Monday, March 17, 2014

Communion Thoughts

Jesus told a parable of 2 men. In some ways these 2 men were very much alike. They both believed in God, they were both men of prayer, and one day they both went to the temple. But at the end of that day, after they had left the temple, one man was right with God, the other wasn’t. One man left the temple justified by God, the other left the temple in the same state that he arrived.

The parable that Jesus told can be found in Luke chapter 18 verses 9-14.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

When we gather around the Lord’s table to take communion it is a time to examine ourselves. It is a time that we should seek to be justified by God, not to justify ourselves to God. It’s a time for honest reflection. But honesty comes with a price and it is a price that some people are unwilling to pay.

Honesty means that we are willing for the light of God to shine into our lives exposing every wayward and misaligned thought and attitude of the heart. And the price that we must be willing to pay for that light to shine in our hearts is our pride. We must let go of any self-righteous hope that deceives us into believing that somehow we can be good enough, or even worse yet, are already good enough to stand justified in the presence of God based on our own works.

Letting the light of God shine into our hearts is a humbling experience. And when the light shines the brightest into the darkest areas of our lives it leaves us like the tax collector, standing at a distance, with our head down, uttering the only words that we have to offer, “God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

As we gather around the Lord’s table, it Should be a time of honest reflection, but it is also Should be a time of remembrance. Remembering that God hears our pleas for mercy. Remembering it is God who lifts our heads, draws us close into his presence, and justifies us through the death, burial and resurrection of His son.
So through reflection, we come to the Lord’s table humbled. Through remembrance, we leave the Lord’s table renewed in our confidence that we have been cleansed of our sins.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Thoughts on being thankful

One day a group of people came to Jesus.  They all shared something in common. 
They were desperate.
They were despised and rejected.
They were hopeless and they came to Jesus in search of hope.
There were 10 of them to be exact and the disease they all shared was leprosy.  They came to Jesus for healing and he instructed them to show themselves to the Priests, and an amazing thing happened on their way, they were cleansed.  They came to Jesus in search of hope and they found it. They came to Jesus unclean and they were healed. They came to Jesus broken and Jesus made them whole.
But an even more amazing thing happened after they were healed. Nine out of the ten men failed to return to Jesus to give him the only thing they had to offer in return for their lives being restored, a simple thank you. What happened?
Did they forget how desperate their lives were?
Did they not realize who the source of their healing was?
Did they take this gift of healing for granted?
Or were they just ungrateful?
It’s hard to imagine any good reason for them to fail to return to Jesus with a simple Thank you.
Let’s update the story a bit.
One day a group of people (me and you) came to Jesus and we all had the same thing in common.
We were desperate.
We were living apart from God because of our sin.
We were hopeless and we came to Jesus in search of hope.

We came to Jesus for healing and an amazing thing happened to us. We were cleansed. We were healed. We came to Jesus in search of hope and we found it.  We came to Jesus broken and he has made us whole.
I think there are several questions that are always waiting to be answered:
Will we remember how desperate our lives were?
Will we remember the source of our healing?
Will we realize how great a gift we have been given?
Will we approach God and offer to Him the only words we have in return for our lives being redeemed.
A simple Thank you.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A few things I have learned

Most all of the games and online lessons on this web site have been “kid tested” in the classroom. For the last 25 years I have taught a 4th grade “Through the Bible in a Year” curriculum. Many of the games were developed to support this curriculum and have been modified because of feedback and experience with my students. The games can be run from the internet, if a connection is available, or downloaded to a PC and run without an internet connection. Here are some of the lessons I have learned through the years that have shaped these resources:

1. When launching the games leave the team names blank, the team names will default to Team 1 and Team 2. I have found it difficult to come up with a consensus on a team name if the teams are larger than 3 or 4 students and it’s always good to avoid arguments on the front end.

2. Allow students to discuss their answer with other team members when it’s their turn. Even though that student is ultimately responsible for providing the answer, allowing discussion keeps everyone involved.

3. Allow students to pass their turn to another team member if they are uncomfortable. This is particularly true for guests who may not have much exposure to the Bible.

4. Choose a game that fits with the lesson topic. I most often choose games that cover the same content as the lesson.

5. Don’t allot more than 20-30 minutes to play a game, leave them wanting more. Normally I play the games at the end of class.

6. Use a variety of methods for dividing into teams so students aren’t on the same team each week.

7. Don’t give out prizes.

8. Only play games if time allows and the students have participated constructively in the lesson.

9. If you make a rule make sure it is understood before the game begins, and if you make a rule keep it.

10. Have fun and laugh a lot, it’s always contagious.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A box of chocolates

In my Sunday morning class I love to encourage discussion. But asking an open ended question to a group of fourth graders is like the proverbial box of chocolates, you just never know what you are going to get. This past Sunday our topic was the book of Judges. My open ended question to the class was, “Who or what comes to your mind when you think of a famous judge?”

Now, being in a Bible class I’m thinking maybe I’ll get a Samson or Gideon answer. But I realize I did not specify a judge in the Bible, so I’m ready for Judge Judy or a general answer such as a person that wears a robe and sits in a courtroom. So I wasn’t quite prepared when the first answer I received was Jennifer Lopez. Those of you who are up on your pop culture are probably thinking that was a great answer, but I have to admit it took me a while to connect the dots. My light bulb did eventually illuminate when I remembered that Jennifer Lopez replaced Paula Abdul as a judge on American Idol. Opening the box of chocolates with my fourth grade class almost always makes me smile.

It also serves to remind me that even though my ship hasn’t sailed totally over the horizon yet, the gap between me and my fourth graders is getting wider. The things that shaped my experience growing up are different than the things shaping our kids today. In the midst of all this change it is comforting to realize that one thing will never change. God’s love is the same yesterday, as it is today, and will be tomorrow.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Behind the scenes

If you are a repeat visitor to the Creative Learning Ideas web site it may appear that very little has changed recently. Actually there is a lot going on, but it may be in an area of the web site that you may not use.

For the last month or two I have been enhancing the Online Lessons. I’ve changed the format to a flip-book presentation. All of the lessons have been converted to this new presentation format and now I am going back and adding the ‘icing on the cake’. The icing includes small Video Snippets, Tic Tac Toe Review games, and Before or After questions. These are cosmetic enhancements but my hope is it will make the lessons more engaging and interactive. My guess is that it will take about 6 months to complete these enhancements.

I’ve mentioned it in past posts but I really do appreciate the comments being left on the Guestbook. It’s encouraging to know others are finding the resources on the web site useful. If you get a chance leave me a note, no personal information is required and I don’t collect email addresses. In particular, I like to hear what resources on the web site are most useful to you. I use this feedback to decide where to make my next enhancements.

Until my next post, may God bless you in His service.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Brain teasers and riddles

Over the years of teaching a 4th grade Bible class on Sunday mornings I have discovered that the start of class, as the kids are entering the room, is the most challenging. They are usually full of energy ready to do “something”. Channeling that energy into an activity that doesn’t necessarily involve running, throwing, or loud voices can be difficult. I have tried many things without success until I accidently stumbled on an activity that involves their brains instead of physical activity. As they enter the room I give them a ‘brain teaser’ or ‘riddle’. For some reason that I don’t fully understand, the kids love them. I have been using the same set of riddles for about 4 years now. The kids pick up their riddle as they enter the room, sit down and start thinking. When they think they know the answer they will come up and whisper it in my ear. I didn’t design that arrangement, it just happens, year after year.

After all the students arrive, and class formally starts, we reveal the answer; at which point I collect the paper the riddles are written on and begin my lesson. They can take a riddle with them at the end of class, which most of them do to share with their family.

I have incorporated these riddles into the Class Newsletters that I have added to the web site (Newsletters/Worksheets Heading). The Class Newsletters also have a Bible name picture puzzle, memory verse, and fun facts. These Newsletters can be used ‘as is’ or can be downloaded and modified with Word. I hope you will find these as useful as I have.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Up with Downloading

I can’t believe my last post was in December and it is already February. If you visit the web site regularly hopefully you noticed some very significant changes. You can now download all of the games and lessons to your local computer. You might ask, “Why didn’t you do that before now?” Here are some of my reasons:

1. I rationalized that if people downloaded the games and lessons they would have no reason to return to the web site. After much thought and prayer I came to the conclusion that my ultimate goal is to provide resources useful to Bible teachers and students. I realized that the resources on the web site were only useful when there was an internet connection available. Even though this is becoming more common, there are still plenty of church buildings and classrooms that do not have access. Surprisingly, traffic on the web site has actually increased since making the downloads available….go figure.

2. Another reason I haven’t made these available is that I was afraid people would turn around and try to sell these free resources to others. I have resisted the temptation to commercialize the web site (there was actually about 1 week where I had an online store link which has since been removed). The best defense against this is for everyone to spread the word about these free resources. If everyone knows about them, then who would pay for something that they can get for free? Remember, it’s more blessed to give than to receive.

3. The last reason is purely selfish. Each game, lesson, or cartoon represents a part of me and sometimes it’s just hard to let go. Now that they can be downloaded and shared I have almost no control….which in this case is a good thing. My prayer is that these resources will bless someone’s life, no matter what path they may take.

Thanks for reading my ramblings and I hope you are one of those who have been blessed. Until next time….whenever that might be.