Tuesday, May 31, 2005

What would make this lesson unforgettable?

Steve Smartt commenting on the lesson “Taking on a tough task,” illustrates the Christian witnessing goal using the analogy of a salesman, whose job it is to make them thirsty, not make them drink. He also mentions the frequently heard illustration of warning people to flee a burning house.

God helps us at our point of need. The Jewish people in Babylonian captivity needed to repent, so He sent Ezekiel to call them into repentance. He sends Christians today as ambassadors for Christ, but we have our excuses. A Preacher Confessional message suggests to me that one approach to this first lesson from Ezekiel is to make it a ‘confessional’ lesson after sharing the pastor’s 6 points as a discussion starter. This approach would be very different than the typical lesson structure.

Regarding this lesson, James McCullen at Liberty Baptist Church makes the point that pastors know their calling. This makes me wonder if Christians know their calling in the same way? How can we as teachers effectively demonstrate that Godly compulsion which drives a called one into restlessness until he commits to serving Him? Our own Mike Taylor gave a wonderful demonstration of witnessing results at the end of his “What drives you” message.

Omar C. GarcĂ­a at Plymouth Park Baptist Church comments on this lesson indicates that the obstinate people in verse 2:4 are “hard of face.” Show the following collage of faces and ask which ones frighten you to the point of not being able to share the gospel? Why?

LifeWay posted the leaders guide material for this lesson as a sample, and the Extra material is something to consider as well. I’m still working thru both of these, but so far neither document suggests to me that one great memorable illustration, demonstration or object lesson needed to make this lesson unforgettable. I'll keep looking...

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Lamentations, lamentations

Sometimes I regret using PPT because my Snellen eye chart projected too large and most people could read it with their glasses off! Rats! I should have tested the projection size before class. However, our reliance on eyeglasses for good vision as an illustration of how we rely on God was understood.

For much of the oral reading of Lamentations in Hebrew (see last week's post), I didn't have the volume turned up on the external speakers and the illustration went poorly. Bt the time I realized the problem, people were laughing at the on-screen chart of side-by-side Hebrew and English verses. The question was "Where are we?"--not a joke most teachers want to hear.

The video of wounded soldiers eating out in DC rescued me (see D.C. Vets Get The Beef) ! Go Army! One soldier, Jay Fondren, is from my home town and another soldier testified how his depression turned into a blessing. That fit very will into the lesson point that the Lord has a purpose behind our suffering--I made sure that suffering learners in the class understood that this included my lesson as well :-)

LifeWay's James T. Draper Jr. Launches Blog--maybe he'll have some interesting ideas regarding teaching materials from LifeWay? Now, if we could only get him to mention this blog in his...

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Friday, and how relevant is my lesson?

In February of this year we had to put down a family pet that I dearly loved. He put up a courageous struggle to live, but modern veterinary medicine couldn’t save him. To end his suffering, we made the tough decision to let him go. We cried rivers.

SkyBoy’s fight for life lasted several months and it hurt me in particular. We spent a lot of time together since I’m retired and work at home on most of my projects. I pleaded with God to restore his health (he was only three years old), but that didn’t happen. In the aftermath, it hurt so deeply to know that he was gone forever and I sought God to be delivered from the sorrow. I was grieving and wanted to be released from the pain. With the help of God’s Word, I was able to work thru it and am now able to look back with joy and thanksgiving for the days we had with Mr. Sky.

This is just one of my stories of suffering, but Proverbs 14:10 says, “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.” This means that each person in the room has many of their own stories of sorrow (and joy). The lesson is relevant to everyone for sure. If people are willing to share, it helps to express painful memories as the Leaders Guide suggests in Steps 2 and 3. Another exercise alternative is to first have neighbors sitting next to each other share a recent story of suffering after you set an example by sharing your own story. This has the added benefit of creating an opportunity for members to comfort and encourage one another.

A common saying is “everything happens for a reason.” But the deeper truth is that the Lord has purpose(s) behind our suffering that makes it relevant. Paul lays it all out in Rom 5:3-4.

Thursday, and how can we make Lamentations interesting?

The Supplemental Teaching Plan from Hampton Road Baptist Church creates interest by beginning with a class exercise to categorize various statements as Reliable or Not Reliable. It also helps establish a focus on the lesson aim to help us rely on the Lord in times of suffering.

An alternative to create interest is to capture and show Rembrandt’s painting of Jeremiah lamenting. Using the background material for Rembrandt's painting, discuss the painting, Jeremiah’s pose, Zedekiah’s end, and tie it to the lesson topic.

To further the interest spell, you might also capture and show a slide of a needlework gobelin tapestry of Rembrandt’s painting, or continue with a slide of a pictorial description of Judah’s march into captivity as exhibited in the Tower of David Museum. If so, don’t leave out Michelangelo’s painting of a suffering Jeremiah.

Reading the lesson commentary by Dr. Sam Tullock, Pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church, posted at www.founders.org gave me another idea. He makes the point that this lesson demonstrates God is faithful to keep His Word. Not that He is not faithful to us as believers, but that He is faithful to do what He says He will do. Use this to create interest by constructing a list of sample promises found in God’s word using this article. Discuss how they have been and are kept by God. The story related in the article about the young man and his grandmother’s “T’s and P’s” is inspiring. This actively demonstrates God’s faithfulness and that we are the beneficiaries if we obey Him.

Is this interesting, or what?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Wednesday, Are we clear yet?

As teachers, we are challenged to not only be Biblically based, but to be clear, interesting and relevant to modern learners. The letters B, C, I, R are easy to remember, but a good acrostic might be helpful. Any ideas?

Being clear on what students are to learn requires that I avoid introducing some possibly good ideas during the lesson if they might cause confusion. Steve Smartt usually writes clearly in the Florida Baptist Witness and he offers the illustration of sniping the cocoon of the emperor moth to make the point that struggling is exactly what we need. Steve's anecdote about Bob Hope not deserving arthritis is useful to make the point that regardless of circumstance, God faithfully loves us.

Thanks to Pee Wee McD for suggesting that 'baseball' might be used as an illustration (see comments on yesterday's post). That led to the idea of using a glove and baseball to illustrate how we depend on the glove to handle whatever type of ball comes our way. God is like the glove. We can depend on Him, and to remain effective we can't leave Him out of any circumstance in our life, including good times and bad times.

Approximately half of the people in the United States depend on eyeglasses or contact lenses to see clearly. This is true for many diverse tasks, such as reading, playing sports, operating a chain saw, or driving a car. Instead of a glove and baseball, it might be useful to put up an eyechart and ask volunteers (with glasses) to read some of the lines correctly. Have them remove their glasses and re-read the same lines. Likely, they'll miss some letters. The idea is that we rely on our eyeglasses to be effective in a variety of life circumstances. Without them, we become ineffective. In same way, we depend on God to help us in whatever life circumstance we find ourselves. Without God, we fail.

I'm beginning to see pretty clear now! The main point of the lesson is to encourage learners to depend on God's faithfulness. An interesting sermon on just this point and how we derive hope from it was delivered by Dr. Steven C. Riser.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Tuesday, what to do? What to do?

The lesson title is "Rely on the Lord's Faithfulness" and the background passage is Lamentations 1-5, with focal verses from chapter 3. I read the material out of the Adult Leader Guide for the Explore the Bible series, and commentary for this lesson already posted on the Web includes: Liberty Baptist Church and Plymouth Park Baptist Church as well as The Baptist Standard.

After reading this material, my first thought was "Why does evil and suffering exist given that God is all powerful, all knowing, and present everywhere?" He could just wipe out all evil, right? My next thought was "He'd have to start with me!" Thank the Lord for His mercy!

Regarding useful illustrations, potential object lessons, suggested demonstrations, or possible exercises for this lesson: Hmmm? What should I do? Pray. Pray.

To set the "suffering" tone of the lesson, I thought about starting by playing a one or two minute segment of a reading of Lamentations in Hebrew, which has the cadence of a sad funeral dirge. If so, I'd simultaneously show a side-by-side of the Hebrew/English translation on a single slide so people would be able to have some idea of what is being read.

When I suffer, what or who do I rely on? And to what end? Mere survival? Or do I desire joy, become prayerful, and even thank the Lord? (1 Thes 5:16-18). Who, or what is guiding me when I suffer, or when I am depressed? A yoke is a symbol of a burden, but it also is used to guide oxen. Hence, the Lord uses suffering to guide us into His Purpose. As an object lesson, Lifeway Quick Source suggests wearing a necktie as a symbol of a yoke. Most people no longer wear neckties to church, so to get class participation, it may be necessary to pass out some old neckties. Time to clean out the closet!!

I'll keep praying about these suggestions until I have a peace regarding "what to do?".

Monday, May 23, 2005

It's Monday, but What Worked on Sunday?

This first post looks backwards, but I hope that future ones look forward to coming lessons.

Like me, you may have finished teaching yesterday Lifeway's "Explore the Bible" lesson series taken from the book Jeremiah. The last lesson was titled "Avoid Arrogance" and the illustrations and object lessons I used seemed to work well with the Encouragers Class at Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston. As I sometimes experience, the teacher preparation material from Lifeway is not especially helpful in terms of illustrations, or object lessons. That's when I go hunting elsewhere on the web for better teaching ideas.

The "running a red light" data from Steve Smartt's column in the Florida Baptist Witness worked well to make the point that arrogance can be fatal. Except, my PC-to-computer-projector video of a fatality resulting from running a red light didn't work. The Powerpoint slides I used worked well, but when I launched MS Media Player to play the video, the projector screen went dark after playing the video a few moments. I had tested everything prior to the lesson, but not with the new projector in the classroom yesterday. Argh!

The "crush an egg object lesson" also worked well to demonstrate the futilty of operating out of arrogance. I found this in the Supplemental Teaching Plan posted at on Hampton Road Baptist Road website, www.hrbc.org. This plan seems to be updated each week on Thursday. Note: I used plastic eggs and not real eggs to avoid a mess!!

I also used the arrogance anecdotes suggested in that plan in addition to the example of the arrogance of Joseph Pultizer power hungry life. The "chair lift" exercise to demonstrate the futilty of arrogance from the Supplemental Teaching Plan did not draw a distinction between a man and a woman as promised. Either can get their center of mass too far forward and fail to stand while holding the chair.

The chair lift implementation description was not detailed enough for me and after hunting around a bit on the web, I found a decent explanation from a scouting website. See "place a chair against the wall" in Webelos.

How did your "Avoid Arrogance" object lessons, illustrations, demonstrations, exercises, etc. work in your class?

Today, we start preparation for next Sunday's lesson "Rely on the Lord's Faithfulness" out of Lamentations. I'm already thinking about how to illustrate the key points: Expressing Remembrances, Remember the Lord's Persistent Love, Recognize the Lord's Purpose and Acknowledge the Lord's Power. The Lifeway Extra idea of showing an old photo of myself to jumpstart a discussion of the Lord's purpose in my life is interesting, but somewhat embarrassing. I'm searching for alternatives now....