Me with my Favorite Tea Cup
LESSONS FROM A USED TEABAG
I’ve been frequently asked why I believe people need to read their Bible every day. Perhaps this experience might help illustrate my thoughts on the matter:
I like hot tea. That might be an understatement. I love hot tea, and I’ve been drinking a lot of it lately. I have a favorite, and I am pretty committed to it. Red Rose tea has been my tea of choice for a long time. So, when I noticed during the recent blizzard that I was down to a couple bags left I was a little distraught. From somewhere in the recesses of my mind I heard a voice reminding me that my grandmother, always frugal, had a habit of reusing her teabags to get the most out of them. So I tried it. I don’t recommend it. The second cup from each bag was significantly weaker and bordered on flavorless.
There is a lesson here, besides keeping better track of my teabag inventory. In our spiritual lives we are going to find that we are weak and powerless if we are not “renewed” on a daily basis. Without spending some time reading the Bible daily you are like a teabag whose leaves have been used. You might be able to color the water around you a little, but you are weak and lacking in what matters, flavor. The daily reading of God’s word is a path to renewing the leaves of your life.
Consider some of these gems from Psalm 119:
(The following Scripture References are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible. The bold emphasis is added to key words)
As you read through these references (I recommend reading the entire Psalm in your Bible) take special notice of the words I’ve highlighted. These illustrate the importance and priority of the Scriptures in our lives and why we need to devote some time daily to reading and considering God’s Word.
Verse 11 I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You.
Verse 15-16 I will meditate on Your precepts and think about Your ways. 16 I will delight in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.
Verse 18 Open my eyes so that I may contemplate wonderful things from Your instruction.
Verse 25 My life is down in the dust; give me life through Your word.
Verse 28 I am weary from grief; strengthen me through Your word.
Verse 43 Never take the word of truth from my mouth, for I hope in Your judgments. 44 I will always obey Your instruction, forever and ever.
Verse 50 This is my comfort in my affliction: Your promise has given me life.
Verse 56 This is my PRACTICE: I obey Your precepts.
Verse 72 Instruction from Your lips is better for me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Verse 81 I long for Your salvation; I put my hope in Your word.
Verse 97 How I love Your instruction! It is my meditation all day long.
Verse 101-104 I have kept my feet from every evil path to follow Your word. 102 I have not turned from Your judgments, for You Yourself have instructed me. 103 How sweet Your word is to my taste— sweeter than honey in my mouth. 104 I gain understanding from Your precepts; therefore I hate every false way.
Verse 105 Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.
Verse 111 I have Your decrees as a HERITAGE FOREVER; indeed, they are the joy of my heart.
Verse 140 Your word is completely pure, and Your servant loves it.
Verse 147-148 I rise before dawn and cry out for help; I put my hope in Your word. 148 I am awake through each watch of the night to meditate on Your promise.
There is one more lesson from the tea leaves I would like you to ponder. The boiling water reveals what is in the tea bag much like the pressures and experiences of our lives reveal what we are “made of.” Without the power and presence of God’s Word in our lives what will be revealed in us?
Gotta go, the tea kettle is whistling and my Bible is waiting.
Dave “Big D” Bentley
The “F” Word – A Message Series
Forgiveness is not easy. In fact, it is one of the hardest things we will ever be asked to do. To truly forgive requires a mature and selfless act of sacrifice, and that’s why I call it the “F” word in the church. This series of messages is meant to challenge us and remind us of the mandate of forgiveness, the steps to forgiveness, and the challenges of forgiveness. It’s not easy, but you are never as much like God as when you are practicing forgiveness, because that is the gift He offers us when we respond to Him in faith.
THE REAL “F WORD” SERIES Message 1:
Then one of the Pharisees invited Him to eat with him. He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And a woman in the town who was a sinner found out that Jesus was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of fragrant oil and stood behind Him at His feet, weeping, and began to wash His feet with her tears. She wiped His feet with the hair of her head, kissing them and anointing them with the fragrant oil.
When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching Him—SHE’S A SINNER!”
Jesus replied to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
“Teacher,” he said, “say it.”
“A creditor had two debtors. One owed 500 denarii, and the other 50. Since they could not pay it back, he graciously forgave them both. So, which of them will love him more?”
Simon answered, “I suppose the one he forgave more.”
“You have judged correctly,” He told him. Turning to the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she, with her tears, has washed My feet and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing My feet since I came in. You didn’t anoint My head with olive oil, but she has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.”
Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Those who were at the table with Him began to say among themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?”
And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
In this Experience from the Scripture we see what it means to Live in the Forgiveness of Christ. Today let’s use this as both a reminder, and for some today an invitation, of what it means to have our sins forgiven through faith in Jesus, and what our response in life should be to such amazing grace and incredible forgiveness.
We’ll Do this by Looking at Three Characters in our Story
The Significance of the Sinful Woman
Enquiring Minds want to Know…
· It’s interesting that we don’t discover the name of the woman.
· It’s interesting that we don’t define the details of her sin.
We do know that the people around her knew (or thought they knew) her pretty well.
· Her sins had been public
· Her sins had been shameful
· Her sins had brought separation
What they didn’t know was that what they couldn’t see was going to make all the difference
The Short-Sightedness of Simon the Pharisee
· A Motivated Invitation
o Why do you think Simon might have invited Jesus to supper?
§ Keep Friends Close and Enemies Closer Mentality
§ Whatever it was…He had no idea what Jesus’ ministry was about
o Given what we will learn shortly it seems his motive was to “Put Jesus in His place”
§ The Host Snubbed His Guest
§ Funny to think he invited God over to try and impress Him and belittle Him, but he didn’t think that Jesus was God…the Messiah…He probably didn’t think much of Him at all.
· A Meaningful Interruption
o Don’t you love it when the phone or door-bell rings during supper?
o How about uninvited guests “crashing” your formal dinner?
*****PAUSE – REMEMBER WHO WRITES THE SCRIPT FOR THIS DRAMA*****
àJesus is not caught by surprise or shocked to see her show up
àJesus weaves this story into our lives for a purpose.
· A Misunderstood Interaction
o Why did the religious have such a hard time understanding Jesus?
o There are really two interactions in the story
§ The Forgiven Sinner
§ The Flabbergasted Snob
The Salvation Offered Through Faith in the Savior
· Notice First – The Savior Doesn’t Shoo The Sinner Away
· Notice Second – The Savior Isn’t Swayed by the Opinions of Others
· Notice Third – The Savior is Constant in His Mission – To Seek and Save
· Notice Fourth – The Savior is Able to Forgive our Sins…ALL our Sins.
The Steps to Livin’ Forgivn’
· Step One – Get Forgiven – Come to Christ in Faith
o Faith in Jesus is Where Forgiveness is Found
§ He doesn’t tell her that her church membership saved her
§ He doesn’t tell her that the amount of her offering saved her
§ He doesn’t tell her that her Christian parents saved her
§ He doesn’t tell her that her upright behavior saved her
o He says, “YOUR FAITH HAS SAVED YOU…”
· Step Two – Claim Forgiveness – Come out of the Shadow of Guilt
o All of us have messed up…some have REALLY messed up
o But Jesus took on Himself the punishment “OF US ALL….”
o Often the hardest part of Living Forgiven is accepting forgiveness
o Imagine hiking hundreds of miles with a fully loaded pack, just to discover you could have emptied it at the beginning of the trail. That’s what it’s like living under the burden of guilt for past sins.
· Step Three – Worship as One Forgiven – Come to the Feet of Jesus
o What an awesome picture of the response of praise in the life of the saved
o Nothing held her back…not even the glaring eyes around her
o She held nothing back…tears…worship…adoration…love…gratitude
§ Sometimes we (I) can be so careful not to get overly emotional that we come across as cold and passionless…this woman reminds us that emotion…passion…affection…these are all part of worship for those livin’ forgivn’.
· Step Four – Go Tell Others Where to Find Forgiveness – Come to the Lost
Over the coming weeks we are going to explore one of the most difficult things we are commanded to do as believers…Forgiving Others. But, before we spend much time exploring how and why to forgive others, it’s critically important that you have come personally and found forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ.
· The woman in our story is not given a name, so for now, give her yours.
· The sin of the woman in our story is not identified, so confess your sin
Then…with faith in Jesus Christ…hear Him say, “Your sins are forgiven, go in peace.”
Leave here…your sins forgiven…worship Him…live forgiven…and share Christ
THE REAL “F WORD” SERIES Message 2:
“Second Chance: God Will Make A Way”
“The patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt, but God was with him and rescued him out of all his troubles. He gave him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who appointed him ruler over Egypt and over his whole household. Then a famine and great suffering came over all of Egypt and Canaan, and our ancestors could find no food. When Jacob heard there was grain in Egypt, he sent our ancestors the first time. The second time, Joseph was revealed to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. Acts 7:9-13 (HCSB)
God Makes a Way When we say “No Way”
In our humanity it seems impossible, but have you noticed that God is an expert and doing what we say He can’t do.
1. God Knows Exactly what is needed and what will be needed
2. God Knows Exactly how to accomplish what He wants accomplished
· Moses placed in a basket on the Nile River…What????
· Abraham ready to sacrifice Isaac on the altar…What???
· Noah commanded to build an Ark when it had never rained…What???
· A Shepherd boy defeating a giant warrior with a few stones…What???
“God will Make a Way When There Seems to be No Way”
BRIEFLY SUMMARIZE THE JOSEPH STORY
The Message of the Story:
There are two very big things you ought to think of every time you consider the story of Joseph and his brothers:
1) you are loved
2) there is hope!
GOD WILL MAKE A WAY IN FORGIVENESS
God Makes a Way with Forgiveness – Come to Our Rescue
· Mountain Rescue Teams go to the rescue of some foolish people
· They still offer them rescue and save their lives—regardless of who
· God offers us forgiveness…regardless of what we have done
God Makes a Way through Forgiveness – Go to Their Rescue
· What might Joseph have been thinking when his brothers arrived?
· Think about the course of Joseph’s life…Could he rescue them?
· DID THEY DESERVE TO BE RESCUED?
o Even when they had an opportunity to own up to what they did they lied
§ But they replied, “We, your servants, were 12 brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no longer living.” Gen 42:13 (HCSB)
God Makes a Way with Forgiveness and through Forgiveness
· God wants you to Be Right in Your Relationship with Him
· God wants you to Be Right in your Relationship with Others
We Have to Receive Forgiveness
Last week I shared how we often find ourselves crushed beneath the guilt of the past. Here’s an example from Scripture of people who need to know God’s forgiveness, but they haven’t come to Him yet.
Then they said to each other, “Obviously, we are being punished for what we did to our brother. We saw his deep distress when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That is why this trouble has come to us.” But Reuben replied: “Didn’t I tell you not to harm the boy? But you wouldn’t listen. Now we must account for his blood!” Gen 42:21-22 (HCSB)
àIt had been two decades, and they carried the weight of guilt still
Here’s the hope of Forgiveness with God: Psalm 86:5 (Amp)
For You, O Lord, are good, and ready to forgive [our trespasses, sending them away, letting them go completely and forever]; and You are abundant in mercy and loving-kindness to all those who call upon You.
GOD WILL MAKE A WAY IN HIS PRESENCE
Acts 7:9 reminds us that “God was with” Joseph.
Genesis 45. 5-8 we see Joseph’s recognition of God’s presence and purpose
And now don’t be worried or angry with yourselves for selling me here, because God sent me ahead of you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there will be five more years without plowing or harvesting. 7 God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. 8 Therefore it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Gen 45:5-8 (HCSB)
Joseph’s Ability to Forgive His Brothers
· Is Based in His Relationship With God
· Is Based on His Understanding of God’s Purpose
GOD WILL MAKE A WAY TO HIS BLESSING
· What if
o Joseph’s brothers were so burdened by guilt that they couldn’t return?
o Joseph was so filled with bitterness that he imprisoned his brothers?
o Jacob was so enraged by the deception of His sons…
o What if….
o What if….
o What if….
God Gave Joseph Favor
Through Joseph God Gave Israel Favor
· In Life You’re going to need to avail yourself of His forgiveness if you need it.
· In Life You’re going to need to offer forgiveness to people who wound you.
· In Life You’re going to need to experience the presence of God
· Mark my word…You are going to have opportunity today…this week…soon to practice what we have been talking about today…so be up to the challenge.
THE REAL “F WORD” SERIES Message 3:
Why In The World Should I Forgive, Anyway?
21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”
22 “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus said to him, “but 70 times seven.
Let’s step outside of where we are for a moment. We are going to be leaving shortly, so let’s look ahead to those moments out there in the “REAL WORLD” where we live, work, and encounter people.
1. We know that Jesus commands us to forgive.
2. We believe that forgiveness is a good thing.
3. We expect that forgiveness can improve our world.
àBut, then we run into THAT PERSON…
àBut then we get into THAT SITUATION…
…our emotions are raw
…our feelings crushed
…our faith shaken
We know we SHOULD forgive, but it doesn’t come easy or automatic. It’s really hard!
Today, let’s think about those people and circumstances, but let’s also explore five reasons why forgiveness isn’t just a good idea, but is actually the best idea…even though, and especially when, it’s hard to forgive.
THAT A WRONG WAS COMMITTED.
– Some people are quick to discount the idea of forgiveness because they think it’s a type of denial. Like pretending that nothing happened – “It’s no big deal,” “Oh, don’t worry about it,” etc.
– Actually, that’s not true at all. When you honestly confront the idea of forgiveness, that very act puts you in a place where you are acknowledging that a wrong was done – something that’s bad enough to need forgiven.
· Forgiveness is not acting as if a wrong was not that important.
· Forgiveness is confrontation.
· Forgiveness requires admitting a wrong was done against you.
FORGIVENESS CHANGES YOUR STATUS
FROM VICTIM TO VICTOR.
– When someone does something hurtful to us, we are the victim of their meanness or their thoughtlessness. We sometimes believe that there is nothing we can do about our victim status, but that’s not true.
– When we forgive, we are no longer powerless, we are no longer the one who has merely been acted upon. When we forgive, we boldly stand and say, “You will not dictate the way I respond; you will not dictate who I am.”
– See Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:39-41. The forgiving nature of those actions takes power away from the one who would dictate our place.
39 But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.
Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement represent one of the clearest examples of Jesus’ Matthew 5:39-41 principle in action. As they endured the southern sheriff’s clubs and water cannons without resorting to violence themselves, the evil of the segregationists’ heart was brought to light. There was enormous power in refusing to respond to the violence in the way they were expected to – with more violence. Dr. King wrote, “To our most bitter opponents we say: We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering.”
FORGIVENESS MAKES SENSE FOR PEOPLE
WHO HAVE NEEDED, DO NEED,
AND WILL ALWAYS NEED FORGIVENESS.
– We like to focus on the immediate situation and dwell on the wrong done to us. We often devise harsh and merciless responses to those who hurt us. But if we look at the larger situation, we are not only the one to whom wrong has been done, we are also often the one who has done wrong to others.
– We might want to review the parable that Jesus told following the words of our text.
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”
“I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus said to him, “but 70 times seven.
FOR THIS REASON, the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began to settle accounts, one who owed 10,000 talents was brought before him. Since he had no way to pay it back, his master commanded that he, his wife, his children, and everything he had be sold to pay the debt. “At this, the slave fell facedown before him and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you everything!’ Then the master of that slave had compassion, released him, and forgave him the loan.“But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him 100 denarii. He grabbed him, started choking him, and said, ‘Pay what you owe!’“At this, his fellow slave fell down and began begging him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he wasn’t willing. On the contrary, he went and threw him into prison until he could pay what was owed. When the other slaves saw what had taken place, they were deeply distressed and went and reported to their master everything that had happened.“Then, after he had summoned him, his master said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And his master got angry and handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he could pay everything that was owed. SO MY HEAVENLY FATHER WILL ALSO DO TO YOU IF EACH OF YOU DOES NOT FORGIVE HIS BROTHER FROM HIS HEART.”
Consider, for another similar example, the words of Matthew 6:12. God has no tolerance for the person who is quick to receive forgiveness from God but then is unwilling to forgive the one who wrongs him.
FORGIVENESS IS THE ONLY ROAD TO FREEDOM.
– We should acknowledge this morning that forgiveness is risky. It is a bit of a gamble. But it certainly beats the other option. Lewis Smedes writes, “The question is not whether forgiving is dangerous, but only whether it is a safer bet. It almost always comes down to where we get the best odds. Forgiving is risky. . .. The risk, I believe, is worth taking.”
– Forgiveness does have its risks, but our only other choice (our only other ‘road’) is to hold onto the bitterness and anger. How many of us this morning could name someone who’s life has been ruined simply because they continue to hold onto a wrong done them?
– “Whoever opts for revenge should dig two graves.” (Chinese proverb)
“. . .not forgiving someone is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” (Anne Lamott: Traveling Mercies)
– Forgiveness is risky, but it is the only road to freedom. The other road always leads to self-destruction.
FORGIVENESS IS NOT JESUS’ “SUGGESTION.”
– Matthew 18:21-35 and numerous other passages make it clear the forgiveness is Jesus’ command.
– As we’ve considered these various reasons this morning, I hope they’ve inspired you as to why forgiveness is the wise choice. But at the end of the day for the obedient Christian, it isn’t simply the wisest choice, it is your only choice.
THE REAL “F WORD” SERIES Message 4:
How Do I Forgive Him? How Do I Forgive Her?
2 Corinthians 2.5-11
5 If anyone has caused pain, he has caused pain not so much to me but to some degree—not to exaggerate —to all of you. 6 The punishment ⌊inflicted⌋ by the majority is sufficient for that person. 7 As a result, you should instead forgive and comfort him. Otherwise, this one may be overwhelmed by excessive grief. 8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. 9 I wrote for this purpose: to test your character ⌊to see⌋ if you are obedient in everything. 10 If you forgive anyone, I do too. For what I have forgiven—if I have forgiven anything—it is for you in the presence of Christ. 11 ⌊I have done this⌋ so that we may not be taken advantage of by Satan. For we are not ignorant of his schemes.
Last week we spoke of why to forgive. Quickly on the heels of that question, though, comes the equally difficult question of how you forgive.
We all understand the general concept of forgiveness, but most of us are not especially proficient on the specifics on how to do it. So, this morning, we’re going to answer the questions: How do I forgive him? How do I forgive her?
(As I said that you probably thought of who that ‘him’ or ‘her’ is in your life).
How Do I Forgive Him?
How Do I Forgive Her?
ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU HAVE BEEN SERIOUSLY HURT.
• Forgiveness is not denial
• Forgiveness is not a bandage on a gaping wound
• Forgiveness is serious medicine applied to a serious condition
SURRENDER YOUR RIGHT TO GET EVEN.
Illustration: The mother ran into the bedroom when she heard her seven-year-old son scream. She found his two-year-old sister pulling his hair. She gently released the little girl’s grip and said comfortingly to the boy, “There, there. She didn’t mean it. She doesn’t know that hurts.” He nodded his acknowledgement, and she left the room.
As she started down the hall the little girl screamed. Rushing back in, she asked, “What happened?”
The little boy replied, “She knows now.”
SEARCH FOR THE REAL PERSON BENEATH THE MASK.
Truth: When we have been wronged, we like to caricature our wrongdoer. We emphasize all the bad things about them, we twist anything that looks remotely good, we are quick to impugn their every motive, we see them only and always in one way.
DESIRE GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO YOUR WRONGDOER.
WOW – Consider these Scriptural Challenges
· Bless those who curse you
· Love your enemies
· Pray for those who abuse you (and not like that country song)
IF POSSIBLE, ENJOY THE HEALED RELATIONSHIP.
THE REAL “F WORD” SERIES Message 5:
THE JOURNEY OF FORGIVENESS
Galatians 6:1-9 (HCSB)
1 Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted also.
2 Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
3 For if anyone considers himself to be something when he is nothing, he is deceiving himself.
4 But each person should examine his own work, and then he will have a reason for boasting in himself alone, and not in respect to someone else.
5 For each person will have to carry his own load.
6 The one who is taught the message must share his goods with the teacher.
7 Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap,
8 because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.
9 So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.
Focus: Galatians 6:1, 7, 9.
Avoiding Dead-Ends On the Journey :
“It only counts if I do it and I’m done with it.”
– We think, “If I say it and I mean it, then I’m done with it.” Thinking that, we’re surprised (and feel a little bit betrayed) when three months later the bitterness has resurfaced. Forgiveness, we figure, has failed. . . and down the dead-end detour we go.
Key To Not Getting Sidetracked:
“Forgiveness is a journey, not an event.”
“It only counts if I forgive and forget.”
Repeat after me:
“The Bible. . . does not teach. . . forgive. . . and forget.”
Key To Not Getting Sidetracked:
“If it was small enough that I could forget it,
I wouldn’t need to forgive it.”
“It only counts if I don’t hurt anymore.”
A few years ago one of my Sunday School teachers, said that real forgiveness has taken place when the sting isn’t there anymore. That process will take a lot of time, but it doesn’t mean that I haven’t done what I needed to do along the journey of forgiveness.
There are people that we encounter in life that may bring back a flood of memories, and in some cases they bring pain with them as well. It’s a part of realizing that forgiveness is a journey, not a stop on the road.
Key To Not Getting Sidetracked:
“Forgiveness makes the pain gradually decrease,
not magically disappear.”
Fact is that we live in a world where we expect our problems to be solved like on TV – wrapped up neatly and put behind us by the end of the half-hour show. In real life, though, serious hurts take time to heal.
“It only counts if we’re friends again.”
Key To Not Getting Sidetracked:
“I am only responsible for the condition of my own heart.”
Project Based Learning
According to Jane David (2008) project based learning is intended to engage students in the process of realistic and thought provoking problem solving. As David states, “real-world problems capture student’s interest and provoke serious thinking as the students acquire and apply new knowledge in a problem solving context” (p. 80). However, as Larmer and Mergendoller (2010) caution, there are projects that can border on busy work and fail to meaningfully engage the mind of the student. Because of this truth Project Based Learning (PbL) must be approached carefully and with focused planning by the teacher.
In addition, the educator must be aware of the time demands that PbL can involve, especially as it relates to the context of high stakes and standards driven education. (David, 2008). These difficulties can rapidly discourage a teacher’s attempts at employing PbL if the educator is not prepared for the demands and aware of the struggles. For some it might seem easier to simply stick to the bare-bones curriculum and not attempt PbL.
The teacher who would avoid PbL as part of the education process for these reasons, however, misses out on a tremendous resource that, when used effectively can motivate and encourage learning (Blumenfeld, Soloway, Marx, Krajcik, Guzdial, & Palincsar, 1991). These writers argue, “there is considerable promise in the notion of project-based education to enhance motivation and thought as students attempt to learn in classrooms” (p. 392). At a time when teacher find themselves fighting for student attention and effort against so many extra-curricular and outside influences, a sustained and meaningful project holds the promise of engaging and enriching the knowledge of the students. According to the February 2004 article, Project Based Learning in Technology and Learning (2004), meaningful PbL can help students prepare to think critically, solve problems, collaborate, and present information.
Seven Essentials for Project Based Learning
Since PbL offers such an significant and powerful tool to educators it is important to be effective and relevant in planning and assigning projects. Larmer and Mergendoller (2010) offer seven essentials for PbL that educators should keep in mind.
· Need to Know. Cultivate interest with an “entry event” that engages interest and initiates questioning. Many students find schoolwork to be pointless when there is no personal need to know the information. Introduce the project in an engaging and captivating way.
· A Driving Question. An open-ended question that gives students a sense of purpose and challenge. This is similar to a thesis statement for an essay and helps set a framework for the student’s efforts.
· Student Voice and Choice. The teacher approaches the project with a goal in mind, but for the students to fully engage they need to be involved and invested in the process of determining the project they will work on.
· 21st Century Skills. Larmer and Mergendoller (2010) state that “a project should give students opportunities to build such 21st century skills as collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and the use of technology” (p. 36). These are skills that will be useful in further educational pursuits as well as later employment.
· Inquiry and Innovation. Effective projects are built and based on the questions that students ask themselves and others. As they seek information through research, interviews, and interactions with others they information becomes embedded not only in the project, but in the student’s cognitive process as well.
· Feedback and Revision. Helping students learn the process of developing rough drafts, procedures of review, and being able to accept and respond to constructive criticism will build skill and knowledge in the students.
· Publicly Present the Project. Without an opportunity to share their hard work with classmates and teachers students will begin to believe that their work doesn’t matter for anything more than a grade. However, by presenting their projects they have greater investment, and in the end more pride as well. In addition, a presentation provides an opportunity for assessment not only of the elements in the project itself but of the material the student has learned through the experience.
Project Based Learning and a Unit on Weather
For a course unit on weather systems a teacher might assign a PowerPoint slide show about a weather story from history. For example, a student might produce a visual presentation on the now infamous Hurricane Sandy that effect areas throughout the northeast and New England. A student or small group of students could research the storm from beginning to end and its effects through the course of its life. The presentation should reflect student research and understanding of the weather event. A project like this would also lend itself to interviews and inquiries with people on the personal impact of the storm.
As research demonstrates and experience shows, PbL can provide and effective and engaging element in education. It provides students with the opportunity to invest themselves in the process of investigation and inquiry as well as providing opportunity to utilize technology, an element that most students readily employ. It does, however, require thought and planning on the part of the teacher to assure that such projects are relevant and significant for the students and won’t be viewed as “busy-work.” As students produce displays, slide shows, videos, models, and other projects and present them to audiences such as classes, science fairs, parent nights, or other opportunities, the rewards both in terms of pride as wells as academics are readily visible.
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Dave “Big D” Bentley is a graduate student at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA working toward a Master of Arts in Teaching. In addition he is a church planting pastor and has been in ministry for over 20 years. He is married and has two grown children and two grand children. In education as well as in ministry Bentley’s goal is to be the best he can be at what he is doing so he can bring the best out of those he is working with. He lives and serves in Springfield, Vermont.