Creative Biblical content at the intersection of life and faith.

Brian is the author of #TheWalk, a contributor to the Faith, Hope, and Love Daily Devotional, a pastor, and teacher.  Brian speaks regularly for various groups and events.  FeelMyFaith.com began as a writing project in 2007 and has expanded into the media outlet of Brian's ministry.

The Vine (Talking Points for 7/22)

Here are the talking points for this morning as we will look at John 15.  The gospel brings us into an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ.  This relationship carries with it the expectation that we will bear fruit and prove to be His disciples (v. 8).  We often speak of the closeness of Christ.  We forsake the term "religion" when describing the gospel and choose rather to use the term "relationship."  Yet, Christ is not here.  He is absent.
John 15 is part of Jesus' farewell address as he prepares His followers for His departure.  He assures them that even though He is leaving, the relationship will continue.  They will stay connected (or abide in Him).  How do we stay connected (abide) with Christ in His absence?
  1. Through the cleansing Word.
  2. Through answered prayer.
  3. Through a loving church.
I will also mention this article from USA Today entitled, "Young Adults Aren't Sticking With Church."  People are leaving the church.  How does this relate to John 15 and the idea of "abiding" in Christ?  I hope to see you this morning at Liberty and as we look at this passage and these issues together.
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Things You WILL NOT Hear at the Liberty Men's Fall Retreat (KC and Curtis)

">Things You Will NOT Hear at the Liberty Fall Men's Retreat (K.C. and Curtis) from Brian Branam on Vimeo.

Things You Will NOT Hear at the Liberty Fall Men's Retreat - After you see these ads, you'll know why we need this!!! August 17-18 @ The Summit, Ft. Payne, AL $100 Sign Up This Sunday Liberty Baptist Church of Dalton, GA — with Kendrick Willey and Curtis Carson at Liberty Baptist Church of Dalton, GA.
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Things You Will NOT Hear at the Liberty Men's Retreat (John D.)

">Things You Will NOT Hear at the Liberty Men's Retreat (John D.) from Brian Branam on Vimeo.
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The Grand Story of Scripture

Great video from The Gospel Project.

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The Way, the Truth, and the Life (Talking points for 7/15)

Here are the talking points for this morning from John 14.  As the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE Jesus answers three deep needs of the human soul:

As the WAY, Jesus answers questions about where I will spend eternity.

As the TRUTH, Jesus answers questions about what God is like.

As the LIFE, Jesus answers questions about how to live the rest of my life.
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The Resurrection and the Life (Sunday A.M. 7/8/2012)

">The Resurrection and the Life from Brian Branam on Vimeo.
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The Light

">The Light from Brian Branam on Vimeo.
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The Importance of Context

In my last post on teaching in the church I discussed building a bridge between the message of the Bible to its original readers and the message of the Bible for today.  The importance of this task is that it helps us teach what God has said, rather than using the Bible as a platform for a “What do you think?” session.  Sadly, most small group meetings in the local church have become little more than opinionated socials.  Building a hermeneutical bridge keeps this from happening.  Though the Bible is an old book written to a very different culture, the gap here may not be as wide as you may think.  Even still, it is not a simple task.  It takes time and hard work.
Whether one is preparing to teach or engaged in personal study, the key to understanding the Bible is context.  Context is the surrounding material that influences meaning.  Statements taken out of context can be grossly misrepresented as the reader is suddenly given the freedom to provide his own context.  For example, in a sermon on the topic of truth I shared on a Sunday night I made the following statement,
“If you stand and say that, ‘Jesus it the only way’ that’s really an uneducated, naive, ignorant position to take.  It is intolerant, harsh and wrong.  For us (Christians) to stand and say to a homosexual that, ‘homosexuality is a sin’ that is harsh, intolerant . . . that is something that is intolerant, passé, old fashioned and something you should not do.”
My statement taken on its own may lead someone to believe that I do not hold Jesus to be the only way of salvation or that do I not believe homosexuality is a sin.  The statement, taken on its own, may also lead one to assert that I believe churches or Christians who hold to those positions are out of step with modern culture; and that if they are not to come across as harsh and intolerant they need to relax these views.  Yet this is not what I was saying at all.
When a statement is taken out of context the reader is left to supply his own context and meaning.  This is why I believe it is so easy for our culture to be deceived by the media.  We receive our news in sound bytes.  Our views are shaped by statements taken out of context.  The clips provide the statements.  The commentators provide the meaning.  We never do the homework of context and the result is that we are easily led astray.  This, in itself, is a discussion for another day!
My statement was given in a context which provides meaning.
  1. There is the context of my theology.  Does Brian Branam preach consistently that Jesus is not the only way of salvation or that homosexuality is not a sin?  NO!  I do not preach these ideas - AT ALL.
  2. There is the context of the sermon itself.  The context of the sermon was an apologetics piece on truth.  By nature, the sermon lent itself to an attempt to represent opposing views.
  3. There is a historical context.  You probably did not hear many, if any, sermons quite like the one I was preaching in early colonial America.  The challenges of our culture today are pluralism, relativism, and post-modernism.  The historical timeframe of my sermon gives it meaning.
  4. There is the context of the place in the sermon.  I was in a moment of the sermon in which I was trying to establish how the exclusive claims of the Christian faith would be received in the public square.  I attempt to dismantle these claims later in the sermon.
  5. There is the context of the audience.  The purpose of the sermon was to equip the Christian and challenge the skeptic to see truth as an unchangeable, objective, absolute, reality.
In context, my statements take on a whole new meaning.  At the very least they cause us to investigate and assert, “There must be something else to this story!”
If my statements can be so grossly misrepresented, imagine what we are doing to God’s Word when we take no time to investigate context.  We read the Bible like we watch the news, in snippets.  We find a statement we like and pull it away from the rest.  We are then left to manipulate it as we like as the reader provides the context.  This is dangerous and misleading.  As teachers we should know better.
The Bible has a context that we must investigate if we are to be faithful to teach what God has said.  What are those contexts?  
  1. The general historical context - What was the world like when the text was written?
  2. The context of the author - Who is the author?  What was his experience?  What else has he written?  What was the author’s purpose for writing?
  3. The context of the audience.  What was life like for the original audience?  What were they experiencing at the time they received the text?  What was the occasion for them receiving the text?  
  4. The context of the text itself.  Where does the text occur in the Bible?  Where does the text occur in the book itself?  What are the surrounding passages?  What is the theme of the book?  How does the text support the theme?  
  5. The literary context.  What is genre of literature is the text?  How was that genre generally used in the period in which it was written?  What are the general rules of the genre in the time in which it was written?
I know it sounds like a lot, but investigating context is critical.  I will attempt to show you why in my next post.  It does take work, but not as much as you may think.  It is here that good tools are important, which will lead us back to the place where this string of posts began - tools for teaching.
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8 Points that Killed Me on Calvinism Plus 1

Mike Leake at Borrowed Light, in reviewing Greg Dutcher's book Killing Calvinism lists 8 ways Dutcher says Calvinists are killing the movement from the inside.  I have always said that there are two things that have kept me from toting TULIPs, the "L" and the attitudes of several (not all) Calvinists I know.  Here are the eight ways listed by Dutcher:

  1. By loving Calvinism as an end in itself
  2. By becoming theologians instead of disciples
  3. By loving God’s sovereignty more than God himself
  4. By losing an urgency in evangelism
  5. By refusing to learn from non-Calvinists
  6. By tidying up the Bible’s “loose ends”
  7. By being a bunch of arrogant know-it-alls
  8. By scoffing at the emotional hang-ups others have with Calvinism

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What it Means that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life

Here are the talking points for Sunday morning.  What it means that Jesus is the resurrection and the life from John 11:
  1. We have someone infinitely good, caring, and compassionate in ultimate control of sickness and death.
  2. Jesus' coming brought a marked shift in the way we think about death.
  3. The resurrection is not simply a theological truth, it is a point of personal trust.
  4. Jesus' return will fully demonstrate his authority and victory over death.
  5. We must do something more than simply believe there is a Heaven, or even want to go to Heaven if we are to have eternal life.  We must repent of sin and surrender to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord if we are to have eternal life.
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Building a Hermeneutical Bridge

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of Bible study in the preparation of the teacher so that we may stay faithful to say what the Bible says.  This is no easy task, but it is deeply rewarding.
Ultimately the preparation of the teacher has this goal in mind; we want to say what the Bible says, to us.  This task is accomplished by building what is called a hermeneutical bridge.  “Hermeneutical bridge” is a total nerd term, but it simply means that the teacher makes a connection between what the Bible meant to its original readers with the message of the Bible to its current readers.  
Lest we think that the “hermeneutical bridge” is the proverbial bridge to nowhere, we build it with this governing principle:  The Bible never means what it never meant.
 Even though the Bible is an old, foreign text; building a hermeneutical bridge from the original historical context to our present context is not bridging the ocean, it is more like bridging a brook.  You will find that truly, “There is nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9).”  People in the 1st century may have worn togas and driven chariots but a soul is a soul.  Whether we are middle eastern nomads that live in tents or western cultured Baby Boomers/Busters/Gen X’ers who live in a two-story home, at our core, we have forever been the same.
The teacher that does not commit to building a faithful hermeneutical bridge pillages the Bible of its power.  Let us say what God has said.  In this way we are teaching the Bible rather than teaching what we think or feel.  Many teachers offer their students little more than a hermeneutical bridge to their opinions.  I mean no disrespect here, but this is unfaithful to the task of Bible teaching and truly, most often is a bridge to nowhere.
The power for life change is in the gospel, not in our opinions.  Let us be faithful to study the Biblical text so that we may connect with what God has said.  Why is the hermeneutical bridge important?  Because what God has said, He has said.  Or, a more accurate way of stating this truth is, what God has said, He is forever saying.  When God called Jesus, “My beloved son in whom I am well pleased (Mark 1:11)”, He meant this for all time.  God was well pleased with Jesus in 30-something AD.  God is forever pleased with Jesus.  This is not a bridge over an ocean, this is a bridge over a brook.
So how do we faithfully build this bridge?
More to come . . .

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Two Fallacies of Bible Study

I am sharing with you a series of posts focused on teaching.  When it comes to teaching in the church, we cannot continue as we are. Teachers are the tongues of the church.  Even though they comprise a small part of the congregation, relative to the number of students, what they say and teach carries a great deal of weight within the congregation.  So how do we improve our teaching?
In teaching the overriding goal is to teach what the Bible says as opposed to what I think it says or even what I think is relevant.  Because we fear that we may “bore” our students with intricate Biblical detail or deep theological discussion we like to merely use the Bible as a moral reference point.  The Bible provides a text that makes mention of our topic for the day, then, as a teacher it is up to us to fill the class time with relevant stories and piercing discussion questions.  A cool class time this may seem, but great teaching this is not! This may be a meaningful way to treat Aesop’s fables, but it is not the way we should approach the Bible.
Studying the Bible isn’t easy.  It is a great fallacy to believe:
  1. Since the Bible is the Word of God it should be easy to understand.  The problem here is that God has never been easy to understand.  We are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to comprehending the mind of God (Rom. 11:34-36).  At the same time we should be careful to say that the Bible is understandable.  God has not communicated to us in code.  He wants us to “get it!”  Mark Twain said, “It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”  
  2. The more spiritual you are the more of the Bible you will understand.  This fallacy leads to two others:
    1. I am having trouble understanding the Bible which means I must have a spiritual problem.
    2. I am spiritual enough that I do not have to do the “unspiritual” work of academic study.  I just need to read it and teach it.  
If you suffer from fallacy 2A, see fallacy 1.  Your problem is not spiritual as much as it is that you are probably an English speaking, Western Cultured person living in 2012 (I will say more about this issue and how it impacts Bible study later).  If you suffer from fallacy 2B I prophecy that given enough time you will become a cult leader in the plains of west Texas and will have a fiery confrontation with the forces of Janet Reno.  If your fate does not go to that extreme end I would prophecy that at the very least the people you teach are being cheated and misled.  That glare on your student’s faces is not from sheer amazement at your spiritual prowess, it is the natural reaction of stunned shock and confusion that results from hearing a lesson that is nothing more than a gobbledy goop mess of errors.
Again, our goal as teachers is to “Say what the Bible says.”  Obviously then we must understand what the Bible is saying.  This comes, not from super spirituality, but from faithful, prayerful study.  Paul told Timothy:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.  2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)
The term “do your best” is literally, “work hard at it.”  Timothy was Paul’s protege.  He was a pastor.  He had to work hard at it - just like the rest of us.  Though great sermons can sometimes be mesmerizing to laypeople (as if the preacher has done something super spiritual), I promise you, great preachers are not naturally talented or super spiritual.  Great preachers do the hard work of studying the Bible.  If you are going to be a good, faithful teacher it will take more hard work and humility than super spirituality.  
More to come. . .
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Does God Own a Gun? (This Sunday at Liberty)

America is a divided nation.  We are divided ideologically (left and right), politically (Democrat and Republican), socially (conservative and liberal), and morally (traditional values or choice).  Our image of God is not immune from the debate.  We are also theologically divided.  Depending on where one falls in the spectrum, he is prone to bring God with him.  On the more conservative end of the spectrum God is a Tea Partying member of the NRA who votes straight ticket Republican and created the world so we could hunt and fish.  On the more liberal end of the spectrum God created the world so we should keep it green; and He sent His only begotten Son into the world to challenge tradition, reform health care, redistribute wealth, and demilitarize the nation.  His plan was called the Sermon on the Mount. 
Who is right?  We will talk about these issues and more in the sermon, “Does God Own a Gun?”  Join us at Liberty Baptist Church (www.libertybaptistchurch.ws) for Freedom Sunday - 11:00 a.m.  (SS 10:00 a.m.).

">Freedom Sunday Promo from Brian Branam on Vimeo.
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Shadows (the I AM series)

">Shadows from Brian Branam on Vimeo.
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Shared Paths

I am sharing with you a series of posts focused on teaching.  When it comes to teaching in the church, we cannot continue as we are.  Teachers are the tongues of the church.  Even though they comprise a small part of the congregation, relative to the number of students, what they say and teach carries a great deal of weight within the congregation.  So how do we improve our teaching?  The answer is time, tools, and training.  
In the last couple of posts I have been on the topic of tools for teaching, particularly the use of curriculum.  In my last post I mentioned that too often curriculum has become the most misused tool for teaching in the church.  Curriculum is a guide for teaching, it was not meant to replace our teaching.  Ultimately, curriculum is another person’s experience with the Biblical text, which is profitable, but it is an experience that cannot take the place of our own if we are to be effective teachers.
I left off in my last post with the following question, how do we properly use curriculum as a teaching tool?  To use curriculum properly we must:
  1. Understand what a curriculum/writer is saying?
  2. Understand how a curriculum/writer arrived at what they are saying?
  3. Understand why a curriculum/writer would say what they have said?
Great teachers are structured in their approach and organized in their thoughts.  It is difficult for any student to listen to a teacher they cannot logically follow.  We call this chasing rabbits.  Personally, I have never chased a rabbit, but from what little I know of rabbits, chasing one would be a rapid journey to nowhere.  Teachers who chase rabbits lead their students down pointless paths that do not connect with anything.  If you are going to be a great teacher you must keep one question in mind, what’s the point?
Curriculum is a great tool that helps teachers stay on point.  Most lessons written in a curriculum give the teacher an aim, theme, or objective to achieve.  In this way the writer should help us do the most important thing in teaching - match the aim of the lesson with the aim of the Biblical text.  Great curriculums do this.  Poor curriculums do not.
This is where the real work of a teacher begins.  Early in the week he or she will consult a curriculum to see what the chosen passage and its corresponding aim or objective is for the class.  Once consultation is made, then comes the moment that separates great teachers from mere curriculum regurgitators.  Great teachers become great students.
Hebrew is an interesting language in that it has no vowels, only consonants.  The other curious thing about Hebrew is that almost every word is spelled with three letters.  Numerous words can be spelled with the same three letters.  How does the reader distinguish the difference?  Small dots and dashes called “pointing” supply the vowel sounds and can radically change the meaning of a word.  One of the most curious lines of pointing intensifies a word.  The word touch, intensified, becomes the word strike, or hit.  
One of my favorite examples of intensifying Hebrew words is the word translated “to learn.”  When the word “to learn” is intensified it becomes the word translated “to teach.”  It is the same three letters only intensified.  The message is clear.  One has not truly learned what he or she cannot truly teach.  The flip-side is most applicable to teaching in the church, we cannot truly teach what we have not taken time to learn.
We teach from an overflow.  Curriculum points us in the right direction, but it is not a substitute for personal time and investigation spent in the text.  A truly prepared teacher will use curriculum twice.  He or she will use it to begin, inspire, or direct study early in the week, and he or she will use it again to refine and organize study late in the week.  In between there should be a great deal of personal time with the Biblical text.
When we give time to study and we do not allow curriculum to be our crutch, we will begin to experience God’s Word coming alive in our own life.  This is the process of incubation I wrote about a few weeks ago.  When time is given to personal study and preparation throughout the week, our experience with curriculum changes later in the week.  We have a better opportunity to understand three things:
  1. Understand what a curriculum/writer is saying?
  2. Understand how a curriculum/writer arrived at what they are saying?
  3. Understand why a curriculum/writer would say what they have said
How so?  Because we will find that we have walked the same path the writer has walked.  We now have a shared experience with the text.  When this is true, I find that curriculum becomes inspiring, not confining.  Suddenly the writer is giving me great ideas on how to enhance my lesson, how to organize it, and how to communicate it effectively - no longer is the curriculum writer a dictator speaking to me in a foreign tongue.  Suddenly, I see where the writer is coming from and he helps me instead of replaces me.  Now my lesson is fresh and it is born from my own experience.  It is not stale as I am only trying to regurgitate someone else’s experience with the Bible.
As great as this sounds, it leads us to another question.  How do we study the Bible?  Here is where the real discussion on tools begins.
More to come . . .
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Choosing Jacob

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Tools for Teaching (Part 2)

Last week I spent time moving my family from Alabama to Georgia.  After 3.5 months of being away from them I am glad to have my wife and daughters with me.  So now that we have all the Branams in the same place; back to the blog and our discussion of teaching in the church.
When it comes to teaching in the church, we cannot continue as we are.  Teachers are the tongues of the church.  Even though they comprise a small part of the congregation, relative to the number of students, what they say and teach carries a great deal of weight within the congregation.  So how do we improve our teaching?  The answer is time, tools, and training.  In my previous post I mentioned the importance of using tools to help us rightly divide the Word of God.  What are those tools?
If we are to answer the question of “what are the tools?” we must ask another question, just what is it we are trying to do?  The task determines the tool.  
I am not a craftsman nor am I a repairman.  As for tools, I own a drill, a screwdriver (phillips and flat), a hammer, and a wrench.  I try to beat, twist, and pry every repair into submission.  I destroy a lot of things.  Along with my destruction of things comes a great deal of frustration because it takes too long to do what appears to be otherwise easy stuff.  I am usually left beating things with the end of a screwdriver, trying to drive screws with a hammer, and tighten everything with a wrench.  When the dust settles all that is before me are bent nails and a wide variety of bolts and screws that have been grossly stripped beyond their usefulness.  My biggest problem in repair is that because I don’t quite know what must be done, I have no clue that they make the tools necessary to make the task much easier.
The right tool applied to the right task makes all the difference.
Most teachers are given some sort of curriculum to teach, but have never really been advised as to what it is that they are trying to do.  The end result is that they approach Scripture like I approach repairs - we hammer the screws, twist the nails, and strip the bolts.  The lesson is exegetically unfaithful and our students are no closer to Christ than they were when we began.  
So what is it we are trying to do in teaching?  The simple answer is that we are trying to say to our students what the Bible says to them.  In this way, God speaks and lives are changed.  So the tools we are to employ help us to do simply this; they are to help the teacher understand what the Bible is saying.
Curriculum is only a tool.  Yet I believe it is probably the most misused tool in the local church.  Here is where most teachers go awry with curriculum:
  1. We endeavor only to say what the curriculum writer is saying.  Many teachers caught in this trap would simply read a lesson to their students.  Other teachers may not read the lesson to their students, but they may only regurgitate to their students what the writer says.  There is no fresh experience of the teacher with the Biblical text.  As the word “regurgitate” may insinuate, the end result is a lesson no one really enjoys because the material is far from fresh!  
  2. We allow the curriculum to become the class.  Teachers must do more than accomplish lessons, they must teach the Bible.  The point of curriculum is to help you become a better teacher, it is not to replace you as the teacher.  Curriculum should help guide us, it is not there to remove us.  Curriculum gives us suggestions on how a well prepared and managed class could go, it is not giving us a mandate on how a class must go.  Teachers who fall into this trap may be robotic, detached from their students.  The teacher may also find himself or herself constantly frustrated because there is not enough time allowed for the class to accomplish all that is outlined in the curriculum.  In trying to accomplish a pre-planned agenda they distance themselves from discussion, the real needs of the students, or the student’s learning styles.  Remember, curriculum writers may know the Bible, but they don’t know you or your students.

    A well prepared teacher who uses curriculum rightly is able to discern what is best from the curriculum for their students (I will address this as I continue to post on this topic).  They are selective and are able to use the curriculum to enhance their teaching rather than dictate their teaching.  Remember, you are not teaching curriculum, you are teaching the Bible! 
  3. We study curriculum rather than study the Bible.  I often see teachers in the church come to class with a quarterly in hand, ready to teach, but with no Bible.  The sight of this grieves me.  It tells me first of all that the curriculum has been on their study table while their Bible has remained on the shelf. If one’s Bible is not brought from home, one’s Bible is probably not used at home.  The sight of the Bible-less teacher also tells me that that teacher is prepared only to cover the lesson rather than to really teach the Bible from the overflow of their own personal interaction with the Word of God (I will address this idea in later posts as well).  Again, curriculum should not take over, it is a guide not a replacement.

    I know I said previously that it is important to read and study what God has said to other people, but if I stood in the pulpit week to week and simply read or quoted other preacher’s sermons, they may be Scripturally faithful, they may make good points, but they would not be fresh because they are not mine.  I have said only what God has said to another person, but I have not said what God has said to me, nor have I said what God is saying to the people He has entrusted me to teach.  
Curriculum is a great tool, but if it is misused it bends, twists, and drills the life out of the Bible rather than exposes the life that is in the Bible.  If we are to rightly apply curriculum to our teaching, we must understand it for what it is.  It is a guide, a suggestion, another writer’s experience with the text.  It is to enhance our teaching, not to replace it.  So how do we properly use curriculum as a teaching tool?  We must:
  1. Understand what a curriculum/writer is saying?
  2. Understand how a curriculum/writer arrived at what they are saying?
  3. Understand why a curriculum/writer would say what they have said?
More to come . . .
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He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Determining whether or not God loves us based on the unpredictable circumstances of the day is like playing the foolish childhood game of "He loves me, He loves me not." In this game love is not based on a person's character, but on how many petals are on the flower. It is time we stop playing this game with God and settle on the truth that His love is steadfast for us.
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Tools for Teaching (Part 1)

Last week I mentioned that when it comes to teaching we cannot continue as we are.  Teachers are the tongues of the church.  Even though they comprise a small part of the congregation, relative to the number of students, what they say and teach carries a great deal of weight within the congregation.  So how do we improve our teaching?  The answer is time, tools, and training.
The Bible is a living Word.  It speaks, but this does not mean that it is easy to understand.  Many people mistakingly believe that because the Bible is spiritual in nature that with a little prayer and righteousness one will gain mysterious insight into the Word of which the natural man is not privy.  This is the stuff from which cults are born!
While it is true that Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” he also tells Pastor Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”  The phrase “rightly handling the word of truth” is taken from the idea of a butcher carefully cutting the meat.  If he is not skilled in his craft filet mignon becomes ground beef.  The Word of God is full of filet mignon but unfortunately many of our pulpits and lecterns in the classroom are full of ground beef.
So when Paul is saying that truth is spiritually discerned, we know that he is not saying that academic work has no place in teaching and preaching.  Let us not forget, Paul was himself a great scholar (Acts 22:2-3, Gal. 1:14, Phil. 3:5-6).  The work of the Spirit in helping us discern spiritual truth speaks more to attitude and receptivity rather than to understanding.  An atheistic Bible scholar (and there are such things) can use tools to help understand the Bible, but he will disregard it as authoritative truth for his life.  The problem in modern Christendom is that many of our teachers have a spiritual attitude and receptivity to the Bible as authoritative truth, but they lack the tools, or perhaps even disregard them altogether, that would help them to properly understand it.  
A great teacher or preacher approaches his or her study of the text, every element of it and the use of the tools as Spirit work.  When I was a much younger, naive, idealistic, sophomoric, college student I remember raising the issue of study as simply trying to listen to what the Spirit says to you.  I insinuated that in the end, we didn’t need all the books and tools that seem to go along with Bible study.  “All we need is the Spirit.”  In humility and wisdom my professor kindly retorted, “But why should we be so prideful to think that what the Spirit has said to others is of no value?”  Ouch!
So what are the tools (the things that the Spirit has said to others) that will help the teachers in the church move from good, to great?
More to come . . .
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How the Gospel Changes Our Heart - Tim Keller

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