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.