Woodbridge and Frank James III, Church History, Vol. Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day. Sale: $7.99. Original: $30.99

For the Glory of God

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 10:01 PM PDT

Daniel Block. For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014. 432 pp. $34.99.

Do you get frustrated at the shallowness of some contemporary evangelical worship? Do you need help understanding a full-orbed biblical view of worship and communicating such a view to the people to whom you minister? If so, Daniel Block’s For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship is a book you should read.

As the subtitle suggests, Block wants to “recover” a biblical theology of worship. Why does a biblical theology of worship need to be recovered? First, he doesn’t like the pragmatism of much of today’s evangelical worship and believes the pragmatic approach can be remedied with deep biblical reflection on the subject. Second, he observes that many Christians tend to skip over the Old Testament (OT) when thinking about worship. Block, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College outside Chicago, believes a true biblical theology of worship must incorporate all of Scripture, including extensive interaction with OT worship forms and principles. In other words, he wants to give people abiblical theology of worship, not just a New Testament theology of worship.

How Is It Different?

Block compares his book (xiii–xiv, 3–4) to other contemporary biblical theologies of worship such as David Peterson’s Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship (IVP Academic, 2002) and Allen Ross’s Recalling the Hope of Glory: Biblical Worship from the Garden to the New Creation (Kregel, 2006). For the Glory of God, however, is slightly different from both. Instead of surveying the canon of Scripture from beginning to end (like Peterson and Ross), Block organizes the biblical data from the standpoint of various worship-related themes—hence chapter titles like “The Object of Worship,” “The Subject of Worship,” “Daily Life as Worship,” “The Ordinances as Worship,” “Prayer as Worship,” and “Music as Worship.”

Another key difference Block is quick to point out is his extensive treatment of the OT data. He believes Peterson’s book, for example, is unbalanced in primarily dealing with the New Testament (NT). Block, on the other hand, wishes to recapture the OT’s full significance for a Christian understanding of worship.

Several Strengths

Each chapter of Block’s book begins its biblical theology of the theme under discussion by starting with the OT, and rightly so. In most chapters, Block’s treatment of the OT is much more extensive than his treatment of the NT. As he turns his attention to the NT, each chapter attempts to show the continuities and discontinuities that determine how principles of worship should apply to the church today.

Another strength is the way the material is arranged. Since each chapter tackles a specific element of worship, the book is almost a collection of biblical theologies of worship that helps us think biblically-theologically about each worship theme. This makes it a great reference resource for those needing to think carefully about a certain aspect of worship, such as the ordinances and music. I can envision myself going back and re-reading certain portions to get a quick, chapter-length biblical theology of a particular element of worship.

Only Real Weakness

The only real weakness I see in For the Glory of God is that I don’t believe Block always connects the OT and NT appropriately. I think he sometimes flattens out the Bible by not giving the NT the hermeneutical priority it deserves. His basic principle for connecting the OT and NT, stated more than once, is this: “unless the New Testament expressly declares First Testament notions obsolete, they continue” (7, 25). Block defends this approach by pointing out that the NT authors are relatively silent on many of the specifics of worship, and that the OT contains one hundred times as much information on worship as the NT. For him, this seems to imply that where the NT is silent on the specifics of worship, we should just let the OT principles fill in the gaps, so to speak.

Specifically, I disagreed with some of the ways Block brought OT data into the NT era and applied them to the church today. Take, for instance, his statement that families should use the liturgical year to develop a sense of spiritual community, based on the fact that Israel did so in their observance of the Passover (138, 287ff). The problem is that, seen through the Jesus-lens of the NT, the Lord’s Supper seems to fulfill this function for new covenant believers. Observing a liturgical calendar might be beneficial, but to say that Christians should do this based on the OT doesn’t seem warranted. Another example of wrongly carrying over OT worship themes into the NT is Block’s discussion of sacred worship space (chapter 12). He does a good job of showing how Jesus (John 2:19), the Christian individual (1 Cor. 6:19–20), and the corporate Christian community (1 Cor. 3:16–17) all fulfill the theme of tabernacle and temple in the new covenant. But then he jumps into a discussion of how these principles should affect contemporary church design and architecture, which I think is unwarranted given the way the NT itself lays out the fulfillment of these themes.

I believe this approach to relating the OT and NT is a bit too simplistic. Perhaps the NT authors have less to say about the particular forms of worship because they’re spending their time on something far more fundamental. They’re trying to help new covenant believers develop a Christ-centered lens through which they can understand all of life, including what God had been doing under the old covenant. Once this Christ-centered lens is in place, new covenant believers can figure out many of the specifics regarding worship forms on their own. Even where the NT doesn’t explicitly terminate OT forms, we must still take into consideration the Christ and kingdom dynamics that alter the way we read and interpret the entire OT and understand its fulfillment. Block uses this fuller principle in several places, but in my opinion doesn’t do so consistently throughout the book.

This said, this particular weakness only shows up in a few places. The book on the whole is a superb resource for helping the church think biblically about worship in light of the entire canon of Scripture, and I highly recommend it. I also recommend watching these video interviews with Block.

The Butcher, the Baker, and the Biotech Maker

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 10:01 PM PDT

Over a cup of coffee, Wendell—an entrepreneur with a PhD in biomedical engineering—told me that he was thinking about making a career change. “I don’t want to waste my life,” he said. “I want to do something that has real significance, where I can glorify God and actually love people.” He went on to ask me if I thought he should become a pastor, a missionary, or a nonprofit leader—jobs he thought really mattered in God’s economy.

Wendell is a member of Redemption Tempe, the church where I serve as pastor of communities and cultural engagement. At our church, we preach the lordship of Christ over all aspects of life, offer classes about the theology of work, and repeat our favorite phrase every Sunday: “All of life is all for Jesus.” In spite of his intelligence and our initiatives, however, Wendell still didn’t see that his work as a biomedical engineer was as significant as my work as a pastor.

To my shame, I had never asked Wendell about the specifics of his work. We mostly talked about how he could serve at church. Over coffee, though, as he explained how his company develops devices that help doctors detect cancer at early stages, his eyes were full of excitement. In this conversation, I realized that I had failed him as a pastor. He was clearly skilled and passionate about his work, but he didn’t see how it applied to Jesus’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk. 12:31).

So we talked about how we love our neighbors through our work—even if we don’t personally interact with them—by providing goods and services that help them flourish. We talked about how Martin Luther said, “God milks the cows through the vocation of the milkmaids,” and how God cares for cancer patients through his biotech work. He walked away from the conversation encouraged, but I walked away perplexed.

We Value What We Publicly Celebrate

As I wondered why Wendell didn’t understand our church’s message about the broad scope of the gospel and its implications for all of life, I realized that the issue wasn’t with what he heard, but with what he saw. He frequently heard teaching about the importance of vocation and all-of-life discipleship, but he never sawanyone’s work—apart from pastoral, missionary, and nonprofit work—publicly celebrated.

When I mentioned this observation to Riccardo Stewart, our lead pastor who wrote a paper in seminary about commissioning people in all kinds of vocations, we decided to figure out some ways to celebrate the work of our congregants. Thus, the “All-of-Life Interview” was born. For the past year and a half, we have devoted five minutes before the sermon to interview people from various occupations so that we might celebrate their work, pray for others in their field, and affirm the goodness of a broad range of vocations as opportunities to glorify God and love our neighbors.

All-of-Life Interview Questions

While there is some room for customization, we ask four basic questions in each interview. We repeat the same questions, because they give our congregants a weekly reminder and opportunity to reflect on their own work.

Question #1: How would you describe your work?

We want a snapshot of the daily life of the interviewee. This answer often builds common ground between the interviewee and others within the congregation, even if they don’t work in the same field.

Question #2: As an image-bearer of God, how does your work reflect some aspect of God’s work? (Gen, 1:26-28, 1 Cor. 10:31, Eph. 5:1, Col. 3:17)

We want to ground the intrinsic value of work in the character of God and frame our work as an act of “image-bearing” (Gen. 1:16-28, 2:15). Therefore, we ask the interviewees to connect their work to some specific aspect of God’s work. In Kingdom Calling, Amy Sherman offers six categories of God’s work that give us a helpful framework for our vocations:

  • creative work (artists, designers, architects, etc.)
  • providential work (entrepreneurs, janitors, civil servants, bankers, etc.)
  • justice work (lawyers, paralegals, diplomats, supervisors, etc.)
  • compassionate work (nurses, nonprofit directors, social workers, EMTs, etc.)
  • revelatory work (scientists, journalists, educators, etc.)
  • redemptive work (pastors, authors, counselors, etc.)

Question #3: How does your work give you a unique vantage point into the brokenness of the world? (Gen. 3; Rom. 3:10-20)

Some people subconsciously think their work should always be fun and fulfilling, often assuming that the presence of pain and struggle invalidates the goodness of their work. We want them to see that, in a fallen world that is filled with sin and its effects, each occupation has unique hardships and comes with its own thorns and thistles.

Question #4: Jesus commands us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” How does your work function as an opportunity to love and serve others? (Mk. 10:35-45; Eph. 5:1; Rom. 12:14-21; Col. 1:24-27)

We want to broaden the application of Jesus’s command to love our neighbors. Many people assume this command is mostly applied as interpersonal acts of kindness, but we try to demonstrate that love can also be indirect and systemic.

Fruit of the Interviews

Apart from the direct effect of the interview on the interviewee, we’ve a witnessed a cumulative effect in our congregation over time. These interviews have slowly helped all of us to understand that “vocational is integral, not incidental, to the mission of God in the world,” as Steve Garber says. We have noticed increased theological depth and gospel intentionality in our congregants and their work. This is the work of the Spirit, but we are delighted that he is using the interviews as an instrument of his grace.

The interviews also give us a glimpse of God’s brilliant attributes and actions. An artist at our church points to God’s creativity, an accountant talks about God’s order, a pediatric oncologist reminds us that God will one day heal all wounds, and a handyman reflects God’s restoration. The one thing that really matters, of course, is the gospel—but because of the gospel, all things matter (Col. 1:15-23), including the work of the butcher, the baker, and the biotech maker.

Bringing Order Out of Chaos, One Dirty Job at a Time

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 10:01 PM PDT

Zachary Tarter has been serving as a window cleaner and power washer with Distinctive Window Cleaning since 2009. He is also working to earn a Master of Divinity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. He lives in North Port, Florida, along with his wife, Emily, and their three children.

How do you describe your work?

The nature of my work stays the same every day; I do both power cleaning and window cleaning of commercial and residential properties. How that plays out each day, though, varies widely. I might begin a day doing a restaurant job, where I am cleaning grease off concrete in the dumpster, and end it by cleaning the windows of a multi-million dollar house on the beach.

As an image-bearer of God, how does your work reflect some aspect of God’s work?

I haven’t always intuitively classified my work as image-bearing, but as I’ve thought about it, I’ve seen that bringing order out of chaos reflects the image of God. When I get to a job, it can be filthy everywhere. By the time I leave it, though, it’s clean. I make clean what is filthy. We see God doing that all over the place in Scripture. In creation, he creates order out of chaos by speaking creation into existence. As sinners, he takes the chaos of our lives and makes order through Christ. At the end of a job, there’s a great deal of satisfaction knowing that God has used the work of my hands to make clean and new what was once dirty.

How does your work give you a unique vantage point into the brokenness of the world?

Sin is everywhere, and I see that most clearly in my work. There are times where I am power cleaning something that simply will not get as clean as I would like it to be. Because some of my jobs require me to clean them before they open for business, I get up at hours when I would never naturally want to get up. More specifically, if a sprinkler has been hitting a window for years, the water hardens and is next to impossible to remove. I’ve been stung by wasps and hornets. But I’ve also seen the brokenness of this world in my own heart. My response to the difficulties of my day often show me that the curse is alive and well in my work and my heart.

Jesus commands us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” How does your work function as an opportunity to love and serve others?

I have the opportunity every day to care for my customers. In particular, a lot of the details of my job will be seen by no one other than me, so that is something I want to keep in mind. I want to make the job look like the customer would want it to. On another note, with my co-workers and my boss, when we work together on particular jobs and someone has to leave early for a reason, I’m given the chance to love them and their needs more than my own. We don’t want to take away money from each other. We want to make sure each other is getting home at a decent time. When we work jobs together we want to keep the other person in mind.


Editors’ note: The weekly TGCvocations column asks practitioners about their jobs and how they integrate their faith and work. Interviews are condensed.

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Author: YEHWEH

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