Nicholas Wolterstorff is a brilliant professor of Philosophical Theology at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut. This little book (111 pages) can be read as short devotionals; in one sitting; or used as a resource to guide a person through their own grief or helping a friend in their own grief.

What makes this book unique is that Nicholas wrote the book as a very personal expression of his own grief in grappling with the death of his son (aged 25) who died in a rock climbing mishap while living in Europe in 1983. Wolterstorff’s journaling allows the reader to enter into one’s pain at an emotional, theological, and philosophical level.

The most helpful section of the book is when Wolterstorff delves into how God suffers with us in our losses, and how he contemplates the sufferings of God the Father and His own Son’s death on the cross for the sins of humanity.

Reading this book makes one appreciate the brevity, emotions, and depths of ultimate meaning in contemplating what loss signifies; and what ultimate gain means because of the reality of the Gospel – that Jesus empathizes with our plight and has entered into our suffering from the inside out. I highly recommend this book for parents that have lost a child; widows and widowers; and pastors, counselors, and friends who seek to comfort their friends who have experienced the loss of a loved one (especially a young child or young adult).

The author has done grievers a great service by entering into his own pain; the suffering of God; and gives us helps for wrestling with our pain in grief. This book can only help lighten the load of grief for those experiencing great loss. I would also recommend this book be used as a gift to give to loved ones grappling with the big question: “Where is God in all of my pain?”


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Dr. Walt Russell on The Biblical Concept of Discipling Others


Two surfers walking on the beach

In many respects the last generation’s barrage of literature on the subject of “discipleship” has generated more heat and smoke than light. Many contradictory  constructs have been offered. What does the Bible say about being “a disciple” and “discipling” others? Is there a word from God upon which we in the church can build a biblical and consistent philosophy of ministry discipleship? Where do we fit in all of the valuable data about character development gained from research in the social sciences? Is the integration of the biblical view of a discipleship ministry with the social science view of character development ever possible? Hopefully, this article will begin to answer some of these vital questions. This attempt will first seek to lay a biblical foundation and framework for discipling others; and secondly, to suggest a general philosophy of discipleship from the biblical concept.


The Derivation of the Concept of “Disciple” One searches the Old Testament in vain to find the term “disciple” or even to find the contemporary concept of “discipleship” within the pages of Israel’s history and literature. One wonders if persons were “discipled” in Israel since the Word of God does not emphasize such a concept. The only possible answer is “Yes, they must have been ‘discipled,’ but perhaps through somewhat differant means than normally advocated by contemporary advocates.” The Hebrew theocracy was set up by Yahweh to emphasize the nation’s relationship as a whole to Yahweh. The emphasis was corporate and all teaching and learning were related directly to the revealed will of God. There was no room for men to speak authoritatively to other men apart from the revelation from God (Kittel, 427 – Much of the research data in this section has come from the article mathetes in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol, IV, pages 415-460), edited by Gerhard Kittel. This article will be referred to in this essay as “Kittel,” with the appropriate page number). Also, the training and maturing of the youth was centered in the home (e.g., Deu. 6). Israel found no room in such a structure for the classic discipler/disciple relationship as pictured today. Moses did not “disciple” Joshua per se. rather, Joshua was Moses’ “servant” (Hebrew, ebed). The prophets did not have disciples, but rather they had assistants and servants (e.g., na’ar in 1 Kings 18:43) (Kittel, 428).

The basic concept of “disciple” that one finds in the gospels and the concept that is used as the model for discipleship in the church is derived from Greek philosophy and Rabbinical Judaism (Kittel, 431-441). The Greek term mathetes “disciple” was used of a member of a philosophical school, a student of medicine, or an apprecntice of a trade in hellenistic culture (Kittel, 438-40). In Rabbinical Judaism a “disciple” attached himself to a teacher or rabbi in much the same manner as was done in Hellenistic culture (which was the source of Judaism’s practice). The disciple subordinated himself in almost servile fashion to his rabbi in order to learn all that the rabbi had to teach. In both the Hellenistic and Jewish cultures two very significant observations could be made about the rold of the disciple:

(1) The time spent as a “disciple” was only transitory until the disciple could become the teacher, rabbi, doctor, tradesman, etc.

(2) The emphasis in both cultures wa generally on objective content (e.g., learning a trade). There are notable exceptions like Socrates’ methodology, but generally this observation holds true. Jesus’ usage of the concept “disciple” in the gospels is obviously derived from Rabbinical Judaism (and ultimately from Greek culture). However, He greatly midified the general concept by emphasizing at least four unique aspects:

(1) Being a “disciple” of His was not a transitory stage that one passed through on the way to a more sophisticated and respected level. Rather, being a disciple of Jesus was a permanent relationship and was the climax of every man’s aspirations (Kittel, p. 448).

(2) Jesus called His disciples they did not select Him as their Rabbi.

(3) Jesus emphasized commitment to His Person first, and then commitment to objective content about His Person. In a sense these are inseparable, but according to Jesus’ emphasis the commitment to His Person not just His teaching was given priority (e.g. Mark 1:17 and John 21:21-22).

(4) Jesus emphasized faith in Him as the true test of a disciple’s commitment (e.g. John 6:60-66). This emphasis is totally unique and unparalleled in Greek and Jewish culture.

At this point one may question the need to go so deeply into the historical derivation of the concept of “discipleship”. Very crucial and necessary applications will be drawn from this historical data that will be foundational in forming a biblical structure for discipling others. These applications will be made in the second part of this essay. First, we must explore the biblical usage of the term “disciple”.

The Biblical Usage of “Disciple”

The word mathetes (“disciple”) occurs 268 times in the New Testament. Thirty of these occurences are in the Book of Acts and the rest are distributed among the gospels, particualrly in matthew (74 times) and John (81 times). Perhaps at this point it would be interesting to see how contemporary writers feel “disciple” is defined. The following is a representative example of the plethora of such definitions: “Disciple: A Christian who is growing in conformity to Christ, is achieving fruit in evangelism, and is working in follow-up to conserve his fruit.” (Gary W. Kuhne, The Dynamics of Personal Follow-Up, 130). This comprehensive disciple



WALTER RUSSELL is a Professor of Bible Exposition at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, CA. He earned his degrees at Westminster Theological Seminary (Ph.D.); St. Mary’s Seminary (M.A.); Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.); and University of Missouri (B.S.). Dr. Russell’s areas of expertise are exegesis, hermeneutics, and New Testament theology, especially as they relate to world evangelism and the spiritual growth of the church. He has an extensive background in collegiate ministries, university teaching, and the pastorate, having planted two churches. He authored The Flesh/Spirit Conflict in Galatians and Playing with Fire: How the Bible Ignites Change in Your Soul. Dr. Russell has contributed articles to Bibliotheca SacraJournal of the Evangelical Theological SocietyGrace Theological JournalWestminster Theological JournalTrinity Journal, and Christianity Today. His life themes are the primacy of the Great Commission in the life of the church, the renewal of the church through the development of dynamic community, and the strengthening of the church through vibrant teaching of the Scriptures.


Posted by on November 6, 2015 in Discipleship


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Praying with Your eyes open Richard Pratt

(Adapted from Appendix B in Pray With Your Eyes Open by Richard L. Pratt Jr.)

Incommunicable Attributes (Qualities that belong to God alone):

INDEPENDENT: “…He does whatever pleases Him” (Ps. 115:3; cf. John 5:26; Rom. 11:35-36).

INFINITE: “…from everlasting to everlasting” (Ps. 90:1-2; cf. Pss. 33:11; 93:2; 145:13; Heb. 1:8-12).

ETERNAL: “…the LORD, the Eternal God” (Gen. 21:33; cf. Neh. 9:5-6; John 8:58; Rev. 1:8).

INCOMPREHENSIBLE: “…beyond our understanding” (Job 36:26; cf. Isa. 40:18-26; Matt. 11:27; Rom. 11:33-34).

PRE-EMINENT: “…all things were created by Him and for Him…” (Col. 1:15-19; cf. Exod. 15:1,11, 18; Rev. 19:11-16).

SOVEREIGN: “I will do all that I please…” (isa. 46:10; cf. Ps. 135:6; Dan. 4:35; Eph. 1:11).

TRANSCENDENT: “…beyond our reach…” (Job 37:23; cf. Exod. 33:20-23; Ps. 104:1-4; Isa. 40:21-26; 1 Tim. 6:15-16).

THE ONE AND ONLY: “…there is but one God…” (1 Cor. 8:6; cf. Deut. 6:4; Isa. 45:21-22; 1 Tim. 2:5).

MAJESTIC: “In the greatness of Your Majesty…” (Exod. 15:7; cf. 15:6, 11; Job 37:22; Ps. 8:1,9; Jude 25).

EVERYWHERE (OMNIPRESENT) : “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” (Jer. 23:23-24; cf. 2 Chron. 2:6; Ps. 139:7-16; Acts 17:272-8).

ALL-KNOWING (OMNISCIENT): “…You alone know the hearts of all men…” (1 Kings 8:39; cf. Ps. 139:1-6; Prov. 3:19-20; 1 Cor. 2:10).

ALL-POWERFUL (OMNIPOTENT) : “…Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Gen. 18:14; cf. 1 Sam. 2:6-7; Ps. 18:13-15; Rev. 19:6).

UNCHANGING (IMMUTABLE) “…You remain the same…” (Ps. 102:27; cf. Mal. 3:6;James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8).

Communicable Attributes (Belong to God & can be reflected in us via the HS):

HOLINESS: “Your ways, O God, are holy” (Ps. 77:13; cf. Isa. 6:3; 57:15; 1 Peter 1:15-16; Rev. 4:8).

WISDOM: “…magnificent in wisdom…” (Isa. 28:29; cf. Jer. 10:12; 1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 2:2-3).

TRUTHFULNESS: “…God is truthful…” (John 3:33; cf. Num. 23:19; Isa. 45:19; John 14:6).

LOVE: “…His unfailing love…” (Ps. 33:5,18, 22; cf. Exod. 15:13; Pss. 13:5-6; 89:2; Rom. 8:38-39; Eph. 3:17-19; 5:1-2).

GOODNESS: “…He is good…” (2 Chron. 7:3; cf. Gen. 1:31; Pss. 119:68;145:9; Mark 10:18).

FAITHFULNESS: “…He is the faithful God…” (Deut. 7:9; cf. Pss. 33:4; 100:5; 1 Cor. 1:9; 1 Thess. 5:24).

MERCY: “…His mercy is great…” (2 Sam. 24:14; cf. Neh. 9:31; Dan. 9:9; Luke 1:50, 54).

KINDNESS: “…He shows unfailing kindness…” (2 Sam. 22:51; cf. isa. 54:8; Jer. 9:24; Romans 11:22).

PATIENCE: “…His unlimited patience…” (1 Tim. 1:16; cf. Neh. 9:30; Rom. 3:25; 2 Peter 3:15).

JUSTICE: “…all His ways are just…” (Deut. 32:4; cf. Job 37:23; Psalm 99:4; Luke 18:7-8).

RIGHTEOUSNESS: “…My righteousness will never fail…” (Isa. 51:6; cf. Ps. 89:14; Jer. 23:5-6; 1 Cor. 1:30).

WRATH: “…expresses His wrath every day…” (Ps. 7:11; cf. Deut. 29:28; Isa. 13:13; Rom. 1:18; 5:9; 9:22; Rev. 19:15).

JEALOUSY: “…a jealous God…” (Exod. 34:14; cf. Deut. 4:24; Nah. 1:2; Zech. 8:2; 2 Cor. 11:2).

GRACE: “…God, gracious, and compassionate…” (Neh. 9:17; cf. Exod. 34:6-7; Isa. 26:10; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5-7).

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Posted by on October 28, 2015 in Prayer Helps


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Daniel by Ronald W. Pierce (Teach The Text Commentary) Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

A “Must Read” Commentary on Daniel

Daniel by Ronald W. Pierce

I am currently preaching through Daniel in my church and of the 35 commentaries I’m using in my study of Daniel – this book by Pierce – would be ranked in the top 10 for the following 5 reasons:

(1) User friendly – Each chapter is divided into a short pericope (there are 29 chapters in the book based on an exposition of the text; as well as four additional chapters that discuss additional insights on key themes in the book).

(2) Each chapter has a is divided into several helpful and brief sections: 1. Understanding the Text (The Text in Context; Historical and Cultural Background; Interpretive Insights; Key Themes; and Theological Insights); 2. How to Teach/Preach the Text; 3. Helps on Illustrating the Text.

(3) Ronald W. Pierce does an excellent job of describing different interpretations of the text without being overly dogmatic in any particular category of interpretation. He offers a balanced style of interpretation and keeps the focus on the major themes in its canonical context (biblical theology).

(4) The commentary is full of maps; color photographs; archaeological finds; graphs; sidebars; and tables to help you “see” or visualize what’s happening in the text. It is a very helpful feature that is rare in older commentaries.

(5) Brevity. Pierce gives the essentials of what you need to know as a busy pastor or student of God’s Word. It’s practical; and yet provides quick and concise help when dealing with tough and controversial passages.

I highly recommend this commentary for anyone who wants to know, apply, and teach the book of Daniel.


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“Principles to Live By” – Dr. Charles Stanley


Charles Stanley image

Recently one of my favorite people in my home church (Kim Herrera) was promoted to Heaven. As I prepare to speak at her memorial service tomorrow I’m impressed by her marked up Bible. One of the book marks in her Bible is composed of these principles from Charles Stanley on living the Christian life. I think they are excellent and want to share these with those who read my blog. I believe that Kim battled many illnesses and suffered immensely for her Lord and in the midst of all that applied these principles in her own life. She was a wonderful testimony of the peace that surpasses all understanding Paul talked about in Philippians. She truly reflected the glory of our suffering Savior. Here are the 30 principles to live by:

(1) Our intimacy with God–His highest priority for our lives–determines the impact of our lives.

(2) Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him.

(3) God’s Word is an immovable anchor in times of storm.

(4) The awareness of God’s presence energizes us for our work.

(5) God does not require us to understand His will, just obey it, even when it seems unreasonable.

(6) You reap what you sow, more than you sow, and later than you sow.

(7) The dark moments of our life will last only so long as necessary for God to accomplish His purpose in us.

(8) Fight all your battles on your knees and you win every time.

(9) Trusting God means looking beyond what we can see to what God sees.

(10) If necessary, God will move heaven and earth to show us His will.

(11) God assumes full responsibility for our needs when we obey Him.

(12) Peace with God is the fruit of oneness with God.

(13) Listening to God is essential to walking with God.

(14) God acts on behalf of those who wait on Him.

(15) Brokenness is God’s requirement for maximum usefulness.

(16) Whatever you acquire outside of God’s will eventually turns to ashes.

(17) We stand tallest and strongest on our knees.

(18) As children of a sovereign God, we are never victims of our circumstances.

(19) Anything you hold too tightly, you will lose.

(20) Disappointments are inevitable, discouragement is a choice.

(21) Obedience always brings blessing.

(22) To walk in the Spirit is to obey the initial promptings of the Spirit.

(23) You can never outlive God.

(24) To live the Christian life is to allow Jesus to live His life in and through us.

(25) God blesses us so that we might bless others.

(26) Adversity is a bridge to a deeper relationship with God.

(27) Prayer is life’s greatest time saver.

(28) No Christian has ever been called to “go it alone” in his or her walk of faith.

(29) We learn more in our valley experiences than on our mountaintops.

(30) An eager anticipation of the Lord’s return keeps us living productively.


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Posted by on September 30, 2015 in Charles Stanley, Charles Stanley


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As a busy pastor constantly preparing sermons, training leaders, and teaching theology classes, I am always pressed for time to read materials outside of my ongoing ministry. Therefore, I especially appreciate books that are short, substantive, and practical. My greatest goal in life is to make as many multiplying disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ as I possibly can. This book has given me some great tools to use in the process of making and multiplying disciples. It’s only 83 pages but loaded with great ideas, questions, wisdom, and I believe will help me train my leadership and staff to be more effective and efficient in making and multiplying disciples.

Mancini wastes no time in helping church leaders ask the right questions in order to genuinely evaluate their effectiveness in making and multiplying disciples. I didn’t count the questions he asks in this book – but there must be over 100 great questions of evaluation to help you become a church that truly makes an impact for the Kingdom in your community and beyond.

I would highly recommend this book for staffs of churches, elders, deacons, church planters, and long time pastors. I plan on using this book at my next staff retreat. We are seeking to be a church that is less program driven and more missional. This book will help us evaluate our situation, develop a process to be a high impact church that makes multiplying disciples, and give as a road map to get there by asking great questions.


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C.S. Lewis On Wanting Heaven NOW!!!

Is It Wrong to Want Heaven Now? By C.S. Lewis

lewis C.S. writing in his study

We are very shy nowadays of even mentioning heaven. We are afraid of the jeer about ‘pie in the sky’, and of being told that we are trying to ‘escape’ from the duty of making a happy world here and now into dreams of a happy world elsewhere. But either there is ‘pie in the sky’ or there is not. If there is not, then Christianity is false, for this doctrine is woven into its whole fabric. If there is, then this truth, like any other, must be faced, whether it is useful at political meetings or no. Again, we are afraid that heaven is a bribe, and that if we make it our goal we shall no longer be disinterested. It is not so. Heaven offers nothing that a mercenary soul can desire. It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to. There are rewards that do not sully motives. A man’s love for a woman is not mercenary because he wants to marry her, nor his love for poetry mercenary because he wants to read it, nor his love of exercise less disinterested because he wants to run and leap and walk. Love, by definition, seeks to enjoy its object.

(Lewis, C. S. A Year with C. S. Lewis (p. 357). Harper Collins, Inc., excerpted from The Problem of Pain).

 Aim At Heaven

Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither. It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen at work in other matters. Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one of your main, direct objects you start becoming a crank and imagining there is something wrong with you. You are only likely to get health provided you want other things more—food, games, work, fun, open air. In the same way, we shall never save civilisation as long as civilisation is our main object. We must learn to want something else even more.

Lewis, C. S. (2009-03-17). A Year with C. S. Lewis (p. 358). Harper Collins, Inc., excerpted from Mere Christianity).


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