Thursday, February 23, 2006

Teaching Trip to Zambia

Some of you may know that four leaders from our women's ministries program at Calvary Church have been invited to teach at a women's leadership conference in Zambia in May 2006.

As the Teacher Coordinator for Tues. AM Bible Studies, I am part of that team, as is our Women's Ministries Director and Bible Studies Coordinator, Joan Wambold, and two other Bible study teachers: Jean Ford and Iyabo Williams.

Here we are (the ZamGals!):

In case any of you Teachers' Tips readers are interested, I've developed a blog specifically for that trip. It's called Four Gals in Zambia.

You can follow our adventure there. Just thought you'd like to know!

'Til next time,

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Never Fear Drought

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord.

He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 (ESV)

How are your roots lately?

'Til next time,

Friday, February 17, 2006

Lights in Darkness

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:15-16 (ESV)
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Bible Study Software

A recent discussion among the Bible study teachers with whom I serve solidified something I've believed for several years now: if you can afford it, the right Bible study software is more than worth the investment.

Note, however, the I said "the right" Bible study software.

First, what is Bible study software? It's usually a collection of Bible study tools (multiple Bible translations, concordances, atlases, Bible dictionaries, topical Bibles, cross-referencing tools, original-language tools, commentaries, cultural studies, outlines, etc.) in CD or DVD format that you can install on your Mac or PC to make deeper Bible study easier for you. Just the copy-paste features of these programs alone (and the ease they provide in creating handouts and copying passages into handouts for classroom study) is a huge time-saver for me.

But these software programs only save time if they're compatible with your computer, are generally glitch-free, are easy to use for even the computer novice, can be updated or added to in the future, and offer what you need for your lesson preparation.

That's what I mean by the "right" software. Some systems just don't work well; others come loaded with extraneous tools most average Bible study teachers won't use, but not loaded with things we need; still others create problems on a PC; and some are just too complicated to figure out.

Our teachers have found two Bible study software systems to be consistently reliable, adaptable, glitch-free, and user-friendly:

The WORDsearch series system and related products (Bible Explorer, Bible Navigator, LessonMaker), and the Logos' Libronix system.

Both offer several bundle packages (meaning they've bundled a whole bunch of software products together into one package): everything from complete pastor's libraries to individual author collections to home library sets--all on CD or DVD (and downloadable). Both offer the same kinds of study products; both offer add-on and upgrade options; both are point-and-click-easy-to-operate systems; both offer a variety of price options (from tens of dollars to literally thousands, depending on how expansive you want your computer library to be). And both are available in PC or MAC formats.

I use WordSearch 7 and love it. My Bible-college son uses Logos/Libronix and loves it, too. I know several Bible study teachers or other lay leaders who use either one or the other, both getting rave reviews.

The bottom line is this: you'll have to look at both products (and their various options) and then decide what's best suited to your needs.

WordSearch 7 offers summaries of its basic features, a list of all products by category, a list of their most popular library sets, a list of their boxed products (vs. downloads), a list of companion products (including the Rick Warren Library and the CBD Reference Library), and a free trial version.

Logos offers summaries and a helpful comparison chart of their products, a list of their boxed products (as opposed to downloads), a list of all products by category, and a list of companion products (including collections by R.C. Sproul and Max Lucado) among other things.

Oh, and both offer group discount rates when buying several copies of the same product at one time (as in for a church staff or for students at a Bible college). That's how my son was able to get his "Pastor's Library" (student rate as a full-time Bible college student).

When you're deciding between the two keep these things in mind:

1. The two systems are not compatible with each other (you CANNOT mix and match between Logos and Wordsearch), so once you choose one, you pretty much need to stay with that one (unless you're independently wealthy).
2. If you are independently wealthy (or just want both systems), you may have trouble with your PC. I tried installing both (and I'm certainly not independently wealthy), but Libronix didn't like that I already had Wordsearch installed. I stuck with Wordsearch since that was the system with which I was most familiar, and since I'd already invested hundreds of dollars in developing my Wordsearch library (not to mention that I love it).
3. The two systems offer some of the very same titles in their libraries: various Bible translations, commentaries, study bibles, classics, scholarly works and individual author collections (John MacArthur, for example) can be found in both.
4. The two systems offer some products (specific titles and collections) that are unique to their systems (so chose the one that best suits your interests).
5. In general, Logos/Libronix seems more scholarly and geared slightly more for the academic world (based on their add-on book library selections), although Logos is very lay-friendly. Wordsearch seems to have more lay/general readership ministry resources available (lots of small group leadership stuff, lesson planning and discipling tools, etc...). You'll have to investigate both for yourself to see what will work best for you.
6. Don't just look at the base products, even if that's all you intend to buy. Trust me: once you discover how helpful these tools really are, you'll want to add on to your library. Check out the add-ons to make sure that, should you want to expand your library in the future, the system you select offers the kind of add-ons you think you might need down the road.

So...happy software hunting! And if you already use one or the other of these products, feel free to comment here so other readers can hear about your experiences!

Blessings to you all,

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Ready for the Storm?

This picture captures the corner of our family room.

The fire glows behind the wood stove's door. The wood box (crafted by dear hubby) brims with dry, seasoned logs ready to burn. A few damp pieces sit drying in the cast iron frame to the left and in front of the stove. And the water kettle, filled to the top, rests on the stove humidifying the heat-dried air.

We're ready.

Yup. It's finally snowing in southeastern Pennsylvania. After a snow-filled December and balmy, 60-degree January, we wondered if we'd see winter again.

We are.

Predictions call for eight-to-thirteen inches of snow and blizzard-like conditions over the next twenty-four hours. It's about time. I've been waiting for a storm since January 1st. :o)

Storms are fun when we're prepared. We've done all we can to "red-up" for this storm. The indoor wood supply is full and ready to go.

The outdoor wood shed is brimming (we've barely used a third-of-a-cord of wood this winter so far--that's how mild it's been).

We filled the bird feeders so our feathered friends won't go hungry.

And we cleared the deck and driveway of all obstacles (dog toys included) to make it easy to run the snowblower. We have our bottled water, candles, oil lamps, and batteries on stand-by in case of storm-related power outages. And the pantry is full.

Now all we have to do is ride out the storm.

That got me thinking.

I'm about to begin teaching a 10-week series on the Sermon on the Mount. I suspect, because of the nature of the topic, we'll face a number of storms this semester: emotional storms; discouragement storms, perhaps even theological storms.

Have I readied my heart for the semester's storms the way I have my home for this weather?

Gladly, I can say 'yes.' I've been praying for some time now about this semester. I've recruited others to pray, too. I've been reading the Scriptures and plowing through commentaries to gain the necessary background to teach this awesome passage. And I'm relying on God--on His grace to accomplish His purposes in and through me over the next three months.

Yes, I think I've prepared well. But I have to remember that this preparation isn't a once-and-done thing. Just has I have to refill the wood box in the family room from the stores out in the shed, so I must continually allow God to refill me (my mind, my heart, my soul, my strength and stamina, etc.) from the stores of His word and Spirit.

Otherwise, though I might flame well for a few hours, ultimately I'll burn out, becoming useless to shed light and warmth to others.

So here's to learning to prepare for and weather storms, whether literally or metaphorically. And to allowing ourselves to be refilled.

Take time this week to let God fill (or refill) you.

'Til next time,

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Here's the view out my window at sunrise. Ministry is feeling a bit like this image for me right now: I'm rising to the possibilities of another semester of teaching; coming to life again, peeking over the horizon of change. But I'm still sleepy, too. Not quite fully awake.  Posted by Picasa