Super Easy Scripture Slides and Images

I recently stumbled upon a fast and free way to make Scripture slides for Children’s Ministry (or any other ministry, for that matter) with an array of free and attractive backgrounds.

And it may already be in your phone/device.

It’s built into one of the popular apps out there – the free YouVersion app of the Bible (they’re not paying me to post this, btw 🙂 I just really like this feature and want to share about it).

I was using the app recently and saw a button I had never seen before. So I clicked on it. What I found was amazing. It was an option to make an image of any selected Bible verse over any background of your choice (your own or from their library). The settings make it easy to change the font, the font size, the colors, etc. Below are some steps and pics to show you how to do it.

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  1. First, download the app. Search “youversion” on your app store.
  2. Once you familiarize yourself with how to find a certain verse (which is intuitive), select a verse by tapping it. It will underline the verse with a dotted line and then give you a selection of options on the right.
  3. Then tap on the orange button (of a photograph), which will lead you through the step-by-step editing process.
  4. Once you have your slide, share it as you like! See the images below for a more detailed look at how it works.
Tap a verse you want to turn into a slide. It will underline it will dotted lines. Then click on the orange button on the right - the one with the image of a photograph.
Tap a verse you want to turn into a slide. It will underline it will dotted lines. Then click on the orange button on the right – the one with the image of a photograph.
Select an image from their gallery. Or you can use your own (the very first option).
Select an image from their gallery. Or you can use your own (the very first option).
Use the options under the image to change the font, size, and color of the verse.
Use the options under the image to change the font, size, and color of the verse.
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When you’re ready, tap “save.” Then you will see this image. Tap the “share” button to see your sharing options.

Then you can share the image by email, message, or social media. You can also save the image to your device and hence drop it into any slide show you are making (such as Keynote or ProPresenter).

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I love to use it to share a quick verse on social media or as a slide when I’m speaking or teaching about the Bible. It’s super easy to use and best of all, it’s free!

Bonus: Many of the most popular Bible verses (John 3:16, for example) have special pre-made images with artsy fonts and backgrounds. Those are fun to discover and you just have to stumble upon them when you go to those verses and then go to this “edit image” process.

Want more creative ideas for Children’s and Family Ministry? Sign up for my free newsletter here.

Need a speaker/entertainer for your next event? Check out my promo videos here.

Here are some slides I’ve made since I found out about this……

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The Interrobang as a Metaphor for the Hypostatic Union

If you have no idea what that title means, that’s OK. It is actually fairly simple to explain those weird words, which I will attempt to do. The “hypostatic union” is an important theological concept to understand about the person and work of Jesus Christ. It basically says that Jesus Christ is one person, two natures (divine and human). The interrobang is a punctuation symbol that I believe is a helpful metaphor to understand the hypostatic union.

The interrobang is a lesser known punctuation mark. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a punctuation mark ‽ designed for use especially at the end of an exclamatory rhetorical question” (“Interrobang,” Merriam-Webster). This means that it unites both the symbol and function of the exclamation point and the question mark into one character. For example, instead of “You lost the dog?!” it is also acceptable (and more economical) to write, “You lost the dog‽”  In fact, you can still see the shape of both the exclamation point and the question mark in the interrobang as the two characters are superimposed on one another. Here is a larger look at how they merge:

! + ? =

This is a visual metaphor for the hypostatic union. This is the theological doctrine that Jesus Christ is simultaneously fully God and fully man. In Christ, the two natures (divine and human) are united into one person (hypostasis) (McGrath, 1998, 56; Oden, 1992/2001, 165). This can be a potentially difficult point to explain to children (and adults as well). But when a simple visual metaphor such as the interrobang is used, the ability to grasp the concept is increased. Not only that, but it also helps learners experience and understand what for them may be a new spiritual reality in their hearts and minds, which ideally helps them draw closer to God. This is the generative nature of metaphors in spiritual formation.

Note that in the interrobang neither the exclamation point nor the question mark are absorbed or lost into the other. The reader can still clearly make out the fullness of each punctuation mark – and they are artfully merged to co-exist in one typographical character. So also is the character/person of Jesus Christ. He is one person who embodies the union of total divine nature and total human nature. Just as you can make out the entire exclamation point and entire question mark in the interrobang at the same time, so also does Jesus have the entirety of divinity and the entirety of human nature at the same time (John 1:14; Phil 2:6-11; Col 2:9, 3:15-20). The author of Hebrews adds that though he was like us in every way (human nature), he had no sin (Heb 4:15). That is because he was also fully God and it is impossible for God to sin (James 1:13; Heb 6:18; Psalm 92:15).

Why is the hypostatic union such an important concept? It has to do with the very foundations of Christianity – salvation by grace through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. If Jesus was merely a man and not God, then he would be less than perfect and his sacrifice would not be sufficient to atone for sins against a perfect and holy God. If Jesus was God and not also human, then he would not be able to offer himself on behalf of humans (human sin against God demands that the atonement must also come from a human – see Anselm’s argument at The Christian History Institute).

What do you think about the interrobang‽ Is it a helpful metaphor? What are some other metaphors that may help us better understand the hypostatic union?

 

Works Cited:

“Interrobang.” Merriam-Webster. online article. http://beta.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/interrobang (accessed December 17, 2015).

McGrath, Alister E. Historical theology: An introduction to the history of Christian thought. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998.

Oden, Thomas C. The word of life: systematic theology: volume two. Peabody, MA: Prince, 2001.

 

Remembering the Sabbath


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IMG_5123Last week was a very busy week. There was office work, family obligations, booking events, and the ongoing process of fixing up our old house. And right now we are fixing up the kitchen! It will be great when it is done, but the process can seem long and laborious. So I try to find every free and waking minute in order to work on the kitchen.

The problem is that after a full week of normal work, normal life, AND fixing up a kitchen, I was completely exhausted.

I told Sarah that I wanted to take a Sabbath on Sunday and not do any work-related stuff. In fact, we planned to go on a family walk at a nearby park. Needless to say, Sarah was thrilled. And we spent the day worshiping at church, visiting friends and family, and going on our anticipated family walk.

It was exactly what we ALL needed. When I was in college, I would work like crazy, often not taking a legitimate day off each week. One of my close friends was a top student who worked very hard but he never did any work on Sundays (or whichever day he chose as his day off). I was amazed because he was so good at school but still found time to take off and refresh himself. His example made an impression on me. So I have tried to take at least one day off out of every seven days since college. It is not always the same day of the week since my life schedule changes from week to week. But I have realized that without a Sabbath, I actually become less productive in life, which means that working too much can ironically become counter-productive.

I believe that God made us to bring Him glory. One way we do that is through work. But work is not everything. Even God rested on the seventh day after making the universe. Think about that. God took a break. He’s God after all. Does He NEED to take a break from work?

When Monday morning came around, I was refreshed and ready to tackle another busy week. I’m so glad made us this way – to need and enjoy the Sabbath. I look forward to the work I get to do, but I also look forward to Sabbath breaks!

Hebrews 4:9-11, ESV

9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. 11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

The Power of Juggling

pins-33936_1280In my most recent newsletter (which you can access here), I told the story of how I had done a show for a high school where just days before I came one student stabbed another in the middle of class. A parent sent me a message after my show thanking me for bringing a little joy to the hearts of the students in the middle of a very difficult week.

Someone else read that story and sent me a similar story of how juggling had the power to heal her cousin. So that it is told correctly, I will simply quote how she relayed the story to me. It is a story about how God uses things like juggling and art to heal in people’s lives….

“My cousin, Garry was a juggler and he was very good.  He started juggling in high school.  He saw a presentation at school and came home, went in his room and started throwing stuff around.  When his dad came home from work, he heard a bunch of banging coming from Garry’s room.  He asked my aunt what was going on.  She didn’t know.  So he went [into] his room to investigate.  Garry was trying to teach himself to juggle.  His dad helped him get some information on juggling from the library and he made his own practice balls out of old socks filled with beans.  He later purchased some professional equipment.  After he learned the 3 ball cascade, he taught all 3 of his sisters, his dad, a few cousins, and anyone who was even slightly interested.  His mom could juggle 3 scarves.  That’s as far as she got.  I had no interest in learning.  I thought it was a rather weird thing to do.  But he never stopped practicing.  In his last year of college, he was consumed by Schizophrenia.  He became disabled and unable to work at all.  He wasn’t able to do much of anything constructive and he lived like a hermit, rarely ever coming to any family gatherings.  But he could still juggle.  He learned to juggle at least 5 clubs, 4-6 balls, 5-6 rings, maybe more.  I remember, his parents managed to get him to come to one family reunion.  He was very uncomfortable and did not communicate much.  But when he started performing, juggling 5 clubs, he was happy and had a huge smile on his face.  And he never dropped once.  Unfortunately, the only other time I saw him was when he was in the mental hospital.  He never wanted to see anyone any other time.  One day when he was riding his bicycle in town, a medical supply truck struck him from behind and he died that night.  The driver had a diabetic black out.  At my cousin’s funeral, I saw all his juggling equipment laid out on the table and I thought to myself, “I could learn to juggle in Garry’s memory.”  And I started that day.  Although Garry was greatly disabled, he found joy in juggling.  

I have NOT been able to reach Garry’s skills. I can juggle 3 balls, 3 rings, some with flower sticks, some with cigar boxes, and I have taught some juggling 101 classes.  It’s no longer weird for me. It’s actually a lot of fun!   Prior to learning to juggle, I was learning to clown, and it works well with my business.  So in a lesser way, I am continuing what my cousin, Garry started.  I know that Garry had accepted Christ prior to being consumed with Schizophrenia, so I sometimes wonder if he is looking down from heaven, pleased that he inspired one more person to juggle and I carry that on for him.”

 

 

Prayer Counseling in Children’s Ministry

imageIn a previous post, I explained the idea of worship response stations and their use in ministry to children. I am going to unpack each station in a series of posts, starting with the prayer station.

The Bible teaches us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), so I believe prayer is essential to Children’s Ministry – before, during, and after worship services. I’d like to look at ways to use prayer during worship services with kids – specifically when used as a response to the hearing and teaching of God’s Word.

Most of us are familiar with the traditional “altar call” prayer station. This is where the teacher/preacher speaks and then calls people forward for prayer, either en masse to pray with the preacher or to receive individual prayer from pre-selected prayer counselors. The focus of the prayer is usually related to the points of the message, whether a call to follow Jesus or for healing or for God’s strength to overcome a challenge in life, etc.

There is also the method of having people pray in their seats after the message with no call to get up and receive prayer. And some pastors simply tell people to seek out a leader after the service if they have questions or a request for prayer (sometimes with prayer counselors waiting in a particular location, like the front of the sanctuary or in a prayer room somewhere else in the church).

There are many other ways to incorporate prayer as a way of response to the message. But here is the way we did it at camp a few weeks ago:

I preached the message and then closed by inviting the kids to come forward for prayer if they wanted to respond to the message. I had about half a dozen prayer counselors ready and they came forward before the kids so the kids could find one of them. I encouraged all the kids that if they saw a friend come forward for prayer that they were welcome to join that friend and stand beside them in prayer. I also mentioned to the many adults in the room that if they saw their own child (whether in their own family or in their cabin group) and wanted to stand beside them in prayer that they were also welcome to do so.

The worship band came on stage and began leading everyone else in some slower paced worship songs. After about one song, I opened up the entire room to all of the many worship response stations, sometimes having a large group prayer to ask God to prepare us and speak to us during the worship response stations.

The prayer counseling station then stayed open as one of many response station options. Kids took advantage of it at various points throughout the entire response time. Even adults (including myself) took advantage of it.

And that leads me to the next thing we tried with the prayer station – the “kids pray for adults” station. I think it was one of the kids that suggested it to me and I thought it was brilliant. I had led something similar before when I was a Children’s Pastor at a Tuesday night prayer meeting that was led by kids. The idea is so simple and incredibly life-changing.

So on the second night of these worship response stations, I opened up the “kids pray for adults” station. It was separate from the “adults pray for kids” station, which was still there. I told the kids about it and said that any kid who wanted to pray for adults could come work the station and be available to pray for any adult that came forward for such prayer.

We had a few dozen kids come to the station and they stood there ready to pray throughout the worship response time. I even encouraged some of the girls who were there for a long time to go try some of the other stations. They said they wanted to keep working the prayer station. Of course I let them, since all the stations were optional and had no time limits.

I then encouraged adults to come receive prayer from a child. One man told me it was the highlight of his week – as he came back to the station for prayer five times in one night. Here is why I think this station is so powerful:

1. It humbles us adults to hear the prayers of a child.
2. Children pray very sincere, concise, heartfelt prayers. They are not like us adults who pray like the Pharisees with prayers to sound super-spiritual that go on and on.
3. Children pray with childlike faith, which is the model of faith Jesus teaches us to have (Luke 18:17; Mark 10:13-16). Don’t you want prayer from someone with strong faith? Then have a child pray for you.
4. It empowers children and it is our way of telling them that they are as much a part of God’s family as adults and have just as much (if not, more) to contribute to the Kingdom of God and ministry to others.

It is this last point – about empowering children by letting them use their spiritual gifts – that I think we most often get wrong in Children’s Ministry. We usually view Children’s Ministry as the time for us adults to download information into the brains and hearts of kids. But Jesus told us to be like children in our faith. So why don’t we more often let kids teach us and give them opportunities to use their gifts and bless both adults and other children? It goes against our intuition, but so also does the Gospel of grace.

Let the children come to Jesus – and let them pray!

Worship Response Stations

I recently returned from Pine Creek Camp in Gore, VA. I was the camp pastor for two weeks with several hundred preteen kids and their chaperones from Assembly of God churches around Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, D.C., and West Virginia.

I speak at many camps each summer, but this one stuck out because of the format they asked me to follow. First of all, there were two chapel services each day for the kids – one in the morning and one in the evening. The morning service was designed to be the “main” service of the day (in terms of worship music and teaching time) with the evening service being more of a “review and respond” service.

So in the evenings, I taught for about 10 minutes, just reviewing the points we learned about in the morning. Then, for the remainder of the service (another 45 minutes to an hour), we spent responding to God’s Word through the format of worship stations.

The camp told me this ahead of time. So I wrote up some station ideas that went along with my lessons each day. The leadership at the camp then took all my ideas and turned them into reality by getting the supplies, setting up the stations, and manning them each night.

The results were amazing. We realized that kids learn and respond in a variety of ways, depending on their learning languages. Some kids respond well with hands-on and interactive activities while others are fine being still or reading. Most kids have a variety of learning styles inside of them anyway, so it’s good to have the different stations so they can move around freely as they like. I’d like to take a few posts to share the ideas and pictures from the worship response stations.

Here is a quick rundown of the stations. I will go into more details with each one in subsequent posts.

  1. Prayer Counseling – This is the traditional idea of having prayer counselors on hand if a kid or adult needs prayer for anything. This is usually the only “station” people offer as a way of response at camp or in church. We still used it, but it was only one of many ways to respond. 10525923_10201690183931064_2541282716695704447_n
  2. Question Cards – If the kids had a question about God or the Bible, they wrote them down on a 3×5 card and handed it to an adult. The adult would then attempt to find the answer in the Bible and answer the question. If they couldn’t find it, then they would say “I don’t know” or “I’ll look it up later and get back it you.” This was a surprisingly popular station for the kids. God Questions 1 (1)
  3. World Prayer Map – There was a map on the wall and the kids would go up and place a sticker star on a country, city, or location of a people group and pray for them.
  4. Slime Buckets – One night, we taught about Jonah. In order to explore the idea of what it may have felt like to be inside the belly of a great fish, the kids put their hands in slime. This was obviously very popular. 1919619_10201689924364575_7350194639987657628_n
  5. Blindfolded Prayer – Also along the story of Jonah (who prayed in pitch darkness inside the belly of the fish), we had the kids put on a blindfold and then sit or kneel and pray. One leader said this station was the first time he had seen one of his boys pray. Sometimes it takes some creative way that really connects with a particular kid to open them up to things like prayer and worship. 1800191_10201689925044592_1813544821034699680_n
  6. Kids Pray for Adults – I will devote an entire post to this station, as it was my favorite of all the stations. Kids were on hand to pray for adults who wanted prayer. It was humbling for adults and exciting for kids. More on this one later.
  7. The Wooden Cross – This is another traditional station that many groups have used for years. I believe it is still very powerful in form and function. The large wooden cross reminds us of what Jesus did for us and we have the chance to lay prayers and confessions at the cross by writing them on a piece of paper and nailing them to the cross. 10339573_10201689918724434_8519116368611174061_n
  8. Prayer Journaling/Drawing – This was also a very popular one. We had stacks of paper and boxes of crayons, markers, and pencils on hand. The kids would simply grab some paper and something to write/draw with and freely journal or draw pictures as prayers, thanksgivings to God, and other worship thoughts on their minds. 10553423_10201689925124594_4728291633501802324_n10569008_10201690182851037_8364184396806928724_n
  9. Finger Painting – On the day when we learned about Creation, the kids got to draw pictures of things that God made on a large white poster using finger paints. This was extremely popular and looked very pretty when it was all done. 10409409_10201689918484428_3276895270255792122_n
  10. Other Stations – There were also stations with bead bracelets, mouse traps, clay and play-do, bowls of fruit, a white board with a dry erase marker, and Scripture reading. I will discuss each one in subsequent posts.

Let me know if you have done worship response stations and what they looked like. Thanks for reading!

All photos are credited to Kelly Gibbs. Thanks Kelly!

Whatever is Admirable

The sixth virtue in Paul’s Philippians 4:8 list is “whatever is admirable.” When we say that we “admire” something, we are speaking of it as something we aspire to, something we want to be like, and something that is worthy of respect and honor. When we fill our minds with things that are admirable, our thoughts help point us in the right direction of growth towards the Lord. Like the other virtues, God epitomizes everything that is admirable. Admiration also represents the things we ponder and think about all the time (that’s what we do with admirable things – we think about them A LOT).

What is admirable? Virtuous and wise people are admirable. Godly men and women are admirable. Humility, love, compassion, patience – these are all admirable things. So let’s fill our minds with them.

Whatever is Lovely

God is love (1 John 4:8,16). So anything that is of God is lovely. And all things lovely are of God. This includes, but is not limited to, the love we share between one another in various relationships such as friends and family. In fact, all people are God’s creation and we are called to love them. So other people are lovely. And we should think about other people – how they are all beautifully made in God’s image. We should think about them before ourselves (Phil 2:3-4).

What else is lovely? God’s creation. The nature around us. Anything that reflects the image and glory of God. For example, it is a lovely thing to attend a wedding and celebrate the coming together of a husband and wife. On the other hand, it is not lovely to watch a husband and wife hurling insults and hurtful things towards one another. When we think about the wedding and ponder what is going on, our minds and hearts are pointed towards God and His glory. When we ponder hate and hurtfulness, our hearts and minds are pointed away from God.

Finally!

Lots of young people are graduating from something right now. I remember my final month of high school – it was the longest month of my life. It seemed that the teachers were just trying to fill time and space when all of us seniors had already checked out and preparing for college or whatever was next.

Then there was that feeling of “finally” at the end of it all. The relief that the hard work was over. I could move on to what was next.

In Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, he also says “finally” towards the end of the letter (Phil 4:8). But he uses a different nuance of it than a graduating senior would. Sure, he is wrapping up his letter and finishing the hard work of composing heart-felt didactic letter.

I believe the nuance Paul has in Phil 4:8 is that of a summarization of most (if not all) of what he has said up to that point in the letter. Here is what he says:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8 NIV)

This is not just a stand-alone endorsement of having good thoughts. This is Paul “bringing it home” by summing up the whole letter and saying “in view of everything I’ve said thus far, think about these things…”

What has Paul discussed in the letter so far? A lot. Here are just a few highlights:

Chapter 1 – Paul writes while in chains (I’m assuming it was tough to always have positive thoughts); Paul’s prayer for the Philippians; “to live is Christ and to die is gain”

Chapter 2 – The humility and emptying of Christ; the exhortation for his readers to also be humble and to “shine like stars

Chapter 3 – “Whatever was to my gain I now consider loss for the sake of Christ”; pressing on towards the heavenly goal of perfection in Christ and becoming like HIm

Chapter 4 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7 NIV)

I am especially struck by the fact that Paul was writing while in prison (or at least while chained up if not physically behind bars). Yet he still encourages the church to think about things that are noble, right, true, and pure. He surely had first hand experience struggling with bad thoughts. But he learned through that process that when we think about God rather than on earthly things, there is a promise – “the God of peace will be with you” (Phil 4:9).

I’d like to explore the different words that Paul uses in this list of virtuous things to think about. I’ll do so over the next few posts.

Alone with Michelangelo

IMG_2750 IMG_1990There is a lesser known Pieta sculpture by Michelangelo in the Duomo’s Museo in Florence, Italy (also known as The Deposition or The Florentine Pieta). His famous one is the Pieta with Mary and Jesus on display in St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican City.

The one in Florence depicts Nicodemus (whose face is a self-portrait of Michelangelo), Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Jesus. Jesus falls limp towards the ground as Nicodemus and the Marys hold his corpse from falling completely. It is a masterpiece that only Michelangelo can make.

When Sarah and I went to Italy last month, we were there at the lowest tourist season all year – mid-January. Who wants to go anywhere in mid-January?…We do! Because there are no crowds (the hotels are cheaper too).

The crowds were so low that we had this entire Michelangelo masterpiece to ourselves. Instead of large tour groups cramming the space around the sculpture, we had the freedom to walk around it, gaze upon it, ponder it, and appreciate the moment without feeling rushed.

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