Monday, December 23, 2013

My 2014 Bible Reading Plan



























Each year I make a new plan for how I will read the Bible in the coming year. My plan for 2014 is simpler than usual. I will read the Gospels and Acts 30 times in the coming year and read the whole Bible at least once.

I've been inspired by Jeff Sundell a missionary who I have learned so much from. His training in T4T and Church Planting Movements has changed my life and ministry. He recounted that while he was a missionary in Asia he read the Gospels and Acts 30 times per year with a specific eye to understand how Jesus made disciples and planted churches. I will be engaging in a similar project, which an upcoming post will describe. I read the Epistles frequently without any external motivation, but I usually only read the Gospels and Acts a couple of times per year. With this reading plan, I will be reading ten chapters of the Gospels and Acts everyday.

I will be using the daily reading plan in the back of the Single Column Journaling Bible and the following checklists to maintain my reading.


Review: Hyper-Grace by Dr. Michael Brown

Rarely is a book responding to error within the church so timely, conscientious, and precise. While I value much grace teaching today and don’t believe this is the final revelation on the subject, I must recommend Hyper-Grace to every believer exposed to modern grace teaching.

Dr. Michael Brown’s Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of theModern Grace Message is a much needed response to the deluge of popular new grace theology in the church today. In a respectful but emphatic tone Dr. Brown interacts with a large variety of popular “grace movement” teachers and doctrines, highlighting both liberating truth and destructive error. Hyper-Grace carries out a systematic examination, asking difficult questions, examining a wealth of scriptural interpretation, and thoroughly interacting with the main tenets of new “grace theology” in a clear and engaging way.

The table of contents alone posits questions that both “grace teachers” and those examining their theology need to answer: “Has God Already Forgiven our Future Sins?” “Should Believers Confess their Sins to God?” “[Are we]Sanctified or Not?”  “Is Spirituality Effortless?” “Is God Always in a Good Mood?” “Why are we Running from the Words of Jesus?” Dr. Brown’s chapters also ask if the Holy Spirit convicts unbelievers and/or believers of sin and if so should we repeny? and what does that mean? The fact that many of these questions have risen means that foundational Christian teaching and understanding is being questioned. Many believers who have taken answers to these questions for granted must go back to the Word and examine why they believe what they believe. Dr. Brown quotes large portions of published works naming specific teachers and interacting with the teacher’s comments themselves sometimes positively and often negatively. While I have not read every work the book interacts with, I have read some, and his approach seems fair, though critical. He acknowledges, “[grace teachers] have stated categorically that grace does not give us a license to sin. That is not the question.”

Condensing his concerns at the beginning of the book Dr. Brown states, “I’m afraid that many modern grace teachers, in their zeal to safe-guard the glories of grace, preach their message without fundamental aspects of biblical truth. These would include: 1) God requires holy living from His people; 2) our sins do have an impact on our relationship with God; 3) you can preach grace and preach against sin at the same time; 4) there is much in the Old Testament that remains of foundational relevance to believers under grace.” All of these points are vital and need to be thoroughly discussed by those interacting with modern grace teaching. I have been greatly blessed by many preachers and teachers who could be considered a part of the “grace movement.” I have also been highly disturbed by those who claim that the Holy Spirit no longer convicts us of sin, that we don’t have to repent, that God is pleased with us regardless of our behavior, that the Sermon on the Mount and teachings of Jesus don’t apply to believers and other more egregious errors. I have sat late in the middle of the night discussing these same points with friends, leaders, and co-laborers in the gospel. I am delighted that Dr. Brown has addressed many of these same concerns not only in broad strokes or concepts but in specific and thorough treatment.

Hyper-Grace excels when fleshing out our real relationship with Jesus Christ. Our daily walk and talk with our Father, our response to His Spirit, and our worship, conversation, and love walk with the Son must be at the center of our theology. We must have an honest understanding of how grace relates to our ongoing and open relationship with our living God. Dr. Brown elucidates point after point about our daily interaction with God that challenges modern grace theology. Much “grace teaching” makes sense only in the light of a mechanical system of justification but fades into irrelevance when placed in the context of a relationship with a living Person. I especially loved the chapter “Find Out What Pleases the Lord,” which clarifies with verse after verse that there are actions and behavior that clearly please God and there are actions and behavior that clearly displease God.

I do not agree with everything Dr. Brown writes in Hyper-Grace. While in general I hold the same theology, I would speak and write with a different nuance than Dr. Brown, and perhaps even openly disagree, on certain points regarding forgiveness, the law, the new nature, and the sin nature. There were a couple of times when I wrote next to  a quote “Dr. Farley is right” or “Dr. Ellis is right” [Andrew Farley and Paul Ellis]. Mostly these were occasions when Dr. Brown was questioning what exactly was meant by a certain statement, but though I often went on to agree with Dr. Brown’s point I also emphatically agree with some statements from “grace teachers.” The pure in heart will benefit enormously from the new understanding of true grace and identity in Christ that is rising within the church today. Those looking for ways to avoid dealing with their sin will also find theology that masks the sting of their conscience. All involved need to re-examine the scriptures and their theology in light of the new understandings of grace. I look forward to articles and books from "grace theology" proponents interacting with Dr. Brown's Hyper-Grace.

In the midst of examining modern grace theology, Hyper-Grace offers a clear and positive view of genuine biblical grace in all of its beauty. While the unqualified and often exaggerated statements of modern grace theology are attractive, love rejoices in the truth, and Dr. Brown brings verse after verse forward to create a beautiful, biblical collage describing the true, life-changing, liberating grace of God which leaves no room for condemnation. It’s a grace that requires great things of us, but empowers us beyond failures, fantasies or excuses.

I have page after page of Hyper-Grace filled with highlighter and marginalia. I cannot wait to discuss this book with both those who will agree and disagree, but most of all with those who like me have greatly benefited from both sides of the discussion. This book is much needed in the body of Christ today, not only to correct significant error, but to draw believers into a lucid understanding of grace, sanctification, and a vibrant relationship with God.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My 2013 Bible Reading Project



























As you can see I have been busy keeping up with my Bible reading Goals for 2013. I originally planned to keep track of my Bible reading on these checklists, highlighting them in yellow for the first read and then marking them with a pen on subsequent reads. I quickly lost track on the New Testament, especially 1 John, which I probably read over 30 times this year. I read the New Testament three times, the Gospels much more than that and most of the epistle more than that. I only read Revelation three times, and I still have the book of Ezekiel to read before the end of the year in the Old Testament. In the midst of this reading I carried out a number of projects which I haven't posted here, such as reading through the Gospels highlighting verses on intimacy with God, and others. I didn't accomplish all my goals for 2013, but I came close and there is still some time left to finish. How are you doing?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Seven Stories of Hope

The Seven Stories of Hope are an evangelism tool being used around the world to lead unbelievers in a discovery Bible study that leads to faith in Jesus Christ. So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God - Romans 10:17. By finding responsive people (persons of peace) and telling them stories from Scripture or ideally leading a Bible study in their home we are building their faith with the Word of God and leading them to faith. There are many different versions of the Seven Stories of Hope, this collection are the favorites from my experience. The following is an excerpt from an adaptation of T4T that I have been working on. Each lesson is laid out with a process for leading Discipleship groups and discovery Bible studies. Let me know if you have any questions. I may be posting the full curriculum in progress soon.

Seven Stories of Hope

These seven stories are meant to be used as a long term evangelism tool for people who are far from God, but not yet ready to make a decision to follow Jesus and serve Him as their risen Lord. If someone is not ready to follow Jesus yet, ask them if they are willing to study the Bible with you. If they agree, take them through the “Seven Stories of Hope.” If they do not want to study the Bible with you, but are still willing to listen, begin to tell them these stories and orally prompt them with the “Head, Heart, Hands” questions.
These discovery Bible studies reveal Christ through His word and build faith in the hearts of the hearers. These studies can be done orally and simply told as a method of evangelism, but the more completely you can follow the process, the more effective it will be for developing reproducing disciples. These Bible studies help people discover Christ and make a decision to repent, believe, and serve Him as their risen Lord. If the participants repent and believe, there should be no delay in moving them out of these stories and into lessons for short-term discipleship. Call the participants to make a decision to give their lives to Jesus regularly. These studies should not delay the call to make a decision, but should supplement the call to make a decision. It may be helpful to ask, “What’s stopping you from giving your life to Jesus today?” Remember to be led by the Holy Spirit.


Story #1 –The Sinful Woman (Luke 7:36-50)

Look Back

Pastoral Care: Do introductions since this is your first time.

Loving Accountability: Skip this since this is your first meeting.

Prayer and worship: Remember, prayer is worship.

Look Up

New Lesson

Tell the Story: “The Woman Who Wept at Jesus’ Feet” (Luke 7:36-50). Read the story in two different translations.

Head, Heart, Hands

 Look Forward

Practice: In groups of 2-3, retell the Bible story to each other in your own words.  (Or do a skit to retell the story!)
2-3 willing volunteers retell the story to everyone.

Goal Setting: Trainers share who they will tell this story to this week. Fishing? Do you have a friend you can share this story with this week?
Trainer shares something he or she will do this week as a result of this story.
Following? What can you do this week as a result of this story?
Pray for success in what each said they would do as well as for any other prayer needs. 


Story #1 –The Sinful Woman (Luke 7:36-50)
Story #2 – Who Does God Accept? (Luke 18:9-17)
Story #3 – A Hole in the Roof (Luke 5:17-26)
Story #4 – The Woman Caught in Adultery (John 8:1-11)
Story #5 – Trial and Execution (Luke 22:66-23:25; 23:32-43)
Story #6 – The Cost of Following Jesus (Luke 18:18-30; 19:1-10)
Story #7 – Two Lost Sons (Luke 15:11-32)



Monday, November 18, 2013

More on Head, Heart, Hands

I posted previously about the "Head, Heart, Hands" method of inductive Bible study that I've been using for discipleship and in discovery Bible studies for evangelism as well. This is an expanded look at the method. All of this material is adapted from Chuck Wood and he is the author of the video below as well. You can check out his materials at jmovement.net.

The Head, Heart, Hands Method

Head: Understanding, Facts

·        When is it? Where is it? Who is it? What happened?

·        Say it in your own words.
o   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.

Heart: Emotions; Promise, Feelings

·        What were the emotions of the characters during the different parts of the story?
·        How does this make you feel?

·        Quote: “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

·        How does this make you free?

·        Who do you identify with in this passage?

Hands: Obedience, Applications

·        Quote: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

·        Is there a command to obey? Sin to avoid? Example to follow?
·        How will you respond to what God has spoken to you?
·         What do you plan to do next week to apply what you have learned?
·         How can you make your application measurable?

You may 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?"


§  Tips for Story Telling

  • Break it down into logical sections
  • Imagine yourself being there and flowing through the story
  • Hit the high points
  • Don’t try to memorize the verses, just tell the story
  • Practice telling it several times
  • Use a note card if you have to
  • Don’t just read it, tell it

Tips for Facilitating the Group 
  • Very Important! Stick to the lesson outline
  •  Be prepared
  •  80-20 Rule – You only talk 20% of the time (Facilitate discussion, don’t teach)
  •  Delegate as much as you can (prayer, reading, etc…)
  •  Keep the group focused
  •  You don’t have to have all the answers
  •  Try to involve everyone but don’t force people to participate
  •  Don’t let a few people dominate the discussion
  •  Develop your questions before hand
  •  Encourage thoughtful answers
  •  Don’t embarrass people who have different  answers


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Blog Update (Whatever have I been doing?)

I haven't kept up with this blog lately, and while I wish I could be more faithful, I have been busy with the right things. I have been doing Evangelism and Missions training, which you can hear at my blog, preaching, and leading numerous Discipleship groups and Discovery Bible Studies. In addition I've been writing a Discovery Bible study and Short Term Discipleship curriculum adapted from T4T. In addition I'm doing a large research project and podcast on the history of the supernatural ministry through the last century, A History of Miracles. As always you can keep track of me through my newsletters and personal site.

All that said, I will be posting new content on this site in the coming weeks. During lulls feel free to check out jonathanammon.org.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Head, Heart, Hands Method

Inductive Bible Study is an important part of what I do for discipleship and long-term evangelism. It is vitally important that every believer learns a simple method of understanding and applying the Scripture to their own lives. When working with new believers I try to teach as little as possible and let inductive Bible study do the work. I've used several methods, and in the past I wrote about Discovery Bible Study and the Three Column Method. While creating new short-term discipleship materials my friend and I discovered the Head, Heart, Hands method. We originally learned this method from Chuck Wood who discovered it from the first commandment that we should love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He decided that we should use that as a model for understanding the Bible. My friend and I tweaked it a little and it is quickly becoming my favorite corporate
Bible Study method.






Head: Understanding

When is it?
Where is it?
Who is it?
What happened?
Say it in your own words.

Heart: Emotions & Promise

How does this make you feel?
Quote every time: “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
How does this make you free?

Hands: Obedience

Quote every time: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
Is there a command to obey?
Sin to avoid?
Example to follow?
What will you do? (A practically obeyable goal)

Review: Miracle Work by Jordan Seng

Miracle Work
We are a supernatural people. Made in the image of God and called to follow a risen Lord through the world God made—we're anything but normal.
Given all that, it should not be surprising to us when miraculous things happen in our midst. Still, many of us are intimidated at the thought of it, and we stop short of trying so we won't disappoint God with our lack of faith, or—if we're being honest—so we won't be disappointed when God fails to deliver.
In Miracle Work Jordan Seng tells remarkable stories of physical healings and prophetic messages. He reflects on the possibility and limitations of a contemporary ministry that believes in the power of God, and helps us train and prepare ourselves for when God works through us in the lives of others. Read Miracle Work for a better understanding of what it means to be agents of grace, healing and even miracles in a world that desperately needs the good news of God’s loving, healing touch.
Jordan Seng's book Miracle Work stands out as a unique message on the topic of equipping the church for supernatural ministry. While making use of a highly successful formula of mixing practical teaching and encouragement with powerful personal testimonies of the miraculous, Seng manages to approach the subject of supernatural ministry from an unusual perspective and takes the reader down a different route to seeing God's kingdom arrive with power in personal lives. Miracle Work avoids vapid exhortations of "Just do it!" which have the potential to leave believers frustrated; it is practical to a fault. In fact, it's practicality and emphasis on work, and perhaps even "works" is what makes this book so valuable and unique but alternately raises caution.

From the very beginning Seng emphasizes work and preparation. While many books on supernatural ministry emphasize faith over and over, Seng emphasizes work over and over. Miracle Work is based on the premise that miracles occur when believers accumulate and release the power of God and that faith is only one piece of the equation when it comes to God's power. Consecration and authority/obedience are equal parts in the equation with faith and gifting. This premise pulls the entire book together as each testimony and teaching reveals the work and ministry labor that went on before, during, and after the miraculous. The book ranges from healing, deliverance, and prophecy to intercession and finally the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Rather than simply building faith and encouraging the believer that these ministries are natural and easy, Seng emphasizes the practical work pursuing such ministry requires. Miracle Work remains inspiring and encouraging, featuring some of the greatest stories of supernatural miracles I've ever read. The reader will walk away with a new desire to add heavy elbow grease to their faith.

In many ways Miracle Work appeals to both our zeal and our faults. While I greatly appreciate the emphasis of the book, I also recognize that I must be careful to not allow myself to believe that I can earn a miracle. In fact, when it comes to supernatural ministry, a works mentality may be my greatest fault. In the past, I have often stepped up to someone thinking, "I haven't prayed and fasted enough for this, and I sinned last week." Thankfully miracles, like salvation, are received by grace through faith, not by works. Our faith will produce work and our consecration and obedience will grow our faith. Seng's emphasis is extremely valuable specifically because he reveals how supernatural ministry makes us grow and mature. Many people do not pursue supernatural ministry with the zeal and hard work that they should. However, at the end of the day, we must rely on grace, not on our preparation.

The first half of the book provided the most concerns for me, especially the chapters regarding healing and deliverance, however I greatly enjoyed the second half of the book. The chapter on prophetic ministry was perhaps the strongest and seems to be Seng's greatest gifting as well.

Miracle Work is an important book on supernatural ministry. To those experienced in supernatural ministry it will provoke more zeal and a greater desire to devote ourselves to the work of the ministry. To those inexperienced in supernatural ministry, Miracle Work may emphasize works a little too strongly. I would recommend Do What Jesus Did by Robby Dawkins and a number of others before this book, but I would recommend this book to every seasoned minister who experiences the supernatural and desires more.

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

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why I Love and Hate Study Bibles



I  often feel conflicted about study Bibles. When I first started this blog, I was recovering from being heavily influenced by fundamentalist revival, prayer, and holiness movements. I have been greatly blessed by leaders within these movements. However within these movements a certain type of religious pride can infiltrate. Some took serious offense at those who were using something other than a simple King James Version Bible and seriously disliked study Bibles. They made such resources seem "carnal," suggesting that study Bibles inhibited the reader from hearing the Holy Spirit, understanding the Scripture for themselves, or interpreting the Bible without worldly compromise. When the A.W. Tozer Bible came out I heard many protestations from those who appreciate Tozer's writings, arguing that he would have been appalled by such a thing. While Tozer may not have appreciated his name on the front of a Bible, I doubt he would have condemned study Bibles as a whole. Breaking free from that kind of judgment opened up a world of Scripture knowledge and new avenues to explore and enjoy the Word of God.

Study Bible reviews have become a popular part of this blog, and I browse study Bibles often. When I want more insight on interpreting a verse from an external resource, the first thing I grab is a study Bible. Study Bibles are great because they contain the entire Bible text. The notes come surrounded by the full context of the Word of God. I don't have a full commentary set and being able to compare study Bible notes has been enormously helpful to me.

I do not use study Bibles on a regular basis, nor do I use a study Bible for my daily reading. I use them exclusively for reference, and I am extremely cautious about giving them to new believers. Though I love biblical resources, christian books, sermons, and teaching, I am convinced that new believers should focus on the Bible itself. My feelings were recently reinforced while reading Neil Cole's book Ordinary Hero:

I used to get a little offended by some study Bibles that have a famous teacher's name on the cover, as if that author wrote the book. Then one day I opened one and realized the author did write at least half of it. It used to be that when you opened a Bible in the middle, you would be in Psalms or Proverbs; today you are in Leviticus! There are so many notes explaining everything that in some of these study Bibles half of every page is Scripture and the other half is some scholar's interpretation of what it all means. What ends up happening is that the scholar's words become as important as the Scriptures for the Christian's growth and understanding of God's voice. I am sure the Scholar would object to this idea, but the subtle reality of the situation is that Christians are trained to think that the Bible is too difficult to understand without help. As a result, many would not venture to try to read it without a theologian's notes.
I am all in favor of study helps and study Bibles, but we have unintentionally separated people from a simple approach to God's Word. We have placed so many filters between God's voice and God's flock that they can no longer simply hear and obey. They need others to supply definition, application, and illustration. We need to make sure that the Scriptures stand alone. All  the helps are indeed useful but only after people have spent time in God's Word without anyone aiding their understanding. It seems that Christians are no longer able to listen to God's Word without help. They need others to take in the nourishment, digest the meal, and regurgitate the understanding for them in simple language.
-Neil Cole, Ordinary Hero p. 181
 Western Christian culture has largely succumbed to an unhealthy trend where knowledge has become more important than obedience and even faith relationship with Jesus. We feel that if we know our doctrines and are learning new things about the Scripture that we are growing in our relationship with Jesus. 1 Corinthians 8:1 says that knowledge puffs up but love builds up. We are meant to be in a love relationship with our Creator, Lord, and Savior and that goes far beyond academic knowledge. We might have a leg up walking into a relationship with a detailed knowledge of a person's history and character, but we will have a far shallower relationship than someone who spent years with the person learning those same facts. Sometimes we need to struggle to learn and discover things for ourselves. We need to know that we can really know Jesus for ourselves. This process of walking with Him and knowing Him is more valuable than having all of our biblical interpretations correct. Going to Jesus with our questions will do more for us than reading all the answers in the study Bible notes.

In the end, study Bibles are not the problem. I like study Bibles, and I use them. The question is who are we depending on for understanding? We must be dependent on His voice and His Spirit, not on scholarship. You can understand the Bible. Not because you have the wisdom or the knowledge or the understanding, but because the Author is with you.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: Do What Jesus Did by Robby Dawkins

Chicagoland pastor Robby Dawkins hadn't moved past that question either-until he discovered that the miraculous things Jesus did during His lifetime are not just history. They're today's reality. When he started living the way Jesus did, he started living life, as he says, straight out of a superhero movie.
So can you. In this dangerous book, you'll learn simple, practical ways to take hold of your God-given "power tools"-prophetic ministry, healing, ministering the presence of God and deliverance from demonic power. And through amazing but true stories from the front lines of ministry, you'll see what happens when ordinary Christians harness God's superpower to bring His Kingdom to earth.

This blog is dedicated to the Bible, Bible Study, and interaction with the Bible; however, as I have become more and more immersed in urban ministry and missions this site has become overrun with the same focus. This may be particularly evident in the book reviews. As I see more and more miracles and people giving their lives to Christ I become more insatiable in my desire to see God's kingdom come. I'm reading the Bible more than ever, but I'm reading it more for life and practice than ever before as well. I'm more interested in how to do the Bible than how to study it, and I struggle to turn down review copies of books that inform and inspire readers to minister like Jesus and see God's power change people's lives. Do What Jesus Did by Robby Dawkins is one of those books.

Missionary and Pastor Robby Dawkins does a phenomenal job of blending his story of discovering God's transforming power with practical teaching and examples of how to minister God's power and love to others. His passion to see people transformed by God's love leaks from every page as well as the struggles, pains, and obstacles that this passion has endured. Books on supernatural ministry and miracles are usually only as good as their testimony and practicality, but for once "a real-life field guide to healing the sick, routing demons and changing lives forever" does not do this book justice. It's about so much more than that. While remaining extremely practical and accessible, Dawkins manages to pull us into his own struggles and passions. This is a very personal story, and Dawkins surrounds a core of the gospel and its transformation from the inside out with practical instruction and testimonies of God's supernatural answers to prayer. The inseparable blend of teaching on both character, perseverance, humility, and field guide instruction on healing, deliverance, prophecy, and other spiritual gifts make this book a full and balanced meal.

The author's ability to pull the reader into his own life experience and be honest about both the thrills and challenges of this kind of ministry gives his testimony and instruction an emotional weight. I spent the second half of the book squinting through tears as Dawkins describes the death of his mom, his son's autism and his dependency on his heavenly Father. His perspective on failure and perseverance resonate with both the struggle of war and the peace of kingdom reality.

I have read many books on supernatural ministry and specifically supernatural evangelism. This may be the very best. It is certainly the best holistic description of supernatural ministry I've read, and I will be recommending it to many friends.

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


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Icognito Bible Study

As someone who is passionately engaged in reaching the lost I have used many methods to tell people about Jesus and the wonderful Good News that He purchased us with His blood and rose from the dead as the living Lord to give us His life. There are many different ways of starting conversations, sharing the Gospel, proclaiming Jesus, and revealing Christ to others. The best way is to learn and listen to the Holy Spirit for each situation, but how we share the Gospel is also greatly impacted by what we plan to do afterwards.

Many are passionate about evangelism but don't have a genuine plan to disciple anyone. They simply wish to see someone make a faith decision or commitment to Christ and start coming to church. It is awesome for someone to make a faith commitment and start attending a local church, but few survive and fewer thrive if we leave them there. My goal is always to plug each person into a home Bible study that is actively obeying Christ, sharing the Gospel, seeing the Spirit move, and reaching the lost. Because I have the end in sight, the way I do evangelism has greatly changed.

In addition to discipleship, what do we plan to do if the person is not ready to make a faith commitment at the end of our conversation? Do we give up and move on? What if they are a friend, neighbor, or family member? How do we continue to share Christ?

These two questions along with a long term vision have convinced me of a method, which many call "storying" and I jokingly call "Incognito Bible Study." In order to share the gospel, we often tell stories. Whether it is the redemption story of Christ's life or our personal testimony, the Good News is presented by the life of Christ. Jesus is the Good News, and Jesus is often revealed by the narrative of His life in Scripture. For many, our personal testimony or personal story of encountering Jesus, is our go to method of evangelism. We share what our lives were like before Christ, how we met Christ, and what our lives are like since meeting Him. I believe that this is a divinely ordained method (see Mark 5:18-20) that any believer can use to share the gospel, and I am convinced that nearly all of us should share our testimony more rather than less.

In correlation with this simple and natural method of sharing Christ is the method of sharing other stories from Scripture. For evangelism I often tell the story of the Sinful Woman from Luke 7:36-50. I started out by doing a Bible study on the story with believers. We read the story and asked some simple inductive Bible study questions: What does this tell us about God? What does this tell us about Jesus? What does this tell us about people? Are there any examples to follow, commands to obey, promise to claim, sins to repent of? After going through each question and talking about what the story as a whole taught us, we practiced putting the story in our own words, checking to make sure we left nothing out. We committed to telling someone who didn't know Jesus that story in the coming week (For more information on these kinds of studies check out my previous post on Discovery Bible Study and T4T). Armed with this story and a couple added questions I began to look for the opportunity to share with an unbeliever.

As a friend and I were driving home, we saw a young couple begging on the street. We pulled into a nearby gas station, bought some water and food and went over to talk with them. After giving them the water and food we found out a little about who they were and then launched in with, "I've got a story for you . . ." (actually in this case my friend said, "My friend has a story for you.") This is actually an incredibly easy and natural way to bring up Jesus. People tell stories all the time, and they never ask for permission to do so. Whether its a story about their past, their shenanigans at a bar, their family struggles, or some other anecdote it is incredibly common to tell stories and, "I've got a story for you . . ." never comes off strange or forced unless you're self-conscious about it.

I told them the story of the sinful woman as expressively as I could and they listened attentively. They were both actually interested in what I had to say because it was a narrative. They didn't know what was going to happen next. They didn't understand what I was getting at. I was using a narrative they hadn't heard before and they were discovering something about Jesus that they hadn't heard before. I asked them who they identified with the story and why (these are the questions we add for evangelism). The girl, who was obviously impressed by the story and really liked it, said that she identified with the woman because she felt judged by people. The young man said he identified with Jesus because he wanted to do the right thing and not judge other people. We continued talking about who Jesus was from the story and how sins were forgiven, it was an easy transition into the story of the cross and resurrection.

What the two of them didn't realize was that they had just participated in a Bible study. We didn't open the Bible and read it, but they heard a passage of Scripture that I put in my own words and retold. They responded to the Holy Spirit as they listened to the Word, thought about it and responded to the truth. They probably wouldn't have come to a Bible Study if I had invited them, but I didn't invite them, and they didn't know it was a Bible study. They just heard about Jesus.

I do this every single week as often as I can. Some people I tell story after story without ever opening the Bible. Some have come to faith, and I simply start opening the Bible with them and get them to tell stories to others. I encourage you to tell someone a story today and start an incognito Bible study. To learn more see the materials I linked to previously in the article and receive more inspiration and training. The world is waiting to hear about Jesus.

Review: The Lifestyle of a Prophet by James Goll

The Lifestyle of a Prophet: A 21-Day Journey to Embracing Your Calling by James W. Goll
"If your heart says, 'Not my will, but Yours be done,'
you will receive much as you read these pages."
--James W. Goll
Join respected prophetic leader James W. Goll for an incredible journey into the heart of the prophetic calling. This unique, hands-on 21-day guide will help you develop the intimacy with God essential to hearing His voice clearly. Reflection questions, devotional prayers and practical applications will help you proclaim His words faithfully--and step boldly into your calling.
 The Church is rapidly embracing the current presence of ministry gifts or Ephesians 4:11 callings, and more books on the subject are arriving from many different theological backgrounds. James W. Goll has been writing on the subject of Prophets and the prophetic for over a decade and the content of his newest book The Lifestyle of a Prophet echoes with a depth of experience. The book itself is an update of one of his earliest books The Coming Prophetic Revolution rewritten in a devotional format and expanded with new stories and wisdom. By keeping character and relationship with God at the forefront, James Goll has written an effective, biblical, and thorough description of a prophetic life and function, keeping the revelation applicable to believers from all backgrounds and callings.

Goll succeeds in crafting a deep, but accessible and inspirational guide to the prophetic for every believer. While the word "Prophet" is in the title, virtually none of the information in the book applies only to those who believe themselves to be called as prophets. The book is divided into thirds, with each section moving deeper into the specific callings and functions of Prophets. Section One, "A Lifestyle of Intimacy," makes a clear call to relationship with Christ that remains essential for every believer. The section could easily stand as a book on its own and remain relevant and inspirational for believers from every walk and most theological persuasions. The second section "The Lifestyle of Wisdom" eases into more charismatic theology moving from lifestyle to walking in the gifts of the Spirit, and maturity. The third section "The Lifestyle of Revelation" most directly deals with the function and calling of the prophet and also features the most narrative as the author describes his own interaction and experiences. Within each of these sections are seven chapters to fit the "21-day Journey to Embracing your Calling"; however, the book reads as if the devotional format is an afterthought. The chapters are lengthy for a devotional and the reflection questions are fairly general. For those who are looking for a devotional, this book will probably be meatier than what they were looking for. For those who simply wish to read a book about Prophets and the prophetic, the devotional content simply adds flavor to a thorough book.

For many The Lifestyle of a Prophet will provide an excellent introduction to the prophetic as well as the function of a prophet. I greatly appreciate Goll's emphasis on character and maturity, which runs as a steady theme through the whole book. The information rarely becomes mechanical and always connects to a personal relationship with Jesus, making this book an excellent field guide for those developing in their relationship with Christ as well as those seasoned in their gifts and callings.

As a devotional this book is probably too much to chew, but as a field guide to the prophetic and an introduction to the prophetic life, this book stands as a classic. I would easily recommend this work to all who are interested in the topic, and the way Goll eases into more Charismatic theology makes this a good introduction for those who aren't familiar with the practice of the gifts of the Spirit as well. I am greatly appreciative that the publisher included a general index as well as a scripture index as I am already making plans to revisit this work and pull from it for meditation and application in my own life.

My thanks to Chosen Books for providing a complimentary review copy. I have provided an honest review.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Review: NKJV New Spirit Filled Life






The 2013 update of the New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, presents the original dynamic and extensive study tools with updated articles and notes. The unique format of the popular Charismatic-Pentecostal themed study Bible scatters academic and inspirational notes through the text, emphasizing transformation and ministry along with interpretation. The strength of the New Spirit-Filled Life Bible is its focus on the application of the Bible rather than just knowledge of and about the Word of God.

I reviewed a previous edition of this study Bible here and that review will provide a more thorough approach, as this edition is only a minor update. The graphic design on the cover is greatly improved and the Bible is now available in the New Living Translation.




BINDING

For the update I am reviewing the hardcover edition. I've grown more and more accustomed to hardcover Bibles and for study Bibles I think this may be what I prefer. I don't use study Bibles on a daily basis and a hardcover edition works better for sitting on the shelf and pulling off for reference. In addition, study Bibles are often large and the flexibility of the cover can actually make a large Bible harder to handle. This edition features an attractive cover design and the hardcover serves nicely.



LAYOUT

My evaluation of this Bible's layout has not changed. The presence of shaded boxes and notes in the actual text layout of the Bible remains far from ideal. The notes interrupt the reading. This may be negligible if you plan to use this Bible as a reference tool, which is my preferred use for study Bibles, but for anyone who actually wants to read through an epistle or a large passage, this layout is detrimental.


The text layout is double column, verse per line divided by a center column of references. The font choices keep the text readable, but the thin paper and the multiple levels of shading on the page create a lot of ghosting. A lot of the opposite page can be seen through the paper. This is a red letter edition and the particular hue of red is well chosen.


STUDY NOTES

As you can see above the notes far outweigh the text in some sections. This may be ideal for some who desire more "study" than "Bible" in their study Bibles, but I can't imagine that this would be ideal for someone who wants to use the Bible everyday. Every edition must make compromises and in order to supply the reader with unique and thorough notes, while making each themed note distinct is a difficult task.

Though the New Spirit-Filled Life Bible comes from predominately charismatic/pentecostal leaders and academics the notes are well-balanced, and while they emphasize the Holy Spirit, they do not over-emphasize or push the practice of spiritual gifts or popular manifestations associated with the Charismatic movement. Unlike the Fire Bible the New Spirit-Filled Life Bible does specify its own position of interpretation and presents it within the context of traditional or mainstream interpretation. In difficult passages and the book of Revelation as a whole, the notes carefully explain the differences of interpretations and present a balanced approach to the text.
 
Overall the notes present sound scholarship with passionate faith in the supernatural. They promote ideals of faith and experience within the pentecostal/charismatic movement, but also draw from a rich Christian tradition to reveal the work of God through the scripture as in the note on Zechariah 8:18-23 above. The solid scholarship and passionate focus on faith in God should make the study helps valuable aids and inoffensive to all but staunch cessationists.

FEATURES

I am impressed by the amount of features in this Bible including the thorough book introductions and the sheer number of charts, graphs, maps, and articles. As always a three column 125 page concordance is greatly appreciated and its preceded by 39 pages of articles on numerous topics of discipleship, ministry and evangelism.


The New Spirit-Filled Life Bible presents valuable and unique study aids in a dynamic presentation, providing a full scope of aids, helps and notes to aid in interpreting and specifically applying the Word. The layout and format has flaws and compromises as all editions do, but the content remains the most valuable piece of any Bible. The content presented and applied within this text has great potential to equip and inspire believers from all walks and faith traditions.

My thanks to Thomas Nelson for providing this complimentary review copy. I was not required to give a positive review, but an honest review.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Jots and Tittles June 2013

































(Picture from DIY Conversion: Chopping the Margins Off an ESV Journaling Bible)
How do people read love letters? They read the whole letter, every word, all the way through, and then they read it again and again. They even smell the letter, wanting to consume every part of it. They may even take it with them in their coat pocket or purse, so that if they end up waiting for a bus or in line at the bank, they can take it out and read it again.
We must begin to see God's Word as a personal love letter that God has written to us. It's not just an instruction manual. When something goes wrong, we turn to the troubleshooting section (the concordance) to find the text that addresses our problem, and then we read just that paragraph divorced of context, flow, and unity of thought.

-Neil Cole, Ordinary Hero p. 113-114

The Blogroll is back! Check out the list in the right hand column of the blog.


  • J. Mark Bertrand was on a roll this month and Bible Design and Binding features some great posts:
    • My friend Chuck Huckaby also wrote a review of Brunn's book.