Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Emotional Being, Sometimes Thinking

New Harris poll findings:

"The numbers clearly favor the proverbial Big Man Upstairs: 80 percent say they believe in God; among those who attend church weekly, the number is 98 percent. Three-quarters believe in miracles, 73 percent believe in heaven, 71 percent say Jesus is the Son of God and 71 percent believe in angels, the survey found. Seven out of 10 say Jesus Christ rose from the dead and that the Bible is, all or in part, the "Word of God."

More than two-thirds - 68 percent - believe in the "survival of the soul after death" and would describe themselves as religious. About 62 percent think that hell exists, 61 percent believe in the Virgin Birth and 59 percent say the devil exists.

In contrast, fewer than half - 47 percent - said they believe in Darwin's theory of evolution; a third said they did not believe in it while 22 percent were not sure what they thought. A full 40 percent said they believe in creationism, though the question did not elaborate on exactly what that term meant.

Supernatural phenomena of other kinds attract Americans' attention.

Overall, 44 percent of the respondents said they believe in ghosts, 36 percent say UFOs are real while 31 percent believe in both witches and astrology. About a quarter believe in reincarnation, or "that you were once another person," the survey found." (HT: Gene Veith)

As we work with people (and ourselves!) let us remember something important: We are not essentially thinking people who also have emotions; we are mostly emotional beings who sometimes think.

Let me repeat that, so it sinks in: We are not essentially thinking people who also have emotions; we are mostly emotional beings who sometimes think.

Thinking is a discipline and hard work. Over many years we've developed habits of judgments and inconsistent frameworks as substitute for thinking. (It's easier!) This is why Romans 12:1-2 emphasizes renewal of our minds.

As you teach and work with people, it is rare to find someone who is more persuadable through logic than emotion. Most sales people know that we make buying decisions based on the emotional content of the stories we tell ourselves, and then build up rationale after that to justify our decision.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Don't Just Memorize a Verse, but Scripture

Follow this interview and watch the videos of Ryan Ferguson, who memorizes long passages of Scripture, including whole books. His process for memorization is quite interesting -- he doesn't concern himself with the specific verse numbers, for example. I like his emphasis on grasping the meaning as he memorizes.

There's reasonable evidence that in the centuries leading up to Jesus' time, pious Jewish boys would routinely memorize Torah, the 1st five books of the Bible. We obviously have pretty low expectations of kids today.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Challenges, Predictions, and Plans for 2009

I made a free video for you, outlining:

1. Observations about the challenges (and opportunities they create) for Bible teachers
2. Four predictions for 2009 (I'm not a prophet, but will make these forecasts)
3. What you need to do to prepare for 2009
4. What I'll be working for in 2009

The video is sectioned into 4 chapters that total about 27 minutes; they will play consecutively, but you can click on the left side bar to jump around.

2009 Challenges, Predictions, and Plans

The video should start playing automatically.

Let me share some humorous notes about the video. I shot this early this morning, so I look kinda like Zoltar from the planet Xenedomokra. I looked even more like Zoltar the first time, when I had my eyeglasses on -- with the reflections off the lens I looked like a pasty-faced battery-powered robot with glowing white and blue eyes, the kind that say, "Take me to your leader." So now you get to see me squint while I'm scanning my notes. And if you hear some wind noises, that's because it's -6F and windy here in Iowa this morning!

Though I may look goofy (God knew I couldn't handle being an attractive male), I am completely serious about these challenges and opportunities.

2009 Challenges, Predictions, and Plans

Do you agree with my predictions? I'm interested in your feedback, so please comment below!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Making Less More

I'm frequently coaching Bible teachers to "teach less better." There are times when we're giving students large doses of Scripture, the big picture, breadth, intensity. That's appropriate, but not all the time.

Mix up your approach and make sure you are teaching some lessons -- tightly focused, a few verses, one application.

Here's the guideline I work for: I want to leave them hungry for more. I want them to be thinking, "I wish he had gone on and shared more. I'm going to dig into that myself when I get home."

Did you catch that? Leave them hungry enough to want to feed themselves. In this way you are making less lesson more transformational.

If you need some tips on trimming a lesson down, here's a good starting point.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How to Use a Study Bible

Study Bibles are a terrific resource for Bible teachers, but need to be used correctly. I like Albert Mohler's counsel in his article "How to Use a Study Bible": read the text first, then follow the cross-references, THEN read the footnotes and articles.

Teachers who take the reverse path shortchange themselves and their students.

HT: Between Two Worlds

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What are the Problems and Challenges with Bible Teaching today?

I'm working on a special report, and would really like your help.

What do you see as the problems, weaknesses, challenges and trends with Bible teaching today?

I'm genuinely interested in your perspective, so comment on this post.


Friday, December 12, 2008

MindMppping Your Study Notes for Preparing Lessons

A powerful technique for organizing your Bible study notes and preparation for preparing lessons is to create mindmaps. See my post about software to help you create mindmaps at my blog for encouraging husbands and fathers.

On Derek Kidner

Derek Kidner recently went home to be with the Lord, at age 95. His commentary on the Psalms and Proverbs has been influential on me.

For example, here is his succinct insight about Psalm 127: "Those children who will be a quiverful are often first a handful."

I absolutely loved reading this excerpt from his funeral oratory. May we all be men of whom others would honor this way!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Thompson's Chain Reference Bible

This video clip gives a quick explanation of the "chain" concept for the Thompson's Chain Reference Bible, which I believe is a MUST-have for every Bible teacher. (See my free report for even more details.)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Bible Study Package for Macs

For my Mac-ophiles out there...

Probably the superior Bible study software package for the Mac is the new Logos edition.

This is for serious work, especially when you're disconnected from the Internet.  You basically have a gazillion reference tools in a few megabytes.  

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Repurposing Your Lesson Material

Usually Bible teachers and leaders can re-use lesson material in different ways. This is an important capability that I encourage you to develop.

Let's look at one example so you get some ideas.

The previous post (about Epaphras) has an interesting history. The original insights about Epaphras surfaced while I was immersing myself in Colossians, to prepare for a series I'll be teaching in early 2009. So I had jotted a few notes in the margins of my markup copy of Colossians.

I needed a short (3-5 min) devotion for a leader breakfast. I took 2 of the ideas and used them with that group of men.

Later in the week I developed a longer devotion (10-12 min) for an elder board meeting. I tailored the model prayer as a prayer for our specific church congregation and our missions outreach.

This morning I rewrote the devotion as an article to post on our church website in January. In this case, it's not about leading the church, but about leading in all settings, including our families.

And I made still another variation to post on the blog.

This will be part of one lesson I teach in 2009, when we get to Colossians 4. I'll extend the material and change the questions around as appropriate for the group I'm teaching. (I don't know exactly whom will be in the class yet.)

One idea I have is to create a short audio recording of the questions -- what do we know about Epaphras' family, background, age, appearance, etc -- as a between-lesson opportunity to encourage people in the class to be meditating on the material.

The other possible use I have for this material is for another teaching series I'm thinking about presenting in late 2009 -- on developing leaders in the church.

So you see how you can leverage your insights from personal Bible study in multiple ways. Take notes as you study. Look for opportunities to re-use and re-purpose your devotion and lesson materials.

Praying Hard and Working Hard

Epaphras is an outstanding model of lay leadership. Listen as his mentor, Paul, describes him:

“Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.” -- Colossians 4:12-13

Three things characterize Epaphras here:

1. He is one of you and a servant of Jesus
2. He is always wrestling in prayer
3. He is working hard

Epaphras is identified with the Colossians, and is a servant of Jesus. There is much to think about here, but I will save that for another time.

Epaphras prays hard. “Wrestling” in prayer is active, and aggressive. It’s not a milquetoast, wimpy attitude of prayer.

I encourage you to use this model prayer for the people around you:

That each would stand firm (not sit weakly) in all (not just some of) the will of God (nothing self-centered)
That each would be mature – solid in the faith, actively growing, using gifts well, discerning between good and evil
That each would be fully assured (in Christ and truth He has revealed, and in His wonderful promises of provision, care, protection, purpose)

Please consider the positive feedback loop: We grow in assurance, and then we become better able to stand firm in all the will of God as mature disciples -- which strengthens our assurance in Christ!

None of us are as yet mature as God means for us to be. And many among us are not yet standing firm, obedient, or fully assured. There is work to be done, progress to be made, and it begins with dedicated prayer for God to transform lives.

Epaphras is working hard (in addition to praying hard) for not only the Colossians, his local congregation, but for two churches in other cities in that region. Leaders must both pray hard and work hard. And the hard work should not only be directed to our immediate family, but should serve the larger work in the kingdom of God. I believe God intends for his people to have disproportionately large impacts for the world.

Let me ask you a few questions:

* How old is Epaphras?
* What was his theological training?
* What was his occupation? Did he get good grades in school?
* Did he have godly parents in a good home? Is he married? Does he have children?
* What did he look like, and sound like?
* How much free time did he have from other responsibilities?

We aren’t told any of these things, because they aren’t relevant. Prayer and hard work are not spiritual gifts – they are for all of us!

If Epaphras had a headstone or grave marker, did they write on it, “He wrestled in prayer and worked hard for us”? Let’s recommit to prayer and work, and leave a wonderful legacy.

Free Video Teaching Resource

Here's something to watch:

It's a free service that will make high-quality videos of pastors and Bible teachers available. This is potentially a great resource!

They're anticipating a go-live in early 2009.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Use Cartoons to Advance Your Teaching Points

Cartoons can be devastatingly effective at getting important ideas across. If you're looking for something to change up the pace, you might find that a cartoon is just right. For example, the humor in this cartoon might help you introduce a lesson about "publicans."

Good sites that compile cartoons are:

Another approach is simply to search Google (use the image search option) using the keyword 'Cartoon' and other keywords related to your topic. For example, searching for 'Cartoon tithing' yields over 9000 choices.
If there is a specific passage you're teaching from, try including that reference in the search terms. That will really cut down on the number of cartoons you find, but might help you zero in faster.
Remember to give credit for cartoon sources and follow any copyright restrictions.
Finally, keep in mind that cartoon humor can be biting. Make sure that everyone will think it's actually funny before you share it. (Test it out on some key people first.) And most important, make sure the cartoon advances your teaching points -- if it doesn't, it's only a memorable distraction!