Jesus is…

Jesus invitingThe Scripture is full of truth about who Jesus is and what He has done. One verse of Scripture that I love is chock full of big truths about Jesus.

As believers, we need to study these truths and let them deepen our relationship with Jesus and call us to worship Him.

As teachers, we need to study these truths so that we gain a deeper understanding and so that we can teach them effectively to our students.

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (Hebrews 1:3)

This verse tells us a lot about Jesus, so let’s dig into it.

1. Jesus, the Son

Jesus is the Son of God. The writer of Hebrews starts his book with a passage about who Jesus is and what He has done.

He writes that God has spoken to us through His Son (vs. 1) whom He has appointed heir of all things and through whom He has created the universe (vs.2).

His choice of words reminds me of John chapter 1:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-4)

Jesus is God, the Son.

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.”  (Hebrews 1:3a)

This may seem like basic theology. But this is a huge, glorious truth that we need to put our faith in. When put our faith in Jesus we are trusting that He is the Son of God who saved us from our sin.

“In his very nature he was God. But he did not think that being equal with God was something he should hold on to. Instead, he made himself nothing. He took on the very nature of a servant. He was made in human form. He appeared as a man. He came down to the lowest level. He obeyed God completely, even though it led to his death. In fact, he died on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6)

2. Jesus Shows Off God’s Glory

He is the radiance or gleaming brightness of God’s glory. Again, these words make me think of John chapter 1:

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Glory means honor or excellent reputation. But the concept of God’s glory is bigger than that. Jesus came to this world and gave us a glimpse of the glory of God. Jesus lived a life that showed off how great God is!

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.”  (Hebrews 1:3a)

3. Jesus Uses His Powerful Word to Hold all Things Together

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” (Hebrews 1:3a)

The word ‘sustain’ means to hold things together, to keep them going, or to continually carry along all things. It’s not a one-time act; it’s an ongoing action. There’s the idea of bearing the weight of something or supporting it.

Jesus created all things and keeps them going by His powerful word. In Genesis we are told that God created the world by speaking it into existence. That word is powerful! In Hebrews we are told that not only did Jesus create all things, but He sustains all things.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-4)

4. Jesus Provided the Way for People to be Made Pure from Sin

After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (Hebrews 1:3b)

Jesus, through His death on the cross, took away the sins of the entire world.

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29

Purification means to make pure or to free from guilt. The amazing truth is the Jesus, the Son of God, made a way for us to be forgiven of our sin and have a relationship with God!

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1Peter 1:18-19)

5. When He Finished That He Went Back To Heaven To Sit Down Beside God, The Father, The King.

“After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (Hebrews 1:3b)

Being seated at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven means that the work of redemption is complete. Jesus is our living, mighty Savior! And He is in heaven interceding for us.

“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” (Hebrews 7:25-27)

Jesus is the perfect Son of God, Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Jesus, through His death and resurrection, provided purification for sin. Now, He is seated at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

That’s who Jesus is!

“In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:12-13)

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Cell Phones in Sunday School

Teenage Girl Sitting Outdoors Using Mobile PhoneRecently I was looking for a picture of a child reading on the stock photo site that I use. I got a good amount of photos to choose from. In the first row of options was a picture of a child “reading” from their phone.

Kids today have cell phones. Cell phones can be distracting, so it can be tempting for teachers to prohibit the use of cell phones in the classroom. However, people sometimes have their Bible as an app on their cell phone. So simply prohibiting their use is not the answer.

A better response would be to limit the distraction, but teach good Bible skills for cell phone users.

Limiting the Distraction

1. Create rules.

In order to limit the distraction that cell phones can be, you need to create some rules for using them in the classroom. It will be up to you and your students to create specific rules for your situations.

Here are some parameters that should be covered in the rules:

  • If a student has a cell phone, but not a Bible app, then the phone needs to be turned off and put away. Exceptions to the rule (ie. a child is expecting a call from their parents) should be dealt with by the teacher on a case by case basis.
  • If a student  has a cell phone with a Bible app, they may use it under these conditions:
    • the phone needs to be put on silent
    • when not using the Bible app, the phone needs to be face down on the table or under their chair.
  • There will be a consequence for breaking the rules. For example, “If your phone becomes a distraction it will be taken away until the end of class.”

2. Teachers should model proper cell phone use.

Teachers can become distracted by their cell phones as well. Make a point of leading by example.

  • Put your phone on silent.
  • Use only the Bible app (if you don’t have one, put your phone away.)
  • If you do have a Bible app, teach your students Bible skills for Bible apps.
  • Don’t be distracted by your phone as students are arriving or as they are leaving. Show them you care about them by being prepared and focused as they arrive.

Teach Bible Skills for Cell Phone Users

Students may not realize that using a Bible app still requires Bible skills. Continue to teach Bible skills for hard copy versions of the Bible. These skills are useful regardless of what type of Bible you use. Talk with your students about using a Bible app for Bible study.

Here are some topics for discussion:

1. The advantages and disadvantages of using a Bible app.

Some advantages include easier searching, the selection of versions available, the ability to compare versions. Some disadvantages include limited text on screen (esp. certain devices), loss of context, some difficulty in comparing texts (esp. if they are from different books of the Bible.)

2. Can you use both a Bible app and a hardcopy Bible?

You can use both. If you are looking at two different passages of Scripture you can look up one on your phone and one in your Bible. You can use a different version on your Bible app then the hardcopy Bible available as you study a passage. You can choose to use just the Bible app on your phone or just a hardcopy Bible or both.

3. How to Choose a Bible app

There are a lot of options when choosing a Bible app. This is an important discussion to have with your students.

When choosing an app:

  • Ask for help from your parents or your teacher.
  • Be aware that some apps are free and some cost money.
  • Some apps are not Bibles, but are devotionals, daily Bible reading plans, quotes, or trivia.
  • If you already have a Bible app, your teacher can review it with you.
  • Some apps have many versions; some apps are a single version.  If it is a single version, make sure it’s a version you are comfortable reading.
  • Different religions also have a bible. Watch for this when choosing an app.
  • Teachers, find some Bible apps that you can recommend to your students (if you don’t know any, find someone in your church who can help)
  • Don’t get distracted with the bells and whistles. Choose a Bible app for its content.

4.  How to Use a Bible app

Bible skills are Bible skills. They are transferable from hard copy to apps. Reinforce these skills with your students.  Also talk about using the bonus features of these apps, for example making use of reading plans, etc.

5.  How to Choose What Version of the Bible to Read in Your Bible app

This is an important discussion that includes educating your students and teaching discernment.

Talk about:

  • Translations versus paraphrases
  • Some versions available could be Catholic bibles, Jewish bibles, Morman bibles, etc.
  • Some versions include the Apocrypha
  • Some versions are more difficult to read.

Have some recommendations for your students of versions that your church uses or versions that are easier for students to read.

Cell phones are a reality in our Sunday Schools. Whether kids use a Bible or a Bible app, let’s continue to encourage Bible reading, Bible studying, and Bible skills! Our goal is the same–making disciples!

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Book Review – Rock-Solid Kids by Larry Fowler

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24

What attracted me most to this book was the tag line on the front cover – “Giving Children a Biblical Foundation for Life.”childrens-ministry-rock-solid-kids

Biblical literacy is very important to me so I was interested to see what the book had to say about it.

In the introduction, Larry Fowler outlines the purpose and format of his 142 page book.  “Those involved in children’s ministry must also build on the right foundation—and that is the primary concern of this book…Each chapter of this book starts with a Scripture passage—a ‘rock’ for your foundation. The Scripture passage specifically refers to children or ministering to them. Each chapter contains a thorough discussion of implications and applications. Together, the eight core chapters will give you eight ‘foundational rocks’—fundamental principles from God’s Word upon which to build your ministry.”

Larry Fowler discusses the importance of children’s ministry, the responsibility for children’s ministry, the content of children’s ministry, and the pattern for children’s ministry. He highlights a warning about ministering to children, allowing children to serve, the message for children’s ministry, and the opportunity of children’s ministry.

I loved this book! I would highly recommend it.

In his chapter on the content of children’s ministry, Fowler discusses the battle for balance. He discusses Biblical truth and application. I agree that a balance between these is really important. Start with Scripture and follow with application. He talked about Biblical truth, application, and relevance. He defined relevance as being how closely the biblical truth applies to a person’s life.

Although I agree wholeheartedly with the need for balance in our teaching, I did not agree with what he said about relevance. I think we need to be very careful about how we discuss relevance in relation to the Word of God. The Word of God is always relevant; we just may not see it. “The teacher’s task in application is to recognize and communicate Scripture’s relevance, rather than to make it relevant.” (Walton, Bailey, and Williford; Teach the Text)

I wonder if I just misunderstood Fowler’s use of the term relevant in this situation. I do agree with his ‘foundation rock’ for this chapter: “Scripture is the foundation of our content; relevance follows.”

My favorite chapter was chapter 7—A Clear Focus: The Message for Children’s Ministry.

“From infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:15

Fowler clearly defines what the gospel is and how we should share it with children. I appreciated his discussion about how we call children to respond to the gospel. “If we understand what the Bible says, then we won’t need a formula. Children, and everyone else, are saved by God’s grace through faith.

He goes on to say, “As presenters of the gospel message, we must focus children’s faith on the person and the work of Christ on the cross. Faith must be in Jesus’ death and resurrection…as presenters we have a responsibility to be as clear and biblically accurate as possible…So what do we do? Repeat the gospel over and over again. Reinforce it regularly. Let your awe of it show through.”

Building a children’s ministry on the foundation of God’s Word is vital and it can be done, whether you are starting from scratch or have been involved in children’s ministry for years. I recommend this book for parents, children’s ministry leaders and volunteers. I was encouraged when I read it and I think you will be too!

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My Book Recommendations for Your Classroom

There are certain books that I recommend all classroom have to enhance the learning experience for kids.Girl reading books.

1. Bibles

It’s important to have extra copies of kid-friendly Bibles in our classrooms. Have enough so that you can have Bibles available for kids who forgot to bring their and also so that you can give a Bible to a child who does not have one.

2. Bible Dictionaries

One reason why I love Bible dictionaries in the classroom so much is that they can be used by teachers to encourage students to discover the answers to their questions themselves.

Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary For KidsHolman Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids is hardcover, beautifully illustrated, and indexed for easy use. It includes reconstructions that show how building and cities may have actually looked in Bible times; illustrated charts such as foods in Bible times or tools of the Bible; Charts such as the names of God, musical instruments of the Bible; pronunciation guides; photographs; and definitions. This great resource is available for about $13 from amazon.ca

The Action Bible Handbook – A dictionary of people, places, and things. Vivid illustrations and kid-friendly explanations. A complete index is included so you can find just the topic you’re looking for.

3. Reference Books

These are any books that help the children understand that the people and events in the Bible are real. They are real people who lived in a real place. Look for books with maps, atlases, descriptions of life in Bible times.

The Amazing Expedition Bible by Mary Hollingsworth– contains 60 Bible stories told chronologically. Some features include an historical timeline showing the dates of Bible & non-Bible events, illustrations, history mystery and Bible mystery sections, special sections for Science, Technology & Growth, Daily Life, History & Politics, etc.

The New Kids Book of Bible Facts by Anne Adams – This book is full of facts, lists, details and trivia about life in Bible times. Sections on customs, daily living, education, government, occupations, travel, and warfare.

Thomas Nelson Publishers put out a series called Bible World. One book in the series is called Everyday Life in Bible Times: Work, Worship, and War. Another is called The Bible Story Begins: From Creation to Covenant.

Atlas of Bible Lands by Broadman Press is an illustrated atlas of the Bible including  terrain maps, photographs, city plans, diagrams, and a time chart of Bible history.

4. Storybook Bibles

Be selective of the storybook Bibles you have in your classrooms. Make sure students understand that they are not Bibles, they simply tell some of the stories of the Bible.

For preschool classrooms I recommend:

My Great Big God – 20 Bible Stories to Build a Great Big Faith by Andy Holmes. This board book contains delightful illustrations with one story per page. The reference for the story is included under the title. I love this storybook because it focuses on our great big God! Each story has a key theme: My great big God made everything! My great big God hears me when I pray! My great big God saves His people! My great big God gave us Jesus!

The Beginner’s Bible – contains more than 90 Bible stories with wonderful illustrations. The large font makes for easy reading.

The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm – This storybook is designed to help kids see the big picture of the Bible. The back says, “The Bible is a big book, about a big God, who keeps a big promise!” Includes an audio recording on 2 cd’s.

For elementary classrooms I recommend:

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones – this storybook Bible was written to highlight how everything in the Bible points to Jesus.

The Action Bible – God’s Redemptive Story – includes over 200 fast-paced narratives in chronological order. This comic book style storybook Bible will appeal especially to boys.

5. Missions Books

Include books in your classroom about missionaries and other parts of the world. I recommend:

Operation World by YWAM Publishing- the definitive prayer guide to every nation. This book includes information about every nation – population, languages, politics, missions activity. Highly recommended!

From Akebu to Zapotec – A Book of Bibleless Peoples by June Hathersmith – this book is available through Wycliffe Bible Translators. 26 people groups are highlighted in this book. Descriptions of where they live and what life is like for them are included. Great illustrations!

There are a series of books called Hero Tales by Dave & Neta Jackson that tell the story of Christians throughout history and around the world. These books don’t contain a lot of illustrations, but each story is short and kids can read them on their own or enjoy hearing the story read outloud.

There is a lot of great material out there, but you don’t need all of it in your classroom! Do your research and be selective. Carefully choose a few really good books for your classroom that will add fun and learning to your students Sunday School experience.

(The links above are affiliate links.)

 

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Teacher Training Video – Focus on Scripture

2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Tips for Making the Bible Central in your Class:

  1. When preparing your lesson, read through the Bible passage carefully.
  2. Then, be careful to teach what the Bible says, not what you want it to say.
  3. Ensure kids are using and reading their Bibles every lesson.
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