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

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bible Study Notes


For the past six months or so I have been attending a Bible study led by Art Thomas, a missionary, author and evangelist who God is using for all kinds of work. Art has become a great friend and mentor. I've never been much of a notetaker during Bible studies, but I like to do a combination of note-taking and doodling if I'm in an informal setting. This helps me catch important concepts and phrases but also illustrates the study in a way that jogs my memory with a little humor. I scanned some of my notes to share with the group, and I thought some of them may be of interest here. The notes will only give a hazy picture of the Bible study, but they're great reminders for me and highlight concepts for further meditation. You can find out more about Art's ministry at Artthomas.org and wildfiremin.org.