Monday, March 28, 2005

Leader Quote of the Week - March 28, 2005

"The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know God. Disregard the study of God and you sentence yourself to stumble through life blind-folded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul."

--J. I. Packer

We leaders sometimes fall into the habit of studying the Scriptures for theological knowledge or doctrinal know-how. When we do, we can become modern Pharisees: people with lots of knowledge but with hearts far from God.

This week, as we study God's word, let's remember to study not to know more about God, but to encounter Him through our interaction with His word.

Our prayer might be: Father, as I study Your Word this week, reveal more of Yourself to me that I might love You more, honor You more effectively, and become a bit more like Jesus.

That's it for now!

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Bible Study Zone - Another Resource

Sometimes it's difficult for Bible study teachers and leaders to come up with fresh activity ideas or new, dynamic curricula. Staying on top of current resources is a must if we want our classes and groups to stay fresh and creative. But how?

One bi-monthly resource I've found helpful, put out by NavPress, is Bible Study Zone. This is an on-line small group leader resource that can be perused on-line or received as an e-mail subscription newsletter, completely free. It comes out six times per year (every other month) and, if you don't want to bother checking the web site, it can be e-mailed directly to your e-mail address. It's loaded with the following:

Tips for ministry leaders
Tips for leading small groups
Group discussion tips
Group activity tips
Community-building tips
Bible study tips
Outreach ideas
Additional resources
New resource releases

It also keeps you up-to-date on NavPress's newest small group study guides and leader resources, and offers them to you at discounted rates.

To subscribe to Bible Study Zone, just click here, then check the appropriate box, fill in the subscriber information boxes at the bottom of the page, and click "submit." You'll be added to the Bible Study Zone e-mail list.

The authors and leaders at NavPress has proven themselves to be consistently on-target when it comes to equipping Bible study teachers and leaders. I think you'll find loads of solid, helpful information in this NavPress subscription.


'Til next time,

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Featured Site:

If your looking for a one-stop-shopping site for Christian resources of all shapes and sizes, try Loaded with links, this site offers Christian clip art, jokes, cartoons, puzzles, desktop wallpapers, shopping, news, name it; it's probably there.

I recommend this site, not because you'll find so many links or so much Christian "stuff" (something that usual bugs me), but because of it's Bible Study resources page. In addition to several translations (though fewer than other sites offer), this page offers access to writings from Christian history (e.g.: Josephus), classic works from figures like John Bunyun and Augustine, biographies and autobiographies, topical Bibles, Bible dictionaries, commentaries, and thousands of sermons and articles in which you can find ideas or illustrations for your lessons.

I'm not one who likes banners and blinking ads, but don't let the heavy Christian advertising on this site's opening page fool you; it's loaded with helpful resources (and almost no advertisements on the resource pages).

I hope you find something useful there!

That's it for now,

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Tuesday Challenge: Ask a Great Question

Because Tuesdays are my teaching days, I don't have much time to create blog entries. So, I thought Tuesdays might be a good day to issue a weekly challenge designed to foster growth in us as leaders and teachers.

Here's this week's challenge (look for more in the weeks to come): Ask a great question!

Come up with one question you can ask yourself, your students, or your group members that requires thought and personal interaction with the topic.

Here are your guidelines:

1. The question cannot be answerable with just a yes or no.

2. The question cannot look for a right-or-wrong, test-like answer (facts, people, places, etc.).

3. The question should prompt thought and discussion.

4. The question should be open-ended. Here are some standard openers for open-ended questions:
  • In what ways...
  • How do you feel when...
  • What do you think it means when...
  • Why do you think...
  • With what or whom do you most identify...?

Here's an example. I'm currently teaching on simplifying the spiritual disciplines. One question I might ask that meets the above criteria is this: Why do you think we tend to complicate spiritual disciplines so much? Another might be: In what ways have you (or I) unnecessarily complicated the spiritual life? A third might be: In what ways do you think Jesus modeled simplicity in His spiritual disciplines? You get the idea.

That's your challenge! Go for it! If you have the time, leave a comment to let me know how your challenge worked out (now that Blogger's comment capabilities are back)!

That's it for now,


Monday, March 14, 2005

Leader Quote of the Week - March 14, 2005

This week's quote comes from A.W. Tozer:

"...[biblical] exposition may be carried on in such a way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth."

As teachers and leaders we're often tempted to impart knowledge to our students. We've done our research, we've studied the passages, we have a wealth of information we'd like to pass on. But information doesn't change lives. Encountering God does.

If our goal as leaders is to foster life change through learning (remembering that only God changes hearts), then we need to be willing to take the information we've prepared and tie it to experience. What difference does this information make? What does it tell me about God's character? What does it tell me about God's way of interacting with mankind? What does it reveal about the work God desires to accomplish in this world? What does it reveal about what He desires to do in or through me? In what ways has God revealed this truth in my experience? How might He apply this truth in the lives of my students or group members?

Intellectual ascent isn't the same phenomenon as intimacy with God. To move my students beyond intellectual ascent I need to ask and answer these questions as I prepare: how can this truth foster deeper intimacy with God in my students? How can I offer this truth in a way that will foster life change? What illustrations can I use to help my student identify this truth with real life situations? What one thing from this biblcal exposition can my students apply? What practical steps can I give them this week to help them apply it?

Teaching isn't about impressing others with our knowledge; it's about being faithful stewards of God's word and being vessels for life change.

It's good to perform a self-check now and then: what kind of vessels are we: the kind that leads to intellectual ascent or the kind that fosters life change?

'Til next time,

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The Heart of a Leader

I've been reading Henri Nouwen's In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, a small, heart-warming, wisdom-packed book on the meaning of Christian leadership. In it, I found this quote:

"It is not enough for priests and ministers of the future to be moral people, well trained, eager to help their fellow humans, and able to respond creatively to the burning issues of their time. All of that is very valuable and important, but it is not the heart of Christian leadership. The central question is, Are the leaders of the future truly men and women of God, people with an ardent desire to dwell in God's presence, to listen to God's voice, to look at God's beauty, to touch God's incarnate Word, and to taste fully God's infinite goodness?" (emphasis added)

He then explains that the original use of the word "theology" (we often view theological grounding as an important qualification in contemporary leaders ) meant "union with God through prayer." Wow! How differently we view our academic version of theology today!

His point is this: Christian leaders, first and foremost, must be lovers of God; they must be men and women who know God intimately (not just know about Him).

I have to ask myself: do I desire to dwell in God's presence, to hear and listen to God's voice, to gaze upon His beauty, to touch and taste His character and Word? If I can't answer "yes" to these questions, then out of what motives am I truly leading: Self-sufficiency? A desire to please or impress other? A desire to prove myself? A deluded works-based effort to earn God's favor?

Authentic Christian leadership, true biblical leadership, flows from intimacy with and love for the Source of all life, strength, wisdom, and power. It finds its origins in grace and gratitude. If it doesn't, then that leadership differs little from the world's.

Let's do a heart check this weekend. How's our love for God? How well do we fit Nouwen's description of a leader in the second paragraph above? Just how rooted in grace and gratitude are we?

May God give us grace to love Him and to serve Him out of that love. May He equip us to do so.

That's it for now,

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Bible Study Methods

As leaders and teachers it's easy for us to use the same methods of Bible study over and over again. Usually it's because we've found whatever methods we use to be reliable, comfortable, and user-friendly.

Sometimes, however, the same-old-same-old routine leaves us feeling flat and lifeless after we've encountered the Word of God. The same could be said for our students. Try spicing up your personal Bible study time (or that of your students) by trying new study methods.

Where can you find new and different methods of study? Try these resources:

These sites alone provide dozens of methods of Bible study. But if you'd like more options, trying these book resources (links take you to Amazon's book store). I own them and use them regularly for finding Bible study options to offer my students.

Personal Bible Study Methods: 12 Ways to Study the Bible on Your Own by Rick Warren

Discipleship Journal's Best Bible Study Methods compiled from past issues of DJ

The Navigator Bible Studies Handbook compiled from methods the Navigators have used for over 60 years

How to Study Your Bible by Kay Arthur (a summary of the inductive study method)

Between these book resources (some of whose contents you can view in part at and these web site offerings, you should be able to find a new way to approach the Scriptures or a old way with a new twist. Either way, trying something new may bring new life to your encounters with the Word of God.

That's it for now,

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Map and Bible Land Image Resources

Atlases come in handy for our lesson preparations, but sometimes it's difficult to adapt what we find in a book for use as an overhead transparency or PowerPoint slide. I've stumbled upon two helpful on-line resources that solve the problem of creating map and Bible land images for us.

The first is Heartlight's Here are just a few of the tools this web site offers for free to any user:
  • a searchable Bible (by key word or reference; searches in over twenty translations)
  • daily Bible reading plans
  • daily devotionals
  • "Today in Christian History"
  • commentaries
  • Bible dictionaries
  • Bible encyclopedias
  • concordances
  • lexicons
  • historical literature
  • "Sermon Jazzers" (anecdotes and humorous illustrations)
  • over forty FREE PowerPoint Bible maps!

The PowerPoint Bible maps alone are worth the visit to this site. They're well done and ready for teaching use. If you don't have PowerPoint you can print the on-line images directly onto transparency film for use as overheads.

The second site where you can find free maps and photos of Bible lands and other Bible images (e.g.: an Olive tree; a cubit; Mount of Olives, etc.) is This site boast all kinds of additional resources as well.

When you have a chance, investigate these sites. I think you'll find that both provide useful and practical helps for teachers.

Every little bit helps!

That's it for now,


Sunday, March 06, 2005

Leader's Quote of the Week - March 7th, 2005

To encourage and motivate my readers, I've decided to add another feature to this blog: the Leader's Quote of the Week. Some weeks I'll comment; other weeks the quote will stand alone. In any case, I hope you fine these gems of wisdom helpful and stimulating.

This week's quote comes from Theodore Roosevelt:

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."

Are you?

That's it for now,

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Christianity's FAQs

Sometimes people in our studies have basic questions about the Christian faith, the Bible, the Christian life, theological or doctrinal issues, or other questions we can't address within the limits of our classes or study groups.

While we might discuss these questions with inquiring individuals one-on-one, sometimes it helps to direct them to other resources that might answer their questions.

Evangelical pastor, Bible teacher, and best-selling author Johh MacArthur of Grace to You Ministries provides answers to dozens of Christianity's FAQs at the Grace to You web site. Click here to access this web resource.

You'll find answers to questions like these:

Is my Bible really free from errors?

Which Bible translation is best?

How can I be sure of my salvation?

What is God's will for my life?

If God is sovereign is He responsible for evil?

Using careful biblical exegesis, John MacArthur answers these and dozens more questions covering everything from suicide to sanctification.

Take a peek at this web page; I think you'll find it helpful (or perhaps your students and disciples will).

That's it for now,

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Christian Research Institute: Another Great Resource

Well, I'm back. :o) And since I've returned I'm more convinced than ever of our need to be solidly grounded in an intelligent faith: Bible knowledge, theology, doctrine, and application.

While I was away I encountered mature believers who, though they knew much Truth, struggled to apply it. Sometimes the difficulty was individual will (they didn't have the will to apply what they knew). Sometimes the difficulty was forgetfulness (they forgot to apply what they knew). But sometimes the difficulty was ignorance (they didn't know the Truth well enough to apply it).

One of the organizations I've encountered that best pursues the goal of equipping Christians with an intelligent, Bible-based, appliable faith is the Christian Research Institute (CRI), headed by Hank Hannegraff, the voice behind the Bible Answer Man radio program.

CRI offers a number of excellent resources on countless topics, including difficult-to-answer questions about our faith. One resource, the Christian Research Journal, tackles today's controversial issues head-one. Though non-subscribers cannot access the current issue's articles, past issues of The Journal are available on-line to anyone and are organized by topic. CRI also provides a solid summary of Christianity's essential doctrines and more detailed explanations of specifics of the faith.

The CRI Resource Center offers resources (for sale) in several media types (hardcover books, softcover books, audio tapes, CDs, DVDs, etc.) searchable by over twenty-five categories (e.g.: apologetics, Christian doctrines, Christian classics, cults, evangelism, eschatology, ethics, science and the Bible, world religions, etc.). These resources are well-researched, historically accurate, biblically grounded treatments of various topics. They make great references for teaching on everything from the Resurrection to Spiritual Warfare.

CRI is dedicated to equipping believers (hence their web address: I think you'll find their resources quite helpful.

'Til next time,