Friday, May 30, 2008

Let's Pray for Our Brothers and Sisters in Iran

Recent news indicates that persecutions against Christian converts in Iran is increasing (see this story, and this one), even as extraordinary numbers of Muslims are converting to Christianity in many predominantly Muslim countries.

There is actually a long and rich heritage of Christianity in Iran.

Let's pray for our brothers and sisters in Iran, interceding for them, and asking our Lord to show His Wonder and Power there.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Leadership Lessons from the Church at Corinth

It's not easy to lead churches. Or any organization of sin-encrusted flesh-and-blood people with a finite range of spiritual maturity.

1 Corinthians is a fascinating letter in many ways. The church at Corinth obviously had a lot of problems, and Paul must have been hearing about things from a distance (e.g., "...some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 1:11) This must have been hard to endure as a leader. I'm sure Paul was distressed, possibly even angry.

But notice two things:

First, look at how Paul opens his letter:

"I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful." (1 Cor 1:4-9)

Paul is looking not at the demonstrated weakness of the church at Corinth, but at the greatness of the Lord. He's more amazed that anyone is saved in Christ than he is that church communities have problems.

That's a great leadership lesson for people leading churches.

Second, Paul's letter to this sick, struggling church has some marvelous instruction and beautiful theology -- on marriage in chapter 7, on love in chapter 13, and more. God was able to bless many in that generation and in many since, all because they had problems.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Too Dynamic To Be Safe!

Mark Batterson talks about Jesus as a rebel:

One of the things I love about Jesus is that He remained the rebel his
entire life. He didn't bow to the Pharisees. He didn't bow to Pilate. Truth is,
He didn't bow to anyone except His Heavenly Father. That is what it means to be
a spiritual rebel.

In the words of Dorothy Sayers: "To do them justice, the people who
crucified Jesus did not do so because he was a bore. Quite the contrary; he was
too dynamic to be safe. It is has been left for later generations to muffle up
that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We
have declawed the Lion of Judah and made him a housecat for pale priests and
pious old ladies."

Makes me think of Aslan: "not a tame lion," and we find Him bigger as grow up.

In your teaching ministry, don't let Jesus become a domesticated housecat.

Don't Distance Yourself From Your Students

Peter Mead has some excellent comments about teaching from wholeness, with integrity, being open and engaging with our students:

Early on Palmer is describing what makes a good teacher or a bad
teacher. He quotes one student who could not describe her good teachers
because they were all so different, but she could describe her bad ones because
they were all the same. “Their words float somewhere in front of their
faces, like the balloon speech in cartoons.” Parker notes that bad teachers
distance themselves from the subject they are teaching, and therefore from their
students also. But good teachers join self and subject and students in the
fabric of life.

How true this is for preachers too. We preach poorly when we
distance ourselves from our message, but we preach well we make sure the message
is coming from inside us and going directly to our listeners. True
preaching, by definition, is the delivery of a text’s message
“which the Holy Spirit first applies to the life of the preacher, then through the preacher, to the listeners.” (Robinson’s classic definition).

Remember the simple, yet profound formula in Palmer’s book – effective
teaching is much more about identity and integrity than mere technique.

He's referring to Peter Palmer's book, The Courage to Teach.

Please remember that your teaching is a ministry, not just a task. This means your efforts are co-joined with the Life of Christ in you, so that you abide in Jesus and the Word (see John 15), and work in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. That's the way to teach to change lives.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Team Preparation for Teaching

One of the most powerful and helpful ways to prepare lessons is to work with others.

I haven't done an official survey, but I observe that the large majority of Bible teachers do their preparation alone. (Same for pastors preparing sermons.) That approach, so long as you are prayerfully studying and preparing, is effective.

I do recommend you prepare your lesson by working together with others.

We have several adult classes at our church, and often are teaching the same topic or study series. We've periodically been able to get the teachers together, and simply worked through the Scripture together, sharing ideas and insights from the text. We could share our ideas and plans for hooks, illustrations, questions, and application. We sharpened one another, and enjoyed rich fellowship in the process.

You can engineer this kind of preparation, even if you are the only teacher. Get a few people together and study. Put your thoughts and ideas forward, try out your questions, and practice reading Scripture out loud.

(Yes, this means you have to be working days in advance, rather than procrastinating to the night before. Trust me, you'll find that having others involved makes it easier to work farther in advance, because you create some automatic accountability for preparation in good time.)

This is also a critical approach for mentoring other teachers. Share in the teaching process, and they'll learn faster and better!

Monday, May 26, 2008

And On Day 8, There Was Grass!

Eight days after planting the grass seed, I see little green shoots! There is much rejoicing!

(See this post for the back story.)

"For Glenn planted, and Glenn watered, and watered, and watered, and watered, but God made it grow." -- 1 Cor 3:6, the selfish Glenn version

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Holding All Things Together

Here's a diagram of the structure of the laminin protein, which is a cell adhesion molecule -- literally holding things together.

Isn't that cool?

Louie Giglio has a fun story about how he learned about laminin, in this short video:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

My Home Golf Course

If you want an update on my effort to replace 18 trees with grassy areas, check out this post on my blog for husbands and fathers, "Bold and Gentle.

Who Grows More, the Teacher or the Student?

Teachers often learn more than the students. This is because of the preparation time, and the effort required to master material well enough to present it to someone else. (I encourage the adults in my classes to use what they're learning in their small groups, with their families, neighbors, and coworkers -- that will cement the learning in their hearts and minds.)

The question becomes, will you as the teacher grow more than your students?

Spiritual growth is not only about intellect, but about the condition of our hearts before the Lord. Spiritual maturity, biblically, is relational rather than intellectual. Relational is seen as action (or specific lack of sinful actions), rather than a body of factual knowledge.

Isn't knowledge important? Absolutely. But knowledge alone does not lead to godliness and spiritual growth into maturity. Satan knows the Bible very well, better than you or I do.

Therefore let me remind you, dear teacher, to be concerned about the condition of your heart. Be humble before God, and give Him all the praise for your ministry opportunities and challenges. They're designed to create better soil for growth, both your students' and yours.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

It Takes More Dirt Than You Think

We had 18 trees taken out of our yard a couple of days ago. Some were too originally planted too close to the house, some were dying. It was an amazing process over 6 hours -- 10 guys, chain saws, chipper, two trucks to haul away the chips, stump grinder -- and a lot of hustle.

So now I need to fill in 18 holes and plant grass.

First step is to pull out more of the roots. The stump grinder does a great job, but there are still loads of roots around the edges, and I needed to pull them out. I worked over two holes in the front yard with a mattock and yanked out a nice pile of roots.

Then I picked up ten 40lb bags of dirt at our local Ace hardware (because I like to support the local hardware store) and brought them home in the back of our 1987 Saab. I expected I'd get 3 or holes filled, then repeat the process a few times.


I emptied all ten on 1 hole in the front yard. One. 400 lbs of dirt for that hole!

I'm sure there is a Sunday School teaching illustration in here somewhere :-)

New tactic needed -- get a 3 ton load of dirt delivered to our house.

Did I mention my muscles are aching today?

Last Minute Lesson Prep

I coach Bible teachers to have a number of short lessons and devotions in their "back pocket" for those times we're called on to teach with short notice. And I also believe that the best devotions are the ones which come out of your personal devotional life -- the Lord is usually opening His Word to you in order that you can share it with others.

There's another "last minute" preparation situation.

This is when you've actually known about the teaching assignment for a while, but just didn't get the preparation done. Maybe you procrastinated until the last minute, firttering away the time. Maybe your planned time was used instead on good things that distracted you.

I really appreciate Peter Mead's counsel in this matter:

"If I genuinely have had to prepare at the last minute, then I ask God for help and know that He understands. But then there is a second part to it too – if I have procrastinated and end up preparing at the last minute, then I confess that, ask for forgiveness and still ask God for help."

This seems exactly right to me, depending upon the grace and help of our loving Lord in both situations -- rather than working to justify ourselves.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

"Ministering Effectively" Transcript Available!

Ever since I released the audio lesson "Ministering Effectively to 'Tougher-to-Love" People" last year, I've had dozens of requests for a transcript.

People were excited about the content, but wanted it in print format, too. And frankly, some people simply prefer to read than to listen.

I'm delighted to annouce that I've got a 27 page word-for-word transcript ready for you, and will bundle that with the audio lesson.

Until May 15th, you can get the audio lesson, the worksheet guide, *and* the printed transcript for the same price: $12.

Go here right now and order:

Doug M. wrote me about this material and said, "This audio saved our house church! You helped me understand the motivations behind the know-it-all and the critic in our house church fellowship, and respond in a loving but effective way."

The fact is that every teacher will encounter know-it-alls, critics, non-responders, skeptics, lesson hijackers, and others whose behavior can make group dynamics miserable.

The issue becomes: can you respond to them without losing your mind and your ministry opportunity?

Remember, the best time to have this information is *before* you need it. Get it today.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

We Say Goodbye to a GBT

Mr. TrueSaved died April 25th.

“Mr.TrueSaved” was his email handle, and he and I only had a relationship via email. His given name was Tony Hedge.

Tony was a Great Bible Teacher in my book. We’ve been corresponding since early 2006. Tony’s emails were full of passion for God’s Word and for sharing it with the people God had put around him. Some of his students have learning disabilities, so he periodically queried me on new ideas to help them learn.

As a sign of God’s timing in these matters, the last email Tony received from me was about moving ahead, taking the next step, and walking in faith. And Tony has done just that!

We honor you, Tony, and praise our Lord because of His ministry in you and through you. You’ve been a GBT here, and the world is a better place because you follow-through on what God gave you to do. And we recommit ourselves to follow in this same way.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Grace, Not Moralism

Peter Mead continues to hit home runs:
Tim Keller makes a critical point. Too often as preachers we preach a
gospel that moves people from rebel to legalist. We so easily preach so
that younger sons become older sons, but somehow miss the glory of the father’s
prodigious grace in humiliating himself for the sake of both sons.
Let us be careful to distinguish rebellious sin and moralistic self-righteousness (still
sin), from true grace. We cannot overstate the danger of preaching that
turns worldly rebels into pew-filling moralists, but fails to preach the unique
distinctive of grace that only the Christian gospel has to offer.

From "Preach Grace, Not Moralism"

Friday, May 02, 2008

"We're Handling Dynamite!"

Peter Mead has a wonderful blog for preachers, and much of what he offers there is valuable for teachers of the Word in any setting. Here's an excerpt from a recent post about the 'let-down' we sometimes experience even though we should have great expectations:

"It is easy to let the normal-ness of ministry diminish our sense of
expectation. It is as if we don’t really expect people to be transformed
or the Spirit of God to be at work. It is understandable, but it is
wrong. As Haddon Robinson has put it, “we’re handling dynamite, and we
didn’t expect it to explode!” The Spirit of God is at work, the Word of
God is powerful, and whether we see it or not, we should prepare and pray with
great expectation."

And we should be amazed! What a ministry! What a privilege! May the Lord bless your teaching ministry today, dear friends.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Repeating Yourself

If you teach the same people over a period of time, sooner or later you're going to wonder about how much to repeat -- lessons, stories, key points, passions.

Perry Noble gives some helpful advice (written for preaching, but applies for teachers in most every situation). Relieve this pressure on yourself, and don't believe that people remember everything you said the last time you taught. Also, it's important to be reminded of important truths.

Teach (the same things as often as God leads you to) to change lives!

Staying Humble

John Piper gives some excellent advice about staying humble. An excerpt (emphasis mine):

"I said to our staff yesterday morning, when we were talking about reputations of the church, etc., to pray that we as a staff would daily be stunned by grace in our lives. Because if we aren't amazed by grace towards us, we will be a finger-pointing church mainly. That was the issue. Bethlehem takes a lot of stands, and therefore we are unhappy with a lot of people's views and can be very negative. I said that the only solution there—since Paul had a lot of things he disagreed with and got upset with a lot of people—the only answer is to be more amazed that you're saved than that they're lost."

How much better could our families, our communities, and our nations be if every Christian was stunned by grace daily, and more amazed at our own salvation than running around pointing out the sins of others? Imagine the amount of legalistic, soul-squishing crud that would evaporate!