Saturday, April 19, 2014

Passion Week Visualized - BibleGateway

BibleGateway has a phenomenal post featuring the following infographic as part of a series of brilliant infographics from the NIV Quickview Bible:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review: Holy Fire by R.T. Kendall

R.T. Kendall's Holy Fire steps into the current debate concerning the Spirit's work in our lives, providing an inspiring, bold, yet curbed approach to the current presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. Kendall does not openly respond to John MacArthur or the "Strange Fire" conference, but has taken the occasion to write a book that strongly emphasizes the continuation of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit's "direct and immediate" work in our lives, and reformed theology. Kendall's emphasis on the activity of the Spirit in assurance of salvation and transformation opens the door to the current work of the Spirit by bridging into the supernatural with sound theology and common experience.While hardly an exhaustive work on the Holy Spirit, Kendall's book stands as an inspiring and accessible introduction to the reformed charismatic perspective.

Kendall's writing remains exceptionally clear and accessible throughout the book, in spite of handling some rather deep theological issues and citing a number of nuances in theology from different puritan writers. He illustrates his theology with testimonies from his own life, illuminating how his own personal journey and his relationship with Christ revealed his current stance on the continuing operation of the gifts of the Spirit and reformed Calvinism. The book also draws heavily from the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, Kendall's mentor and one of the most respected reformed preachers of the last century. Jones' own embrasure of the gifts and operation of the Holy Spirit and his passionate advocacy for receiving the Spirit's empowerment stands as one of Kendall's most drawn upon arguments. These factors make the book seem more like an appeal to the reformed church to embrace the Spirit, though Kendall does take a significant amount of time advocating reformed theology to Charismatic readers.

I greatly appreciated Kendall's emphasis on the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. A large portion of Holy Fire reminded me of the teaching of Roy Hession and Norman Grubb, which sprang out of the revivals in Africa in the 1950's. The reminder of the Spirit's work to convict, correct, encourage, refresh, inspire, and cleanse is desperately needed in the church today, as is Kendall's teaching on grieving and quenching the Spirit. One of the most disappointing parts of the book was his outlandish claims regarding open-theism and "hyper grace" teaching. While I'm not an open advocate of either, Kendall's brief and scathing misrepresentation of both views will not help either side of the debates regarding God's foreknowledge or His grace. His final chapter, which contains a prophetic word for the future of the Church was exhilarating and the most inspiring and poignant chapter in the book for me.

While I would only recommend portions of this book, it stands as an important bridge from cessationism into the work of the Spirit. I hope it will have a profound impact on the reformed church and a positive impact in redirecting the Charismatic church back to focusing on transformation and a step by step walk with the Spirit of God.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Movements Reading Project

Though this blog hasn't featured a deluge of new projects, I have been diligently reading and studying the Bible. In fact, I've been in the middle of one of my most involving Bible reading projects ever. I've been hinting at this project for some time. I started in 2014 (actually I gave myself a head start at the end of 2013), and continued it through my trip to Uganda, which yielded some interesting experiences.

My life and ministry has been consumed by a vision of multiplication. I am fully committed and involved in the principles and practices of Church Planting and Disciplemaking Movements. My constant involvement in this lifestyle and mission has led me to consume the word of God voraciously with the Great Commission (really the only commission) and Church Planting in mind.

Inspired by Steve Addison's What Jesus Started and the example of Jeff Sundell, I committed to read the Gospels and Acts thirty times in 2014. That means I am reading ten chapters per day of just Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts. In addition to that, I will be reading the New Testament at least twice, and the Old Testament once. Just writing about it makes me feel a bit overwhelmed.

In my study of the Gospels and Acts I am focusing on six major themes, and diligently taking notes on each subject. Each time I go through a book, I carefully take notes on one of the following:

How did Jesus, the Disciples, the Church, and Paul:

1. See the End (see and cast vision)
2. Connect (with lost people)
3. Share (the gospel)
4. Train (disciples)
5. Gather (and do church)
6. Multiply

These six topics are part of Steve Addison's Movements Diagram, and his missiological study of the Gospels and Acts in What Jesus Started. In a sense, I'm retracing Addison's steps for myself. I've read his book twice, but I won't go back to look at it again until the end of the year. I'll check to see if I missed anything that he found and if my conclusions match his.

I'm extending the study beyond the Gospels and Acts and using the same note scheme on the rest of the Bible. While I'm taking notes on one of the six topics per read-through of the Gospels and Acts, I'm taking notes on all six at once per read-through of the Old Testament and the Epistles. This means a far less thorough study of the other books, but the majority of the Gospels and Acts is evangelism, discipleship, church planting etc. I am surprised at how much I am finding these themes through the rest of the Bible, however.

This project features the ESV Single Column Journaling Bible and 005 Pigma Micron pens. I may write a follow up post on the fruits of this study, but you can see some in the video below along with the vision of Movements and an explanation of the movements diagram.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Supernatural Love for Muslims (April 2014 Newsletter)

After eating dinner with a mission team who was working with Acts 29 Fellowship and International Hope Center, I felt to bring some tea that I had been given at the restaurant over to a storeowner I knew. He was sitting and talking with five other Bangladeshi men, so I joined to conversation and shared my testimony. My testimony provoked a lot of questions and we were talking for over an hour about Jesus, the straight way, the New Testament and the Qur’an. Much of the conversation was in a language I didn't understand. They often conversed with each other in Bangla.
Finally, one of them asked how I knew the New Testament was true. I talked to them about the manuscripts we have. He asked how I knew what it said was true, and how they could test it right now. I told them that God performs miracles in Jesus name and asked if any of them had physical problems or pain in their body. One said he had a shoulder problem. I asked if it hurt right at the moment. He said that it did. I asked him if I could pray in Jesus name for his shoulder; if he was healed it would show that God does miracles in the name of Jesus. He agreed to let me pray. I prayed a short prayer. I asked him to test his shoulder to see if it was better. He started laughing and moving his shoulder vigorously while speaking in his own language to his friends. I kept trying to find out if the pain was gone. He nodded his head, and his friend’s eyes bugged. Three more asked me to pray for physical problems. All three said there was change, and one could physically do something he couldn't do before because his rotator cuff was healed. While none of them was ready to follow Jesus that day, they all agreed that if God answered my prayers that they had to believe that what I said was true. They got the Jesus Film and my contact information, and they told me where I could meet them again.
Since that time I have had a number of meetings with different gentlemen from the group. We are continuing to talk about the truth and helping them understand God’s revelation and plan of redemption from creation to Christ. They have been inundated with apologetics and need the continued witness of the Spirit in their lives. I once thought that miracles would instantly convince, but Jesus often struggled with unbelief in spite of the miracles He performed.
I was telling a co-missionary this testimony, and he interrupted me to say, “You know what I really appreciate about you? You pray for the sick because you really believe God loves them and wants to heal them, not to just get your foot in the door.”
God is love. He has many attributes, but He is love. As God of all creation who holds all things together by the Word of His power, He defined love as the greatest of all things. He defined love as self-sacrifice. He told us to love the world as He loved them, to take up our cross and lay down our lives, not only for the King who loved us first, not only for our brothers and sisters in Christ who share in that love, but for a lost, dying, and hostile world that has never seen or known love. They can know it through us.
We love Him because He first loved us. My heart’s desire is that the whole world would love Jesus Christ as I do. I’m in tears writing this, thinking about the lostness of humanity and remembering what it is like to not know hope or love. The whole world is waiting to experience the love of the Father. The whole world is longing for a loving God who will intervene in their lives. God is speaking, yet many never hear His voice.  God is reaching out, but many never receive His touch. You are His voice and His touch to this lost and unloved world.

Read the rest of April 2014 Newsletter.
Read previous Newsletters.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Review: Nine Lies People Believe about Speaking in Tongues by Steve Bremner

Have you ever believed or been told that speaking in tongues is not for today? Or do you believe that it is for today, but not for everybody, or that its contemporary use is suspicious? 

These are some of the most common misconceptions people have about this particular gift of the Holy Spirit. In this book, Steve Bremner Scripturally answers these and other objections to modern-day glossolalia. 

Other objections covered in this book include: 
"Tongues are not for today." 
"Holy Spirit baptism already happened at salvation." 
"Speaking in tongues is the least important of the spiritual gifts." 
"You aren’t supposed to speak in tongues unless there’s an interpreter." 
"You can't just speak in tongues at will." 

This book will help you destroy the traditions of man and the lies of religion that nullify the power of God in your life. Begin a new love walk and experience depths in God you never knew were possible through praying in tongues.

I often joke that 1 Corinthians 14:18 is my life verse. Though it is a joke, I'm such a truth oriented person that my humor often barely escapes being blunt honesty with comedic phrasing. I genuinely desire to speak in tongues as much as possible. My passion for this good and perfect gift from my Father above makes me incredibly grateful for Steve Bremner's down to earth apologetic for an accurate understanding of the presence and practice of the gift of tongues and the baptism of the Holy Spirit today.

Nine Lies People Believe about Speaking in Tongues presents an entertaining and readable explanation of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues, dismantling misconception after misconception with precision, tenacity, and a heavy dose of personality. Rather than presenting a succinct, academic answer for each lie or misconception, Steve Bremner weaves his own story of receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues as well as his encounters with each lie into his teaching. His journey from complete ignorance of the gifts of the spirit into cessationism and then into Pentecostal and Charismatic experience is bold and honest. The result is a highly personal, but effective argument for the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues.

Though unexpected and jarring at first, I was immediately thrust upon a couch listening to a friend's impassioned arguments complete with exaggerated inflections of "Put that in your Bible and read it!" While at first riling, the transparency of the author's own personality and communication style quickly became what set the book apart. The book left me feeling that I received information in a very personal and oddly intimate way. The extremely familiar style creates an affection for the writer and the content and attaches a person to every argument. I never found myself thinking, "I agree with that," or "I disagree with that," but "I agree with you" or "I disagree with you." This may not affect all readers, but was tremendously impacting for me. I was moved to tears by Bremner's story of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and provoked when he brought up points that I had not thought of before. His personality was as much a part of the book as the arguments.

The weight of the verve in the prose keeps the book from being stuffy, and it also keeps the book from being for or from an "expert." This may be detrimental to readers who choose not to see the lucidity of the arguments over the flair. The content engages the reader immediately and is out to persuade with insights into Greek, exegesis, wit, imagination, comedy, and plain old rants. The variety of styles of argumentation, the witty storytelling, and the contemporary humor and attitude compelled me to finish the book in two sittings.

The book gets better as it progresses both in its arguments and its passion. Bremner moves from an explanation of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and a brief explanation of how this baptism relates to tongues, to common objections to the current presence and practice of tongues, teasing out the relationship between tongues and the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and exhorting the reader on the value of exercising the gift of tongues. I especially appreciated the later sections and appendices on receiving and helping others receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Though I received certain points within the book with nuance, I concur with the author's conclusions and was poignantly reminded that we don't know how to pray as we should, but that the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses with a good and perfect gift from heaven. I am tremendously grateful.

My thanks to the author for providing a complimentary review copy. I have given an honest review.

Steve Bremner is a co-laborer in the harvest. Please consider supporting his gospel work by purchasing his books or supporting him directly.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Review: Seeking Allah Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi takes the reader on a riveting journey into the mind and heart of  a man passionately seeking and receiving revelation from the one true God. The book succeeds not only as a gripping narrative autobiography, but as a poignant presentation of the truth of Jesus Christ as revealed to a brilliant young Pakistani Muslim. This is a life-changing book that stirs the heart, arrests the mind, and brings the reader into a step-by-step revelation of Jesus as the Savior for all the world.

Nabeel Qureshi does a phenomenal job of taking the reader into his mind and heart to reveal a cultural background and mindset that remains mysterious to most of the world. His vivid portraits of his life as a child, the discomfort of teenage years as a third-culture kid, and the challenges of fighting for truth and identity as an adult thrust us into a different world. His honest descriptions of his struggle with the truth, his foundations, and his own understanding and relationship with God are unlike any biography I've read before, yet they seem so familiar and close to my own heart. In writing a book about himself, a young Muslim seeking the truth, Nabeel Qureshi has managed to capture the inner wrestling for and against the truth of God in Jesus Christ.

Nabeel's story is beautiful. It is so much more than a testimony of a Muslim meeting Jesus. It is a thrilling account of intellectual honesty in the midst of extreme tension. It is a powerful story of supernatural encounters, dreams, and visions. It is a crash course in apologetics taught through riveting dialogue. It is the story of how God loved the world so much, that while we were still sinners, He sent His Son to die for us. It is the story of how God reaches down and intervenes in the lives of His creation, guiding us into all truth. As a minister who works with Muslims everyday, has been through numerous trainings and read numerous books, this book has contributed so much to my understanding of Islam, Muslims, Pakistanis, apologetics, evangelism, and even relationship with God. Even more than that it has given me fresh hope and inspiration as I share the truth of the Gospel with a world that longs for the truth and a God who will intervene in their lives.

My thanks to Zondervan for providing a complimentary review copy. I have given an honest review.