Tuesday, November 13, 2012

New Poll: Should Jots and Tittles Posts Return?


This month I'm polling readers on whether or not I should continue posting Jots and Tittles posts. It has been a while since I've featured a Jots and Tittles post, but I used to post monthly collections of links, articles, sermons, videos and odds and ends about the Bible from around the blogosphere and the internet. You can check out old Jots and Tittles posts by clicking the label here.

Vote on the poll in the upper right (do not try to click and vote on this post) to let me know what you think.

Friday, November 9, 2012

My Preaching Bibles

As a Bible edition aficionado I am always curious about good Bible editions and their function, and quite pleased when I find someone else who has thoughtfully chosen an edition. When it comes to preaching Bibles, function and affordability rule. I fully intend to use and abuse my preaching Bibles and am unashamedly guilty of "the wraparound" in which I wrap half of the Bible around the other, causing significant stress the spine, but enabling me to hold the Bible in one hand. In choosing preaching Bibles, I wanted editions that would be able to stand the stress moderately well, but also be cheap enough to replace in a few years.

I settled on two editions which reflect my translation preferences. The NKJV is my memorization translation and what I personally prefer to preach from as I'm most familiar with its language. The NLT is what I use to do most of my ministry, however, because the majority of my audiences are non-native English speakers or have a low level of literacy. I choose which edition to use based on my audience and my preferences for each passage. Occasionally I bring both and swap back and forth.

My NKJV edition is an NKJV Ultra Thin Large Print Reference Bible in genuine leather published by Broadman and Holman. It features a sewn binding, a readable font, and a concordance at a very affordable price. The Bible is built to last, and though I dislike ultra thin, thinline, and slimline Bibles this edition is a gem in a very spotty field for the NKJV. It's cheap enough that I don't feel bad abusing it, but durable enough that it should hold up well for years.

The NLT edition I chose is an NLT Premium Value Large Print Slimline Bible in brown imitation leather. This edition is less than half the price of the NKJV, but still features a smyth-sewn binding and should be reasonably durable. The print is larger and more readable than the NKJV, but it doesn't feature references, a concordance, or red letters. I have found it to be just as durable as the NKJV and much more readable. This is basically a plain text edition, which is really what I want for preaching.

Both editions lay flat fairly well, but also can be folded over and easily held with one hand, which is exactly what I want to do when I'm preaching. I move fairly constantly, and if I have to hold a mic, holding the Bible in one hand is a necessity.

Please comment and let me know what editions you preach from and why. I see more and more people switching to tablet devices, which can be easily held in one hand. I'm more of a traditional book guy, and would love to hear about your choices.

Listen to a sermon.

528BK: NKJV Ultra Thin Large Print Reference Bible, Genuine leather, Black NKJV Ultra Thin Large Print Reference Bible, Genuine leather, Black
By B & H Publishing Group

This Bible is about the same thickness as the regular ultrathin . Large print edition takes the ultrathin to a whole new generation. The NKJV ultrathin, with its larger pages and type make it extremely popular. Features include: center column reference; words of Christ in red; presentation page; family records section; Full-color maps; gift boxed. Black Genuine Leather.
  • Presentation Page
  • Family Record Pages
  • 10-point text
  • Double-column format
  • Book Introductions
  • Words of Christ in Red
  • Center-column references
  • Harmony of the Gospels
  • Concordance
  • 8 Full-color maps
  • Ribbon Marker
  • Gold Gilded Edges
  • 9.50" X 6.50" X 1.00"
  • Black Genuine Leather
364650: NLT Premium Value Large Print Slimline Bible, Brown Leatherlike NLT Premium Value Large Print Slimline Bible, Brown Leatherlike
By Tyndale House

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Discovery Bible Study Part 4 - Group

Read Part 1
Read Part 2
Read Part 3

I'm currently involved in three Discovery Bible Study groups, one of which could be considered a house church or a cell in what we hope would be a multiplying movement. The DBS method, though useful for the individual, is intended for group use. The principles of obedience and inductive participation are vital for any discipleship method, but DBS makes the most of Church Planting Movement or Disciple Making Movement principles, emphasizing multiplication of groups of disciples over Church growth.

One of the groups I'm involved with is the home group I mentioned previously which includes two very new believers, four more mature believers and the occasional unbeliever or member of another religion. We study the book of Luke and take communion together every week. One of the members was led to the Lord in the group, and we have baptized two believers in the Detroit river.

One of the groups is made up of four unbelievers all of whom currently confess one of two eastern religions. I lead the study through the book of Mark.

The third group is a group of leaders and we study through City Team's Church Planters Curriculum.

All of the groups follow an adapted form of the outline below:

The process of the Discovery Bible Study should be simple enough that everyone can follow, literate or not. Remember that we have designed the type of church that we want to see started: simple, obedient, biblical, culturally relevant, and reproductive. The DNA that we want to see developed is this: obedience, prayer, reproduction, genuine concern for the community, and outward focus on the lost. From the first day you should sow the seed of each element that you want to see characterized in the church later.
Section 1: Opening
Ask the following questions to determine how to minister to the person:

  • What are you thankful for this week?
  • What has worried you this week? What do you need to make the situation better? (This will lead to prayer and an opportunity to serve one another.)
  • What are the needs of the people in your community? (This will lead to prayer, compassionate service, and opportunities to make disciples.)
  • How can we help one another with the needs we expressed? (This will become koinonea fellowship, a close community of relationship and meeting one another's needs.)

Section 2: Review
This section starts with the second DBS meeting. Ask the following questions:

  • What did we talk about last week? (accountability)
  • What changed in your life as a result of last week's story and the point of obedience you discovered? (accountability for experience)
  • How did it go when you shared the story with someone else? (accountability for evangelism and reproduction)
  • We identified several needs last week and planned to meet those needs. How did it go? (accountability for meeting one another's needs)
Section 4: Go and Live it Out
Help your DBS group to apply the Scriptures in their lives through obedience to God's Word.
  • Ask, "Who are you going to share this passage with before we meet again?" (evangelism and replication)
  • Say, "From now on, let's practice what we have seen today. It is the truth from the Creator, and we all should live according to that truth."
  • Ask, "When do you want to meet again?" This is a practical question. You will never get people to commit to many weeks of study, but you can give them the option to meet again next week. If they are really seeking, and if the meeting is filling a need, they will tell you that they want to meet again. 
  • If there was a need in section 1 to visit someone or a family in the community, go with two or three people from the group to visit.
- Jerry Trousdale,  Miraculous Movements  p. 194-196

The interaction of believers over the Word of God without an authoritative teacher or preacher (though I believe in and value both) creates an atmosphere of mutual discovery. Members feel a greater responsibility and ownership towards what they feel the Holy Spirit is directly revealing to them about their lives. The focus of the study applies the Word specifically to each member's life and requires a commitment to obedience and evangelism.

David Watson's blog features an excellent post on inductive versus deductive study. The post highlights the principles and design of inductive study and explains why it is preferable to deductive study for discipleship. The writers of much of the material along these lines strongly discourage preaching and teaching, which I understand, though I would point out that preaching and teaching are also vital for evangelism and discipleship and have their place. I believe preaching is a method ordained by God. However, we must swallow our ego and our desire to be heard and discern when to preach and when to allow the Holy Spirit to speak directly to people.

Disciples must learn to hear the Lord and pursue obedience on their own, and they must be able to help others do the same without the presence of teachers and preachers. My desire is to lead  and facilitate discovery in a way that even the least equipped saint can reproduce. Even if someone is not called or equipped to preach and teach, they can open the Word with a group and say, "Lord, what must I do? What do you want to teach us?" We have a promise that we don't need a teacher other than the Holy Spirit and that He teaches us all things (1 John 2:27). Let's rely on that promise. He is the teacher.

There are many (apart from those already mentioned) who offer excellent resources on similar methods:


Check out CityTeam's disciple-making resources and the links below:

Read Part 1
Read Part 2
Read Part 3

Friday, October 19, 2012

Vocalizing the Word

I originally read this from Wesley Hill at Writing in the Dust:

Reading the Bible out loud is a profoundly theological act. After all, it is no accident that the Christian tradition considered the Word to be first and foremost a person. In oral societies, words have so much personal power that they are treated as entities with their own agency. As Walter Ong observes, “In a society where the only known word is the pure, evanescent spoken word, it is easier to think of objects as words than it is to think of words as objects.” Reading out loud gives us a glimpse of the social conditions that made the identification of God with the Word so plausible. Reading the Bible out loud is also practically useful. It helps to answer some of the most pressing questions that arise from the written text. What did Jesus sound like when he stilled the storm, rebuked Peter, or chatted with Martha and Mary? Does it matter that the only leper who showed gratitude for being cured praised God with a loud voice (Luke 17:15)? When Pilate asked if he were the Messiah, how did Jesus say, “You say so”? How do we know, unless we try saying these words out loud ourselves? Of course, vocalizing the words of Scripture is no guarantee that they will be fully and truly understood. Such vocalization is not even a necessary condition for divine revelation, since God can work through any medium. Nevertheless, the Word of God is never more at home, so to speak, than in the sound of the human voice.

Stephen Webb, The Divine Voice: Christian Proclamation and the Theology of Sound

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Seinfeld Calendar - Reading Plan

The most popular posts on this blog are by far the posts featuring Bible reading plans (or schemes as the say in the UK). This popularity does not primarily come from my active readership, but from visitors who find my reading plan posts from search engines etc. I hope these readers stick around, but even if they don't I'm happy to provide a service that may help people interact consistently with the powerful and life-changing Word of God.

I must confess I have been reading plan free for some months (Yes, this means I ditched my plan for 2012, but I did so intentionally. Grant Horner's system is not for me). I have read my Bible every day without fail, and I actually have been reading more of the Bible lately than usual. I like to read multiple chapters per day aloud, sometimes using Discovery Bible Study, margin notes and highlighting and sometimes just belting it out.

One habit I have picked up, however, is the use of a "Seinfeld Calendar." This happened when in a Church service I was asking the Lord some questions, and I heard a quotation of the whole chapter of Hebrews 12 go through my mind and heart. I have never memorized Hebrews 12. I realized that the Lord was getting my attention, and set myself to reading Hebrews 12 everyday, with the intention of continuing for two months.

The situation reminded me of a productivity tool used by the comedian Jerry Seinfeld called the "Seinfeld Calendar." The simple idea has been getting popular, and I thought it would be excellent to use for a Bible plan. Lifehacker supposedly features the original story explaining advice the writer personally received from the comedian before a stand-up routine:

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.
He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. "After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain."
"Don't break the chain," he said again for emphasis.
You can read the full story here. This simple tool has proved effective and easy for many, and I'm finding it effective as well. I originally discovered the Seinfeld Calendar through a facebook post to Seinfeldcalendar.com, a simple site which allows you to title and create your own Seinfeld Calendar (though printing from the browser refuses to work for me). The site features a simple format which you can see below.

You simply title the calendar with your goal, such as "Read Hebrews 12" or "Read Five Chapters of the Bible" or as I'm considering "Read One Book of GEPCo" (GEPCo is Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians). I've been working on my Hebrews 12 Seinfeld Calendar for half a month. Simple really is better when it comes to productivity tools, and this is about as simple and elegant as it gets. Having trouble staying on task with your reading? Try a Seinfeld Calendar with your reading plan.

September 2012

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Discovery Bible Study Part 3 - Individual

Read Discovery Bible Study Part 2 - Method first.

The Discovery Bible Study method is inextricably linked to evangelism and discipleship. Its greatest success is in group practice, where accountability, group inspiration, and discussion are part of the Spirit moving in the text. However, Discovery Bible Study can be a powerful component of individual study and devotional life. It is designed to activate believers in sharing and doing the Word by creating an approach to Bible study that necessitates sharing the text that you read with someone and fulfilling an "I Will" obedience statement appropriated from the teaching of Scripture. For many, this will be the most aggressive approach to obeying Scripture they've ever taken. 

The intention of sharing what you read every time you approach Scripture creates a compass in daily life where sharing Scripture becomes a priority.It makes evangelism and Christian fellowship a significant part of Bible study in a way that I have never seen before. You leave the Bible with the intention of sharing what you've just read with someone (a believer or unbeliever). This becomes a highly effective habit and can even create routines and hunger from those around you as "Today I read in the Bible. . ." becomes a normal and expected part of conversation.

In addition to the potent obedience and evangelism components of the study, the rewriting of Scripture benefits memorization and careful rereading of the text as does putting the text "in your own words." While these components may seem basic and simplistic, I don't know many readers who make a regular practice of this outside of us who practice Discovery Bible Study on a regular basis. As you can see above, this can create a significant amount of meditation just by going through the writing process. These pictures are of one my evangelism partner's personal DBS three column study sheets.

Picking a simple list of short passages to go through with the DBS method on a daily or weekly basis can radically change your life. For many Christians sharing a passage of Scripture and fulfilling the Word in a deliberate way once a week will be a powerful change in their life. Discovery Bible Study can activate this as a lifestyle in a believer, and it can accomplish this without lengthy training, curricula or extraneous materials. A Bible, a pen, a piece of paper, and a willing heart are all you need. 

Check out CityTeam's disciple-making resources and the links below:

Read Part 1
Read Part 2

Monday, September 17, 2012

Review: Single Column Journaling Bible

Crossway is one of the best Bible publishers on the market, and, in my view, the best when it comes to the versatility and variety of their editions. Of the many editions of the ESV available, the Journaling Bible is my all-around favorite, and while I haven't reviewed the original edition of the ESV Journaling Bible, I have given away more Journaling Bibles as gifts than any other edition, and I have probably recommended it more than any other edition. My only major criticism of the original Journaling Bible was its double column format, and its questionable durability. When I saw that the Single Column Journaling Bible had come out, I jumped at the chance to review it, sure that all my dreams had come true. This review will focus on the new edition, rather than comparing the two as I actually gave all the original editions I had away.

Identical in function, purpose and aesthetic to the original Journaling Bible, the new Single Column edition features the classic Moleskine appearance, complete with a thick elastic strap, cream colored pages and a low gloss cover.  While the original edition remains 6.25 in x 7.25 in, the Single column edition stretches out at 6.25 in x 8.0 in. This avoids the blocky look of the original and gives it more of a recognizable book shape. As usual, I wouldn't mind a thicker spine, but the page count in this edition surpasses the original by about 300 pages, so it probably is slightly thicker.

The inside is the main appeal of the Journaling Bible and Crossway succeeds brilliantly at creating a spacious, readable layout complete with two inches of ruled margins for your own notes. As you can see, there remains a fair amount of ghosting where the text from the opposing side of the page presents a ghostly image beneath the text. This is especially visible in the poetry sections. While this amount of ghosting is obviously undesirable, the Journaling Bible features 27 lb Bible paper, the same as the ESV Pew Bible, which is about as thick as you can ask for. I've confessed before that ghosting rarely, if ever, distracts me, and the fact that this is about the thickest Bible paper on the market makes me wonder if ghosting is an issue that can be fixed without some kind of miracle paper.

The font choice is classy and readable for younger eyes at 7.5. There seems to be a generous amount of space between each line as well, making the text a little more distinguishable. I am impressed by Crossway's dedication to decent margin space, especially in the poetry sections. They don't allow the text to curve into the gutter or slam right against the note-taking margins.

The narrative portions feature the same care in the layout, though notes will be a little more cramped here due to the paragraph format instead of lines and stanzas. This is the nature of the text itself. This is a black letter edition, which means colored pens will stand out well.

Like most wide margin editions, this layout features no frills. Simple chapter and heading titles and the necessary textual footnotes are the only additions to the text itself.

The margins feature nice dotted lines to reign in slanted writing, optimizing the page for efficiency and dictating a decent size print. I'm always in favor of empty space for charts, schematics, illustrations and so on, but these lines are attractive, and I will attempt to stay within them. They seem especially useful for the narrative portions where there's less space to go around, and a guide to using it efficiently will be helpful. You can view a PDF of the layout here.

The binding accomplishes an impressive feat by opening flat at the last page and from Genesis One. A fantastic benefit for those who write in their Bibles, as it's often irritating to hold the cover down while attempting to scrawl a legible but barely macroscopic note in the margin.

The sewn binding does its job. I believe the original Journaling Bible was a hybrid of glued and sewn. Crossway advertises both editions as sewn. It's difficult for me to tell if this is glued as well as sewn (I can't see a layer of glue. Help me out in the comments), but it certainly performs well.

This edition is light on features, offering a dedication page, table of contents, a Preface to the translation, an explanation of the translation features, a table of weights and measures, and a daily reading plan. As always I will miss the concordance, and I'm learning to miss the maps, especially during the book of Acts.

There's no pocket flap in the back of the Bible which would be a nice addition. We all know stuffing bulletins, Bible study outlines etc. in your Bible will stress the spine, but we all do it anyway. A pocket would make it more convenient as inevitable these inserts go flying everywhere.

The classic elastic strap is still here along with a nicely proportioned ribbon. The strap is yet another encouragement to stuff loose papers in the Bible. The band is thick and strong, though I have friends whose elastic strap on their original edition is loose and shot. They may simply be bad stewards of elastic as it will always wear out if misused. The durability of this edition remains in question. Two of my friends have done significant damage to the bindings of their hardback editions, and I am uncertain if this edition will hold up better. The binding seems higher quality, and I certainly hope this Bible can take hard use as that's what the design lends it to. The Journaling Bible should be carried regularly, stuffed into backpacks and bags, pressed into, folded up, closed upon bulletins and maybe even pens, and well used because that's the kind of use a reader that fills their Bible with margin notes desires.

In short, this is almost the edition I've always dreamed of. If I had my way, there would be blank margins, a thicker spine and bigger print, greater durability, a concordance, and a pocket in the back, but really this is looking a gift horse in the mouth. This edition is a great gift to wide margin lovers everywhere. The streamlined approach to design will please far more readers than it will alienate. This edition is really what most Journaling Bible users wanted: more of the same, an identical edition with a single column format. Crossway accomplishes this with their trustworthy efficiency, and presents it at an affordable price. It's time to start a new Bible journaling project.

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

531910: ESV Single Column Journaling Bible(Black) ESV Single Column Journaling Bible(Black)
By Crossway Books & Bibles
536045: ESV Single Column Journaling Bible (Red) ESV Single Column Journaling Bible (Red)
By Crossway Books & Bibles
531927: ESV Single Column Journaling Bible Bonded Leather Brown (Flap with Strap) ESV Single Column Journaling Bible Bonded Leather Brown (Flap with Strap)
By Crossway Books & Bibles
4838X: ESV Journaling Bible, Original, black ESV Journaling Bible, Original, black
By Crossway Books & Bibles

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Blogging, Missions, and Revelation: The Future of Bible Reading Project

You may have noticed that lately Bible Reading Project has drifted out of its niche of "creative, inspiring, and exciting methods of interacting with God's Word and with His Son Jesus Christ" into an emphasis on evangelism, missions, and cross-cultural ministry. This is a major mistake in blogging. Failing to stay in your niche is supposedly sure to lose and alienate readers as they receive content in which they have little interest. I'm very much aware of this conventional wisdom for how to handle one's self in the blogosphere, and I am still as passionate as ever about God's word and finding new ways of interacting with it; however, my life as a missionary and my passion for evangelism and making disciples is rapidly consuming my time and encroaching upon every aspect of my life. That is reason to rejoice!

The Lord is blessing me and making me fruitful in ways that blow my mind. In the last week I've proclaimed the Good News to many, studied God's Word with many, and led one person out of darkness and into the light of Christ! Praise God for a young man who was radically born again and has left his old life behind for new life in Christ!

As missions, evangelism, and disciple-making take more and more of my heart, mind, and time, I'll be writing more on those topics. I hope this will greatly enrich the blog and bring more of an obedience and discipleship focus to the subject of Bible study, but at times it may not fit with the expected output of BibleReadingProject. I will try to keep most of my missions stories and writing over at the blog on my new personal site, but there will be some convergence here (there already has been quite a bit). I can't be sure that I'll maintain the same output at all though. This is only a blog. There are people who are lost, saved, and newly born again who are a part of my life that I'm called to minister to. People are the only thing you can invest in that lasts forever. If it comes down to them or the blog, I will choose them.

Some of you may have noticed that I have posted a number of book reviews here that fall more into the genre of missions and ministry literature than Bible study. This is because I often receive review copies for free in exchange for a review. These review copies are available because of the traffic this blog receives, and many of these books have enriched my life and ministry. The current Bible Project series on Discovery Bible Study was inspired by one of these books and it has become one of the most personally transforming Study methods I've used. I will be continuing this series soon, so stay posted.

A final point would be that evangelism and missions will radically change the way you read the Bible and it may radically change your theology. Reading the Bible with unbelievers, new believers, and with those who have had no contact with it before will draw out new revelations about how incredible Jesus really is. Bible stories gain even more savor and richness as you see people respond to them in powerful ways, and as God begins to move. There's nothing to jar you into a new realization of God's goodness like seeing multiple people miraculously healed at the same time! Or if you run into people from other cultures who have questions about encounters with Jesus in dreams and visions. Or if you yourself are guided to a seeker by supernatural revelation. Evangelism and missions is so often where the presence of God remains and where the action is. The Word comes alive!

I plan to keep writing here, and I hope you keep reading. I hope the blog inspires you not only to read the Bible in new ways, but to do the Bible in new ways. I hope it makes you want to go out and read the Bible with someone who doesn't know Jesus. I hope it makes you want to introduce the God of the Bible, the Jesus of the Bible who lives and is the same yesterday, today, and forever, to someone who doesn't know Him. Thank you for reading. The best is yet to come!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Review: Insider Movements by Jeff Morton

Insider Movements: Biblically Incredible or Incredibly Brilliant by Jeff Morton is a must read for anyone involved in ministry and missions to Muslims or anyone involved in supporting missionaries overseas (which should include the whole Church). The issues here are of paramount importance. As a worker among Muslims, I have seen the dramatic influence of Insider Movement methodology at work. Jeff Morton's book is a balanced presentation and critique of Insider Movements. It is not an angry diatribe or a weighty academic study as some may characterize Chrislam: How Missionaries are Promoting an Islamized Gospel. It is an accessible, practical, and persuasive explanation and evaluation of what is going on in most missions to Muslims around the world.

Insider Movements are defined in different ways but a basic description within Muslim Ministry would be a multiplication of Muslim converts who remain inside the religion of Islam so as to not lose their cultural identity. This missiological model has become increasingly popular, especially in missions to Muslims, where it seems the majority of missionaries have been influenced by Insider Movement methodology. Yet few outside of the world of ministry to Muslims are aware of this approach. This book is a timely interaction with the foundations and practices of Insider Movements.

Jeff Morton has produced an excellent and concise evaluation of Insider Movements and the methodology surrounding them. The writing remains clear, engaging, and even entertaining in the midst of bringing important exegetical, theological, and academic approaches to bear. Morton brings a careful and well balanced critique of the the thinking, theological processes, and strategies of Insider Movements by evaluating primarily the Theology of Religions present within the method. The majority and finest part of the book interacts with the scriptural basis of the IM position. Morton educates, evaluates, and persuades with great fluidity and maintains a smooth progression of ideas and evaluations, building his case carefully from the basis of scripture.

Some of Morton's conclusions about Islam will make missionaries uncomfortable, and a few will be tempted to dismiss Morton out of hand because he finds little to nothing worth a convert retaining within Islam. He disagrees that some things within Islam are salvageable. Unfortunately he allows the reader to interpret what this means practically, and some may paint Morton (and already have) as a harsh "extractionist" who demands all former Muslims don a starched white shirt and tie, sit in a pew, and sing "Holy, Holy, Holy" in a language they've never learned. This is the way opponents are demonized within missiological debate. Regardless of how missionaries feel about this conclusion, they must engage with Morton's exegesis of scripture and his interaction with the interpretations that proponents of IM use to found their case.

Morton's work, though concise and easily read, is an exceptional challenge to IM theology. He engages the majority of texts used to develop IM paradigms as well as quoting and engaging published interpretations. These issues include such questions as: Was Melchizedek a pagan priest? Did Elisha endorse worshipping Rimmon when speaking with Naaman? Were the pagan sailor's in the book of Jonah in a relationship with God? Were the Samaritans in John 4 and Acts 8 converts who retained their pagan religion? Was Acts 15 an example of entering the kingdom through Jesus without Christianity? Is Acts 17 evidence that scripture values socio-politico-religious identities? Does 1 Corinthians 7 mean Muslims should stay Muslim? Does 1 Corinthians 9 instruct us to become Muslim to reach Muslims? All of these texts and interpretations are introduced, fleshed out, and interpreted with transparent exegesis.

The book concludes with a brief discussion of conversion and a final analysis of Insider Movements. It includes appendices which feature a twenty page case study of IM in West Java. The case study is an illuminating, disturbing, and essential look at how Insider Movements occur outside of the textbooks and conferences in the real world.

I have been waiting for a solid but brief and accessible critique of Insider Movement methodology to appear. This book is almost exactly what I was looking for, and I hope that Morton's colleagues will produce more along the same lines. I will be buying multiple copies to distribute to workers, churches, and inquirers.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Undefeated and Unshaken (September 2012 Newsletter)

I know about your suffering and your poverty—but you are rich! Revelation 2:9a NLT

Discouragement is one of the enemy’s choice weapons, especially against the faithful and obedient. He seeks to depress, discourage and immobilize the church by imparting his own defeat, depression, and discouragement. But we are not defeated. We are more than conquerors. Jesus never promised that life in the Kingdom would be free from obstacles, trials, and suffering, but He did instruct us not to fear or lose heart because we know that He was and is victorious over all things: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NLT). Jesus Christ has overcome! He knows that we will have many trials. He knows about our suffering and our seeming poverty of ability and strength, and it is valuable to Him, but truly we are rich for “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). 

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, informing them of his struggle with circumstances, with discouragement, and even with despair: “We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die.” The enemy was attacking on every side because Paul was a powerful force spreading the Good News to every part of the known world. He was honest about his struggle. This was not a light attack, but he held on to the goodness of God and the victory we’ve had, we have, and we will have in Christ: “But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us” (1 Corinthians 1:8-10 NLT). God is a rescuer. He is a dead raiser. There is no victory for the enemy because even death is overcome. Christ has rescued us from sin, breathed life into our spirit, and raised us from spiritual death. He has rescued us from mortal danger and He will rescue us again. He is faithful and true. He is reliable, and He alone is to be relied on. In Him we have every victory.

 “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you” (1 Peter 5:10 NKJV). Suffering may last for a while. Threats may last for a time. Circumstances may weigh heavy for a season and mourning may last for the night, but joy, victory, and rescue are coming! In that victory we are perfected, established, strengthened, and settled. We are secured on our solid foundation. We are pulled from shifting sand and miry clay and set upon a solid rock that endures every storm and will never be shaken. This sweet assurance of victory and wonderful hope in Christ will not and does not disappoint (Romans 5:5). We can trust His power and victory.

The same Paul who endured great suffering and attack overflowed with thanks to God because He saw the tremendous and continual victory we walk in. He delighted in a spiritual walk beyond the battle, already present in the celebration of Christ’s destruction of all of Satan’s power: “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:14 NKJV). We live in the sweet smell of knowing a victorious God who rescues us without fail. Our identity as children of God is also as victors. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4). The victory was won by Christ regardless of what we believe, but we experience and enforce that victory in this world by our faith: our simple knowledge and assurance of this victory now and forever. 
Though the enemy may try to attack with lies, we have already won; he’s on the defense and the gates of hell will not prevail against the church (Matt 16:18). Gates don’t attack anyone. We attack the gates and they won’t hold up. They won’t prevail, and our victory in this life and the next will be an eternal glory to our Great and Powerful God who is searching the earth to show Himself strong on behalf of the faithful (2 Chron. 16:9).

Read the rest of the September 2012 Newsletter.
Read past Newsletters.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Review: Dreams and Visions by Tom Doyle

Tom Doyle's collection of stories of divine encounters and visitations among Muslims stands as a potent testimony to the power and love of God, introducing not only supernatural dreams and visions in the Muslim world, but also the supernatural love of God for all of His creation. The book contains careful reporting of documented cases of dreams and visions of Jesus in almost every nation of the Middle East. While it's obvious that Doyle has been a responsible and thorough reporter, the writing is active and follows a nonfiction novel format, recreating scenes, emotions, and action through numerous interviews and meticulous research. Using the stories of dreams and visions as a centerpiece, Doyle carefully constructs the context for each story to take place, illustrating the history of numerous nations, describing Islam and its worldview, and describing how house churches and Christianity functions in these parts of the world, making the book as essentially informative as it is inspiring and exciting.

 Doyle comes from a significantly strong conservative perspective and often highlights the ugliest aspects of Islam. As a field worker and an experienced researcher, he is well entitled to this perspective and portrayal. What he presents is fact; my only apprehension is that the sometimes sensational tone of his prose when partnered with these facts may inspire more fear than he intends. In some odd way, I feel like this book should have been better. Some of these stories have been published before in Voice of the Martyrs newsletters etc. They are highly impacting and poignant, and the author's energetic portrayal of the events seeks to make the most of each story. There are times when the prose seems overactive and too much like fiction writing. As a reader I feel set up for the emotional response and this damages the authenticity of emotion that often simple reporting will accomplish because we know it's real. This is only a slight concern in the midst of an excellent presentation of God's love at work. I laud Doyle even more as a non-charismatic graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary who is so involved and honest about God's supernatural work. His initial skepticism gives weight to his voice, and his wisdom in how to practically judge and apply dreams and visions in evangelism and missions work is welcome. As a worker among Muslims, I appreciated Doyle's exhortations to the local church to reach out to the Muslim community. Dreams and Visions is an important work for our nation and a tremendously encouraging work as well; it is well edited, well written, engaging, and full of the Father's heart.

My thanks to Thomas Nelson for providing this complimentary review copy. I have provided an honest review.

947209: Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World? Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World?
By Tom Doyle with Greg Webster / Thomas Nelson

Monday, August 20, 2012

Discovery Bible Study Part 2 - Method

Discovery Bible Study was started as a way of church planting and disciple making; however the principles and methods are just as effective for individual use as they are for a group. Applying the DBS method in individual devotion and discipleship will make DBS with others flow much more naturally. The examples of DBS in Miraculous Movements come from rural church plants in Africa where church planters use loose, flexible or impromptu curricula, and items like paper, and notebooks are not necessary (though encouraged and helpful). City Team has developed online resources for more affluent contexts, including guides, curricula and pre-made forms for DBS. In this post I'm going to skip some of the essentials for group study and focus on the core DBS perspective and method, the next post in the series will highlight principles for group study.

When we do DBS, we follow a process that can easily be put into three columns. Each participant creates his own workbook with three columns that he fills out himself: "What does the Scripture passage say?" (This is a literal transcription of the verses being studied); "What does it say in my own words?"; and "If this is true, what must I do to obey?" 

You can download a PDF of this form here.

You don't necessarily need to have the three column format in your studies; just use the following format to study the Bible together:
  • Say "Let's see what the Bible teaches us this week." Read this week's passage. (Scripture)
  • Read or listen to the verses [. . .]
  • Focus on the Scriptures, not human opinion.
  • Ask for someone to retell the passage in their own words, as if he was telling a friend who wasn't there. (understanding Scripture, accountability, evangelism)
  • Ask the group, "Do you agree with this retelling? Is there something he added or left out that he shouldn't have?" As long as the group doesn't miss a key component of the passage, continue. If they miss something read the passage again. If someone states something that isn't in the passage, ask, "Where did you find [what he said] in this passage?" Reread the passage, if necessary. (group correction, focus on one passage)
  • Your intention is for the group to start asking these questions as they go further in the process (group correction). Make sure that you develop this; otherwise, you won't establish the process that keeps from going into heresy. You will get answers such as "My imam says this," or "My friend said that." When that happens, keep bringing it back by asking, "What does this passage of Scripture say?"
  • Ask, "What does this passage teach us about God?" (discovery and Scripture)
  • Ask, "What does this passage teach us about humanity?" (discovery and Scripture)
  • Ask, "If we believe that this passage is from God, how must we change?" (discovery, Scripture, obedience)
  • Ask group members to formulate their personal response to this passage by starting with, "I will . . ."

- Jerry Trousdale,  Miraculous Movements  p. 194-195

This may seem like a simple inductive Bible study, and really that's what it is. These are simple guidelines for inductive study aimed at obedience rather than doctrinal knowledge. I found the method personally edifying, and easy to follow, which is somewhat unusual as I like freedom to roam in my Bible studies.

 At first, I was hesitant to put this into practice in groups as I was sure everyone would rather talk about what they already knew; however, that has happened very little. The simple questions are narrow enough to hedge people in, as is the focusing question, "What does this passage of Scripture say?" The questions lead to discovery about who God is, who we are, and how that should impact our daily lives. It's transforming Bible study in its simplest form.

DBS hones our hearts and minds in on what's important. For westerners this isolates us from all the teaching, doctrine, ideas, and culture that distracts from the simple Word and what it means about our basic relationship and identity with God. It also pulls us away from learning simply for knowledge and sets our feet on a path of obedience, which really is the path of discipleship. Discipleship is far more a discovery of God and obedience to Him than it is a discovery of doctrine or ideas. In following posts we'll cover starting a DBS, DBS in evangelism, which I've already touched on briefly, and see some more examples.

Read Part 1

Friday, August 17, 2012

Discovery Bible Study Part 1 - Intro

The challenge in making obedient disciples is to teach obedience. In the context of Disciple Making Movements, we have seen that the best tool to teach obedience is Discovery Bible Study (DBS). Do not teach or preach; instead facilitate discovery and obedience. -Jerry Trousdale Miraculous Movements p.106

Discovery Bible Study is a method put into extensive practice by Cityteam International in their disciple making movements which are sweeping Africa and resulting in over 200,000 converts in less than a decade. You can read more about Cityteam International and their work with indigenous church planters in  Miraculous Movements  by Jerry Trousdale (you can read my review of the book here).

I like to use many different methods to read and study the Bible, and I do something a little different everyday. I've developed discipline with many methods, but as a whole I'm rarely faithful to a single approach every single day. Discovery Bible Study is changing that. The emphasis on inductive study leading to obedience has been transforming. The last two years have done a lot to mold me into an obedient disciple and witness, and the intentional, practical simplicity of DBS has changed the way I understand discipleship, and has changed the way I do cross-cultural ministry.

Before going out to do ministry, meeting with students, or spending time with unbelievers, my evangelism partners and I take an inventory of what we’ve read in the gospels lately and ask the Lord to show us which story we should tell. We follow Christ’s example by retelling His parables and teachings as well as describing events in His earthly life and ministry, climaxing in His death, resurrection, and ascension. We practice telling stories to each other regularly and ask the Lord to provide an opportunity to tell stories in conversations.
This method partners well with distributing Scripture. We give copies of the New Testament and the Gospel of Mark to everyone we can. When we tell stories, we can tell the listener to pull out their New Testament and read along. This leads to an impromptu Bible study. These impromptu Bible studies are invariably Discovery Bible Studies based on inductive application of the Word with a focus on obedience.
The Discovery Bible Study uses the inductive method of Bible study. Its purpose is not to build knowledge, even though people do develop their understandings of biblical teachings as they develop sound doctrine. rather it is a careful analysis of the Word of God in order to discover what are the principles of life for a disciple, for a Christian leader, and for the church. As people discover these principles, they align their lives to them. So the primary purpose of the DBS is to help people (nonbelievers and believers) discover and understand the teachings of Jesus in a way that leads them to obedience (2 Timothy 3:15-41).
In the context of Disciple Making Movements, the DBS is a group meeting. It introduces and develops from the beginning the core values of discipleship, leadership, and church. The DBS is designed in such a way that the different parts of a session develop the DNA of church in the group. (When we refer to "the DNA" of a church, we mean that habits learned early-- obedience to God's Word, prayer, worship, and so forth-- remain habits when a person accepts Christ. Those habits become part of the new believer's daily life, simply because they were implanted as "DNA" previously.) By so doing, when the group members accept Christ, they will discover that they have already been "doing church" form the first days. p. 107
The principles behind DBS groups are similar to many Bible study formats and missions models, but the surprisingly simple method and application of the principles generates rapid multiplication of willing and obedient disciples. The obedience focus has culture and religion bending effect, creating an active participation in the Word rather than a passive acceptance of doctrine. Trousdale outlines this more in his book and David Watson features a lengthy post on his blog regarding DBS and inductive Bible study which is well worth the read. I will probably quote from it in upcoming posts. These driving principles inform the approach and method of DBS, but for this blog, the practical "how to" and the practice of DBS for the individual will the be the focus. The majority of the next post will describe how to start DBS for yourself and what DBS looks like for an individual reader.
In our research for this book, we met people who came to the interviews with their Discovery Bible Study notebooks filled with pages of hand-written Scripture, insights from God's Word, and "I will" statements of obedience to God. It was precious to see how important those notebooks were to these people; the pages had swelled from the pressure of the pen on paper. They knew what they had promised God, and they had recorded His answers to their prayers. p. 109
The whole of this series will rely heavily on Jerry Trousdale's Miraculous Movements and work by Dave Watson. By all means read these sources; I hope they become milestones in global church transformation.

547288: Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love with JesusMiraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love with Jesus
By Jerry Trousdale / Thomas Nelson