Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Debt We Owe Hebrew Scribes

You will encounter people who are concerned about the authenticity of the Bible. There are many articles explaining why today's Bible accurately reflects the original texts. But this information from Parchment and Pen was new to me:

Tradition tells us the Hebrew people were meticulous copyists of Scripture. Scribes were so aware of their task they would go to great lengths to make sure their hand-written copy of Scripture was free from error. Hebrew scribes were bound to the following rules:

1. They could only use clean animal skins, both to write on, and even to bind manuscripts.
2. Each column of writing could have no less than forty-eight, and no more than sixty lines.
3. The ink must be black, and of a special recipe.
4. They must verbalize each word aloud while they were writing.
5. They must wipe the pen and wash their entire bodies every time before writing God’s name.
6. There must be a review within thirty days, and if as many as three pages required corrections, the entire manuscript had to be redone.
7. The letters, words, and paragraphs had to be counted, and the document became invalid if two letters touched each other. The middle paragraph, word and letter must correspond to those of the original document.
8. The documents could be stored only in sacred places (synagogues, etc.).


Wow! He goes on to tell the story of some famous manuscripts, including the Dead Sea Scrolls. Recommended! Let this information add to your confidence level!

One more thought to ponder: the scribes carefully copied everything over the centuries --even those things which probably made no sense to them at all.

Friday, October 29, 2010


I'm can't recall any teaching situation where I would have said afterwards, "I wish the teacher had brought a little less energy."

Fact: Listeners aren't engaged in the material to a greater extent than you are.

Amp up your energy, especially as the group size gets bigger. You can dial up and dial down your volume for emphasis, and you should. Move around. Move your arms! Make serious eye contact. Let them see your heart!

Yes, we have historical examples of people like Jonathan Edwards who preached in a monotone, and saw changed lives. That's not likely for you.

Give the Lord your best, not what you're comfortable with.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Do You Tell Them Their Loved One is in Hell?

As a Bible teacher, you may well be asked for your advice on how to minister to someone who has a loved one who died and they don't think he/she was saved in Christ.

I greatly respect the wisdom in Randy Alcorn's answer to this question :

"...we do not have an obligation to try to convince people that their loved one was not saved. I think what that would do is lay a responsibility on us to impose an opinion we have, and although that opinion may very well be accurate, it will just cause unnecessary distress to that person in the midst of their loss.
What might help you personally on this—and I have reassured myself about this many times—is to realize that we do not know what happens inside a person before they die. We don’t know whether the Holy Spirit of God has done a work of grace in someone’s heart and life at the last moment. They may have been aware of the hours, minutes, even just seconds leading up to their death and cried out to God for deliverance."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Marking Up Your Bible

I met a woman yesterday carrying a really, really well-used Bible. She had layers of tape holding the binding together, scribbles and cross-references and notes all through it. Terrific! Make it your ambition to wear out Bibles.

Here are my thoughts from an earlier blog post about marking up your Bible and making it your own.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cramner's Prayer Structure Will Help You Pray Better

Most teachers pray before and/or after lessons and small group studies. This means that you are modeling prayer for your students. It's been well-said that prayer is more caught than taught -- so let's be good pray-ers that our students will catch good things from us.

I commend Tim Keller's article on how he uses the structure of prayers from Thomas Cramner. Here is an excerpt:

Cranmer’s collects consist of 5 parts:
1. The address - a name of God
2. The doctrine - a truth about God’s nature that is the basis for the prayer
3. The petition - what is being asked for
4. The aspiration - what good result will come if the request is granted
5. In Jesus’ name - this remembers the mediatorial role of Jesus

See this structure in Cranmer’s famous collect for the service of Holy Communion:
1.Almighty God
2.unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid,
3.cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit,
4.that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name,
5.through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

See how the prayer moves from a doctrinal basis (why we can ask for it) to the petition (what we want) to the aspiration (what we will do with it if we get it.) It is remarkable how this combines solid theology with deep aspirations of the heart and concrete goals for our daily life.

Read the whole article, it's excellent.

HT: Challies

Thursday, October 21, 2010

1,200 Posts

This is post #1,201 on this blog.

It's been a privilege and an adventure to use this blog to encourage teachers and share ideas and resources. Thanks be to God for the opportunity to serve His kingdom this way! I'll never meet most of you this side of heaven. Only God knows who has been helped, and in what ways, for His glory -- but I operate out of faith that He knows what He is doing.

It may well be that I have learned more than anyone!

Keep on teaching to change lives, brothers and sisters.


You know that wonderful promise in Luke 17 where Jesus says "if you have faith as small as a mustard seed"? This devotion isn't about that. It's about what Jesus told his disciples right after that. Listen closely:

7"Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? 8Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? 9Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.' " (Luke 17:7-10)

These verses aren't covered in many sermons, I suspect, because they're…well…uncomfortable.
"Unworthy servants" and "only doing our duty"- that's how Jesus says we should realistically view ourselves.

But wait, perhaps you're thinking of that phrase we love to quote, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" That's what we are, right? Good and faithful, not unworthy.

Let's look at that Luke 19 passage again, carefully:

15"He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. 16"The first one came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned ten more.' 17" 'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.' (Luke 19:15-17)

The parallel passage is from Matthew 25:
"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

Think carefully, now. There is no conflict between being unworthy and being a good servant. We are unworthy, because we don't deserve the grace that our Lord shows us by calling us to be servants. With His help (see John 15:5 - we don't do anything apart from Him), we accomplish amazing things, but they are simply our duty. We're following His commands.

There is a key message that we as individuals and we as a church need to hear in Luke 19:17: the reward for accomplishment for Christ is greater responsibility! "Take charge of ten cities" is a much larger responsibility than being a steward of a mina (which was about 3 months' wages).

As I have read and reread the New Testament I have noticed that there is something missing. No where does Jesus ever tell someone that their current level of service is fine and they can just coast, slide comfortably the rest of the way. Jesus recognizes good service and rewards it, but short of heaven we will continue to have increasing opportunities for service - which is the grand adventure of following Christ!

I believe God has already planned great things for us to accomplish in His strength and by His sovereign direction. (See Ephesians 2:10) God loves us far too much to let us sit on our past accomplishments, or wallow in our current state of sanctification. There are larger and greater steps that we will take to fulfill the Great Commission, our standing orders.

It's become popular today to challenge a person, saying "Man up!" My challenge to us is that we say - with joy, entering our Master's happiness, doing our duty - "Servant up!"

May God bless you, and bless us, for the glory of Jesus.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ask Yourself These Questions Before You Teach

We're not teaching to entertain or fill heads -- our goal is to teach to change lives. My heart leapt when I read these questions from Francis Chan, which you should ask before you teach:

1. Am I worried about what people think of my message or what God thinks? (Teach with fear)
2. Do I genuinely love these people? (Teach with love)
3. Am I accurately presenting this passage? (Teach with accuracy)
4. Am I depending on the Holy Spirit's power or my own cleverness? (Teach with power)
5. Have I applied this message to my own life? (Teach with integrity)
6. Will this message draw attention to me or to God? (Teach with humility)
7. Do the people really need this message? (Teach with urgency)

Wonderful! Print this off, trim it down, stick it in your Bible and review regularly.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Distinguishing Essentials and Non-Essentials

Great Bible teachers understand and work effectively with people who hold a range of views. You may find it challenging to teach and lead discussion with people who actually disagree with you on some point, or do not have the same strength conviction you do. But this is part of being a teacher.

Most people are comfortable with the old saying, "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity."

At least until there is a dispute about what's essential!

Hear my clearly: I strongly believe you need to study the Scriptures and develop convictions. I do not think you should strive for a wishy-washy, milquetoast, ambiguous, "whatever you think is ok" approach to teaching. And not every viewpoint that comes up in discussion is supported by Scripture -- and you need to call that out.

But how do you decide what is essential, vs. non-essential? I heartily recommend you print off this terrific article from C. Michael Patton, "Evangelicals: We can and we must distinguish between sssentials and non-essentials better." This article is worth some study, with pen in hand.

Back to your teaching approach: aim to be gracious with differing views on non-essentials, gently calling out error as you observe it, and challenge people to study and meditate on challenging issues - in order to form their own convictions as a fellow believer with you. It is certainly appropriate for you to share your views and explain why you believe this (with ample Scripture references).

There is one teaching situation where sharing your personal convictions may actually get in the way of good dialogue: where you are educating people on different views of issues, and are helping them think through it themselves. If you share your view, most people won't be open to learning about other views (even when they disagree with your view). For example, I taught a series of lessons some time past about the basics of Salvation. We looked at Reform (Calvinistic) and Arminian viewpoints. I have my convictions after years of consideration, but were I to share my convictions it would have weakened the lesson. (Note-- in my denomination we do not take an official stance on these perspectives; if your denomination does take a stance, you need to respect that as you teach.)

Again, print off this article and give it some study. Your teaching will improve!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How To Glorify God

Check out this list of ways we glorify God from Kevin DeYoung. This would make a very nice lesson, or a short series of lessons.

1. Give God verbal declarations of praise (Rev. 4:8-9).
2. Live a life of noticeable piety (Matt. 5:16; James 1:27; 1 Peter 2:12).
3. Ask God for things in Jesus’ name (John 14:13).
4. Bear fruit and show yourself to be a disciple of Jesus (John 15:8).
5. Declare the truth about Jesus (John 16:14).
6. Love your life less than God (John 21:19; 1 Peter 1:7; 4:16).
7. Worship God as God (Rom. 1:21).
8. Live a life of sexual purity (1 Cor. 6:20).
9. Live a life of generosity (2 Cor. 9:13).
10. Rejoice in God’s glory displayed in creation (Psalm 19:1).
11. Do the works of faith (2 Thess. 1:12).
12. Use your gifts in God’s strength (1 Peter 4:11).
13. Make sure everyone knows you’re not God (Acts 12:23).
14. Live a life of gratitude (Psalm 50:23; 2 Cor. 4:15).
15. In matters of liberty, seek the good of others (1 Cor 10:31).
16. Extend grace to sinners (2 Cor. 8:19).
17. Be a part of a local church (2 Cor. 8:23; Eph. 3:20-21).
18. Tell God you are wrong and he is right (Josh. 7:19; Jer. 13:16; Rev. 16:9).
19. Obey God (Lev. 10:3; Mal. 2:2).
20. Go from a Christ-despiser to a Christ-worshiper (Gal. 1:24).

Monday, October 11, 2010

Discipleship Library

Check out the Discipleship Library for a terrific collection of sermons and articles. Searchable index. Good resource for you!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Dealing with Opposition

I recently received a question from Joanna:

"How do you deal with opposition to the teaching of the word, be it from people in the cell group or people outside the church who I try to share the word with?"

This was my response:

Joanna, thanks for your question.

I actually have had little direct opposition from not-yet believers. But with those whom I know are not actively searching for God, I try to enter into dialogue and conversation about matters, rather than preach at them or try to teach something they aren't interested in learning. [Same approach you take with children and teenagers at times.]

I frequently pray the promises of Is 55:11 "[My word] will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

Opposition from inside the fellowship of Christ should be handled as dialogue, going back to Scripture to see what it says, praying together, learning from one another. There have been a number of times when I've been corrected over the years,'s not exactly fun, but appreciated. I'm a disciple, too. Disciple means "learner."

Sometimes people have opposed me because they have strong convictions on topics which differ from mine. I choose not to to break fellowship with others if our convictions differ on disputable matters, and are not essentials to Christian faith.

If you are running into challenges in your cell group that make it hard to teach, you might find this product useful:

Keep on faithfully teaching to change lives,


Any other thoughts you would share?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Two Charts Teachers Should Check Out

In grad school I had a professor who insisted that if you could diagram it, it proved you understood it. Charts and diagrams are very helpful for teaching your students. Here are two that you should check out and put in your files: the elect, and the intermediate state compared to the resurrected state.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Very cool, fast resource for looking up Bible verses/passages online: Swift

This might be an especially nifty tool from a smartphone.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Power of Story

Dan Taylor explains the power of stories. Teaching to change lives means using stories well!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Warning Signs for Bible Teachers

If you teach regularly, please pay attention to these warning signs of danger:

You only read the Bible to prepare lessons, not for yourself. "I know it really well, so it's all about teaching those poor souls who don't."

You dismiss criticism and negative feedback as personal dislike. "Who could possibly disagree with me? I'm always right in my interpretation and application."

You skip regular times of prayer because there is so much writing and counseling and lesson preparation to do. "I'm doing fine, it's just very busy right now."

You sermonize a lot, and leave little room for discussion. "What could they possibly say that is more important than what I have to say?"

You resent any direction-setting from authorities on who or what you should teach. "The only authority I need is whatever God conveniently lays on my heart, that's easy for me to teach without a lot of preparation."

Dear teachers, if/when you see yourself falling into these patterns, repent!

Note: I've adapted this from a similar list for pastors, published by David Murray.