Monday, April 28, 2008

Keep All Your Notes

Teaching tip: keep ALL your notes.

After you're done teaching a class or a series of classes,it's very tempting to toss out everything except the"finished" work - the final handout, your polished teaching outline and notes - just the pristine material that looks good. All the scribbles and edits and handwritten notes tend to get tossed. "After all," you think, "who would ever be interested in those?"

Answer: YOU will.

Trust me on this.

The day will come when you'll pull out your file (because you're teaching that again, or a related lesson), and spend a lot of time wondering how you arrived at those questions, that specific handout, etc. It will help a lot if you keep the whole passel of notes you made. You'll be prompted to remember more about how you developed the end product.

Often, what you really need now is not in the end product for that lesson, but in the pile of stuff that you considered, meditated on, but didn't use then. It's perfect now!

One more thing: a day will come (God willing) that you can be coaching some other teachers. These files will become great example materials to work through together, so you can show the process by which you arrived at the perfect-for-this-class material.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Big List of Bible Maps and Stuff

Tyndale Tech has compiled a large list of Bible mapping resources and map collections.

Maps will help your students understand the geography of a Bible story or background of a situation. They help ground a story in their mind. (This psychological fact is why even fiction writers put maps in a book, such as what is in the Lord of the Rings.)

Now you have one less excuse for providing a map when you teach!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Getting Unstuck

One of the realities of Bible teaching is that you sometimes get stuck. You can't think of what to do. Or maybe you just lose some of your passion. You feel over-whelmed.

I call it "being stuck."

I've discussed this phenomenon with a number of teachers.A frequent result of being "stuck" is that you have this weird drive to find new material. You wind up thinking like this:

"If I just get a newer study Bible, I could get some new ideas from the study notes. I wonder if Lifeway or The Navigators have a new study guide. Maybe I should check out that other commentary that so-and-so mentioned. I bet I'd do better if I switch to another Bible version. Actually, I wonder if God wants me to be teaching at all!"

And those kinds of thoughts just accelerate until you're ready to go off and do almost anything else except what you should be doing.

Learning how to get "unstuck" is a very important skill to develop.

Here are my two radical, counter-intuitive tips to get unstuck:

1. Slow down. Don't be like the drunk man, unsure of direction, who speeds up. Remind yourself that the Lord is going to help you, because He cares deeply about His sheep (including you!)

2. Go look at "old" stuff. At least 100 years old.

I'm serious, dear teacher. Our Lord has arranged for Great Bible Teachers in every generation, and the Word has not changed for thousands of years. There are plenty of powerful sermons, devotions, and books available.

Please don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to newer writing. It's how we speak to this generation. But much of the Church today has lost appreciation for "thegreat cloud of witnesses" who have gone before us. Andwe have much to learn from saints-now-glorified, dear teachers. "There is nothing new under the sun."

I recommend this material for getting you unstuckbecause it is high quality, time-tested, and yet will feel fresh. Reading this (and don't forget to read itout loud for even more powerful impact) will move your mind and spirit into a new groove. You'll be unstuck!

Where do you find the best "old" stuff? Here are some links to free material to get your started:

Charles Spurgeon sermons
E.M. Bounds on prayer
William Law, "A Serious Call"
A collection of great Puritan sermons

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Historical Reliability of the Exodus Account

Many people are skeptical about the historical reliability of the Exodus account. The information below comes from the soon to be released ESV Study Bible:

Historical Reliability of the Exodus

Doubts have often been cast on the historical reliability of the exodus account. It is true that no remains of the Israelites have been found in the area of Goshen in the eastern Nile delta or in the wilderness of Sinai. But in neither area would such remains be expected to survive. The mud-built huts of the Israelites have long been destroyed by repeated flooding, and wandering through the wilderness they would not have left buildings or other permanent traces. It thus is unreasonable to expect such archaeological evidence. Furthermore, we should not expect to have extrabiblical texts regarding Israel’s stay and departure from Egypt because the story is negative about Egypt. Egyptian texts are quite propogandistic and such a defeat would not be mentioned by them.

Nevertheless there is plenty of data that seems to corroborate the biblical account: (1) It is most unlikely that a nation should invent a story of its origins as slaves in a neighboring country. (2) The second millennium b.c. was an era when there were many foreigners in Egypt, some of whom were employed making bricks for building projects. (3) The name of the city Ramses is unlikely to have originated or have been remembered later. (4) The organization of the covenant texts in the Pentateuch (e.g., Exodus 20) fits the pattern of second-millennium treaties, not later ones. (5) The tent-tabernacle has many parallels in Egypt and Canaan from the second millennium. Indeed traces of a tent shrine dating from about 1150 b.c. have been found in the wilderness at Timnah, not far from the route of the Israelite wanderings. (6) A stele (an inscribed tombstone-like stone slab) from the Egyptian pharaoh Merenptah, c. 1200 b.c., mentions that he had conquered the people of Israel in an invasion of Canaan. This would fit with an exodus from Egypt some time before this and demonstrates that Israel was already settled as a people in Canaan.

This archaeological evidence makes skepticism about the historicity of the biblical account of the exodus unwarranted. This is not to deny that the story is told to make theological points: much historical writing is motivated by the desire to teach lessons from the past. Nor does the archaeological evidence require us to believe that the book of Exodus gives us a complete and full account of what happened: there are obviously many gaps and events that are passed over. But the evidence does make it unreasonable to challenge the central affirmation of OT faith: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (20:2).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Free Software to Make Your Own Bible Maps

Check this out -- very cool software (free) to create your own, customized Bible maps!

I like how you can add and subtract different categories of information, and the amazing level of detail (e.g., geographic features) that this supports.

Another cool tool for Great Bible Teachers like you to have in the toolbox. Check it out.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Reviewing the Lesson -- Afterwards

Completing the process: I do a self-review, and share the kind of feedback I received.

Exodus Lesson

Here's the recording of the lesson I gave.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Preparing a Lesson on Exodus 3-4: Part 5

Sunday morning early -- very excited! Here is my commentary about the last preparations and what I will do when I get to the church building:

Comment below...I'm very interested in your feedback!

Chart: Kings and Chronologies

Here's a great reference tool for you: charting the biblical kings and their chronologies

You can look up some of these types of things online when you need them, but it's nice to have a printed file to refer to when you're doing preparation study -- less distracting than hopping on the computer.

Your Prayer Support Team is Critical

I take it as a fact that no lives are changed
unless someone has prayed. (Isn't it a wonderful
encouragement to know that Jesus is praying for
you right now? Wow! See Romans 8:34)

Too many teachers are just assuming that someone
is praying for them, or asking for general prayer

Great Bible teachers never hesitate to ask for
specific, sustained prayer support.

In fact, I believe you need to organize a prayer
team of people who will lift up your teaching
ministry before the throne of all grace.

Who should you include on your team?

Your spouse, if you're married.

A pastor, elder, or deacon -- someone who is in
spiritual authority over you. (I know many of you reading

this blog are pastors yourselves. Seek out a
like-minded pastor who can partner in prayer with you.)

Someone of your own gender who is a friend and is
walking with the Lord.

And I seriously recommend you invite at least one
person from your class to be on your prayer team.

How do you help your prayer support team? By giving
them specific information and specific prayer requests.

Here are some ideas to help you:

* Your teaching subject or passages you're working from
* The key application points that you want to make
* When the class will occur
* That discussion will be dynamic and fruitful
* That you would be able to discern the needs of the class
* Names of students you believe God will touch
* That the Lord would work individually and collectively
to open eyes, minds, and hearts
* For lasting change that honors Jesus Christ

Work with your prayer team before and after a class.
It's really important to follow-up a class with prayer.

And don't ever forget to THANK your team for their labor
for the sake of the Gospel. It's one of the biggest
mistakes that teachers make, actually, to fail to thank
those who have helped.

If you're serious about helping your prayer team,
check out this resource:

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Preparing a Lesson on Exodus 3-4: Part 4

Ok, it's coming together! I have some confirmation now about the way to go, and still need to sharpen the hook and a transition to the follow-up lesson.

Comment away...

Preparing a Lesson on Exodus 3-4: Part 3

About 24 hours to go, and I'm forcing myself to stay patient. I have the pieces and parts (too many, in fact!) and need to stay with the preparation process. I put my confidence in God and submit myself to the process.

Please comment...

Preparing a Lesson on Exodus 3-4: Part 2

My thoughts after several days of study and prayer about preparing this lesson.

Comment away...

Preparing a Lesson on Exodus 3-4: Part 1

I made some audio recordings so you'd have an idea of my thought process as I create a lesson for a specific group of adults. This lesson is based on Exodus chapters 3 and 4 (the famous "burning bush" scene where the Lord commissions Moses to return to Egypt and confront Pharoah).

I hope you see how the process I share in "Teach the Bible to Change Lives" works in practice.

Here's the setup for this lesson:

I'll be curious for your feedback on sharing these thoughts. Please comment!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Get Excited!

I was sharing some insights from my preparation on Exodus 3-4 with my pastor today. We laughed and were in awe together. Good stuff! And then he said,

"If you're excited about it, they [meaning my class] will be, too."

Important words, key concept.

So invest yourself in your study and prep, and get excited. Get really excited -- and it will come through in your teaching.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

It's a Loud Time, Not a Quiet Time!

I was delighted to see this guest post by David Powlison: "Should We Really Call It a 'Quiet Time'?"
Key idea: "prayer is verbal because it is relational," so pray out loud most of the time!

Try this, it can change your prayer life enormously. This also fits well with what psychological research has shown: we remember much more about what we say. Our brain is more engaged when we're talking.


Why You Should Consider Blogging

Teachers, you should consider setting up a blog. Abraham Piper lists 6 reasons why pastors should blog, and these apply to Bible teachers of all kinds:

1. To Write
2. To Teach
3. To Recommend
4. To Interact
5. To Develop an Eye for What is Meaningful
6. To Be Known

Don't underestimate #5 -- developing discernment requires practice. Also, the discipline of writing regularly (#1) will brodly benefit all your communication.

Want to get started? Here guides for Blogger and Wordpress.