Sunday, July 31, 2011

Relationship Between Love and Commandments

Looking for a medium-length lesson or devotional?  This article would be a great starting point: The Relationship Between 'Love' and 'Commandments' in the Writings of John.

I recommend you develop the habit of evaluating materials like this and thinking, "How could I use that for a lesson or devotional?"  You'll be amazed at how much information God puts within your reach!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Recommended Bible Study Tools

In this video I quickly outline my thoughts about Bible study tools you should have -- and which is the only one that's absolutely essential!

You can also get a free reports on these tools on our website.

What study tools do you use and recommend?  Comments welcomed!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bible Teachers Shouldn't Juggle

You might be surprised to learn that I can juggle!  (Yes, I've juggled machetes and torches, but no, I've never juggled chainsaws.)

But I don't think Bible teachers should be juggling a bunch of stuff when they teach -- it's a horrible distraction to your students.  I explain more in the video.

By the way, be sure to watch the whole video and catch some "bloopers" at the end.  (Smile)

Monday, July 25, 2011

You Should Get to Know Gödel

Probably very, very few of you know Gödel's incompleteness theorems, or why they're so important.  Please put aside any fear of math and logic you might have, and read this short article by Perry Marshall, "Mathematics Needs God."   

Perry's article is an extremely readable and understandable account of the theorems will greatly strengthen your faith, your ability to minister effectively with post-moderns and relativists, and your insights in how to logically address all the goofy nonsense that's spouted about faith vs. reason and faith vs. science. 

I half-suspect the reason why Gödel's theorems aren't taught systematically in high schools and colleges today is because they're irrefutable and threaten the "comfortable" preferred worldview of so many "smart" people.  

It may seem like odd advice to be asking Bible teachers to learn math theorems, but trust me, this will be worth the effort.  This article is the easiest way to get started. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ministering to Those Who Have Serious Mental Illness

(This is another guest post from my friend Marda. -- Glenn)

Chances are good that you have at least a few people in your church who have been affected by mental illness to some degree, either suffering with it themselves or dealing with family members who have it.  Major depression and various anxiety disorders are fairly common.  Anxiety disorders can include social anxiety disorder, which might make a person seem shy and standoffish, panic disorder, where a person may go into a panic attack during the service and feel trapped, unable to escape, generalized anxiety disorder, which is a constant level of anxiety and worry, to PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) which is well-known to be related to some veterans who, as a result of outside stimuli such as a car backfiring, interpret that as the sound of a gun and re-experience what it is like to be in battle, but which is also seen in survivors of trauma, either a one-time event such as an accident or a natural disaster or something which has occurred over years such as prolonged abuse.  In PTSD a person may experience flashbacks, thinking they are back in the traumatic situation.  These can be scary, both for the PTSD sufferer and for those around him/her but they are manageable with a few simple techniques.
The other major class of mental illnesses that you might find are psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder and bipolar disorder I with psychotic features.  In these conditions, people may see or hear things that aren't there, may have some delusions of grandeur or may be paranoid, afraid that someone or everyone is out to get them.  There are other illnesses, such as personality disorders, but they may not be as easily recognized in a church setting and they are dealt with differently.
The important thing to know about all of these illnesses is that the brain of the person has been affected.  These people, if they really have the mental illness, are not malingerers or attention seekers.  They are often on medications to reduce their symptoms but psychiatry is still not an exact science so sometimes the medications won't be working, they need a new medication or they think they're better and they go off the meds and then things can quickly deteriorate.  But these people need to be treated with compassion and love, not stigmatized for being different.
Before I go on to the practical ways that we can help this group of people to become Christians or to have a more meaningful church experience and relationship with God, it is important to address several kinds of erroneous thinking about the mentally ill.
First, the media is fond of promulgating the myth that mentally ill people are generally violent.  Some are.  But the percentage is small and you are not likely to run into a more violent person in your church.  In general, people with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders are not violent.  Their thoughts are sometimes disordered and they may seem to be disconnected from what's going on at times but that can be dealt with gently and patiently.  Mentally ill people are often misunderstood but they are God's children too and need to know they are loved by God and His people.
If you feel drawn to mentally ill people in your church and want to help, here are a few suggestions.
1.  Anxiety and panic attacks can be terrifying experiences.  If someone is having a panic attack, they may be sweating, trembling, hyperventilating, having heart palpitations, and feeling utter confusion and fear.  Often, they are afraid they are in a situation from which they can't escape or they may feel like they're dying.  Speak to them in a quiet, calm,, reassuring voice.  Offer to go with them out of the church or Sunday school class situation if they feel they need to leave the room to get themselves together.  Try to get them to slow their breathing and to take deep breaths.  Do not have them breathe into a paper bag.  That is not medically helpful and can be harmful.  Offer to stay with the person and talk them through the attack.  Generally, a panic attack will peak within about ten minutes and then the person may be tired and drained but will be able to manage on their own.  They may then choose to go back into church, stay outside in the lobby or go home.  Make it clear that you will be happy if they stay but that you'll understand if they have to leave.  Ask them what they need, if they need any help, then act accordingly.  If they want you to sit with them for the rest of the service, offer to do that.  Sometimes knowing there is a "safe" person, one who will accept them where they are and help them to deal with such attacks can make the situation more tolerable and, when they feel more safe, panic attacks can decrease.
Don't tell them to "get over it", to get off medication, or that if they just prayed enough and had enough faith they would be healed of their condition.  Any healing is done by God and in His own way and time.  Think of yourself as walking alongside the person as they go on their healing journey.  Don't assume that the panic attacks will go away overnight.  Often, such attacks seemingly come out of nowhere and are physiologically based.  Often, if panic attacks have occurred before, the person is worried that they will again and that can aggravate the condition.  But saying things that would result in the person experiencing further guilt and shame will not be helpful.  Telling someone that you will stay with them through the attack and that it will end can be helpful.
2.  Post traumatic stress disorder:
While this condition has many manifestations, one of the most common and sometimes problematic is the flashback.  This is where something, sometimes known to the person and sometimes not, triggers the person to think they are back in the situation that produced the trauma.  If this happens in church or Bible study class, have someone go and speak quietly to the person.  Sometimes it is helpful to get the person into another room away from the group of people.  You can then start having the person do grounding exercises.  This involves asking the person to look around the room and tell you what they see.  Grounding techniques use all possible senses.  So have the person put their feet on the ground and feel them there.  Remind them that they are in church and this is (date, month, year) and that they are safe.  Some people find that holding a piece of ice or snapping a rubber band on their wrists can bring them out of a flashback.  Others find that a certain scent will help.  Some people with anxiety disorders carry a "comfort bag" which contains all sorts of things that can be helpful to them during an episode.  Using a comfort bag can also help ground the person.
Flashbacks vary in their length of time.  The sooner into the flashback you can get to the person the better, before it escalates and the person goes further and further into it.  Stay with the person and continue to remind them that they are safe now, the situation they think is happening is in the past, and then continue to help the person to become grounded.  After the flashback ends, the person may or may not want to talk about it.  Don't shrink away from it if they do want to talk but it is important to keep reminding the person that the incident is not happening now and that they are safe at this very moment.  As with panic attacks, flashbacks don't just go away overnight.  As the person gets treatment and heals they may lessen in intensity or frequency. But this will be different for every person.
3.  If a person is suffering from psychotic symptoms those are dealt with differently.  Generally, if a person is delusional, you can't break the delusion with words.  If they are seeing or hearing hallucinations, telling them that you're not seeing or hearing those things can sometimes help but often makes the person feel worse or act defensively.  You can encourage the person to talk back to the voices and sometimes that can help the voices to be quieter.  Sometimes, if the person is being disruptive, offer to get to another room and talk or just tell them they need to be quiet and let other group members share.
The key to ministering to the mentally ill is to treat them with acceptance and kindness.  They need to be treated as people with worth and dignity like everyone else.  Chances are they've gone through a lot and faced a lot of stigma and people who don't take time to understand them.  If you pray and ask God to give you compassion and a willingness to work with them, if you educate yourself about their condition and how to handle it, that can go a long way toward helping them.  Sometimes, if they are not getting treatment, you may want to encourage them to do so and help them find appropriate means of addressing their issues.  But if you do that, continue to be supportive when their conditions manifest around you.  Pray for discernment as to what you need to do and how involved you need to be.  You can't minister to everyone and sometimes boundaries need to be set.  But these people often have few means of support and the church can be very helpful in that area in a wide variety of ways.
I pray that this information has been helpful and that it will make the whole idea of mental illness less frightening and that it will help you to reach out to these often lonely people.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Blogging Break -- with a Promise for some really cool stuff soon!

I'm working with my nephew to create some nice videos -- will be back with those soon!  In the meantime, keep on teaching to change lives!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Ministering to Those with Physical Disabilities

This is another great post by my friend Marda -- Glenn

In the mid eighties, I attended a church which was specifically designed to be accessible to anyone with physical disabilities.  We also had a class, which I taught, for women with intellectual disabilities.  In addition, there was a Braille Bible and hymnal.  This church had both disabled and non-disabled people in it but it was made especially inviting to those who used wheelchairs as well as those with other disabilities.
Since the passage of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) of 1990 increasing attention has been given to accessibility issues, particularly with new construction of public buildings.  Churches have traditionally lagged behind in this due in part I expect to lack of knowledge.  But in this church, all doorways were wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs, there was a ramp at the entrance, the aisles were extra wide and there was extra room for wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, canes and other items.  In addition, a ramp led to the choir loft, something I have not seen in many churches.
In an ideal world, all churches could be like this.  In reality, many churches are older buildings where making these kinds of accessibility changes could be difficult and some of these buildings are considered to be historic sites.  When this is not the case, however, there are small and inexpensive changes that can be made such as portable ramps, providing bulletins and other information in accessible formats  for the visually impaired, providing sign language interpretation if necessary and possible and so on.  It is tempting to hold off on accessibility concerns until you actually have a physically, sensory or intellectually disabled person in your church.  But the reason that more such people stay away from church is because it is not accessible.  It can feel like a catch 22 situation.  But we are called to go into the field, which is white unto harvest, and bring in all kinds of people, just as the story in Luke of the banquet illustrates.  (Luke 14)  If, as far as possible, we can make our churches welcoming to all and actively seek and invite them in, God will bring them our way and we will be doing our part to fulfill the Great Commission in Matthew 28.
The reality is that as more children with disabilities are living longer and as people age and face additional sensory, physical and cognitive challenges, there will be more people on both ends of the spectrum that can benefit from additional accessibility both in physical ways and in the personal touches that make corporate worship so meaningful.  We don't want your pity.  We don't want to be told that the reason we have disabilities is that because we lack enough faith to be healed.  We want to be included not only in the Bible study and services but in other church activities.  Sometimes it is difficult for people with disabilities to reach out because they have had so much rejection from people in general and the church in particular.  It is our responsibility as disabled people to do our part to reach out and minister ourselves.  But many people with disabilities, whether they are believers or not, are particularly sensitive to rejection.  When in doubt as to how to act, ask intelligent questions.  Imagine how you would like to be treated if you were in their shoes.  Then, treat them that way.
My prayers are that these articles will challenge you to think of ways in which you can make your church and your lives more open to people with all kinds of disabilities just as Jesus did.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Eye Contact

Shakespeare understood that the eyes are "the windows to the soul." The eyes are a specialized extension of the brain. Eye contact is critical in teaching. "Teachers who make eye contact open the flow of communication and convey interest, concern, warmth and credibility." 

Some tips for adult classes and small group teaching:
  • Talk to your students, not your Bible, your notes, the whiteboard, or the ceiling.
  • Good eye contact does not mean staring or gazing. Those are likely to make a person uncomfortable and lose their concentration -- and less likely to understand the material or participate in discussion.
  • Good eye contact is three to five seconds on a person if they are not speaking to you, and full attention when they are. (If they're making a comment to the group, you may not have to keep eye contact on them all the time.)
  • Don't flit your eyes around and try to hit everyone for 0.2 seconds. That's not meaningful and only reinforces any nervousness you already have!
  • Watch your students as well as listen to them. Look for signs of being bored or being lost.
  • Avoid focusing only on your "best" and "worst" students.
If you work at appropriate eye contact, you will find participation increases and your job as a teacher is easier. Eye contact is an avenue for changed lives!

What other suggestions do you have?  Comment below. 

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Apollos as a Model Teacher

“24Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
27When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.”
-- Acts 18:24-28, NIV

Apollos is a great model teacher for us to imitate. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures (v. 24). Other translations say he was “mighty” in the Scriptures – there’s a great picture of an effective teacher! We should devote ourselves to learning, absorbing, and understanding the Bible.

He spoke with great fervor (v. 25) and boldness (v. 26). That’s another key for great Bible teaching – heart-inflamed passion and bold speaking.

But note that Apollos has a teachable spirit, too. (v. 26) He receives instruction from Priscilla and Aquila. And consider how blessed Apollos was that they took this opportunity to help him – we need to look for opportunities to help other teachers.

Apollos’ teaching changes lives – he was “a great help to those who by grace had believed” (v.27) – and yet it is God who gets the credit. Apollos had the right perspective that he was only a tool being used by God.

The focus of Apollos’ teaching was Jesus, and the basis for his teaching was the Bible. (v. 28) And so it must be with us today if we are to honor the Lord.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Friday, July 01, 2011

Recommended Resource: Nave's Topical Bible online

Teachers, the classic book "Nave's Topical Bible" is available free online:

Nave's Topical Bible

How to use it:  Let's say you are interested in getting more perspective from all the Bible passages which describe faithfulness (even if they don't use that word).  Click on the letter F, and you'll see the list of terms which begin with the letter F.  Click on the Faithfulness, and you'll get a list of about 2 pages of Scripture references, and related terms.  You can copy/paste from this page into your document, or print.  Easy-peasy!

(If you type in a term in the search box, you wind up with a Google search.  So just click on the letters to get to the index of terms.)

Much of the value of Nave's Topical Bible is that you can find relevant passages even though they don't use a specific keyword.  So it's complementary to your concordance tools.

Orville J. Nave(1841-1917) spent 14 years creating this wonderful resource while serving as a Chaplin in the United States Army. We give thanks to God for his service to the Church!