Saturday, December 31, 2011

How to Teach the Bible with Confidence

Great conversation with D. A. Carson, Tim Keller, and John Piper talking about teaching the Bible confidently.  Worth watching!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

How to Read the Whole Bible in 30 Days

Teach the Whole Bible?

I received an interesting question recently by email: "Mr. Glenn do you teach the whole bible? I was always taught  that I should live what I wanted to teach first, is that a factor in teach to change lives?"

Here was my response:

Thanks for your question!

A few things I think we can agree on:
1. The whole Bible is the Word of God, and is for us individually and the Church
2. God can speak through even a verse or one story to transform a person
3. It's part of discipleship to study the whole Bible over a period of years
4. Teachers teach more effectively out of personal understanding and experience

Are teachers limited to teaching only what they've lived or personally
experienced?  I don't think so.  I've never been to Israel, but use
mapbooks and commentary descriptions to help my students understand
the geography and history of the land and peoples who lived there.  I
myself don't struggle with every sin, but struggle with some and can
speak to the transforming power of Christ's love to overcome any sin.

I believe that God puts some things on our hearts because He does want
us to teach those. That can certainly be a factor in your decision
about what to teach.  My counsel is to prayerfully ask, "Lord, what
does this class need to learn from You and Your Word?"  That's better
than settling first for what I prefer to teach.

Hope this helps.

Teach to change lives,


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

One Secret to Teaching The Same Material Repeatedly

I recently watched a vendor give a presentation, and was very impressed with his delivery style and energy.  It was clear that he’d given this presentation many times, but it seemed fresh.  Afterwards I asked him how he was able to present the same information over and over again.  “It’s not about the material,” he said.  “I focus on the fact that I have a new audience.” 

If you’re teaching something that you’ve taught before – even many times – there’s a tremendous insight there for you: focus on the new group of people.  

Friday, December 23, 2011

The 3650 Challenge -- Not Your Ordinary "Read the Bible in a Year" plan

I commend this challenge to you -- a wonderful opportunity to step up your Bible reading!   From Tim Challies:

" or listen to 3,650 chapters of the Bible in 2012. .... I plan to use Professor Horner’s Bible Reading System to read the Bible. This system calls for 10 chapters per day, with each chapter being drawn from a different part of the Bible. This means that over the course of 2012 anyone who uses the plan will go through all the Gospels four times, the Pentateuch twice, Paul’s letters 4-5 times each, the Old Testament wisdom literature six times, all the Psalms at least twice, all the Proverbs as well as Acts a dozen times, and all the way through the Old Testament History and Prophetic books about 1.5 times."

Go for it!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Do You Have a Folder Like This?

Need a short devotional?  Kevin DeYoung's commentary on the name of Jesus would fit the bill nicely!  Great content, easily adaptable to different settings.  

Don't need it right now?  Print off a copy and file it in a folder named something like "Source Ideas for Devotionals"  A few minutes work can put you on a path to having a rich library of ideas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Add This To Your Library: Better Beginnings

This is a terrific book that I recommend you add to your library: Better Beginnings.  

One of the four best ways to improve your Bible teaching is to strengthen your opening, the hook.  I've been studying presentation techniques and strategies for several years now and have never found anything better than this book on the opening.  

This book is focused exclusively on better beginnings to speeches and presentations.  Intense, practical, imaginative.  I read through it quickly once, then turned right around to read it more slowly the next time.  I liked it so much I scheduled it for a third read later this month when I have some time off from work.  

Though the author is writing to all kinds of presenters, not just "church" people or "religious" settings, nearly everything here will apply whether you're giving sermons, teaching in formal settings, or in a small group study.  

There are only two negatives I want to point out.  First, it's not a cheap paperback.  It's an extremely high-quality hardback, thick paper, gorgeous photos and graphics.  Second, it's hard to find.  As I write this, it's not available on Amazon.  But if you can get your hands on a copy, get it!  

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Be Bold!

Here's my challenge for you today:

Be bold in your teaching!

You are teaching from the authoritative Word of the Lord of the Universe (and more).  When you read Scripture you read God-breathed truth, not fanciful stories and collected opinions of idiots.  Re-set your confidence in Christ, and teach boldly, forcefully, passionately!  Let your choice of words, your tone and inflection, your body language accurately reflect the amazing Bible and our beautiful Lord Jesus Christ!

No more mealy-mouthed mumblings that go nowhere.  Speak directly into their eyes and hearts, dear teacher.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Some Practical Advice About Eating Before You Teach

Food and drink are fuel for your body, so be mindful about what you eat in the time leading up to your teaching.  We want to be as sharp as possible mentally, and physiologically, so we can give this our best!  

Here are some my recommendations and guidelines. 
  • Drink clear liquids.  Drink plenty of water to be hydrated. Stay clear of milk in the hour before you teach; milk leaves your throat feeling "coated" and does affect your speaking voice.  
  • Eat in moderation.  Too much, you'll feel lethargic.  (It takes a lot of energy to digest food.)  Too little, you might be hungry enough to be distracted.  And stomach growls while you're teaching are pretty embarrassing!
  • Watch out for the blood sugar "crash" -- this is particularly a problem for people with normally low blood sugar levels like me.  You eat something sugary, or high in carbs before you teach, like that tempting muffin snack Mrs. Smith brought to church.  Yum!  But in about 35-45 minutes, your blood sugar drops down again, and oh my.  If that "crash" happens before you're done teaching, you just made it more difficult to end well.
  • Understand how caffeine affects you.  Most teachers are little nervous teaching.  For many people, caffeine can make that nervousness worse.  If you are used to caffeine, but concerned about it, try consuming half of what you usually do.  
  • Test out warm and cold liquids to see how they affect your speaking voice.  There's a lot of variation in how people respond.  Understand your situation and you'll know what to avoid.
  • Try to avoid eating something you've never eaten before in the 24 hours leading up to your teaching time.  This is particularly important if you're traveling.  The majority of food-related "blah" and "yuck" problems are with unfamiliar foods.  
These are my recommendations.  Pay attention to what works for you.

Keep on teaching to change lives!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Did Jesus Have Bad PR?

Back in 2006 I gave a Christmas devotion for the seniors group at our church. I tried to help people think about the terrible public relations job around the birth of the Messiah. From a human perspective, this was a PR disaster! Listen to it here:

Friday, December 09, 2011

About Those Gates of Hell

Heard any great sermons on this verse?

I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. (Matt 16:18, NASB)

I have, several times, inspiring ones!  I love the verse.  I love the image of the church marching against hell and crushing it.  

So I eagerly read Kevin DeYoung's short article about this verse.  First I got mad.  Then I read it again, and took a more sober view.  This was a very helpful exercise for me in re-thinking my critical Bible analysis approach.  

I recommend the article to you, dear teachers, for the same reasons -- let's be careful in our interpretation of Scripture and use Scripture as our primary guide to interpreting Scripture.  

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

When To Be A "Tour Guide" Bible Teacher

If you’re teaching on a narrative passage of Scripture, think about the “tour guide” approach:
  • Tour guides want people to understand and experience the place, something from history, the personal stories, etc.
  • Tour guides are excited about the history, and want people to “get it” and enjoy it. 
  • Tour guides tell stories with drama, point out the little details, helping people understand connections and timing.
  • Tour guides don’t bore people with long, tedious chronological history in a monotone.  They hit the highlights.  They give framework for understanding.
  • Tour guides are good at asking questions to engage the audience.  Tour guides are good at answering questions, and weaving in even more information than the original question might have asked about.

Think about how to be a tour guide for your students as you study the passage together.  

Monday, December 05, 2011

This Is Not Romper Room!

My sister and I loved Romper Room when we were kids (1960s!), and we waited eagerly to hear the nice lady "see us" in her magic mirror and say our names.  [I learned years later that my mom wrote in to the TV station regularly to get "Glenn" mentioned, but to no avail!]

You're teaching real people with souls, dear Bible teacher.  There's no "magic mirror" involved, but I daresay your students are hoping for personal interaction.  They want to know that you know they are there, and that they are cared for.  So work at understanding your class members or small group members!  Learn not only their names but their stories. That's teaching the Jesus way -- and part of teaching to change lives.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Discouraged About Sunday School? Read This

I receive messages every month from people who are despairing about Sunday School and are ready to give up.  Let me encourage you, reminding you of the powerful influence that Sunday School can have in the lives of children and their families -- read this story (which I heard via Josh Hunt):

Elmer Towns: How Sunday School changed my life

My first introduction to Sunday School came from Jimmy Breland. He was a Sunday School teacher from the Eastern Heights Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia, who made a living from being a door-to-door salesman for Jewel Tea and Coffee. It was the end of the Depression-the late 1930s-when Jimmy came to our home and spread out his wares on the living-room floor. As he began to sell the coffee and tea items to my mother, I entered the room.
"Where do you go to Sunday School?" asked the salesman.
"What is Sunday School?" I replied.
Jimmy explained that Sunday School was a place where they told stories, sang songs, colored pictures and played on a sand table.
"What's a sand table?" I asked innocently. Jimmy could see my interest in the sand table. I was like a fish on the line, so he reeled me in slowly.
"If you come to my Sunday School, we'll make a sand mountain and show you how Jesus walked across the mountains."
That was the first time I remember hearing the name Jesus. Then he said, "We'll put a mirror in the sand and it will become a lake; I'll show you how Jesus walked on water."
"Like walking across Savannah River," I said with wild enthusiasm. Then I told my mother I wanted to go to Sunday School.
"Not so fast," mother quipped. She and my father spent their time in taverns, drinking and dancing. They were trying to get away from God and the Church. My mother thought the enthusiastic tea and coffee salesman might represent a cult, so she asked him, "What church?"
Jimmy replied, "Eastern Heights Presbyterian Church."
My mother had been married in a small Presbyterian church in South Carolina, so she found it hard to object. Then she said, "Where is it located?" When Jimmy explained that the church was about five miles away, she said, "He's too little to walk that far; he'd get lost."
Jimmy Breland turned to me and said, "See that big black truck out the front screen door?" I could see large gold letters on the shiny black panel truck, JEWEL TEA AND COFFEE. "Want to ride in my truck to Sunday School?"
"Yeah," was all I could say.
Jimmy's church was located in a neighborhood that had gone bankrupt during the Depression. My mother protested that many of
the homes remained unfinished shells with deep ditches in and around the yards and she was concerned for my safety. Then she said, "Wait till he goes to the first grade. Then you can take him to Sunday School."
A few months later, September 1938, I entered the first grade. The following Sunday morning I was waiting on the front porch. I wore starched white short pants and my hair was greased down with oil. There was a misty rain falling, and soon Jimmy Breland came driving down the street in his truck, splashing through the mud puddles. He took me to Sunday School and I never missed one Sunday during the next 14 years.
Jimmy Breland was more than my Sunday School taxi driver. He was my shepherd, and he taught me the Bible and Christian values. He became my counselor, mentor and, because my father was an alcoholic, he became my substitute role model of a father. He was always teaching me and making me think about my life. Once when he happened to drive by the schoolyard, he saved me from getting beaten up in a fight. While he drove me home, he asked, "What would Jesus do?"
Jimmy Breland, with only an eighth-grade education, never became an officer in the church and never owned a home; nor did he ever own a car. He always got a job driving a truck, because money was tight. So I went to Sunday School in a Jewel Tea and Coffee truck, an Atlantic Richfield truck and a linoleum truck.
I was not the only one influenced by Jimmy Breland-19 boys in my class of 25 went into some form of full-time Christian service. When I told the story of Jimmy Breland at the National Children's Workers' Conference in San Diego, California, a lady hurried down the aisle to tell me she and others in her class were also influenced by Jimmy Breland-eight years after I was in his class.
Without a lot of education, church officer experience or public recognition, Jimmy Breland made a difference in my life and in the lives of many others. You can do the same. You can influence a life for Christ.
-- What Every Sunday School Teacher Should Know (Elmer L. Towns)

Thursday, December 01, 2011

How to Speak With Others

How do we respond to people in dealing with challenges -- including sin issues -- in the community?  We live in a world hypersensitized to 'politically correct' speech. Our choice of words can get us into serious trouble, but failing to speak appropriately is failure of leadership and in the end unloving. A word spoken well is a treasure (see Proverbs 25:11).

Jesus must be our model.  Sometimes he spoke boldy, even harshly. Other times he was gentle and warm. Consider these examples:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew

“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? (Matthew 23:33)  [Glenn's comment -- read the whole chapter.This is not an isolated verse out of context as Jesus rails against the teachers of the law.  You won't soften this one.]

“I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” (Mark 1:41)

“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:9-11)

Jesus advocated simple speech in His Sermon on the Mount:

All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:37)

Sometimes Jesus didn’t speak at all:
When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long
time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. (Luke 23:8-9)

(This may be the most gracious experience Herod could have received from the Lord of the Universe standing in front of him!)

Jesus helps us understand that what comes out of our mouths is really from our hearts:

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6:45)

We see Paul's counsel to the Colossians (and by extension, to us today):

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:5-7)

Jesus' harsh words were less frequent than his warm counsel, and directed at the hard-hearted, legalistic, and proud (but I repeat myself).  I don't know of examples where he spoke harshly to a hurting person who understood that they needed mercy.

A few take-away points:
  • ·         Jesus knew what was in each individual, discerning the heart, and spoke accordingly.  How we speak (or not) with people is based on what helps them, helps the Church mature, and glorifies God.
  •    We will sometimes need to speak hard truths in a hard way.

·         Our conversation must be plain, not duplicitous or deceiving.
·         Our conversation must be grace-full, an expression of the new heart we have from "Christ in us, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27)
·         The way to improving our speech is to ask God to transform our hearts.