Thursday, April 30, 2009

Blogging is Good for You, Good for Your Students

I encourage Bible teachers to blog.

You could readily share some materials that didn’t make it into your lessons, information from your lessons, good thoughts from books and articles you’re reading, etc.
Check out this article "6 Reasons Why Pastors Should Blog" for some suggested benefits.
It's a great way to sharpen your teaching ability, and serve your students (and others) better.

You can get started with free tools like and

Not a Monument! and Other Quotes

I captured some great quotes from Brad Padgett, our speaker at our last Perspectives class:
"Debt is a nice way of saying 'slavery.' "
"Why are you waiting for a call when you've been given a command?"
"Two visions is di-vision."
"It's a world Christian movement, not a monument."
"We shouldn't measure churches by seating capacity, but by sending capacity."
"Two thirds of Jesus' ministry was cross-cultural."
I originally posted these on Twitter. You can follow me there at

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Overcoming Fear

I think Mark Batterson's comments about overcoming nerves:

" First of all, my prayer mantra before I speak is this: Lord, help me help people. I really try to focus on what people need to hear not what I want to say. It takes the focus off of me. ... At times, I don't feel like I'm ready or I'm qualified for the opportunity the Lord presents. It seems bigger than me. And it always is. But here is what the Spirit put in my spirit recently: I am not bigger than this moment but God in me is bigger than this moment. That simple truth has set me free. It puts everything in perspective. My excitement about who God is and what God is doing overwhelms my human nerves and helps me speak with Spirit-filled energy and confidence."

You can also check out my free report on Overcoming Fear. It's been downloaded over 34,000 times now!

John Wesley's Counsel to Another Preacher

I think this is great counsel for Bible teachers of all kinds:

"What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear, to this day, is want of reading. I scarce ever knew a preacher who read so little. And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety; there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it, any more than a thorough Christian. Oh begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not; what is tedious at first will afterwards be pleasant. Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days, and a pretty, superficial preacher. Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether. Then will all the children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you; and in particular yours."

John Wesley, writing to a young preacher, quoted in D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge, Letters Along The Way, page 169.

Remember, YOU are the tool God is going to use. Discipline yourself to be a great tool for God. Do the hard work required.

HT: Ray Ortlund

The biblical story in 4 images

Wonderful, inspiring -- the biblical story in four images (5 min video).

HT: Between Two Worlds

People Groups Where You Live

Here's a fascinating resource to check out the nationalities, languages, and people groups who live in different cities:


You will probably be surprised at how God has settled people so that the Gospel message can be shared. This is a great jumping-off point for a small group or Sunday School discussion, or just your family at the dinner table.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Looking for Systematic Framework Guide to the Bible?

Galyn Weimers has made available an incredibly valuable framework for Bible study -- at no cost! If you're looking for a systematic guide to understanding the Bible and Christian faith, tailor made for producing lessons for youth or adults, check this out immediately. The PDF of the book is available free online.

If you prefer, you can order a physical copy of the book (with companion CD) for $20 plus shipping.

Outstanding resource!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

SermonCloud -- find sermons quickly

Looking for a sermon on a specific topic or theme? Try searching SermonCloud. Very interesting interface, and new material being added all the time.

Reading, Speaking, and Writing

"Reading makes a full man, speaking a quick man, and writing an exact man." -- Francis Bacon

Teaching well requires you to be well-prepared, both in your specific lesson, and broadly. So I strongly encourage you to read deeply and widely, to practice speaking with others about issues of consequence, and to practice writing (letters, journals, short devotions, blogs). These will deepen you and enrich you; you'll become a greater blessing to others as you sharpen your abilities.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Diagnosing Your Problems When You Hit A Plateau in Teaching

Bible teaching is a craft.  By that I mean, great Bible teaching is a combination of knowledge, practices, skills, and art – and we are always in learning mode on our craft. 
Initially many teachers are lacking information and the “how-to” of practices which are effective.  But going forward, progress requires discipline and persistent determination to improve.  Consider these quotes:
“Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability.” - Roy Smith
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” – Calvin Coolidge
If you’ve hit a plateau in your Bible teaching, it could be a lack of knowledge problem.  It could be an issue with your passion.  It’s very likely, however, that it’s an issue with your discipline and persistent determination. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Don't Give Them the Answer

When someone asks you a question, don't give them the answer.

"Whoa, Glenn, what are you saying?!"

Let me back up. When we as teachers are asked a question, we're often too quick to give them the answer. What do I mean by this? First, we're proud beings, so we thoroughly enjoy being perceived as smart and wise and full of knowledge. So we get asked a question about X theological issue, and Wham! we whip back our wise and knowledgeable answer.

Second, our answers are usually summary points -- because we're wise and knowledgeable and want to help people out.

The problem with this is that we're not training people to learn from the Bible for themselves. We're training them to be dependent upon us, the "wise and knowledgeable" ones.

There's a better approach that we need to master. We need to point people to Scriptures, and (as appropriate) help them discern for themselves what God is saying. This is particularly true for believers, because they too have the Holy Spirit!

Jesus modeled it for us. Let's look at a couple of passages to illustrate this:

In Mark 10:2-3 we have the account of Pharisees asking Jesus a question (in this case, as a test):

"Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"
"What did Moses command you?" he replied."

Notice that Jesus steered them back to the Torah. Then He continued the teaching from there.

Later in that same chapter we have the account of the young man asking about eternal life:

"As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'" (Matt 10:17-19)

Here Jesus reminds the man of the commandments he has already been given; again, He is pointing people back to the existing Word of God. There are several other examples of this pattern in the Gospel accounts.

Could Jesus have given them a theologically sound summary answer? Yes, but He didn't. The fact that He responded to their question by steering them to Scripture is meaningful. Let's pay attention!

Now how does this work for you as a teacher? What does your response look like?

You can ask them "What Scripture passages might be relevant here?"

You can say, "Here's a passage of Scripture that's been helpful to me on this question."

From both of these starting points, you have a great opportunity to help them understand the meaning of the Word. You can dialogue back and forth, look at related Scriptures, etc. But don't just spoon-feed an answer to them -- especially for people who have been believers a long time.

If the person you're working with is not-yet a believer, or a very new believer, you will need to help them more.

One of the primary benefits of this approach is that you're training people to go to God's Word for answers to their questions.

Another benefit is that our teacher "pride" issues are kept in check. We're not feeding that dog!

By the way, your students will not think less of you as a teacher when you teach this way. On the contrary, they'll be more engaged and want to interact with you more.

Let me close by saying that I have a long way to go with this practice. I've made far too many people dependent on me as a teacher. I'm not writing this as one who has "arrived" and always gets this right, but as a fellow learner with you. To God be all the glory!

Be Wary of Quiet Time "Performance"

Tim Challies warns us against quiet time "performance," a legalistic response to the command that we study God's Word and pray. Excellent! He concludes:

"So do not allow quiet time to become performance. View it as a chance to grow in grace. Begin with an expression of your dependency upon God’s grace, and end with an affirmation of His grace. Acknowledge that you have no right to approach God directly, but can approach Him only through the work of His Son. Focus on the gospel as the message of grace that both saves and sustains. And allow quiet time to become a gift of worship you present to God, and a gift of grace you receive from Him."

Read the whole blog post.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Looking for Challenging Christian Reading

If you're looking for no-fluff, challenging Christian reading, then check out this list. I've read about 1/2 of these. This is lean meat and hearty potatoes reading, not cheese puffs.

An Illustration on Sin

A common misconception is that God judges us on the overall balance of good and evil works. (You'll find this in your children, too, if you pay attention.) You can assume it's an assumption that many of your students will have, perhaps without being aware of it.

Even one sin condemns us, apart from the saving work of Jesus Christ.

Ray Ortlund uses the story of Benedict Arnold to illustrate our need for Christ.

This is a good illustration for some audiences who know Benedict Arnold. Worldwide, you may need to think of over examples of men or women who did a lot of good things but are remembered for singular evil deeds.

Helpful Advice for Leading Prayer Meetings

Here is some helpful advice for leading prayer meetings.

Base Hits

There is insiduous pressure on pastors and Bible teachers to make the next sermon or lesson better, more spectacular, more powerful, more sensational, more memorable, more exciting.

To use a baseball analogy, we begin thinking that only towering home runs are helpful.

Not true! If you're in a position of regular teaching, then a steady pattern of base hits will win games. Take each lesson for itself, and stop comparing one lesson to another.

This is different than working to improve your teaching craft over time! You should seek to improve your craft over time.

Work hard for your students, work steadily, but do not fall into the traps of thinking everything must be spectacular. If you begin thinking and operating this way, you will manipulate people, become motivated more by pride than love, and find you have walked away from the Holy Spirit.

Check out this article to think more about this concept.

Counsel for Unity on Church Leadership Teams

John Piper provides wise counsel for church leaders, to preserve unity:

Six Biblical Guidelines for Loving Each Other Amid Differences

1. Let’s avoid gossiping.The New Testament warns against gossiping.

2. Let’s identify evidences of grace in each other and speak them to each other and about each other.

3. Let’s speak criticism directly to each other if we feel the need to speak to others about it.

4. Let’s look for, and assume, the best motive in the other’s viewpoint, especially when we disagree.

5. Think often of the magnificent things we hold in common.

6. Let’s be more amazed that we are forgiven than that we are right. And in that way, let’s shape our relationships by the gospel.

Read the whole article, it's excellent.

Friday, April 17, 2009

You Should Be Learning from Josh Hunt

I strongly recommend you sign up for Josh Hunt's [free] newsletter and check out his training materials. They're excellent.

My heart just sang out when I read this in part 7 of his series on "Creating Spiritually Vibrant People":

"The object is Christian teaching is not to make smarter sinners. It is not to create people who can quote the facts of the Bible but live like the devil. It is to create people who act like saints."

(The whole article is great, with practical suggestions about practical teaching approaches. Print it off, read it through 3 times, and commit to implementing something practical this week.)

Creating a "Blank Bible" for Personal Study

I'm a big fan of my wide-margin Bible, but it's still too small a space for all the note-taking and writing that I'd like to do. The two primary problems with loose-leaf Bibles are bulk and the awkwardness of writing near the 3 ring binder holder.

So I was amazed to read about how several people creating "blank Bibles" similar to what Jonathan Edwards did (see this very cool video explaining Edwards' approach) . They remove the cover from a Bible, cut off the glue on the binding side, then insert blank sheets of paper between the pages of Scripture, and hold everything together with a spiral binding so it lays flat when open. Amazing!

Check out the detailed instructions here and here, with lots of pictures. Here's one approach using just the Gospel of Matthew and a Moleskine notebook.

I'm timid to try it, but might overcome my fear, because it looks so useful and practical! Anyone tried to create a blank Bible for their own use?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Luther on the Scriptures

"In truth you cannot read too much in Scriptures;
and what you read you cannot read too carefully,
and what you read carefully you cannot understand too well,
and what you understand well you cannot teach too well,
and what you teach well you cannot live too well."
-- Martin Luther

What a great reminder for us to devote ourselves to the Word and Prayer!

HT: Between Two Worlds

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Collection of Online Devotions

Check out this comprehensive collection of online devotions

400,000 New Bible Teachers by 2021

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all weask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."(Ephesians 3:20-21)

These are exciting days for the Gospel. One of the greatest needs we have worldwide is for more Bible teachers. And not just a few!

By 2021 there will be another billion people on this planet, should our Lord tarry. I estimate that it will take a minimum of 400,000 Bible teachers to reach this billion people. We can't meet this goal depending on seminaries, Bible study lesson guides, or waiting until someone has been a Jesus follower for 20 years before they begin teaching. The Internet does not reach everywhere, but it reaches the beachheads. Praise God that the HolySpirit is not limited!

So beginning this year, we're launching our 400KTeachers initiative. All the content will be free of charge. There will be coaching materials to develop your teaching skills, and helps so that each teacher can mentor three more teachers over 3 years. If we begin in 2009 with several thousand teachers, and they mentor more teachers, then by 2021 this multiplication process can result in over 400,000 new Bible teachers.

Initially all the materials will be in English, but we'llbe looking for help to produce them in other languages (initially we hope for Spanish and Chinese).

I'm very excited about this effort! (I told my pastor, "I don't think Satan suggests these things to us.") I'll be talking much more about this in the coming months, and hope that many of you will help spread the word.

More announcements coming!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

No Other Discipline Is More Important

Mark Batterson reminds us that the kings of Israel were commanded to make a personal copy of the law and study it daily.

"No other spiritual discipline is more vital to your spiritual growth that daily Bible study. Period. It has to be a daily routine."

Friday, April 10, 2009

How Much Can One Letter Teach Us?

Many of you know I've been teaching a series from Colossians, and have spent many hours meditating in that letter.  It's astounding how deep is the well of Scripture, how inexhaustible.  

Ray Ortlund has been studying Philippians, and asks a great question: What if Philippians were our only Bible? 

Check out his response.  Be strengthened and encouraged!

King Jesus

Here's a wonderful description of King Jesus.  Highly recommended. 

Thursday, April 09, 2009

But Dust -- humor

We Are But Dust....
A visiting minister waxed eloquent during the offertory prayer. "Dear Lord," he began with arms extended and a rapturous look on his upturned face, "without you we are but dust..."
He would have continued but at that moment my very obedient daughter (who was listening carefully for a change!) leaned over to me and asked quite audibly in her shrill little girl voice, "Mom, what is butt dust?"

Prayer Postures

Being both flesh and spirit, our bodily posture during prayer influences our prayer. Tim Challies has a nice review of the Scriptural descriptions of prayer postures -- bowing, kneeling, lying prostrate, standing, raising hands.

This would make an interesting lesson for a group!

Reaching Out to Muslims

Albert Mohler gives some helpful perspective in his recent column, "The Challenge of Islam -- A Christian Perspective." While some will instantly jump to "he's just criticizing the President's comments", I recommend you consider his points on:

* the different approaches of the US Constitution towards religion and the Muslim mosque-and-state fusion (even in "moderate" Turkey)

* the reality that Islam is politically/economically an opposition force against most of our Western civilization values

* the primary challenge being a spiritual challenge for souls

It's important also to recognize the different ethical spheres of operation at work here. What we as Christians (individuals, but connected in the Spirit as the Body of Christ, His Bride, the Church) do is different than how nations/states operate. I do not think it's inconsistent for the US government to act in the best interests of citizens and position in the world, if that's different than how a church would act. For example, choosing to turn the other cheek is rarely good diplomacy between nations. My grandfather used to remind me that the Marshall Plan for Europe came after we crushed the Nazi war machine.

If you'd like to learn more about reaching out to Muslims, has many excellent articles and resources. Here, for example, is a list of the references to Jesus (Isa) in the Koran.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


We cannot make too much of Jesus Christ. John Piper reminds us to be Christ-conscious. Perfect for Easter week!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Getting Unstuck

Every teacher I know gets "stuck" sometimes. It feels like you've run out of ideas, insights, even your desire for studying God's Word falls away. You're sure you don't want to feel like this, but you also can't quite figure out what to do. Your brain fuzzes over. Temptations are stronger.

There are two avenues to getting unstuck. Both are important.

The first is to refocus on God. This is "Be still, and know that I am God." Restore Him to the focal point of your thoughts.

The second is to start moving, even if you're yet sure of direction. Put your confidence in the Lord, who will steer you. So if you're stuck staring at a blank page, start writing. If you aren't sure what to teach, pick something and begin working on a lesson outline.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Fighting the Fight for Faith

Paul's instruction to Timothy is helpful for teachers: Fight for Faith.

"11But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses." -- 1 Timothy 6:11-12

We are in a war. Every day.

Everyone you are teaching is in a war, battling to hold on to eternal life, taking actions to be a disciple of Jesus, every day.

I believe in eternal security. I don't believe in presumption of eternal security. What matters is our discipleship today.

Let us, as teachers of God's Word, build this into our teaching. Eternal matters of the soul hang in the balance here. Don't presume everyone you teach is truly saved (Spurgeon thought perhaps half his congregation was), and remember that everyone is fighting the fight of faith.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Checklist for Strong Delivery

Once you get what to teach, then how you teach becomes a critical factor in your effectiveness. I highly recommend you review Peter Mead's checklist "Delivery Diagnostics" for ideas on improvements.

I'm going to pay more attention to what I'm doing with my hands and also on slowing down during transitions.

What will you work on?

Thursday, April 02, 2009

"I cannot. Not without you."

John Piper writes about slaying the dragon of our flesh, in this excerpt from a sermon:

Picture your flesh—that old ego with the mentality of merit and craving for power and reputation and self-reliance—picture it as a dragon living in some cave of your soul. Then you hear the gospel, and in it Jesus Christ comes to you and says, "I will make you mine and take possession of the cave and slay the dragon. Will you yield to my possession? It will mean a whole new way of thinking and feeling and acting." You say: "But that dragon is me. I will die." He says, "And you will rise to newness of life, for I will take its plan; I will make my mind and my will and my heart your own." You say, "What must I do?" He answers, "Trust me and do as I say. As long as you trust me, we cannot lose." Overcome by the beauty and power of Christ you bow and swear eternal loyalty and trust. And as you rise, he puts a great sword in your hand and says, "Follow me." He leads you to the mouth of the cave and says, "Go in, slay the dragon." But you look at him bewildered, "I cannot. Not without you." He smiles. "Well said. You learn quickly. Never forget: my commands for you to do something are never commands to do it alone." Then you enter the cave together. A horrible battle follows and you feel Christ's hand on yours. At last the dragon lies limp. You ask, "Is it dead?" His answer is this: "I have come to give you new life. This you received when you yielded to my possession and swore faith and loyalty to me. And now with my sword and my hand you have felled the dragon of the flesh. It is a mortal wound. It will die. That is certain. But it has not yet bled to death, and it may yet revive with violent convulsions and do much harm. So you must treat it as dead and seal the cave as a tomb. The Lord of darkness may cause earthquakes in your soul to shake the stones loose, but you build them up again. And have this confidence: with my sword and my hand on yours this dragon's doom is sure, he is finished, and your new life is secure."I think that is the meaning of verse 24, "Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." Christ has taken possession of our soul. Our old self has been dealt a mortal wound and stripped of its power to have dominion. The Christian life, the fruit of the Spirit, is a constant reckoning of the flesh as dead (piling stones on its tomb) and a constant relying on the present Spirit of Christ to produce love, joy, and peace within. The difference between the Christian life and popular American morality is that Christians will not take one step unless the hand of Christ holds the hand that wields the sword of righteousness.

This is a wonderful use of story and imagination to help people comprehend and apply biblical truth.

HT: Between Two Worlds