Wow!

Author Michael Hyatt defines a “wow” experience as an experience that exceeds expectations. He notes that “It creates delight amazement, wonder, or awe.” He states that in order to be successful or heard in our noisy world, “you must exceed the customer’s current expectations.”

That set me to thinking about the things I am involved in, and how our Christian faith is perceived by those whom we are trying to mentor. Though the students I teach, the kids who come to mid week club, or others that I am trying to influence with the good news, aren’t customers, I do want them to “buy into” the truth that is Jesus Christ and all that He has said in His Word.

Whether we are offering a program, a Bible study, a class or some other type of mentoring experience, the following questions suggested by Hyatt may get us thinking about how we can exceed the expectations of the participants. Rather than thinking in terms of “a customer,” substitute that word for “child,” “student” or “teen.” The questions Hyatt proposes are:

  •  What specific expectations does the typical customer bring to this experience?
  •   What does failing to meet customers’ expectations for this experience look like?
  • What does exceeding customers’ expectations for this experience look like?

How can I exceed my student’s expectations? How can I exceed the expectations of the kids that come to mid-week club at our church, or the expectations of parents and campers at our summer day camp? It will take some thought, but I find that these questions motivate me to search for ways to do that.

Furthermore, how can we exceed expectations in the way we love our friends and our enemies? How can we exceed expectations in our workplace? How can we exceed expectations in the way we give and in the way we forgive? How can we exceed expectations in the way we treat other drivers on the road? Then there are our own families. Home- where we let our hair down and don’t always guard our mouths the way we should. Home- where our families see us for all that we are. Can we not choose to exceed expectations even there, in front of our siblings, spouses, parents or children?

After all, don’t we have a God who exceeds our expectations? In His wisdom, He planned and created a finely-tuned universe for us- out of nothing! He is a superb designer, wise beyond our wildest imaginations! Now, some 6,000 thousand years after Creation, we humans are still like mere children as we strive to understand the complexities of the human body, life itself, our planet, and the vast, unexplored reaches of the universe. Creation- WOW!

Then consider the salvation our loving God offers to a rebellious world. He has done all of the work. We are the recipients of grace that should blow us away; of love beyond our comprehension, by which He calls us His own children! Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, humbled himself to become a man and to die to pay for the transgressions of sinful human beings. WOW! Accept Him, and He forgives us for all of our sins, gives us the free gift of righteousness, redeems us from slavery to sin and grants us eternal life! WOW! He sends His Holy Spirit into our lives to empower us, and the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise God, invites us into intimate communion with Him through prayer. WOW! He views us as already glorified, seated in the heavenly realms with Jesus! Eternal life – WOW! His grace, mercy and love far exceed our expectations. How can we keep from singing His praise?

So, as His followers, shouldn’t we exceed the expectations of a watching world? Peter writes, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us”  (1 Peter 2:12). The word “good” in that verse means “beautiful.” It’s a call to excellence, a call to exceed expectations!

It is a noisy world. So many voices are clamouring to be heard. Maybe one of the ways we can make sure our children, grandchildren, or students hear our voices, is to exceed their expectations in the way we communicate the good news. Let us never   be mediocre when it comes to presenting the Gospel.  This is the best possible news! Should it not stir within the hearts of those who hear it, delight, amazement, wonder and awe? All of eternity should echo with our collective WOW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Be Encouraged and Press On!

“Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” (Jude verse 3)

Like Jude, I would prefer to write about a happier topic, but my heart is heavy for our country. As a nation, we have turned our backs on God’s Word, choosing instead to mock His wisdom and ignore His love. It’s difficult to ignore the increasingly blatant anti- Christian stance being taken by those wielding political power in our nation. Our leaders seem bent on marginalizing Christians and muting our voices through their laws and policies.

Of course it’s not just Canada; it’s just as Psalm 2: 1-3 says, “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.’” A rather shocking example of this attitude is seen in the protest of a B. C. atheist, who several years ago, displayed a sign with the following message: “If Jesus returns, kill him again.” Yes, these are dark and difficult days. I often think of how challenging it is for young Christian parents to raise their children in the ways of the Lord in the times in which we find ourselves living.

I am indebted to our friend and the former pastor of our church, Kevin Schular, who recently offered these insights on Psalm 2:

  • The world is united in full scale rebellion against God (1-3).
  • The rebellion will prove to be unsuccessful (4-5). Many people throughout history have stood arrogantly against God. God is moving mightily and the Church is growing! (On that note, I [Jim], heard a missions speaker say this week that 50,00 Christian churches are being established daily!)
  • God says that there is coming a day when His Son will rule on Zion. It’s written in the past tense because that’s the way God sees it! Jesus will rule the nations (7-8). The biblical worldview is that God holds the future. It is in His hands so we can fully trust Him. We know who wins!

The closing verses of Psalm 2 warn the rulers of the earth, telling them to serve the Lord with fear, and to be reconciled to Jesus. Blessed are all those who take refuge in Jesus! As Pastor Schular noted, the mission of God is reconciliation- to ultimately restore people and His creation. The Church is continuing this mission.

After reminding us that in the last days there will be scoffers following their own ungodly desires (verse 18), Jude instructs us to build ourselves up in our most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keeping ourselves in the love of God (verses 20-21). Jude’s instruction is first to us as individuals. In order to effectively help others, we must continue to build ourselves up in our faith; we must continue to seek God in prayer. Jude then goes on to tell us to have mercy on those who doubt, save others by snatching them from the fire, and to others, show mercy with fear (verses 22-23).

What should our response be to the leaders whose laws and policies violate the truth of God’s Word and our religious freedom? God’s Word says that we should pray for them because God desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-4). We should love, do good, and pray for all who oppose, hate or abuse us (Luke 6:27-28)

The apostle Paul reminds us that ultimately, our struggle is not against people, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12). This is not the time to be passive or complacent. Nor is it the time to despair. We are indeed in a battle, but we know who wins! Let’s encourage each other and press on. Let’s persevere in these difficult days. Let’s continue to do be diligent to equip our children, grandchildren and students with the knowledge of the truth, so that they and we, together, can be salt and light in a dark world (Matthew 5:13-16), able and ready to give reasons for the hope that we have as believers in Christ (1 Peter 3:15). Let’s remain faithful to God’s Word, speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), knowing that everything that God has recorded in the Bible is true and is for the benefit of every human being.

God is on the throne. Nothing that is happening today has caught Him by surprise.  Jesus will one day reign on the earth! So be encouraged, and press on!

Notes:

If Jesus Returns, Kill Him Again

See MP Harold Albrecht’s Concerns about Bill C16

Bill C16

Summer Grant Policy Change

Summer Grant Policy Change

Spanking, Euthanasia

(By including the link regarding spanking and euthanasia, I intend no disrespect for our Prime Minister. I have included the link to highlight the policies of the current government.)

 

 

 

 

 

Just Start

The secret to getting ahead is getting started.  ― Mark Twain

We think good ideas to death, when we should be acting them to life.                              – Brian G. Jett

 

When I stop to look around me, I realize that everything you and I see in this world- from each book on our shelves, to the latest gadget, to each business in our communities- was once just an idea in someone’s mind. Of course our planet itself, with its majestic mountains, towering trees, brilliant flowers, magnificent creatures of the animal kingdom, and you and I, were once just ideas in God’s mind before He created everything out of nothing (Hebrews 11:3).

I like trying to come up with new ideas, or at least ideas that are new to me. I scribble them down in a notebook, and sometimes that’s as far as they get. But occasionally they get further than that. Sometimes they actually become reality. On the other hand, there are things that have been on my heart to do for a long time – things that I believe God has put there, but they haven’t yet come to fruition. I haven’t given up on those ideas, but I’ve come to realize that my timing is not always God’s timing. I think that sometimes God has to do a work in a person, before he can work the way He wants to through a person.

A small magnetic sign peers at me daily from my fridge door:

“Start where you are,
Use what you have,
Do what you can.”

Those words motivate me to do something, even if it’s a small thing. I may not yet be able to some of the bigger things that I would like to do, but I can do something. That’s one of the reasons I started writing this blog. Though it’s just a small thing, it is still something.

I don’t know about you, but I have started things that I didn’t complete. There are books sitting on my shelf that fall into that category. But even though I haven’t completed every book I have started, I have completed many of them. I’ve started family devotions a number of times only to have them crowded out due to busy schedules. But just because I haven’t been as consistent as I’d have liked in the past, doesn’t mean I can’t begin again and persevere this time. So, we’ve started again.

What about you? Are there things that are on your heart that God would have you begin to do, or begin to do again ? When we serve the Lord and are faithful in the little things, He can use them in bigger ways than we could have imagined. A Scripture verse that has been running through my mind pretty constantly in recent weeks is Psalm 105:4, “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” God is telling us to look to Him, to seek Him. So, why not seek Him? Ask him what He’d have you do. Then just start. Just start that Bible study, or family devotions. Just start memorizing that passage of Scripture. Just start mentoring that person that God has placed on your heart. Just start doing random acts of kindness for your students, your friends, or for strangers. Whatever it is that God is leading you to do, just start- even if starting means just taking one small step. God’s Word reminds us that we should make the most of every opportunity because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16), and that His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). So, let’s just start and see what God will do. 

 

 

 

 

Immanuel

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”- which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:22-23

I’ve been thinking a lot about Immanuel lately, reflecting on the fact that God is with us. He really is, you know. He is with us in the happy, joyous times- times spent with family and loved ones. When we feel alone, he is with us. When we stare despair in the face, he is with us. When the cold fingers of fear tighten around our throats and it’s hard to breathe, he is with us. When we hang our heads in shame or in failure, he is with us. Remember what Romans 8:38-39 says? Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing. Hebrews 13:5 echoes that same truth – “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'” Immanuel – God is with us.

Immanuel, God with us –
Through the mundane and the norm,
Immanuel, God with us –
Amid the raging storm.

Immanuel, God with us –
When the strain of life is great.
Immanuel, God with us –
In the middle of the wait.

Immanuel, God with us –
In our panic and our tears,
Immanuel, God with us –
Bringing peace to all our fears.

Immanuel, God with us –
When time has just not healed,
Immanuel, God with us –
When the answers aren’t revealed.

Immanuel, God with us –
He hears the broken-hearted plead,
Immanuel, God with us –
Who can meet our every need.

Immanuel, God with you –
When worry consumes your soul,
Immanuel, God with you –
He understands; He’s in control.

Immanuel, God with you –
Every moment, every place,
Immanuel, God with you –
No matter what you face.

Immanuel, God with you –
When life has lost its zest,
Immanuel, God with you –
Who offers peace and rest.

Immanuel, God with you –
Cast on Him your every care,
Immanuel, God with you –
Every burden He will bear.

Immanuel, God with us –
Our Redeemer from above,
Immanuel, God with us –
Indescribable gift of love.

 

A Few More Tips For Memorizing Scripture

“I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture. . . . No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified” (Chuck Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, 1994, p. 61). 

 

A colleague of mine informed me this week that if he were to lead his class in singing their Bible memory verses, it… well… wouldn’t go over so well. I still believe he can do it, but for those of you who may feel like he does, I thought I’d post a few alternate ideas for helping children and teens memorize Scripture. (Okay, so there are 15 of them!)

Illustrate: Have students illustrate the verse by drawing a picture for each main part of the verse along with the words that go with it. You can download comic templates from the internet if you wish.

Perform Actions: A well-used but effective strategy is to create actions for key words or phrases. Many children, especially, enjoy doing actions and this can be a useful technique for helping them memorize God’s Word. Incidentally, I have found that many teenagers in their high school years feel less inhibited than they may be in junior  high, so setting actions to Scripture may be something they are also willing to do, especially if they can choose the actions.

Repeat Repeat Repeat: The Navigators suggest that after understanding the context and meaning of the verse, one should read the verse over several times. Next, memorize the reference and the first phrase of the verse. After that, continue committing one phrase at a time to memory until the entire verse has been memorized.

Learn With Them: It will make a difference to your students or children if you memorize the verses with them. Encourage each other. Make yourself accountable to them for memorizing the verses  that you are asking them to memorize.

Write Them Down: Physically writing a verse down on a piece of paper can help people memorize.

Use Recipe Cards: Have your students write the verse down on a recipe card and carry it with them. Whenever they have a few minutes on their hands they can review their verse.

Review Throughout the Day: Use transitional times to review verses students have learned or are working on. For example, before kids leave the table after a meal, recite the verse together. Or if you teach at a school or church, recite the verse together while you are standing in line before you go to recess or to another class.

Object Lesson Memory Aid: Once children have memorized a verse reasonably well, use an object that will act as a memory aid in later weeks. For example, a lightbulb or candle could be used as a memory aid for the verse, “You are the light of the world…” Matthew 5:14. Or, rather than using one object as a memory aid, try to find objects or pictures that will represent key words in a verse or passage and use them as the children are memorizing the verse.

 Create a Clothes Line: Write one or two words on 8.5 X 11 inch sheets of paper until you have copied out the entire verse. Pin the sheets of paper to a clothesline in your room. After the children have memorized the verse reasonably well, you can remove some of the words or put some words on the line in the wrong order, and ask them to correct the mistakes.

Do the Cakewalk: Using paper plates, write one or more words of the verse on each plate. Arrange the plates in a circle, like a “cakewalk” at a fair with the words of the verse in order. When the music plays, each child walks around the circle. When the music stops, whoever is standing behind the first word in the verse begins, and each child reads the word he is standing behind until the entire verse has been read.

Diminishing Words. Some children might enjoy this because they think that they are fooling the teacher. Write out your memory verse 6 or 7 times on pieces of bristol board or paper. Each time you write, gradually make the words smaller. The words on your last piece of paper should be as small as you can possibly write them. Show your first card, (the one with the biggest words), to your group, and have them say the verse. Then simply work your way through to the last card with the children repeating the words each time. As you get to the smaller words, start to compliment the group on their eyesight. You can act amazed when they manage to “read” your last card! They will be memorizing the verse through repetition. See if they can then recite the entire verse from memory.

Record It: If students have a small recording device, (older students could use a phone), they can record themselves saying the verse and then listen to the recording throughout the day. For example, adults or older students could listen to the verse while driving.

Pass the Ball: Use a ball, a beanbag, or whatever you have handy. The person who begins with the ball says the first word of the verse then passes it to someone else who says the next word in the verse. Continue until the entire verse has been recited. See how fast you can do it as a group.  Variation: Once several children know the verse, pass the ball to a child who can recite it completely from memory. When they are done reciting the verse, they may pass the ball to a different child who knows the verse from memory. Continue until all or several of the students have said the entire verse from memory.

Audio, Visual and Kinesthetic- According to the website jumpstart3.com, “When you combine auditory (singing), visual (lyric videos), and kinesthetic (hand motions) learning, you get up to 98% retention.” Jumpstart3 offers a number of modern, upbeat melodies set to Scripture. Their verse – songs are also available on iTunes for $1.29 each.  It might be worth a look.

And More Music! A reader with young children shared that their family enjoys “The Rizers,” an animated band of children singing Scripture verses. You can discover more about them at www.therizers.com. You can also find their videos on Youtube or purchase songs on Itunes. I had never heard of them before, but they are definitely worth checking out! Thanks for sharing that Charlene!

So, there you have it – few more tips for helping your children, grandchildren, students, or maybe even yourself-memorize Scripture! If you have other tips for hiding God’s Word in your heart, please pass them along. Maybe they will show up in a post someday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Sticky!

In last week’s post, I wrote that one of my objectives for the students that I teach is that they retain the Scripture verses that they memorize. I’ve found that music can help with that because music makes things stick in the memory. You likely know that from your own experience. I can still sing the lyrics to songs that I listened to as a child or teen, even when I haven’t heard the song for many years. Incidentally, that’s a good reason to be careful about what we listen to.

Annie Murphy Paul notes that, “The best way to remember facts might be to set them to music.” She writes, “Medical students, for example, have long used rhymes and songs to help them master vast quantities of information, and we’ve just gotten fresh evidence of how effective this strategy can be.” She goes on to tell of how a young British doctor became concerned when a survey showed that 55% of nurses and doctors at a hospital in England were not following hospital guidelines regarding the treatment of asthma. As a result, this enterprising doctor recorded a video of himself singing the hospital guidelines! A survey conducted two months later showed that 100% of the doctors and nurses at the hospital were now aware of the guidelines and compliance had increased. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zkQKea6A1A

According to Shine Music, “Music can help students retain important information. Teachers have long known that getting children to memorize information is much easier if the facts and information can be put to music. Interestingly, teachers and schools aren’t the only ones that use music to teach. Major corporations have used to music to teach new materials to employees and cut learning time in half.” http://www.shinemusic.com.au/musicresources/DoesMusicImproveLearning.aspx

When it comes to teaching children and teens the important truths of God’s word, we can employ God’s gift of music to do so. Over the years, many people have set Scripture verses to music, and CD’s of Scripture verse songs performed by various Christian artists are available for purchase. Steve Green is one such musician that comes to mind. He has recorded two albums entitled “Hide ‘Em in Your Heart.” Though certainly not new, the tunes are catchy and child-friendly. His music is available for purchase on iTunes or from Amazon. Scripture Release is the name of a website that I came across that offers free downloads of Scripture verses put to music. Some of the tunes on “Heartseed” would be more appealing to children than others that are offered on the site. (http://www.scripturerelease.com) On Heartseed you can download the song, as well as a pdf file of the lyrics and sheet music.

However, what can you do if you have a specific verse in mind that you want your children or teens to memorize but you can’t find it pre-recorded anywhere? In that case you have a few options. You can find a familiar tune and set the words of the verse to that tune. Of course the advantage of this is that if your students know the tune they don’t need to learn something entirely new. One of the challenges with this method may be finding a tune that fits well with the verse that you are trying to teach. A second option is to compose your own tune, or get someone you know to do it for you. Some verses are easier to put to music than others, but keep in mind that your reason for doing this is to help kids learn Scripture so it sticks. Your tune doesn’t have to win any awards! A final option that may work if you’re teaching older students, is to have students come up with their own tune for the verse.

You may wonder whether or not putting Scripture verses to music really helps kids remember long-term. I can attest that it does for some students anyway. When I first began teaching in a Christian elementary school over 20 years ago, I put several of our class memory verses to music. I taught students the songs, accompanying them on my guitar. Here’s the exciting thing for me – a few years ago, one of my former students, now in her early thirties, connected with me on Facebook and mentioned that she still remembers the memory verse songs that we used to sing when she was a grade six student!

Now I can assure you that none of my tunes would win awards either! At first, I was a little nervous about teaching the songs to my students, because that meant I’d have to sing a solo- at least until they learned the tune! Here’s what I discovered though – the students didn’t care. They didn’t care about my voice, my guitar-playing ability, or how good the tune was. They sang anyway! And by singing, they learned God’s Word, and apparently for some of them at least, it stuck! When it came time for students to recite their verses to me, some would ask if they could sing the song. Of course they could! Why not? I was just happy that it helped some of my students hide God’s Word in their hearts!

So, what about you? Maybe you play an instrument, maybe you don’t. Maybe you can’t carry a tune in a wheelbarrow (as my father would say), or maybe you have a wonderful singing voice. It really doesn’t matter. I encourage you to take the risk. Just try it! Use God’s gift of music to help God’s Word get stuck in your students’ minds. God’s Word is living and active, (Hebrews 4:12), it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man (or child) of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work  (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Isn’t it worth the effort and the risk?

“…be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” Ephesians 5: 18-19

Six Objectives I Have For My Students

In last week’s post, I suggested that we consider writing down the vision that we have for those we are aiming to disciple and to place it where we will see it daily. The hope is that doing that will serve as a constant reminder of what it is that we are trying to accomplish, in partnership with the Holy Spirit.

This week, allow me to share some of the objectives that I have for the Grade five students whom I am teaching at a Christian school:

1.) It is my desire that my students hide God’s Word in their hearts and be able to recall what they have learned years later when they are adults. My students are asked to memorize and recite to me, a short passage of Scripture every two weeks. However, I don’t want them to simply learn it for “the test” and then forget it. My goal is to find ways to get it to stick in their long-term memories.

2.) I want my students to begin to learn how to study the Bible for themselves. So, when we begin to memorize a new passage of Scripture, we also take the time to understand what God is saying in that particular passage. As a class, we discuss the context of the passage, and students then ask Who? What? Where? When? Why? And How? questions of the text. Next, we try to answer those questions from that passage and other passages that may be related. Students are beginning to learn how to study the Bible inductively. They are learning how to feed themselves spiritually.

3.) Another desire that I have for my students is that they become “Doers of the Word and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22). It is incredibly easy for any of us to fall into the trap of merely listening to God’s Word but not acting on it. Personal application must follow hearing and understanding, or we are fooling ourselves.

4.) A fourth goal I have for my students is that they become young people who know what God’s Word teaches about prayer, and become praying people who expect God to answer.

5.) Fifthly, I want my students to know that they can trust the Bible. The Bible is God’s Word, and it is the absolute truth -its message conforms to reality. Because it is God’s Word, we can and should trust it completely, and live our lives according to its teachings. Studies done in the past ten years show that our youth are leaving our churches in alarming numbers once they finish high school. Part of the reason for this exodus appears to be a failure to adequately answer the questions our youth have about the Bible and the Christian faith. Whether those questions rise from their own hearts, or come in the form of challenges to their faith from the culture, we need to equip them with answers from a young age (1 Peter 3:15). Students need to know that God’s Word can handle their scrutiny and questions.

6.) Finally, I want my students to have a Biblical worldview.  A definition of a worldview is: 1.The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world. 2. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2000). Everyone has a worldview. When one has a Biblical worldview, his perspective and beliefs are based on the teachings of the Bible.

To have a biblical worldview is to view every area of life through the lens of biblical truth. That includes approaching Math, Writing, Reading, Science, History and any other subject or topic from a biblical perspective. At times, when I have intentionally connected what we were studying in Science or Social Studies with what God’s Word says, a student has raised his hand and asked, “Is this Bible class?” That tells me that the student is not accustomed to thinking that the Bible is relevant to all topic areas. They haven’t learned that all truth is God’s truth, and that the Bible is relevant to every area of life.

Certainly there are additional goals that could be added to this list, but these objectives help guide me as I plan instruction for my students. In future posts, I will elaborate on strategies I use to implement these objectives. I would love to hear some of your goals and strategies as well, if you would like to share them.

As of tomorrow, a sign with these words will hang in my teacher’s cupboard to remind me of these objectives:

Be Memorizers

Be Studiers

Be Doers

Be Prayers

Be Equipped

Be Biblical