Category Archives: Teaching & Preaching

Sinners and Saints

pruning

The church of God is like a tree. Some branches are healthy, bearing much fruit. But other branches become sick and diseased, requiring special attention to be nursed back to health.

Unfortunately, a few branches might be completely dead, and need to be pruned from the tree so they don’t sap energy and corrupt the fruitful parts.

Last Sunday, we concluded a six-month tour through the book of Titus, and saw what it takes to keep a church healthy. Paul closes out his letter with some final instructions and greeting . He asks Titus to come quickly to rejoin him on the mainland, while urging him to deal firmly with any members still in the body who are stirring up division.

Why is unity so important in the Body of Christ? How do we practically exercise church discipline? Click here to listen to last Sunday’s sermon.

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Teacher Tip #1 – Stick to the Main Point

focusI thought from time to time I would write a Teacher Tip to help our teachers hone our craft. I’ve been blessed to sit under some very gifted teachers over the years, to read books, watch videos, and attend conferences on teaching. I still have a long way to go, but the things I have learned I need to pass along to others.

Our first Teaching Tip is perhaps the most important of all: Stick to One Main Point. Teaching should not just be a running commentary of a Bible passage, like a string of popcorn on the Christmas tree. Every verse must be connected to one central idea.

Most teachers love to study, and we often end up with a ton of material. If we’re not careful, our teaching time becomes a “data dump” on our listeners, packing in as much information as possible within the allotted time. But this can actually be counterproductive. In our zeal to share everything, our students end up remembering nothing. Far better to single in on one “big idea” and connect everything to it.

If your passage seems to contain more than one point, you have a decision to make. It might be that you need to take one step back and look at the bigger picture, or perhaps you need to choose just one idea to focus on and pass over the others this time around.

Here are four strategies for sticking to the main point:

  • Think about the last time you taught. What was the “main point” you tried to communicate? Chances are if you can’t remember, your students can’t either. (Am I the only one guilty of this sometimes?)
  • Early in your study, ask “What is the main point of this passage? What is the author trying to get across?”
  • Write out your main point in a simple, memorable way
  • Include your main point in your introduction, your conclusion, and connect it throughout your lesson. Feel free to reword it to keep it fresh, but don’t stray far from your central idea.

Let’s take one example. If you are teaching on the story of Jesus Feeding the 5,000 (one of my personal favorites), your main point might be “Jesus Meets our Needs.” You might take time to discuss the geography and historical background of Galilee, the compassion of Jesus, the amazing fact that He could feed such a massive crowd with so little, the purpose of miracles to authenticate Jesus as the Christ, how Jesus is the Bread of Life, the blessings of trusting God, plus related cross-references. But ultimately, everything should connect back to your main idea, “Jesus Meets our Needs.”

I hope you will be able to practice this tip in the month ahead.

Question: How do you stick to the main point in your study and teaching? Click here to leave a comment.

Photo credit: P!XELTREE

The Book of Isaiah

This month, I was invited to teach a Wednesday night class on the Book of Isaiah at Fellowship in the Pass in Beaumont.

To be sure, it was a whirlwind tour (I had to cover the final 20 chapters in just ten minutes). But I trust it was helpful to the people and gave the necessary keys to unlock this wonderful book.

Isaiah is quoted more often in the New Testament than any other Old Testament prophet. He wrote to a nation in crisis who needed a fresh vision of God’s holiness. How relevant for us today!

If you’d like to learn more about Book of Isaiah, I’ve uploaded my lectures to our podcast. The full handout is available here.

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Photo credit: Harper’s Bible Dictionary

A Drive through Isaiah

Over the past three months, our church has been studying the Book of Isaiah. Like a drive across America, you can take the faster route or the longer, more scenic route. In our situation, we opted for the faster route.

I challenged our people at the outset of this journey to read one chapter of Isaiah per day, six chapters per week. Along the way, we saw some staggering visions, stern warnings, strange customs, and stunning promises.

As I reflect on this trip, I’m humbled at how much I still have to learn about Isaiah. At the same time, I’m grateful that God would willingly send His Son as our Savior and King.

Here are the passages we studied together on Sunday mornings, along with sermon links:

Isaiah 1: Isaiah: Prophet of Hope (no audio available)
Isaiah 6: Holy is the Lord of Hosts (audio)
Isaiah 11-12: Christ’s Millennial Kingdom (audio)
Isaiah 15-16: The Pride of Moab (audio)
Isaiah 19: Striking and Healing (audio)
Isaiah 26: Perfect Peace (audio)
Isaiah 36-37: God Defends His People (audio)
Isaiah 43: No Other Savior (audio)
Isaiah 53: The Suffering Servant (audio)
Isaiah 55: Seek the Lord (audio)
Isaiah 66: Hope for the Humble (audio)

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Why So Many Warnings in the Bible?

Have you noticed how the first 24 chapters of Isaiah are dominated by warnings, oracles, and graphic descriptions of God’s judgment? Was Isaiah just having a bad day (or decade)?

Take a quick tour through other Major and Minor Prophets – or even the Book of Revelation – and you’ll notice a similar pattern. Most of their time is spent on calls to repentance and warnings of judgment. In comparison, precious little time is spent on joy and restoration.

Thumbing through Alva McClain’s classic book The Greatness of the Kingdom this afternoon, I came across a golden nugget that explains why prophecy is so lopsided:

Scripture generally gives more space to its warnings of judgment than to its descriptions of the joys of heaven. And this is wholly reasonable. On our highways, men do not ordinarily put up signs telling the traveler that ‘This is a safe road’; but for the most part all such signs are those of caution and danger. The world in which we live is one of sin and hazard and death. Some day all this will be ended, but until that day we should be thankful for the abundance of warnings concerning wrath and judgment to come.

A good reminder for preachers, as well. We must not only encourage, but reprove and rebuke. Yet always “with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2).

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