The Art of Teaching

bible-jesus-disciples1-1024x576Observe. Do. Show and tell.

Or tell and show…

“Teaching teachers how to teach,” is what I called it, The Art of Teaching class I once taught in the 1980s.

Students ranged in age from 18 to 20-something. In this small Bible college, the class contained about twenty students with only a couple of them women. All came with the essential life-changing experience of being born again. Most came believing themselves called to ministry whether as pastor, missionary, Sunday School teacher, or secular worker with a spiritual mindset. Some came seeking direction, unsure of what came next for them.

Learning lots of things, students found some subjects fascinating, some dull. Theology. Hermeneutics. Bible history. Faith. Grace vs Law. Hope. The Gospel. The Trinity. The Holy Spirit. And then this class.

My goal was to impart strategies and methods of teaching, basic practical ways to connect with people of all ages, ways to relate and communicate the gospel from a pulpit, a kindergarten or a factory floor.

Methods ranged from incorporating flannel-graphs to handouts to overhead projectors to skits to field work. Non-verbal communication was a big hit. “She was a pretty girl.” Try that with emphasis on separate words, or eye movement, or grimace, or pauses, or changes of inflection.

Prepare yourself, not your sermon, I told them. Pray. Ask the Lord what he wants to say. Study, make an outline, pray again. Choose scripture passages, illustrations, personal examples, pray more.

Get the message in your heart and not just on your paper. By your final outline, you’ll know it so well you may not need the outline. Then open your mouth and let the Holy Spirit fill it.

One class assignment was to imagine yourself as a Bible-time object, then write a first-person narrative describing a day in the “life” of that object. For those less than creatively imaginative, I offered a list of suggestions: A plank of wood in the town Jesus grew up in. A brick in the floor of a synagogue. A sycamore tree along the streets of Jericho.

The papers were remarkable. Several were humorous, others serious, a few poignant and heart-felt. Many were works of art. How well the students conveyed their story told me, unlike any exam could ever do, how successfully I had reached my goal.

Our essential text for the course was the gospels, our prime example Jesus the Teacher. Raised in the small town of Nazareth just up the hill from a busy trade route, the Great Trunk Road section of Via Maris, (see http://www.bible-history.com/geography/ancient-israel/nazareth.html) he learned a trade that took him out into the community, getting to know people. Making friends, and possible future disciples… (see https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2008/03/19/strangers/)

By the time he began his ministry, Jesus was a master at connecting and communicating with people from every walk of life. Well versed in the scriptures, he offered synagogue teachings on the Sabbath. On week days he preached sermons on every imaginable subject to crowds on mountain sides. Everywhere he went, he demonstrated with signs and miracles the truth of what he said — the kingdom of God is at hand.

His messages to followers while walking back and forth from Galilee to Jerusalem were filled with illustrations from the landscape, even when accompanying the disciples on touristy tours around the temple. Dinner tables opened conversations with wealthy tax collectors.

He could discuss weather signs with farmers or religious doctrine with Pharisees, even give work advice to Roman soldiers. Fishing boats or temple grounds, any and all locales provided appropriate lessons. Jesus didn’t pass up any opportunity.

And neither should we, was my point. Observe. take note and take notes. Study what Jesus did and see how he did it, then do what Jesus did. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Talk with people. Relate, communicate and minister. Prepare your heart and you’ll do it well.

Scriptures to browse:

The Holy Spirit will teach you and remind you – John 14:26
Teaching others to teach also – II Tim. 2:2
The farmer must be first partaker of his fruit – II Tim. 2:6
You can’t give what you don’t have – Acts 3:6

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Should Christians get involved in politics?

PoliticsWhy not? This country was founded by Christians who got involved in politics. Some Christians say politics is full of hypocrites, and that may be true. They also say the news is too gloomy, and that may be true, so they don’t know what the issues are or who stands for what.

They say those are reasons enough not to get involved, and that is certainly not true.

I’m sure some supermarkets are run by hypocrites, but we still buy groceries. And some gas stations may be run by hypocrites, but we still buy gas… and we educate ourselves on where the best buys are on T-bones and unleaded, don’t we?

Perhaps if more Christians had been involved in American politics in the past, things would be better in the present.

Two primary ways for Christians to get involved is through intercession (prayer) and intervention.

In I Samuel 12:23, Israel had demanded a King and God gave them one. Then the prophet Samuel told the people of Israel, “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you…” It was a sin against God, not against people, to not intercede for the nation.

I Timothy 2:1-2 tells us to pray for all those in authority so that we may live in peace. No peace? Maybe not enough prayer for those in authority.

Praying is the first way to get involved in politics. Pray for the right candidates to run and pray for those who get elected. How do you know which are the right ones? Not by remaining ignorant; not by refusing to read up on the issues or watch the daily news.

Another way to get involved is through intervention. If you think things are going the wrong way, intervene. Interfere. Interrupt. Become informed about taxes, schools, the environment, and more controversial issues. Then speak up. Make phone calls, send emails, write letters to the editor and others, talk to your friends, family and neighbors.

Silence is often taken for agreement when it might just be laziness or complacency.

There are more ways for Christians to get involved but these are the first and to me, the most important.

(Reprinted from Talk With Bette, 13 February 2007. Still appropriate.)

Touching base

Originally posted in 2010 in Speaking of Heaven, but it may help someone grieving today.

Speaking of heaven

creekside1983What is Tim doing? I asked the Lord one recent bedtime. It was just a random question before going to sleep; I don’t ask that every night any more, like I did a year ago. I got an instant answer and then a little explanation to go with it.

“Meeting with relatives.”

Oh, I thought. Ora Lee, Theron, T.C., Ninie, others of their family came to mind. When I began to visualize the way they looked the last time I saw them, I was quickly corrected.

“No, that’s not how they are here.”

Suddenly I received a new mental image of them, each one as an adult in the prime of their life, strong, vibrant and healthy. T.C. no longer looked like a 19 year old. Ora Lee didn’t look 87 and Tim didn’t look 60. They all looked around 30 years old or so.

That started a whole new…

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Rome and Romans, more thoughts

Do you like the book of Romans?

Esther's Petition

I started my study of Romans with a search for information about the people Paul was writing to. Christians, he says, but other than that, who? Several reference books and online sources indicate they were a mixture of economic, racial, educational, and religious backgrounds. Probably they had become believers after Roman Jews attended the feast of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out, became Christians, and then brought the Gospel back with them to Roman. (See previous post.)

Paul wrote other epistles to correct things, either mistaken beliefs or practices. So, I wondered if perhaps he had written this epistle with that idea in mind also. Of course, as he planned to visit them, he used the occasion to introduce himself and gave an impressive list of personal references toward the end. But with all of the teaching about the gospel that he included, why did he stress certain…

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And is there joy?

RejoicingJesusWars. Rumors of wars.

I was reading the Gospel of Luke and had arrived at Chapter 21.

I looked up from the page, thinking how closely today’s news lines up with those verses.

Jesus spoke those words to his disciples, warning them about the tragedy that would befall the people of Jerusalem in a few years (AD 70).

But he was also prophesying about the tragedy that was going to befall peoples of many nations in the following centuries.

The Holy Spirit’s voice interrupted my thoughts. It’s really dark out there, he said. Yes, it is, I agreed.

“Gloom, despair and agony on me?” he added. I nodded yes, recalling the old Hee Haw skit. (https://youtu.be/ZAAKPJEq1Ew)

He went on. Depression. Worry. Anxiety. Fear. Hopelessness. Agony of soul and body. There is such gross violence covering the earth.

Yes, I said, there is. This conversation was getting really negative. Where was it going? I wondered. There was a brief pause, before he added –

And is there Joy?

Joy?! I wondered. Other scripture passages began to roll through my mind.

There is joy in the presence of the angels when a sinner repents. “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10 NIV)

Count it all joy when you face various temptations. (Temptations to be depressed, anxious, fearful, perhaps). “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3 NIV)

Ask and receive answers to your prayers, that His joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (John 16:24)

A man has joy by the response of his lips. “A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth.” (Prov. 15:23)

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Neh. 8:10)

God rejoices! “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” (Zeph. 3:17 KJV)

Jesus rejoiced. “Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” (Luke 10:21 KJV)

Rejoice! Dance, twirl around in glee and happiness, laugh, clap, shout in delight. That’s what that word means, in the original languages. That’s what Jesus did in his spirit, when he rejoiced.

I could suddenly see him doing that. And he said he only did what he saw his Father doing — “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing…” (John 5:19) So, Father God was doing all that also. Rejoicing. Amazing!

The Holy Spirit continued his comments. Thousands upon thousands are coming into the kingdom, being metamorphosed, changed from darkness to light, spiritual death to life, transformed as they believe my word and are born again. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Cor. 5:17 KJV)

And There Is Joy!

Don’t just see with human eyes. See with Jesus eyes.

Which truth do you believe?

Grapes of the Promised Land, Nicholas Poussin, Louvre.God told Moses to send 12 men, leaders of their tribes, to spy out the land of Canaan. They traveled from the Wilderness of Zin south of the Negev desert and southwest of the Dead Sea, north to Rehob, northeast of the  Sea of Galilee. (Numbers 13)

Their instructions were simple:

And see the land, what it is; and the people that dwell therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many; And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds; And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the first-ripe grapes. (13:18-20 KJV)

It took them 40 days. They collected a great branch of grapes that was so heavy it took two men to carry it, also pomegranates and figs. They returned to Moses with two separate reports:

  • And they (ten of them) told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sent us, and surely it flows with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan. (13:27-29)
  • And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. (13:30)

But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eats up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight. (13:31-33)

And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes: And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which flows with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not. (14:6-9)

Remember the story? All twelve saw the same things. All twelve reported what they saw. All twelve told the truth. But they contradicted each other – natural truth contradicted supernatural truth.

(1) We can’t do it. The enemy is stronger than us.
(2) We can do it. God is stronger than the enemy.

Which truth did the rest of the people believe? Well, they demanded that Caleb and Joshua be stoned, so there’s your answer.

What happened next? The doubters all died, the ten doubting spies immediately, the rest of them during their ensuing 40 year trek in the wilderness. Turns out they got what they believed. They couldn’t do it.

But the believing spies, Joshua and Caleb, also got what they believed. After 40 years they crossed the Jordan River into the promised land, overcame and possessed it.

I’d much rather believe God in the beginning and not have to spend 40 years wandering around in a desert. Wouldn’t you?