Sunday, February 27, 2011

What God Gives You When You're At Rock Bottom

I get contacted every week from teachers and pastors who worn out, discouraged, crushed, exhausted, weary, full of doubts and fearful. Maybe you're not quite there, but you feel overwhelmed, unsure, anxious.

Let's look at what God gives you when you're at rock bottom and you feel there's nothing left. Open your Bible to 1 Kings 19, this wonderful story preserved for us about Elijah fleeing into the wilderness when Jezebel threatens his life. Read the whole chapter, but let me call your attention to a few verses.

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. (1 Kings 19:3-5)

Have you ever prayed that way? "Lord, I've had enough!"

God does not respond to Elijah not by saying, "Oh, poor baby! You're right, I gave you too much to do and you should be whining and complaining. Why don't you just retire now and do nothing. I'll be nicer to you in the future."

Instead God gives Elijah (1) more of Himself and His glory, and (2) new assignments!

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” (1 Kings 19:11)

The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. (1 Kings 19:15-16)

So if you feel you're close to rock bottom, desperate, then look for God to give you more of Himself and new assignments. Don't blame God, and don't ever give up hope in Christ.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Reliability of Scripture

As a teacher, it's critical for you to be convinced and strengthened by the reliability of the Bible. This is also crucial for you to relay to those whom you teach. And God will almost certainly direct people into your life who say things like, "The Bible is full of errors, you can't trust it."

For all these reasons, print off this Michael Patton article, "Text Criticism in a Nutshell" and review it. It's a great resource to use with your students, if they're interested in this. Don't be put off by the title, just start in on it and be blessed.

One more thing to learn from this article -- take note of how he structures it and presents the information. He's a great teacher!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


This might be a fun poem to start off a class! I observe that good teachers bring fun and insightful materials into lessons in order to help with emotional engagement. Enjoy!

I was shocked, confused, bewildered
As I entered Heaven's door,
Not by the beauty of it all,
Nor the lights or its decor.

But it was the folks in Heaven
Who made me sputter and gasp--
The thieves, the liars, the sinners,
The alcoholics and the trash.

There stood the kid from seventh grade
Who swiped my lunch money twice.
Next to him was my old neighbor
Who never said anything nice.

Bob, who I always thought
Was rotting away in hell,
Was sitting pretty on cloud nine,
Looking incredibly well.

I nudged Jesus, 'What's the deal?
I would love to hear Your take.
How'd all these sinners get up here?
God must've made a mistake.

'And why is everyone so quiet,
So somber - give me a clue.'
'Hush, child,' He said,
'they're all in shock.
No one thought they'd be seeing you.'


Remember...Just going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car.

Every saint has a PAST...
Every sinner has a FUTURE!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Give Me Jesus!

Terrific lyrics! Teachers, don't be afraid to show a short video like this in your class as a change of pace. It can encourage and inspire people, and open their hearts to the experience of God through His Word.

Fernando Ortega - "Give Me Jesus" from Adamson.TV on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

You're Teaching Future _________

Let me encourage you by reminding you that you are teaching future:

Parents, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles
Mentors for younger people
Missionaries to neighborhoods and nations
Employees and Employers
People who weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice
People who fight for justice
Prayer warriors

Don't give up. Don't give in. Keep on teaching to change lives!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The "Anti-Psalm" Approach

David Powlison recommends a fascinating technique for studying a Psalm: write the "anti-Psalm." Here is Psalm 131 and Powlison's anti-psalm:

Psalm 131

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.

Powlison’s anti-psalm:

My heart is proud
and my eyes are haughty
and I chase after things too great and too difficult for me.
So of course I’m noisy and restless inside; it comes naturally,
like a hungry infant fussing on his mother’s lap,
like a hungry infant, I’m restless with my demands and worries.

I scatter my hopes onto anything and everybody all the time.

Isn't that a great way to help people understand what the text actually says, and encourage their hearts! Try this approach with your teaching.

HT: Tim Challies

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Study the Bible, Just For You

Let me ask you a question: when was the last time that you
did a Bible study, investigating a book or topic or theme,
just for yourself, with no teaching need driving you?

When I ask other teachers this question, I usually get
sheepish looks. One honest man told me that he likes to be
teaching, because then he has a strong reason to be in the
Word. He struggles to be in the Bible consistently if he's
not driven by a teaching need.

Teacher burnout is a significant issue in the church
today. We don't have enough Great Bible Teachers like you,
and so there are heavy burdens on most of our teachers.
It's all too easy to fall into a rut of studying and
personal Bible study that are only hours or days ahead of
the class you're teaching.

(When I was in grad school, it was ok to be a half-class
ahead of the undergrads I was teaching. But that's not the
way Great Bible Teachers should operate.)

So here is an important assignment for you: make time for
personal study and reflection, independent of any teaching
need that's on your calendar.

This is critical for your personal development,
Elaine. Follow an interest, see where it takes you.
Put aside some time to focus on this -- the Lord has much
to say to you.

Just read the Bible for your own enjoyment, with notebook
in hand.

What you pursue is up to you, but I do have one suggestion
-- pick something a little different than your usual
comfort areas. For many people, a study in the minor
prophets would be profitable.

You'll be amazed at how much the Lord will teach you. And
someday you'll probably use what you're learning in your
teaching ministry, but don't pursue it with that end in
mine. Pursue this study to build yourself up, and receive
instructions and encouragement from our gracious Lord.

Friday, February 11, 2011

What Will We Be Doing In Heaven?

If you'd like to create a lesson on the theme of "What will we be doing in heaven?," you can get a terrific start with C. Michael Patton's article on this topic.

I like how he organizes the material (including a section on "Wrong Answers"!) and writes so clearly. Like a good teacher, he weaves in a personal touch and includes stories of his childhood conceptions of heaven.

If you'd like a more comprehensive starting point, Randy Alcorn's book Heaven is the place to go.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

How To Use Your Head to Guard Your Heart

There's a significant opportunity to help people be discerning about the music, TV, movies, YouTube videos, videogames, etc. that they consume. (It's called "programming" for a reason, folks!)

Teachers, you can step into that opportunity!

Here's a recommended resource for this area: 3(D) Guide: How to Use Your Head to Guard Your Heart. You can read a little more about the creator here.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Preparation Strategy for Teaching

Mary asks a terrific question: "How much time and how does one find enough time to prepare fresh new material each week? There are so many distractions during the day that I have no control over, I regret this. Am I the only one with this problem?"

Mary, rest assured that you're not alone on this time crunch! Of course, saying this doesn't help you.

I've got a three-part strategy: focus, rhythm of prep, and prayer. Let me walk you through it.

Distractions plague us all. Low-value activities abound and attract our attention. We confuse activity for real contribution. We're human.

This is why we stand truly amazed at Jesus' prayer in John 17: "I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do." (v4) He finished all the work? Really? Wow!

Jesus didn't preach to everyone in Israel. He didn't heal ever leper or care for every widow or answer everyone's individual questions. He did the work that the Father had given him to do.

We, too, must be clear about our focus. You don't need to run down every commentary or every cross-reference or every study guide on a Bible passage to teach a good, life-transforming lesson that honors the Lord.

Let's talk about time and how to use it. Focus and intensity are needed. Be purposeful about setting aside time and not allowing distractions in. And use rhythm to your advantage! Here's my own practice, which I heartily recommend you try:

1. I spend 10-15 minutes each day in the passage(s) I will be teaching. Since I usually teach over a series of weeks, I'm actually looking at passages for the upcoming week and the following week -- so I'm two weeks out. My attitude during this 10-15 minutes is listening/observing. "Lord, teach me. Show me what's critical for my students to understand. Give me ideas about how to organize the lesson and life applications."

2. I dedicate a 60-90 minute time a day or two before I actually teach (usually Friday or Saturday) to really work out the final details of the lesson and practice it. I do this very early in the morning, before others are awake. Stay away from the computer and other distractions! This must be guarded, intensely focused time.

This combination approach keeps my mind engaged without burning out, and helps me avoid deadly procrastination.

Finally, prayer. The less time you have to prepare, the greater fraction of that time should be prayerful. If I only have 5 minutes to prepare, I'm going to pray for 3 minutes of it. Never shortchange prayer time, because apart from the work of the Spirit in you and your students, no amount of eloquence or style matters.

So in sum, here's my recommended strategy:
1. Focus on what is essential and most valuable
2. Dedicate a few minutes a day and at least one longer block of time
3. Don't shortchange prayer.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

A Map, But Not the Journey

I'm periodically asked if I can provide/recommend Bible study guides, or would publish the lessons I create so others could use them.

It's not what I'm called to do, so I don't. The world is swimming in published Bible study guides (at bookstores and online, some for fee and some for free). The lessons I create are for the people that God calls me to teach, not a generic audience.

I'm not anti- study guide. There are many good guides available. I treasure commentaries and writings preserved for us over the centuries.

I am anti-shortcutting.

Let me explain with an analogy.

I've made a couple of trips now in the Boundary Waters area on the Minnesota/Canada border. To prepare for those trips I pour over topo maps, check out trip reports from others, look at the Google satellite maps, and even the interactive "rate the portage route" online maps that are available. I love maps! I love thinking about the trip and planning it, and reading about the trips others have made.

A map is not the same as a journey.

Our actual trips are so rich, so detailed, so much that can only be experienced by being there. Even the short video I made of our trip last summer gives you only hints of the actual experience, and none of the satisfaction.

Bible study guides are like the topo maps and trip guides -- valuable, but no substitute for going on the journey with God through His Word. And if you never tackle Bible study without getting off the "trip planner guide" someone else prepared, you're shortcutting yourself out of experience with God.

Don't shortcut. Dive deep and experience God's Word. Put in that effort, and you'll never worry about what to teach again, because your experience with God will be so deep and alive! That's the key to teaching to change lives.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Online Groups, Anyone?

Alan Danielson gives 20 reasons your church should have online groups. I can see some positives, but am mostly curious -- any of my readers done this? What's the teaching/sharing experience like? Comment below or email me.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Timeline for Kings of Israel and Judah

I'm currently studying in 1 and 2 Kings, and it gets a bit confusing to keep all the kings' timelines straight. I found this chart was helpful. (Plus some notes in my Thompson's!)