Friday, December 10, 2010

It has been awhile

Some people shouldn’t blog and I’m probably one of them. For one, I’m not a person that likes to talk when I’ve run out of things to do. Second, blogging is sort of like writing letters, I have more good intentions of writing them than I do of actual letters being written. So let me talk about what is happening on the website, because that comes fairly easily.

You may have noticed a number of new games along with audio being added to existing games. The addition of audio was actually a request from a website user and I do think it adds a new dimension to them. Without boring you to much about how the games are programmed let me give you a quick overview. All of the games were originally programmed in an application called Authorware. The company that owned Authorware was bought out by Adobe and Adobe decided to drop their support of the application. The games would probably continue to function for sometime but I decided to re-program them in Flash, which is very popular on the web and hopefully will be supported for a very long time. I have been using variations of these games for many years in my fourth grade Sunday school classroom and the kids love them. There are a couple of more games that are still in Authorware and during the coming year my intent is to convert them to Flash and put them on the website.

My current project is to enhance the Bible Talks lesson guides. When I originally put out the student guides I did so in great haste and have never really been happy with them. My goal is for the enhanced versions to have a better layout to make them more useful.

As always, my “To Do” list for the website is never ending so check back often to see what I’ve gotten accomplished. Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The pain of insult

None of us likes to be insulted because insults hurt. In some ways insults are like knives. Some knives are dull and won’t cut much, but others are so sharp that just brushing a finger against the blade will draw blood. Likewise, there are different types of insults, some that don’t bother us, but then there are others that cut deep. So what is it that makes some insults easy to bear and some insults hurt so bad that we carry their scars around our entire lives? I believe the answer to that question centers on one word; love. The degree to which an insult can inflict pain is directly related to the depth of our love. If someone we barely know, or a total stranger, says we are pathetic or worthless, it may hurt, but we might pass it off as a comment from someone that doesn’t really know us. But, if someone we love, whom we have known for a long time, says we are pathetic or worthless it cuts right to our heart and hurts as much as any pain we can experience in life. Insults are a form of rejection. It’s the use of words to inflict pain and injury and if you have ever been insulted by someone you truly love you know they are wounds that are slow to heal and hard to forgive.

Read these words describing the sufferings of Jesus found in Matthew chapter 27:37-44.

Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!"

In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, 'I am the Son of God.' "In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

When we remember the sufferings of Jesus we often focus on the physical pain of the cross and overlook the pain of Jesus being mocked and insulted. The degree to which an insult can inflict pain is directly related to the depth of love, and the depth of Jesus’ love was being demonstrated by his very presence on the cross. Each insult must have inflicted pain that reached deep into his heart because he was being rejected by his own creation, which he dearly loved. If you have ever been insulted by someone you care about, someone you love, you understand that pain. But maybe that very pain can serve as a reminder to you of how much you are loved, because Jesus willingly bore the pain of being mocked and insulted. And not only was he willing to bear the pain of insult but at the cross he freely forgave.

Reflect on these words from 1 Peter 2:22-24:

"He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”

Friday, August 6, 2010

Guest Book

One of the things I enjoy the most from the Creative Learning Ideas web site are reading the posts to the Guest Book.  Its always encouraging to hear how the web site is being used by people all over the world.
The web site is always a work in progress. I'm currently working on developing some interactive Old and New Testament maps. I'm thinking if I give myself a deadline I might be motivated to apply more effort to completing the project.  So here it is, my deadline for completing the maps is...............October 22, 2010. Just an arbitrary date but a motivator none the less. My prayer is that somehow your life will be blessed by the resources on the Creative Learning Ideas web site. 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Starting over

Have you ever missed your mouth while gulping a soft drink or sipping a cup of coffee? It's embarrassing, and it happened to me on my way to work a while back. There was no time to go home and change my clothes so I had to wear the stain on my nice pressed white shirt. All during the day I felt obligated to explain to everyone I met the story of my clumsiness. During our lives we all make mistakes, do things we're ashamed of, say things we regret. They are stains on our spiritual clothes. Wouldn't it be nice to erase those stains, change our spiritual clothes, start all over. It can happen. God's grace can remove anything, no matter how permanent the stain may appear. It's like being given a new identity and an opportunity for a clean fresh start. Wearing clean clothes is part of our daily routine, why not make it part of our spiritual lives?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Some consequences of sin

Sin has consequences. But one of the most devastating effects of sin is something that we can’t necessarily see with our eyes. It’s something that occurs on the inside of us, in our hearts. It may display outward symptoms just like a fever is a symptom of an inward infection. But the real problem is not on the outside, its on the inside. The devastating effects of sin which I’m talking about are guilt and fear.

Guilt and fear manifested itself almost immediately after sin entered the world. It caused Adam and Eve to cover themselves and to hide from the presence of God. And it is still the same today. Guilt and fear still causes us to try to cover up our sin and to avoid being in the presence of God. It may manifest itself outwardly by us no longer praying or ceasing to meet with other Christians. The barrier that sin places between us and God is the result of our own actions. Sin undermines and destroys our confidence to stand before our most holy God.

The world we live in offers an almost infinite number of ways for numbing the effects of guilt and fear. But the world in its wisdom has no answer for its removal. We are powerless, there is nothing that we can give to God to pay back for our disobedience, there is nothing we can say to God that will erase our actions, so we do what Adam and Eve did, we try our best to cover up our sin and we avoid being in His presence.

But God seeks us out, even though we may try to hide. He tells us he knows of our sin, even though we try to cover it up. He offers us a path back to him; even though we go astray. Listen to these verses from Hebrews 10:19-24:

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

The blood of Jesus renews our confidence to stand in the presence of God. The blood of Jesus cleanses our hearts and frees us from our guilty conscience. What we were powerless to do God accomplished by sending his Son into the world. The writer of Hebrews states that we have an advocate before God who understands our weaknesses and exchanges are guilt and fear for grace and confidence. He says: (Hebrews 4:14-16):

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ding…., I think they’re done!

The quizzes for each of the online lessons have been added. To be totally honest, I found creating the quizzes more an exercise in patience than a labor of love. Maybe it’s because I’ve never really enjoyed taking quizzes. My guess is that there are probably a few unintended errors in the quizzes which I didn’t catch while putting them together. I hope to review them over the next month, but if you discover any mistakes feel free to provide comments to this blog. If you are the type person that enjoys testing your knowledge I hope you will find these challenging enough.

So what’s next? I’m pondering several ideas, but adding some interactive maps for Old and New Testament people and events keeps popping into my brain. I’ll probably mull it over for awhile, but I’m already looking forward to jumping into the next project.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Amazing words

“The Word became Flesh”

Those are amazing words and I’m pretty sure we don’t spend enough time contemplating their significance.

But let me go one step further and express that same thing using slightly different words,…. “God the son became man.”

To help understand the significance of God becoming man we can reach back into the Old Testament to a time when Moses made a request of God. God asked a lot of Moses. He commanded that Moses lead the nation of Israel out of Egypt and guide them through the wilderness to the Promised Land. Moses wanted reassurance that God would teach him His ways and that the presence of God would accompany him and the Israelites on their entire journey. So Moses made a request of God which is found in Exodus 33, he said,

“Show me your glory."

God granted Moses’ request, but there were certain conditions. Those conditions weren’t to protect God but to protect Moses.

Exodus 33

And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."

Isn’t that amazing? The glory of God is such that man, in our present nature, cannot look upon the face of God and live. We are weak, He is strong. We are sinful, He is holy. We are created, He is eternal. But God in his love reached out to us “The Word became Flesh”, “God became man.”

Now realize that before Jesus entered this world he shared that same glory that Moses had to be protected from. Listen to these words from Philippians chapter 2 and think about what Jesus gave up to come into this world.

Philippians 2:6-8

Although Jesus existed in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Let’s remember and celebrate a love so great that Jesus was willing to leave the glory he shared with the Father and not only take on human form but suffer under the hands of his own creation.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The heart of the giver

If you’re like me when you hear the word giving you may think of:


And especially in our current economy you may worry about how much you should give and whether we can make our budgets, whether it be at home or at church. And while it may be tempting to focus our thoughts on the quantity of our giving I think it may be more important to focus our thoughts on the quality of our giving.

What I mean by that is that I believe the heart of the giver is more important to God than the gift of the giver. There is a well known verse in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 that refers to giving and the heart of the giver that sometimes we overlook: 1 Cor 13:3

“If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing”

God is more concerned with relationship then he is with budgets and balance sheets. He is more concerned about the quantity of love in our hearts then the number of dollars in our collection plate.

In the words of Jesus himself in Matthew 5:23

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift.”

Again we see, the heart of the giver is more important to God than the gift of the giver. That doesn’t mean that the gift we are giving is unimportant, because we do have budgets both at home and in the church, that require commitment, sacrifice, time and money. But as we give lets make sure that, first of all, our hearts are filled with love, and if we do that, I’m convinced that God will bless both the giver and the gift.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It is hard to forgive

Have you ever wondered WHY it is so hard to forgive others when they sin against us? Giving forgiveness is not an easy thing. Peter expresses this sentiment when he asks Jesus a question in Matthew 18:21:

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times!”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

The very nature of Peter’s question implies that giving forgiveness is not an easy thing. For Peter it was so hard that he wanted to know if there were limits to the forgiveness that he had to extend. But WHY is it so hard to forgive? Jesus gives us some insight to that question in the parable he tells immediately after Peter’s question.

He says, "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
"The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
"But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denari. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded.
"His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'
"But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
"Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
"This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

In this parable Jesus is giving us some insight as to WHY it is so hard to forgive others. When someone sins against us they are creating a debt. Jesus compares that debt to being owed money, which is something we can easily understand. But in most cases the debt incurred through sin deals with more than just money.

Let me give an example, say someone tells a hurtful lie about you to others. By telling that lie they are creating a debt, they owe you something and it may be more than just an apology. You see, by saying something hurtful they may be robbing you of your reputation, or that lie might cause you pain, it may steal your joy or hurt your relationship with others. When someone sins against you they have taken something from you that in many cases they can’t pay back. There is nothing they can do to erase those hurtful thoughts they have put in others minds, they can’t go back and remove the pain they have caused, they can’t make everything right. And when they ask you for forgiveness they are asking you to remove that debt, a debt that in most cases they have no way to pay back. Forgiving is not an easy thing to do.

Jesus’ parable ultimately tells us that the measure of forgiveness we receive from God is related to the measure of forgiveness we extend to others. How can we come before God begging and pleading for mercy while at the same moment turning a deaf ear to those around us who are desperately seeking our compassion.

Monday, April 12, 2010

God really is patient with me

One day Jesus was teaching in the temple and among those listening were some priests and Phaisees. And Jesus told a parable that offended them, so much so that they began looking for a way to arrest Jesus. You see, the parable Jesus told was about God’s judgement upon the priests and Pharisees and it angered them. But it is interesting when you look at the parable closely you will see that though it ends in judgement, the parable really illustrates God’s patience, persistence, and sacrificial love.

The parable is found in Matthew 21:33-41
The parable starts out with a landowner (God) who rents out a vineyard which he planted and built with his own hands. When harvest time came he sent servants to collect what belonged to him, his share of the fruit. But it says those living on the land:
Beat one
Killed another
And stoned a third

Note from vs. 41 that the landowner, from the very beginning, had the power to forcibly remove the tenants from the land but he chose not to. Instead he demonstrates patience and forbearance and sends even more servants than the first time. And we are told that the tenants treated these servants the same as the first group.
You would think that at this point the tenants have thoroughly demonstrated that they are wicked, greedy, and murderers and that the landowner (God) should just destroy them and wipe them off of his land. But no, his love and desire for them is overwhelming and he sends his son, hoping that they will respect and listen to him.
But the tenants take him outside the vineyard and kill him.
Now, it is somewhat easy to listen to this parable and pass our own judgement on those priests and Pharisees. From where we sit today it is pretty plain that God was reaching out to them over and over, even after they proved themselves to be sinners and it was they who rejected God.
But listen to these verses in Romans 5:6-8:

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possible dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Each one of us is a tenant in God’s vineyard. And each one of us has proven ourselves to be wicked, greedy, and murderers. Yet God in his patience, persistence, and sacrificial love has reached out to us through his son, who he sent into this world

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Thought

Have you ever thought about how many hours you have spent in your life-time sitting in a church worship service? Add to that the number of hours you may have spent in a Bible class, and reading your Bible, and praying. Then add to that all the hours you have spent in ministry or ministering to others. It’s probably a lot of hours, a large portion of your life.

What would you think if I told you that you’ve wasted your time, that all of those hours meant nothing… unless, at the core of your faith there is a belief in one important event.
That one event, that has special significance on Easter Sunday, is the resurrection of Jesus.
The apostle Paul said this one event was at the core of his preaching. In 1 Cor 15 he states:
"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…."
Paul goes on to say to his listeners, some of which, doubted the resurrection.
"If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith …. and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins."
I want you to use your imagination for a minute. Pretend that your faith in Christ is like a house. Each little fact or bit of knowledge that you have about Jesus is like a brick, or a board, or a shingle. As you look at your house of faith imagine that the little bricks and boards and shingles are laid out in such a way that the most important are at the bottom and the least important are at the top. Now, using your imagination I want you to rip the roof off your house. Strip off all of those shingles that represent some of the least important facts you believe about Jesus, and those shingles are probably different for each one of us this morning.
Again, using your imagination, I want you to get a hammer and start knocking out the boards and bricks of the upper stories of your house. If you have been a Christian a while this may take a long time because your house may have many floors. You may even need a large sledge hammer, but I want you to keep knocking away all the support beams and load bearing walls that allow your house to stand.
Keep at it until all of those boards and bricks and shingles are just a pile of rubble. Now, haul all of that rubble away, so that all that is left is the foundation of where your house used to be.
Finally, I want you to look carefully at the foundation of your house. I want you to examine it and realize that it represents the most important thing that you believe and know about Christ. My hope is that as you look at your foundation, and I look at mine, we are united in what we see. The same thing Paul saw when he looked at his.
That Christ died for our sins
That he was buried
That he was raised on the third day

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cartoon History

Most of the cartoons on the Creative Learning Ideas web site were created between 1995 and 2000 on a Mac SE computer. I've lost track of the number of times they have been converted to different file formats. Starting about 10 years ago I began adding color to the existing drawings and creating new cartoons for Old Testament stories. I originally called the cartoon series Sunny Side Up and every cartoon had the image of the sun above a cloud. The sun and cloud images have eventually disappeared from most of the cartoons (though some still remain) and lacking a better name I just call them Cartoon Devotionals.

I've started creating cartoons for events in the New Testament, but alas, that is another project on my want to do's. If you haven't taken the time to look at the cartoons I hope you will because in addition to the humor there are some heart felt personal thoughts that I hope will bless your life.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Coming Soon

“Coming Soon” can mean a lot of things. Biblically speaking, it could be a day or a thousand years. But “Coming Soon” to the Creative Learning Ideas web site are quizzes for each of the online Bible lessons. They are actually in-work but probably won’t be added to the web site until all of them are complete. So how do I define “Coming Soon”? My hope is to have all of the quizzes complete and programmed by June of this year. But if my “Coming Soon” projection needs to be revised I’ll try to provide an update “As soon as I can”:)

Monday, March 15, 2010

First Thoughts

The Creative Learning Ideas web site has been online for over 5 years. If you are a repeat visitor you’ve probably noticed that the look of the web site changes about as often as the weather. It’s not that I can’t make up my mind, it’s just that I keep changing my mind….really often. One of the purposes of this blog will be to provide a heads-up about upcoming changes and allow me to share some thoughts about the web site, and maybe life in general. The Creative Learning Ideas web site is my outlet for creativity so I’m constantly thinking about things to add that may be useful for personal Bible study or for Sunday school teachers. I’m always open to new ideas, so feel free to share.