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September 01, 2014

Labor Day seems like a great opportunity to do a little “faith hacking”—to find and share some of those practical methods or techniques for living the Christian life. As I read, as I listen to sermons, as I speak to people, I am always looking for insights on how other Christians live out their faith in practical ways, and today I want to tell you about just one way I have found to read the Bible with others. It is called “The Swedish Method” and is explained in an old issue of Matthias Media’s magazine The Briefing.

As Christians we are constantly in God’s Word, constantly attempting to increase our knowledge of God’s Word and our submission to it. We read the Bible in our times of private worship, and public worship, but many of us also read the Bible one-on-one or with small groups. There are many different ways to read the Bible—many different methods, plans, and techniques, each suitable for a different purpose. The Swedish Method is one super-simple way to read the Bible with others, and may be especially effective for reading with small groups of teens or with individual new Christians. One of the advantages is that it requires few resources and little planning, but can still be very rewarding. Here is how it works.

Begin by praying, asking God to speak through his word. Then read a short Bible passage aloud (10-15 verses is ideal). Instruct each person to go back over the passage on their own while being on the lookout for three things:

Swedish Method

Give about 10 minutes for people to do that, and then begin three rounds of questioning.

In the first round, get each reader to share one of their ‘light bulbs’ with the group. Spend some time discussing these, if your group is keen; it’s always interesting to discover what has impacted different members.

In the second round, ask them to share one of their questions raised by the passage. Often it is best to invite the person who raises the question to propose an approach to answering it, and generally encourage that person towards further investigation. Alternatively, any member of the group can respond to the question, provided the answer appears in the passage under consideration or in a previous section of the book that your group has already covered.

In the third round, ask each person in your group to share one of their applications as it applies to their own life. Then, to conclude, pray: invite people to lead in prayer as they please; no-one should feel pressured to pray. Invite a suitable person to close the time of prayer.

And that is all there is to it. The philosophy “behind this style of Bible reading is to promote good observation of the text, group participation and self-guided discovery. Each person has the opportunity to discover for themselves what God says.” That sounds good to me! What it is meant to be done with oversight, the purpose is to help people learn to approach and interpret God’s Word on their own.

Read: The Swedish Method at The Briefing (which contains a helpful examination of both the strengths and weaknesses of this method). Here is a template they provide which may prove useful.

Swedish Method Template

September 01, 2014

Here are some new Kindle deals: Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul ($1.99); The Money Answer Book by Dave Ramsey ($2.99); The Pastor’s Kid by Barnabas Piper (free); Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce by John Piper ($0.99); Rediscovering the Church Fathers by Michael Haykin ($2.99); Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis by George Sayer ($1.99); The Legacy of Sovereign Joy by John Piper ($1.99). You may also want to browse Amazon’s collection of $1.99 books for Labor Day and their monthly collection of books at $3.99 or less.

Free from ChristianAudio is How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer. Free from Logos is Living the Dream: Joseph for Today by Pete Wilcox.

Making a Case for Books - If you are a book lover, you’ll enjoy this video, a stop-motion film showing the building of a bookcase (by someone who has way better tools than you do).

Not Giving Up! - I appreciated reading Kimberly Wagner’s call for prayer in the midst of life’s battles. 

A Puritan Worship Service - Justin Taylor describes you might experience if you could attend a Puritan worship service.

This Is Why We Are Here - I loved reading this short dispatch from the mission field.

Glazed and Confused - Here’s why a lot of Canadians are not thrilled about Burger King attempt to purchase Tim Horton’s.

The Boy with Half a Brain - This is a fascinating longform article that introduces you to a boy who has only half a brain.

Labor Daze - Here are four things you weren’t told during your job orientation. But they are all true, and all fundamental to understanding vocation.

The sins of the wicked anger God—but the sins of professing Christians grieve him. —Thomas Watson

Watson

August 31, 2014

I love to discover what I call “faith hacks”—practical methods or techniques for living the Christian life. As I read, as I listen to sermons, as I speak to people, I am always looking for insights on how other Christians live out their faith in practical ways. I recently shared an ultra-practical way to display servant leadership, a way to organize prayer, and a way to individually shepherd your children. Today I want to stay with parenting, but to focus on a different aspect of it.

One of the big challenges for every family today is placing limits on their children’s screen time. After all, if you leave the kids on their own, they will watch TV or play iPad games from the moment they wake up to the moment you force them into bed (or my kids will at any rate). How do you motivate your kids to pick up a book or go outside? How do you govern screen time without it collapsing into constant bickering?

I found an interesting solution in Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism. This is not a Christian book, but the solution is sound and could prove very useful. He, too, is a parent and he, too, has tried to limit his kids’ access to their devices and to increase their reading.

To do this, he and his wife devised a token system. They created various ways of earning tokens, and allow those tokens to be redeemed for money or for screen time. The kids have various ways to earn those tokens and two ways to spend them.

The children were given ten tokens at the beginning of the week. These could each be traded in for either thirty minutes of screen time or fifty cents at the end of the week, adding up to $5 or five hours of screen time a week. If a child read a book for thirty minutes, he or she would earn an additional token, which could also be traded in for screen time or for money. The results were incredible: overnight, screen time went down 90 percent, reading went up by the same amount, and the overall effort we had to put into policing the system went way, way down.

It is an interesting system. Of course you could adapt the dollars and the hours to fit your family, and you could extend the system so chores could earn tokens as well. My guess is that McKeown’s children are quite young, and you may need to do some work to extend the system to kids in their teens. But overall, I quite like it, especially because it allows the children to make decisions that teach them to read, to earn, and to spend wisely.

What do you think? Could the system work?

August 30, 2014

I am grateful to Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary for sponsoring the blog this week. This blog is dependent upon sponsorships, so please do take the time to visit the sponsors.

In this little video, Tim Keller talks about how Jesus is the True & Better ___________. You can fill in the blank a hundred different ways!

Keith Mathison discusses his wife and her life with cancer. “I share all of this because until we went through it, I had no idea how much a cancer diagnosis takes over your life. In the past, any time I had read in our church bulletin of a cancer diagnosis, I prayed for the person and the family of course, but I didn’t really have any idea what they were going through. I have a better idea now.” Read Life with Cancer: One Year Later

Timmy Brister says that our thinking about charities and ministries may focus on the wrong metrics.

Here are Top 10 Christian Songs That Also Work as Parodies of Christian Songs. If you’ve been into Christian music over the long-haul, you’ll chuckle at some of these.

Speaking of music, Thom Rainer believes that a lot of churches are moving away from having services distinguished by musical styles—contemporary, traditional, and so on. Here is an explanation.

Brad Hambrick has an online Depression-Anxiety Evaluation that may be helpful to many.

The early church didn’t say, “Look what the world is coming to!” They said, “Look what has come into the world!” —Carl Henry

Henry

August 29, 2014

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by our friends at Crossway, and they are offering some great prizes that include several brand new books. There will be 5 winners this week, and each of those winners will receive the following 3 books:

  • CosperThe Stories We Tell by Mike Cosper. “From horror flicks to rom-coms, the tales we tell and the myths we weave inevitably echo the narrative underlying all of history: the story of humanity’s tragic sin and God’s triumphant salvation. This entertaining book connects the dots between the stories we tell and the one great Story—helping us better understand the longings of the human heart and thoughtfully engage with the movies and TV shows that capture our imaginations.”
  • KostenbergerGod’s Design for Man and Woman by Andreas and Margaret Kostenberger. “This thorough study of the Bible’s teaching on men and women aims to help a new generation of Christians live for Christ in today’s world. Moving beyond other treatments that primarily focus on select passages, this winsome volume traces Scripture’s overarching pattern related to male-female relationships in both the Old and New Testaments. Those interested in careful discussion rather than caustic debate will discover that God’s design is not confining or discriminatory but beautiful, wise, liberating, and good.”
  • OrtlundEdwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God by Dane Ortlund. “Dane Ortlund invites us to explore the great eighteenth-century pastor’s central passion: God’s resplendent beauty. Whether the topic was the nature of love, the preeminence of Scripture, or the glory of the natural world, the concept of beauty stood at the heart of Edwards’s theology and permeated his portrait of the Christian life. Clear and engaging, this accessible volume will inspire you to embrace Edwards’s magnificent vision of what it means to be a Christian: enjoying and reflecting of the beauty of God in all things.”

Enter to Win

Again, there are 5 prize packages to win. And all you need to do to enter the draw is to drop your name and email address in the form below. (If you receive this by email, you will need to visit challies.com to enter.)

Giveaway Rules: You may enter one time. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon.

August 29, 2014

There are two different lives I lead. Two different kinds of life. There is the life I love, but that is so difficult to maintain, and there is the life I hate, but am so often tempted toward. The first is a life of discipline and self-control, while the second is a life of disorganization and instability. I love the first life, but am constantly sliding toward the second.

The Bible commends self-control and discipline. We are told that self-control is fruit of the Spirit, an imprint of God’s presence in our lives. We are told to discipline and train ourselves to godliness (1 Timothy 4:7), to labor for habits and patterns that will drive us toward holy thoughts, holy desires, and holy lives.

I consider self-control a lost virtue, a quality we too easily ignore. I think we can be uncomfortable with the very idea of self-control because we love to emphasize grace. Somehow grace seems to equate with freedom from structure, with freedom from rigidity. We revel in the freedom of the gospel, not realizing that the gospel doesn’t free us from self-control, but to self-control. Because we are no longer counting on our habits and patterns to discipline us toward salvation, we can joyfully mobilize them to discipline us toward sanctification.

Self-control and discipline are gifts we can use to constrain sin and promote holiness. They are gifts we can use to hinder old habits and promote new, better patterns.

I love my life of discipline and self-control. I hate my life of confusion and instability. And yet that life is always beckoning, always calling. The very moment I begin coasting, I coast away from restraint and toward chaos. I coast away from discipline and toward disorganization.

As a Christian I am influenced by an old man and a new man, the man I was and the man I am becoming. The new man loves to see each moment as a gift of God that must be stewarded well; the old man loves to fritter away time and opportunity, one moment at a time. The new man sees the benefit of living a disciplined life; the old man insists it is just not worth the effort. The new man sees that patterns and habits can be renewed and redeemed and used for good; the old man screams that this is weakness, a crutch for the person who lacks better motivation.

As summer gives way to fall — as summer’s chaos gives way to fall’s schedule — this is the time to renew my commitment to a life of self-control, a life that is disciplined toward godliness. It is time to renew my commitment to their sheer goodness, and their plain value. There is no better time than right now.

August 29, 2014

Here are some good Kindle deals: Desperate by Sarah Mae & Sally Clarkson ($0.99); Jesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke ($0.99); The Real Face of Atheism by Ravi Zacharias ($2.99); Letters To a Young Calvinist by James K.A. Smith ($2.99).

4 Ways To Live Out Your Role As Helper - Jen Thorn: “One of the reasons many wives struggle in their marriages is because they refuse to embrace the role God has given them as helper to their husband.”

David Platt as IMB President - I mentioned yesterday that David Platt has been elected President of the International Mission Board. In this article Hershael York addresses some concerns. I was especially interested in these words: “I’ve been in ministry all of my adult life. I’ve known Adrian Rogers, W. A. Criswell, Stephen Olford, John Stott, and many truly great men of God. I say this carefully and reverently: I have never met anyone on whom the anointing of God rests as powerfully and comfortably as David Platt.”

Bill Cosby and Victoria Osteen - Bill Cosby responds to Victoria Osteen.

Shopé - My good friend Sope, who goes by the name Shopé, just released a new EP. If you’re into Christian rap, you may enjoy it.

Only Two Religions - Ligonier has released a new teaching series by Peter Jones doing what he does best: Explaining how there are really only two religions in the world. You can watch the first part for free.

Destruction and Diversion - There are a few great lines in this article. “Satan is not so concerned with moral living as much as moral living apart from Jesus. Satan is not concerned with emptying churches of people as much as he is emptying the pulpit of the cross of Christ.”

A child of God cannot fall away while he is held fast in the two arms of God, his love, and his faithfulness. —Thomas Watson

Watson