Thursday, December 17, 2015

GOD'S SERVANT JOB "is great at the theological, aesthetic, and audience level"

[Unsolicited review by Emmanuel Boston]
Douglas Bond and Todd Shaffer collaborate to present you and the young ones in your life with “A Poem with a Promise”: God's Servant Job. Bond reworks the Ancient Near East verse into a readable, bouncing poem for children of all ages. The meter is easy and true—except for a few notable breaks when sinful dialogue is prominent, ultimately leading to better poetry and influence. Bond follows remarkably well to the text we’d find in modern translations, putting new words to ancient ideas that had me thinking: I’ve heard this before! And of course, what else would we want from a book that attempts bring Scripture to the hearts of little ones? Bond is sure to add a poetic exposition of what he believes to be the central thrust of the book of Job: “I know that my Redeemer lives!” and to relate it to the fulfillment of this truth in Jesus. He also includes a “Big Words,” “Quiz,” and “Let’s Think!” section which will aid parents and Sunday school teachers in discipleship, or even the self-motivated learner. (There are several ‘chapter’ divisions as well.)

Shaffer contributes excellent artwork to partner along the text. If you look at the cover picture, you will get a grasp of the overall style: angular, an almost ‘sketched’ look which seems to remind us of the temporal gap between this world and theirs. The color palette ranges, though, finding appropriate hues to show us the spectrum of the story: from bright heaven, to Satan’s technicolor; from dusty potsherds to the vast mysteries of God’s creation—the mood fits.

All in all, this book is great at the theological, aesthetic, and audience level. I do have a few recommendations for the author, and one disagreement.

First, the least controversial: I think the Big Words section could have included a few more (e.g. covenant, cornerstone, Redeemer).

Second: just preferentially, I would have liked to see an extra stanza devoted to Christ as the fulfillment of the Job typology.

Third: I do not believe that Elihu was condemned in concert with the three other friends of Job. Scripture itself is silent on this matter, but the author says, “My servant Job has seen the light, / But you, his friends, go nothing right.” The illustration likewise includes Elihu amidst the others. The author seems to recover from this when in the “Let’s Think!” section he highlights a parallel between Elihu’s words, Job’s words, and the message of the book. [*Author note: We discussed this in editorial and production stages of this book. There were supposed to only be three 'friends' in the
illustration for this page, thus making clear that Elihu was not condemned by God along with the others. The poetry itself in the section when Elihu is speaking makes this very clear]

Those recommendations notwithstanding, this is an excellent addition to any children’s library; even an adult’s. It accurately retells the story found in Job including some of its most famous lines, with simple, up to date poetry, showing forth the message of our Redeemer and the hope his children have of righteousness, justification, and forgiven sins. It’s easy to talk to adults, and oh so difficult to communicate the same things to children, but Bond and Shaffer have done just that.
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Sunday, December 13, 2015

A New Commandment Post-Modernity Giveth Unto Us

(A version of this blog post first appeared in Ligonier Ministries TABLE TALK magazine, June, 2015)

Honor Your Father and Your Mother

“No more of parental rules,” declares Calvin as he and Hobbes strut north to be masters of their fate in the frozen Yukon. “Good riddance to those grown-up ghouls!” Life will be grand, so Calvin thinks, because there he won’t need to put up with—much less honor—his parents (Bill Watterson).
In a culture that honors youth, “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12a) makes no sense. Isn’t honor something we seek for ourselves? So what’s all this about giving it to others?
Our tolerant culture has zero tolerance for aging, which has produced a cult of perpetual youth, with perfect teeth grinning at us wherever we turn. In the resulting frenzy to appear young, Americans annually spend an amount on cosmetic procedures sufficient to feed and clothe 54 million starving children. 

Devoutly honoring the superficiality of appearance, we look with longing toward youth—and with loathing toward age and maturity. We desperately don’t want to grow up and give up childish ways (I Corinthians 13:11b), so, rather than honor, we ignore or neglect the aged.

Dishonoring maturity, however, is not just the problem of our image-driven youth culture. Seeing the tendency in 16th century Geneva, Calvin cautioned from his deathbed, “Let the young continue to be modest, without wishing to put themselves forward too much; for there is always a boastful character in young folks… who push on in despising others.”


Perversely, our culture makes it a virtue to “push on in despising others,” especially parents. Jared Diamond, UCLA professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, argues that with technology and inexhaustible access to information we no longer need the mature as a source of wisdom. 

In his article “Honor or Abandon,” Diamond goes further: “It may under some circumstances be better for children to abandon or kill their parents.” Which flips the fifth commandment on its head, turning what is forbidden into what is required, neglecting and heinously acting against the honor of parents and others (WSC Q.65).


Going down to the heart, the fifth commandment extends beyond honoring parents. It “…requireth the preserving the honour, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals” (WSC Q.64).

Enshrined in the fifth commandment is our entire duty to love our neighbor as ourselves—all our neighbors.

But honoring is hard; it requires us to suspend our self-worship, to give up the honor we imagine belongs to us and render it to another, to inconvenience ourselves for the benefit of others, to rise in the presence of the aged (Leviticus 19:32) and thereby honor God.


Intractable lovers of self, we find honoring others too difficult—actually, impossible. So we cast about for a way out. Many have good reasons. An anguished young man once asked me, “How am I supposed to honor my father after what he’s done to my mother?” It was a good question. I knew what this father had done. He’d run off with another woman, leaving his pregnant wife to pick up the pieces of the domestic disaster created by his profoundly dishonorable behavior. Nevertheless, God tells this young man to honor his father.

Master finaglers, the Pharisees thought they had landed on the ultimate exception clause to honoring parents. They had cooked up a tradition that said when they declared their resources given to God they were off the hook on the fifth commandment. Jesus exposed the fraud: “So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you…:

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
            but their heart is far from me…’” (Matthew 15:1-9).

Only hearts that have been brought near to God in Christ can truly honor—even a dishonorable parent. Just as “Children obey your parents,” does not include obeying their sinful commands, so “Honor your father,” does not include honoring his dishonorable behavior.

However, if Peter can urge 1st century believers to honor everyone, including Emperor Nero (I Peter 2:17), then the command to honor parents isn’t made void by having a dishonorable parent, any more than the command to love our neighbor is void when we have a neighbor who lobs beer cans into our yard. God’s commands still apply in a broken world of imperfect neighbors and dishonorable parents; they were gifted to us by our gracious heavenly Father for just such a world.


Unique in the Decalogue, the Spirit annexed to the fifth commandment an enduring consequence for obeying it, “that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12b).

Long life—Everlasting life! Unshakably secured by our elder Brother whose obedience did surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20), who alone is perfect as His heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48), who did what no one has ever been able to do: perfectly fulfill all the duties required in God’s Law. Pick your earthly hero; not one has truly honored his parents.

Except Jesus. Honoring His Father’s will, Christ prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Forsaken by His Father on the cross, yet the Son perfectly obeyed and honored His Father—though it cost Him everything. 

“Honor your father and your mother.” Jesus did. In Him, we can grow daily in the grace of honoring our earthly parents for the still greater honor of our heavenly Father.

Douglas Bond, author of twenty-five books, including Grace Works (And Ways We Think It Doesn’t), is a PCA ruling elder, conference speaker, and church history tour leader

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

INKBLOTS--New book, trenches, point-of-view, Shakespeare, and Lewis

Tommies in No Man's Land 100 years ago
Four gentlemen friends, a crackling fire on a blustery Pacific Northwest evening, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Savignon, and companionable discussion of books and writing. Life's simple pleasures. Doug McComas hosting at his country byre. He shared about a book he is reading on Channel Islands occupied by the Nazis during World War II. Congratulations to Bob; he passed around a copy of his new book The Crescent and The Cross for our inspection, and we talked about the process and the high quality of the end result.

Doug Mc reads from his WW I backstory novel to his World War II yarns told from the perspective of the Germans (not all of whom were Nazis). Training for the trenches, name of chapter, set in Fall 1914, a few months into the war. Hubert. Could you use some brief German for authenticity? You are using the plural 'They' which feels to me like you are shifting from Hubert or Sepp to everybody. For example, you said 'they turned their heads, including Sepp.' Would it be better to say something more like, 'Sepp turned his head, trying to mimic what the man on either side of him did.' It is difficult for the reader to see the world through the eyes of 'they,' but far more authentic to see the world through the eyes of a specific character. He (the drill officer) showed his men, might be better, Sepp and Hubert learned how to ... I think it's point of view that I'm thinking of here; stick with your lens (or lenses). I felt like more smells, using simile--or other imaginative comparison.

Bob felt like it was fluid. He wished he had something he could say to improve it but he couldn't. This was a basic training episode. Bob concurred that this is what it is like in basic training. John said he didn't really feel like he could see the setting, what it was like. John recollected something he read from Stephen King about striking the mark on the right amount of description. Decide what needs description and what needs less. Certain things are essential and important to the central problem of the tale that effects the protagonist.

John read a politically correct bed time story, a model of how not to tell a compelling story, though humorous satirical spoofs on the devastating effects of the liberal agenda on literature (and by extension, everything else).

I read the chapter from War in the Wasteland that I have struggled with, a necessary breakaway from the Front to a field hospital. Chapter had gotten way too long, with discussion of 'whoremaster man' in King Lear (reading the play during their stay in hospital), and I was chafing the whole time I was writing it because I wanted to get back to the rising action at the Front. The chapter as it reads right now reflects my angst. But the gentlemen gave me helpful suggestions. Great evening.

Here's an excerpt from the troublesome chapter. Hoping and praying for a satisfying resolution to my frustration this morning, one that will make this a best chapter rather than merely a necessary one:

Next morning, with a yawn, Lieutenant Lewis observed, “The human whisper is a very tedious and unmusical noise.” He yawned again. “Especially so at night. How they expect us to recover whilst lovers carry on through the night disturbing our rest, is beyond me. But it’s a small price to pay, wouldn’t you agree Private Hopkins, for cleanliness, hot food, and a warm bed far from the Front?”

Nigel nodded and murmured agreement.

His second lieutenant seemed in a chatty mood and continued. “Since my childhood, I have learned to make a minor illness into one of life’s pleasures, very much like heaven—if there was such a place.”

Nigel sat up and looked around the field hospital. With a shrug, he said, “It is a bit cleaner.” 

“A bit? It’s infinitely so,” said Lewis. “Though it may fall a bit short when compared with the spit-and-polish of a peace-time hospital back in England, after what we’ve been living in at the Front, it is the epitome of warmth and cleanliness. Sniff the air, Private. Oh, all right, all right, a bit stale, but a world apart from the bad food, unwashed bodies, open latrines, and the decomposition of the unfortunates. But think of it, man! Our new duty, yours and mine, fleeting duty though it be, our duty is to lie about on a warm bed with clean sheets, being waited on hand and foot by England’s best. Here comes one of them now.”

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Meet fellow author Danika Cooley!

At Heritage Week Vancouver WA
I would like to take a moment and introduce my readers to another author, Danika Cooley. Her new release When Lightening Struck on the life of Martin Luther is available for your Christmas gift buying. I wrote this endorsement for the book: 
“From the electrifying tension of the opening scene, When Lightening Struck will instantly captivate readers. Meticulously researched, this historical novel on Martin Luther will immerse the reader in the dust and grit of 16th century Germany. You will not only feel that Luther’s struggles are you own struggles, you will enter the gates of paradise with Luther into the freedom of justification by faith alone in Christ alone. Not only is Danika Cooley an engaging writer of children’s literature, she is a careful and winsome theologian. As in her Bible Road Trip, you will be in highly capable hands on the road trip of Luther’s life from works to grace. Highly recommended!” 

1. What was the most intriguing thing you learned about Luther while writing the book?

I thought it was most interesting to see Martin Luther's change as he came to understand the truth of Scripture, and then as he began to live that truth out in his daily life.

2. What was the most convicting thing you learned in the process?

I think for me, a lover of truth, it was convicting to see what happens when we forget about grace, love, and unity. I never want to back away from the truth, but I do want to remember that my goal is unity in the essentials. Luther didn't have the benefit of hindsight that we do, so I think everything seemed essential to him after the break with Rome. Perhaps his struggle for unity struck me deeply because it is my own struggle as well.

3. What for you is the most challenging part of the writing process and how do you overcome this challenge?

I think time is my primary issue. I homeschool, so I research and write at night. It's a practice in self-discipline that is a constant struggle for me. I pray a lot about making wise decisions--about knowing when to write and when to rest.

4. I believe this is your first book published with a traditional publishing house. Tell us about the challenges of finding a publisher and working with editors. Did you have to work through differences with

Finding a publisher was a challenge, certainly. I decided to work with an agent, so I visited with agents every summer at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference. Chip MacGregor was kind enough to meet with me every year and to look at the book and make suggestions. I rewrote the books several times before he took it to publishers. Working with Fortress Press was amazing. They actually didn't change much, but helped me clarify a few paragraphs that were confusing, and a few geographical errors I made. I'm sure that won't be my experience every time, but this time was a really good experience for me.

5. What advice would you give to the aspiring writer?

Most importantly, glorify God in all that you do--especially in your writing. Read, and study the craft of writing. Outline your book and then set weekly goals for yourself. Like everything worthwhile, writing is worth studying, and worth sacrificing something you value for.

6. What other writing ideas are you considering for the future? A companion volume on Katherine von Bora?

Writing about Katie would be a lot of fun! I'm interested in writing about the early Reformers (male and female), the Church Fathers, and the lesser known figures in Christian history. I've been researching a slave-turned-missionary story I think would be wonderful for kids to know about.

7. What other resources do you have available on Luther's life, and what is the best way for a potential reader to buy a copy and read When Lightening Struck?

Thanks for asking! I've written a Discussion Guide on When Lightning Struck!, and a 12-Week Unit Study on Martin Luther. Both are free at There are also links there to purchase the book, or you can find it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble (online), and