Props to the Profs: Dr. Mark Eckel

Note from Theron: This post is the second in a three-part series giving tribute to professors whose teachings and lives have been a godly example to my life and ministry. (The first post honored Dr. Nicholas Piotrowski and can be found here). This second post gives tribute to Dr. Mark Eckel.

The teacher who taught me how to think, not what to think. The instructor who impressed upon me the importance of incarnational ministry. The moviegoer who ruined watching movies for me, in the best kind of way. The practitioner, always connecting truth and wisdom to life. This is how I would describe Dr. Mark Eckel and the impact he and his teaching has had on my life.

My first Bible college course was taught by Mark Eckel. My second favorite course during my undergraduate, Introduction to Philosophy, was led by Mark Eckel (for the curious, my favorite course was Hermeneutics!). In this course on philosophy, God used Dr. Eckel’s teaching to stir in me a passion for thinking deeply and sharing the truth. However, that semester in his class was only the beginning. In the Lord’s providence, I would receive the blessing to learn under Mark Eckel again in seminary. His personal style allowed for much discussion in thinking through cultural analysis and engagement. These discussions were not abstract for Dr. Eckel. He was living out the truth on a public university campus he was teaching us in a seminary course.

He has been my professor. I am grateful to call him my friend. Dr. Mark Eckel now serves as the president of Comenius Institute, interacting with students on the IUPUI campus to discuss where Christian wisdom and college life meet. I can assure you the students who come in contact with this man are blessed. In his life, Dr. Mark Eckel’s own words ring true: Legacy is not what you leave behind; legacy is who you leave behind.

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Props to the Profs: Dr. Nicholas Piotrowski

Note from Theron: This post is the first in a three-part series giving tribute to professors whose teachings and lives have been a godly example to my life and ministry. This first post honors Dr. Nicholas Piotrowski.

A Passion for the Word

2011 served as a year of spiritual growth. However, my sophomore year of Bible college began with a struggle. I had begun to take a hard look at my spiritual life. My time in the Word of God seemingly had run dry, where I merely spent time in the Scriptures for college assignments. This time in the spiritual desert forced me to evaluate the genuineness of my Christian faith. During my time of introspection, the Lord brought me to confess of my spiritual dryness and ignited a passion within my heart for His Word.

One of the main means God used to give me a deeper passion for His Word came through Dr. Nicholas Piotrowski. In the Spring of 2012, I registered for a course in hermeneutics, which is the science and art of interpreting the Bible. The professor teaching the course: Nicholas Piotrowski. Little did I know how much this course would transform my study of the Bible, and I could never have expected how God would use this professor in my life. The Lord used that Hermeneutics course in 2012 to ignite a passion in my heart to know and study the Word of God, seeing how all of Scripture points to Jesus Christ (Luke 24:25–27, 44–47). Moreover, His providence blessed me with taking at least one course per semester with Dr. Piotrowski throughout the remainder of my undergraduate studies. Nicholas Piotrowski became much more than a professor. He was and is someone I consider a dear friend and mentor.

Entrusted with Teaching the Word

Yet, he is more than a friend and mentor. Now, I call him my boss. I have for the last two years. Up until this summer, I served as his assistant at the Bible college. While my tenure in the staff role ended in June, Dr. Nicholas Piotrowski remains my superior. He is the Associate Dean of Academics and I am entering my second school year as Adjunct Professor at Crossroads Bible College. One of the courses I have the responsibility and pleasure of teaching for the second straight year: Hermeneutics. The course which transformed my life and ministry, taught by a man who continues to bless my life, has been entrusted to me. What a call! As I prepare to teach another group of students this semester how to study the Bible, I reflect and thank God for Dr. Nicholas Piotrowski!

Counseling Under the Cross: Author Interview with Bob Kellemen

Last month, I (Theron) shared my decision to begin biblical counseling training. This personal ministry is a great need in many churches today. A working knowledge of church history is essential in the life of a church as well. Both come together in Bob Kellemen’s newest book, Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life. The book releases on September 11, 2017, by New Growth Press. Just in time for the celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, Counseling Under the Cross shares scores of powerful vignettes, Luther quotes, and real-life narratives that illustrate how Martin Luther provided biblical counseling to hurting and struggling people. The following author interview with Dr. Kellemen provides a great introduction to the book.

  1. You began and ended your education with Martin Luther. Since he lived some 500 years ago, our listeners might be interested to hear more about that!

Bob: I attended a Lutheran kindergarten. Then, some thirty years later, I completed my PhD dissertation at Kent State University, writing on Martin Luther as a Case Study in Christian Sustaining, Healing, Reconciling, and Guiding. And in almost all 14 of my books, I quote Luther. Truly, Luther has been a spiritual companion for my entire life.

  1. In Counseling Under the Cross, you say that Martin Luther reformed your life and ministry. How so?

Bob: As for my life, BL (Before Luther) I applied justification to my life—I knew that God the Judge forgave me because of His Son’s death on the cross that paid for my sins. However, I wasn’t really grasping reconciliation. I pictured it like this: The Judge said, “Forgiven!” Then he sent me out of his court room, not wanting me in his life. Luther helped me to grasp reconciliation, which we could picture like this: God the Judge takes off his judge’s robes, puts on his family attire, and, because of Christ, invites me into his family. Because of Luther, I now hear God saying to me not only “Forgiven” but also “Welcome home!”

As for my ministry, people often ask me what biblical counselors most impacted my counseling. I’ll mention modern counselors such as David Powlison, Steve Viars, and Ron Allchin. But then I’ll say that the person who has most influenced how I apply the gospel in counseling is Martin Luther. To learn how…you could read Counseling Under the Cross!

  1. Many people, when they think of Martin Luther, think of the great theologian-reformer. Yet you say that it was Luther the pastoral counselor who motivated Luther the reformer. In what way?

Bob: In his own life, Luther struggled to understand how to find peace with God. After many failed attempts at gaining favor with God by works, Luther finally realized the truth of salvation through Christ alone by faith alone through grace alone. He then spent the rest of his life helping others to come to the same saving realization. He nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg because he had a tremendous pastoral concern that people were being led away from grace/faith and led toward works as the means for peace with God.

  1. You explain that Luther struggled greatly with depression, anxiety, fears, and even with what we might today call “OCD.” What were Luther’s struggles like and how did he find peace and hope in the gospel?

Bob: Luther lived in terror that he could never satisfy a holy God—and he could not—in himself. He was tormented daily with fears of death and damnation. When Luther came to realize that Christ already satisfied all of God’s righteous requirements, Luther found the peace he longed for. Luther taught that if we deal with life’s greatest fear/anxiety—whether God accepts us—then we can face all of life’s lesser (but real) anxieties and fears. Grace grants peace.

  1. Counseling Under the Cross is filled with scores of pieces and stories of Luther’s pastoral counsel. Which stories are most meaningful to you?

Bob: It’s almost impossible to choose from among so many stirring examples, so I’ll highlight a “category” of care. In the book, I share numerous vignettes where Luther counseled grieving people. We often think of Luther as the fiery reformer. But he also had such a tender heart for hurting people. He encouraged people to grieve honestly, deeply, and candidly. He entered their pain and loss, and then he directed them to the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. Grieving people found in Luther a compassionate spiritual comforter.

  1. Counseling Under the Cross has scores of direct quotes from Luther’s letters of spiritual counsel. Which quotes of note are most powerful in your thinking?

Bob: This is another difficult question because there are almost 600 direct quotes from Luther in Counseling Under the Cross. On my website, I selected 95 Quotes of Note (since Luther had his 95 Theses). Here are links to those 6 posts:

Here are two of my favorite quotes…

  • “You say that the sins which we commit every day offend God, and therefore we are not saints. To this I reply: Mother love is stronger than the filth and scabbiness on a child, and so the love of God toward us is stronger than the dirt that clings to us. Accordingly, although we are sinners, we do not lose our filial relation on account of our filthiness, nor do we fall from grace on account of our sin.”
  • For who is able to express what a thing it is, when a man is assured in his heart that God neither is nor will be angry with him, but will be forever a merciful and loving Father to him for Christ’s sake? This is indeed a marvelous and incomprehensible liberty, to have the most high and sovereign Majesty so favorable to us. Wherefore, this is an inestimable liberty, that we are made free from the wrath of God forever; and is greater than heaven and earth and all other creatures.”
  1. Martin Luther counseled his mother and his father. What were the issues and how did he minister to his parents?

Bob: It’s always difficult to counsel family members. Yet, Luther counseled his mother and his father with such humility, respect, graciousness, empathy, and care. In most of these vignettes with his parents, Luther was counseling them when they were near their deathbed. He respected their fears, empathized with their feelings, and tenderly reminded them of their gospel hope in Christ.

  1. Luther faced many losses in life, including the loss of a child and the loss of his parents. In Counseling Under the Cross, you explain that Luther grieved deeply and that he gave Christians permission to grieve. How so?

Bob: Sometimes we have the false notion that if we are truly spiritual, then we won’t grieve the loss of a loved one. Luther taught that the failure to grieve was actually a sign of a lack of Christlike love. So he commended people for grieving, he gave examples of his own great grief, and most importantly, he shared scriptural examples of holy grief.

  1. One of the most powerful messages of Counseling Under the Cross is the four-fold message Luther taught about our salvation in Christ alone. What is that four-fold message and what difference does it make for our lives and ministries today?

Bob: In Christ, the Father says to us, 1.) “Forgiven!” (Justification). 2.) “Welcome home!” (Reconciliation). 3.) “Saint!” (Regeneration). 4.) “Victor!” (Redemption).

What difference does it make? We are to preach the gospel to ourselves every day so that we understand who we are in Christ and so we then live out that newness through Christ. I say it like this in one of my tweet-size chapter summaries:

Daily behold in Christ’s gospel mirror your gracious Father saying to you:

“Forgiven! Welcome home! Saint! Victor!”

  1. If Luther was talking to pastors today, what counsel would he give them about pastoral counseling?

Bob: “Do it!”

We think we are too busy to counsel. We think we are ill-equipped to counsel. We think we should just preach (the pulpit ministry of the Word) and not counsel (the personal ministry of the Word). Luther was busy—and he still counseled. Luther never had a course in “pastoral counseling,” but he still counseled the Word. Luther was a preacher, but he was also a pastoral counselor.

So, “Pastors, just do it! Speak gospel truth in love.”

  1. You end each chapter with a tweet-size summary. So, what’s your tweet-size summary of Counseling Under the Cross?

Bob: I’d use the sub-title of the book as the foundation for that tweet. Here we go:

Richly Apply the Gospel to Each Other’s Daily Lives: “Forgiven! Welcome home! Saint! Victor!”

If you are interested in reading more of Bob’s work, you can find his blog here.

Book Review: The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide

Longtime and long-distance friends see each other as they attend the funeral of a loved one. Their likely response will share the following sentiment: “Although I wish it were not due to this circumstance, it is great to see you.” Such a statement explains how I feel about Basyle Tchividjian and Shira M Berkovits’ new book The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide for Churches and Ministries. Although I wish we did not need this resource, the reality is child sexual abuse is a problem in our culture and, yes, very much so within the church. Silence on the issue will only empower the problem. Words of truth are good, but they need to be followed up with action. This resource equips church and ministries to do just that and, for that reason, I am glad for it.

Designed as a resource to accompany certification at GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide for Churches and Ministries walk individuals and groups through forming a child protection policy for their church or ministry. In Section 1, the authors lay the foundation by defining abuse (chapter 1), considering the indicators and impact of abuse (chapters 2–3), and taking a closer look at people who sexually abuse children (chapter 4). Section 2 lists protective policies churches must carry out, both formal and informal (chapters 5–7). However, even with protective practices abuse may still occur. Section 3 of the policy addresses that unfortunate truth and equips churches and ministries in responding to policy violations and child abuse (chapters 8–11). Sections 4–5 wrap up the guide by informing groups how they can show support to sexual abuse survivors and encouraging all churches and ministries to live out the policy. Three appendices on forming a committee to form a policy, giving sample forms, and empowering children are included.

The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide for Churches and Ministries by Basyle Tchividjian and Shira M Berkovits is an unfortunate resource our churches and ministries need. This guide trains churches and ministries to protect from, prevent against, and rightly respond to child sexual abuse. The greatest asset this book offers is it empowers churches and ministries to form and customize their own child protection policy so as “to create a culture where children can flourish with healthy intergenerational relationships” (Tchividjian and Berkovits 15). As a pastor over the youth ministry of my church, I strongly encourage intergenerational relationships in the church. I also have a heart for youth to grow in their love for Jesus and for His church. So I understand the importance of what Basyle and Shira have done in writing this guide. In the church, we have a problem. We cannot ignore this problem. It is there. But what we can do is speak up for the most vulnerable and carry out a policy to protect them and care for them in our churches. I plan on encouraging our church to work through this timely guide and I challenge you to encourage your church or ministry to do the same!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy, click here.

Book Review: This Changes Everything

The Bible study lesson lingered in my mind. The study on Ephesians 4 left me to consider how “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). As a pastor over the youth ministry at the church, my concern was not how to equip Christians generally but how to encourage the application of this Scripture passage into the lives of our church’s teenagers. Mindful of my teenage years, my passion as pastor was and is to equip teenagers to serve the Lord. Moreover, I want them to see the implications of the gospel in every facet of their lives. For this reason, I am grateful for This Changes Everything: How The Gospel Transforms the Teen Years.

A Quick Look at a Gospel-Focused Lens

Written by a teenager for teenagers, author Jaquelle Crowe shares and shows what it looks like for teenagers to live as whole-hearted Jesus-followers. Each chapter of This Changes Everything observes an area of the teenager’s life through the lens of the gospel. The book begins by helping teenagers understand who they are in relation to God and His story (chapters 1–2). With a firm foundation laid, Jaquelle shows how the gospel impacts a teenager’s view of the church, the need for its community, and their view of sin, including the seemingly ordinary sins (chapters 3–4). She also shares the proper motive for and necessary practice of spiritual disciplines in the Christian life (chapter 5) and the role discernment plays in a teenager’s growth (chapter 6). The book closes with stewardship of time (chapter 7) and biblical principles for relationships (chapter 8).

A Gospel Feast for Teenagers

This Changes Everything is a gospel feast for Jesus-following teenagers. Using the author’s analogy of a chicken nugget (Crowe 13), this book is crisp with personal illustrations and historical examples, leading the reader to the meat of gospel-centered content found in every chapter. Miss Crowe lives what she writes. She engages teenagers with her transparency, humbly admitting where she falls short and boldly pointing her peers to Jesus Christ. The diagrams throughout the book provide visuals for teens to apply that particular implication of the gospel into their lives and the discussion questions at the end of each chapter engage teenagers to put their learning into practice. One of the most fruitful aspects of Jaquelle’s writing is her emphasis on intergenerational relationships. Sometimes adults can mark off teenagers in the church and teenagers can neglect interaction with adults in the church. This Changes Everything weds the two groups together, especially in discussing the church in chapter 3 and relationships in chapter 8. Her knowledge of church history is not only impressive but it encourages teenagers to broaden their learning to those who have gone before them in the Christian faith. Simply put, Jaquelle Crowe offers teenagers a theologically rich, immensely practical, and winsomely engaging book to apply the gospel in every area of life.

A Book for Teens and to Read with Teens

If you are a teenager who claims to be a Jesus-follower, then you need this book. If you know a teenager, then tell them about this book. If you desire for teenagers to know Jesus, then buy them this book. For parents and youth leaders, consider purchasing a copy for yourself as well and reading through the book together. This Changes Everything by Jaquelle Crowe is a must-read for teenagers and those who care for teenagers.

In March, Jaquelle was kind enough to participate in an interview for us. You can find our interview with her here.

When Christ is Supreme

I am angry. My heart remains heavy as I still try to process the events from last Saturday in Charlottesville. The displays and touts of white supremacy are sinful and pure evil. Yet, I am not only angry. I am disturbed. I am distraught over the response of some white brothers and sisters in Christ. What follows is not meant to condemn but to rebuke and correct. This cultural moment calls for Christian unity, not political pairings.

The Matter

When Colin Kaepernick chose to protest and sit during the National Anthem, some of these same white brothers and sisters were vocal about their disagreement with it. Whether you agree or disagree with Colin’s stance, the reality is it was a matter of free speech. What happened last Friday evening into Saturday was not. The actions of the Alt Right were blatantly sinful. Their hatred for other groups and races reveal the wickedness in their hearts. The proper response to such a malicious mindset is to speak out against it and to name racism for what it is: sin.

The Wrong Response

I am grateful for those who have spoken up on behalf of others in the body of Christ, particularly standing with their black brothers and sisters in Christ. At the same time, I am grieved by what I see from some who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ. In this cultural moment, their response to this tragedy is to get political. In the face of racism’s display, their stance is to argue about the statutes and to stand up for the president at what seems to be no matter the cost, even when his words fail to forcefully denounce such a sinful mentality. Don’t misunderstand me: we need to be praying for our president. However, that does not mean we have to affirm everything he says and does.

To Remain Silent is Sin

I want to be clear and say I am not calling my white brothers and sisters in Christ racists. But I feel I must say a word to my white brothers and sisters in Christ: we cannot remain silent. I believe to remain silent on this issue is sin. The Word of God from James 4:17 reminds us, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” Two chapters earlier, James exposes the Christian to the sin of partiality. So, for the one who calls themselves a Christian, knows racism is sin, but never speaks out against it, they are committing sin.

My Confession of This Sin

In transparency, I write these words as one who has committed such sin. In the past, my apathetic heart was not overly angered at the real issues going on. While I never would affirm or support racism, I failed to speak up for my brothers and sisters in Christ of other races. While I have shown private support for my black brothers and sisters, my public proclamations fail to mirror the unity I have with them in the gospel. To that neglect, I say “No more!”. I confess my apathy and my fear of speaking up. I ask for forgiveness from my black brothers and sisters in Christ. I repent of remaining silent when I know the right thing to do is speak up.

The Supremacy of Christ for the Joy of All Peoples

So, hear me my white brothers and sisters in Christ: We must speak out against the sin of white supremacy and denounce racism. We cannot live in a way which denies racism still exists or that downplays the problem we face. We all have been made in the image of God and are equal in dignity (Genesis 1:26-28). We must speak up and stand with all our brothers and sisters in Christ, showing we are one in Christ. When we do, we show the power of the gospel and witness to the world the supremacy of Christ. Because when Christ is supreme, our primary response to such events will not be political but spiritual, calling out sin. When Christ is supreme, we will be willing to listen to those who are of a different culture and color than our own instead of shutting them out with our preferences and presuppositions. When Christ is supreme, we will not seek to justify every word the president says but we will live out the Word of our God and Redeemer. Because when Christ is supreme, it is for the joy of all peoples (Revelation 5:9-10, 7:9-10).

Book Review: God’s Crime Scene for Kids

The thought of excitement came to my mind, followed by feelings of anxiousness. Our church had begun holding Wednesday evening Bible study for the youth and three of the neighbor children came to attend. The background of these neighborhood children lacked attendance in the church and knowledge in the truth of Christianity. Therefore, my response of excitement and anxiousness centered around how I could teach these three neighborhood youth while also training the youth who regularly attend our church. My concerns were answered with J. Warner Wallace’s new book God’s Crime Scene for Kids: Investigate Creation with a Real Detective.

Following up on Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, J. Warner Wallace and Susie Wallace with Rob Suggs invite young readers to rejoin the young cadets in solving a new mystery. Through the case of the shoebox, Detective Alan Jeffries and the cadets assist Jason in discovering the letter in the shoebox and what it reveals about the items in the shoebox. Undertaking the patient work of detectives, the young cadets put their skills into action and look for clues, ask questions, and ultimately find the answer they are looking for. During each step of the process, Detective Jeffries uses the same observations and skills to apply in investigating the universe and creation. The eight clues Detective Jeffries and the young cadets discuss throughout their investigation lead them to the conclusion the universe was created by a single all-powerful Creator, God.

J. Warner Wallace does an excellent job intriguing young readers to join the team in solving both the mystery of the shoebox and, ultimately, the mystery of the creation of the universe. This book is a call to interactive investigation. Detective Wallace equips young people to see the evidence for the Creator and make a case for God as our Creator. He gives the reader CSI Assignments to go and look at what Scripture says, lists detective definitions to explain investigatory skills, and trains the young person with a “tool” for their detective bags. For those who are interested in going beyond the book, a website is available for the child to go through the academy with a parent or leader.

Because of God’s Crime Scene for Kids by J. Warner Wallace, I am no longer anxious on how to approach teaching Bible study to the youth on Wednesday evenings. This book is an instrument to evangelize to youth who do not know the truth of creation or Christianity and is a tool to equip youth who want to share and show the truth of creation and Christianity. If you are a parent or a Bible teacher of youth of ages 8-12, this book is for you and your youth!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

Resources for Digging Deeper:

God’s Crime Scene for Kids is the children edition of the book God’s Crime Scene. If you are a parent or youth leader and you purchase a children’s edition, be sure to purchase a copy of this book too.

The learning and fun do not have to stop after your child has read the book. This website is interactive and is meant to implement the tools and skills the children received in the book.

‘God’s Crime Scene for Kids’ Mystery Investigation Kit Giveaway: You Could Win!

Join your children in learning how to determine the most reasonable cause for everything we see in creation with a real-life detective! In God’s Crime Scene for Kids, J. Warner Wallace shows kids ages 8 to 12 what skills are needed to solve Jason’s mystery. Jason uncovers a mystery in his grandmother’s attic. He and his friends, Hannah, Daniel and Jasmine, enlist the help of Detective Jeffries at the Jr. Detective’s Academy. Your kids will look at evidence in the universe that demonstrates God is the creator and ultimately learn how to make their own case for God’s existence.

Help your kids become detectives who investigate creation for signs of God and His creativity by entering to win the Mystery Investigation Kit!

One grand prize winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on August 31. The winner will be announced September 1 on the Litfuse blog.