teaching


Ethel was a Bible teacher at Special Gathering.  Additionally, she wrote many books for the mentally challenged community and they were published in our monthly newsletter.  Ethel and I shared a passion for writing and Special Gathering.  Therefore, we became good friends through our shared ministry concerns.  In addition, we both excelled at “going to lunch” and we practiced that part of our friendship often.

Ethel wrote for our monthly newsletter “Connecting Point,” and she was incredibly faithful in her efforts.  Even after she moved to Volusia County, Ethel always met our deadlines; and she wrote with great skill and feeling for the special needs population.
As a Bible teacher, Ethel could not be matched.  She taught the Scriptures with a keen eye for truth and clarity.  Her class was a verse-by-verse discussion study for our readers.  It has become the model for our leadership and readers classes.
My first view of Ethel came 22 years ago through Sarah, her daughter who was mentally challenged.  It was my first year at Camp Agape, our annual ministry retreat.  Sarah was my bunk mate.  I had the top bunk and she had the bottom.
On Sunday afternoon, after two days of camp, I thought I was too tired to climb to the top bunk.  Therefore, I decided to lay on Sarah’s bottom bed, thinking that she would never notice or understand.  I was wrong!
Sarah came into the cabin and jumped me.  “Get off my bed,” she insisted. “You can’t get on my bed!”  Ethel had taught Sarah well.  It is vital for our population to understand their rights and Sarah knew that I was an intruder and she wasn’t intimidated by me.  Ethel treated Sarah as an adult, and she allowed Sarah the dignity of being valued for being a child of the Lord.
One year, in touring our campgrounds, Ethel asked Sarah what she liked best about camp.  Immediately, Sarah said, “Pool.”
Shocked, Ethel said, “You don’t know how to play pool.”  Sarah walked over to the pool table and demonstrated to her mother that she certainly did know how to play the game.  Ethel laughed, “Guess she showed me.”
Ethel was never willing to compromise her faith.  Yet, she shared the message of Jesus with compassion and great love.  Her greatest legacy is her faith in Christ and love for all people but especially for the men and women who knew and loved her through her ministry within the mentally challenged community.

Some of the most active entries on this blog is our devotion that appears  each Sunday.  I get feedback from people who enjoy the devotion who don’t share it with anyone.  Others tell me that they use the devotion occasionally to teach or share with a group.  This week, I wanted to share one about two of my favorite subjects–the resurrection and my mother.

He Is Alive

Matthew 28:6

Central Theme:  Jesus is not dead; he is alive.

Introduction–Tell the story from Matthew 28:1-15  Two  women were coming.  There was an earthquake.  An angel appeared.  The stone was rolled away.  The soldier saw the angel.  They fainted  The women came up and the angel told them.  He is Alive!  Go! Tell the disciples.”  As they went back to the disciples, Jesus appeared.   Have a member read Matthew 28:6

I.     Before my mother died I struggled with my prayers for my mother.

  • A. She was an amazing woman, the best Christian I ever met.
  • B. I love her and I will miss her everyday.
  • C. But when she died, she went to be with Jesus.

1.  That will makes her happy.

II.     Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we have great hope.

  • A. I know that Jesus lives.
  • B. I know that Jesus has taken the stringer out of death.
  • 1.  Did you know that when a bee stings, it looses its stinger and dies
  • C. Jesus took the stinger from death and we don‘t have to worry anymore.

III.     Jesus was alive and the women knew it.

1.  His resurrection changed their lives.

Conclusions:  Jesus’ resurrection changes our lives, too.

We all understand that our federal government is divided into three co-equal branches.  There is the executive branch, the legislative and the judicial branches.  The purpose of these three branches of government is to insure that the people of the US receive justice.  You see, very few people (masses or individuals) are just.  We tend to see things through the biases with which we have been raised and in which we live.

During the history of the Jewish people, especially during the time of Ezekiel, the nation God had chosen was being punished because they were wicked.  In fact, Ezekiel tells us that they were so evil that they thought God was the one who was bad.  In reality, we all live with a hint of that suspicion dwelling in our minds and seeping into our hearts.

Before I became a parent, I thought my mother and father were mean and hateful.  Then I had children; and I understood that they were simply trying to mold us into mature adults.  In fact, I often think that they were kind of soft on us.  I know of other parents who decided that they would be harder on their children because their parents were too easy.  “I thought my folks were tough but I’ve realized that they were wimps,” one neighbor confessed, while nursing a steaming cup of coffee.

The reality is that we cannot understand God.  Therefore, because his actions are so foreign to us, we think that God is mean.  The executive director and pastor of The Special Gathering often says that we can only see things through our own perspective.  That means that we understand what is happening from the way we see it.

Even though, it’s a hard lesson, we must learn to trust God and believe that His way is right no matter what happens.  Years ago, I was taking my children to the beach.  Usually, I would put the car keys in my pocket and lock my pocketbook in the trunk.  That day, scruffling to get everything out to the ocean, I forgot to lock my car and my purse up.

That night, I went to the car to get something out of my pocketbook and realized that my purse was gone.  I climbed back into the car, attempting to re-track my steps.  All the time I was driving, I was doing spiritual battle with myself.  That day, while sitting at the beach, watching my children play, I had promised the Lord that when bad things happened, I would no longer blame Him but I would realize that I was to blame and take on the guilt for my mistakes.

Prior to this day, my carnal logic was that because I turn everything over to the Lord, He should keep me from doing stupid things.  Of course, it’s not godly thinking but it was my thinking.

As I scouring the community for my pocketbook that had our checkbook, credit cards and pretty much all of our financial lifeblood in it, I kept struggling with myself to acknowledge that God was not to blame for this problem.  Again and again, I would say out loud, “Lord, I know this isn’t your fault.  I know that I lost the pocketbook, not you.”  My mouth was saying one thing but my heart wanted to scream “God, why did you let this happen to ME?”  Finally, I said, “Lord, it doesn’t matter how I feel.  I know that you are not to blame.  I made the mistake.  I am to blame.  I will not blame you.”

As I walked into the door from my desperate searching, the phone was ringing.  “This is the Rockledge police department.  We have your pocketbook.  Can you come and get it?”  That night I experienced a clear act of God’s mercy and grace.  I learned to not blame God for my mistakes.  God is not responsible for my goofing up.

As a merciful bonus, I only had $.47 in my wallet.  The thieves took the money.  Then they tossed everything into the bushes on a lonely, almost deserted road.  A car behind them happened to see them toss the pocketbook.  He stopped, retieved my purse and took it to the police department.  Nothing was missing.  None of the credit cards had been used.

The Lord used this driver, even a couple of thieves to teach me a valuable lesson about His justice.  Because we are people who do not really understand what is right, we need God to help us understand.  Many times he uses other people to teach us about his loving and just ways.

As a child I could not memorize.  I could learn, of course, but anything that had to be memorized was a loss for me.  For years I wanted to learn the names of the disciples but I felt it was too hard.  Then one day I decided that I was going to do it.  I worked out a system that seemed easy.  Even though, my brother tells me that I can make even the simpliest things difficult, this system works for me.  Perhaps it will help you also.

I began with the first book of the New Testament:  Matthew

From the word, Matthew, I created an acrostic of the names of three disciples that are often over looked and are the hardest for me to remember.  Using the first four letters of Matthew’s name, I learned the first four disciples:

1.  Matthew

2.  Andrew

3.  Thaddeus

4.  Thomas

Then I listed all the “J” names because they were the easiest to recall.  I arrange them in alphabetical order:

5.  James (the brother of Jesus)

6.  James the Lesser

7.  John

8.  Judas

There are two Simons:

9.  Simon the Zealot

10. Simon Peter

That only leaves two disciples:

11. Bartholemew

12. Philip

Even if this system doesn’t seem to be easy for you , my method might jar your brain into figuring out a method that works for you.  Using this system, I was able to teach my class of adults who are mentally challenged all the names of the disciples in about three weeks.  Of course, you will have to review them pretty often to keep the name sealed in your brain.  Yet with this method, you will have several memory hooks to hang the names in your brain.  Happy memorizing!

Recently, I began teaching a Bible class for higher function adults who are mentally challenged.  I am currently teaching them the books of the New Testament.  Most of us who have been in church for years know more about the Bible than we imagine.  This week, our class learned about half of the books in the New Testament.  Here are come cues to help you learn the New Testament books in the Bible.

First, there are the four gospels.  They are

  • Matthew
  • Mark
  • Luke
  • John

After the resurrection, Jesus ascended to heaven and the church was built by the

  • Acts of the Apostles

Then we have recorded, the letters from Paul.  They are divided into two segments–letters to cities and letters to young pastors and friends.  The first three Pauline letters are easy because they are longer in length and many people teach and preach from them.  They are:

  • Romans
  • I Corinthians
  • II Corinthians

After this there are four books that almost no one remembers.  However, there is an easy acronym that will help remember.  It is General Electric Power Company.

  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians

We already know that Revelations is the last book of the New Testament.  We have now learned 13 of the 27 books.  There are only 14 left.  Dividing Paul’s letters will again make things easier.  First, there two more letters written to cities.

  • I Thessalonians
  • II Thessalonians

Now there are four letters written to his friends.  Again, it’s easy to remember because the first two are written to his adopted son:

  • I Timothy
  • II Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon

Philemon is the only one that may be difficult to remember.  However, since it is the only one that will be difficult, you will simply need to remember it.  The next letter is disputed as to who wrote the letter.  Many believe it is Paul.  Therefore, it makes it easier to remember.  The book is

  • Hebrews

The other letters are written by well-known apostles.  James, Peter and John and Jude.  The main thing is to remember the order of these books.  I recall them backwards.  John wrote the three letters and Revelation.  Jude is stuck in between the two John letters because there are some disputes about the true author of the epistles (another word for letters).  Here are the final books in order:

  • James
  • I Peter
  • II Peter
  • I John
  • II John
  • III John
  • Jude
  • Revelation
That’s all 27.  Teaching yourself is simple.  Adding a small set each week, you can also teach your Bible class the books of the New Testament.

Inbred within us resides a desire to be in control of our own lives.  Often, when children are playing,  an argument will begin or end with one child yelling,  “You don’t control me.”

Prisons are designed to control people.  They are the ultimate punishment in an attempt to bring someone under submission to the will of to society’s rules and regulations.  Often in the Scriptures, a Biblical hero will find himself in jail.

Whether the punishment is justified or unjustified, there are two important things that no one can control in your life.  They are

1.  What we think, and

2.  Who we worship.

While these two areas will determine a great deal about me, I am totally in control of both of them.  No matter how dominate another person may be, he or she will never be able to totally control my thought life or before whom I bow as my God.

Much of how we think is determined by our past.  Years ago, my friend, Jesse, and I were driving along the ocean.  One condo was beautifully landscaped.  I commented about the beautiful flowers and lush flora.  Jesse and her husband had been the manger of a large condo complex for about five years.  She looked at me as though I had lost mind.  “It looks a lot of work to me,” she said in an angry, almost resentful tone.  Her job at the condo had been to keep the landscaping weeded and blooming.  For me, the rich and colorful garden that surrounded the buildings were exquisite.  For Jesse, they brought back long hours of never-ending work under the unrelenting Florida sun.

Yet, the past is not always an accurate predictor of outcomes.  We have all heard of people who lived plush lives, handed every convenience who turn to passion or crime as a mere diversion.  Yet, another man or woman will come from the most horrid circumstances.  These mistreatments only serve to spur ahead the resolve of this person to live godly and holy lives of kindness,  generosity and love.

At this point, I believe who we worship becomes a determining factor.  If our worship is wrapped in the flimsy gauze of self-love, our thinking will be distorted and shallow.  However, if we dig deep into the wells of true godly purity, our whole being will become reseviors of humility, honor and mercy.  A good friend came from a distressful childhood.  Unwanted and despised by her mother, she struggles today battling bouts of overwhelming depression.  Nevertheless, this woman is a beacon of love and joy for all who know her because of her determination to overcome her deficiencies with a desperate love for Jesus.

What we think and who we worship becomes who we are.  Who is your God?  And what are your routine thoughts?  How much would replacing godly thoughts change your life?

A sacristy

The other day I received the key to a local church where The Special Gathering main office is located.  Because the sanctuary has been recently remodeled, new keys had to be made.  The key was labeled “The sacristy.”  I thought the person who labeled the key had misspelled the word sanctuary.

Later, I looked up the word and found that a sacristy is a small room usually off the sanctuary where vestments, church records and sacred vessels are kept.  The Special Gathering office is located immediately off the sanctuary in this church.  Our office would be considered part of the sacristy by someone who is not familiar with the inner workings of this local congregation.

I laughed at myself that I was stumped by this word that was new to me.  However, the situation introduces a common problem for the mentally challenged community–reading the English language.

Reading is always problematic for our members who are mentally challenged.  Even good readers may stumble while reading a difficult Bible passage or part of their lesson.  At Special Gathering, our readers’ classes are important learning grounds.  Most often, it is our leadership who attend these classes.

If you ask your members to read, there are a couple of things that you might want to be aware.

  1. Helping with correct pronunciation is almost always appreciated.
  2. Depending on the reading level of the class, I will sometimes move from student to student as they take turns reading.  In this way, if I need to help someone, he is not embarrassed because I’ve moved from person to person.  This makes his need for correction less obvious.
  3. I find that moving my finger under the words as the person reads may be helpful.
  4. I often pronounce the word quietly, thereby, not highlighting the problem.

Helping our readers is vital because we need to be sure that they are reading the passage correctly.  However, it is equally important to preserve their dignity.

What are some of the ways you have learned to help in reading situations?  Are there other disability issues which could be sensitive to the feelings of members?

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