May 2007

Josh Hunt has some good words below on how to tell a story effectively …

Skilled communicators know that telling stories is one of the most effective ways to communicate. Story telling is modeled for us by the Master-Teacher and is widely used by effective communicators.

What makes a story work? What makes a story fall flat? How can stories be used to communicate truth effectively? And, how can we keep stories from being boring?

One of the best ways to answer this question is to look at movies. Movies tell a story. Good movies tell a story effectively. What does a good love story, a good action film, or a good comedy have in common with all other good love stories, action films or comedies? As far as that goes, what do these have in common with a good sporting event? How is it that we can sit through an exciting football game for three hours fully engaged and can’t sit though church without looking at our watches?

Time out.

What are you feeling right now? Pause. Think about it. What is going on? Are you tempted to put down this article or do you want to keep reading? If I have done my job well you will want to keep reading. And you will want to keep reading for the same reason that you want to keep listening to a story told well, a movie done well, or an exciting sporting event.

You want to know how it ends.

The gap theory

I start a lot of books, but I don’t finish many. Only occasionally will I finish I book. Once in a great while, I will be so impressed with a book that I will finish it, then purchase the audio and listen to the whole thing again. Made to Stick by brothers Chip and Dan Heath is one of those books. They explore six facets of what it takes to make a message stick.  Let’s look at an excerpt from pages 84 – 85.

In 1994 Greg Loewenstein, a behavioral economist at Carnegie Mellon University provided the most comprehensive account of situational interest. It is surprisingly simple. Curiosity happens, he says, when we feel a gap in our knowledge.

Loewenstein argues that gaps cause pain. When we want to know something but don’t, it is like having an itch that we need to scratch. To take ways the pain, we need to fill the knowledge gap. We sit patiently through bad movies, even though they may be painful to watch, because it is too painful to not know how they will end.

This “gap theory” seems to explain why some domains seems to create fanatical interest: They naturally create knowledge gaps. Take movies for instance. McKee’s language is similar to Loewenstein’s: McKee says, “Story works by posing questions and opening situations.” Movies cause us to ask, “What will happen?” Mystery novels cause us to ask, “Who did it?” Sports contests cause us to ask, “Who will win?” Crossword puzzles cause us to ask, “What is a six letter word for psychiatrist?” Pokémon cards cause kids to wonder, “Which characters am I missing?”

One important implication of the gap theory is that we need to open gaps before we close them. Our tendency is to tell people the facts. First, they must realize they need the facts.  The trick to convincing people they need our message, according to Loewenstein is to highlight some specific knowledge that they are missing. We can pose a question or a puzzle that confronts people with a gap in their knowledge. We can point out that someone else knows something that we don’t. We can present them with situation that have unknown resolutions, such as elections, sporting events, or mysteries. We can challenge them to predict an outcome (Which creates two gaps–What will happen? and Was I right?)


In order to make a story work, you have to make the question clear. You have to plant in your listeners a burning curiosity to want to know, “Who done it? How will this work out?”

Don’t give answers till your people are sufficiently curious about the question.


222450841.jpgYesterday I wrote about how we must live our lives with intentionality.  We must have an aim.  The Apostle Paul is our model as his ministry was aimed at love (1 Tim. 1:5). 

But closely connected to this aim of love is another aim–the aim of application.  After hearing C.J. Mahaney’s last message at the New Attitude Conference here in Louisville, I was struck with how often I avoid specific application in my spiritual disciplines.  I’m like the guy who wakes up in the morning with major bedhead and quickly passes by the mirror and continues on with my day.  I might look in the mirror, but I often fail to make adjustments and changes based on what I see.  Mahaney challenged me to be specific in applying God’s Word to my life.  It’s easy to make general applications to what I read or what I listen to, but I want to be more intentional about making specific steps in my sanctification.  Specific, small steps in sanctification are not glamorous or very noticeable, but over time they move you closer to the image of Christ.

Mahaney gave one main exhortation in our pursuit of application.  He said, “Connect one bit of Scripture to one bit of your life.”  That’s my heart’s desire as I read the Word and hear it preached.  Connect one bit of Scripture to one bit of my life.  And over time, by the power of the Holy Spirit, my life will be changed as I learn to look at the mirror and do something about what I see. 


I have yet to see the movie, but here’s one guy’s take on the third installment of The Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.  Below is a snapshot of the article …

We all have a Kraken of sorts on our tail as well … and unfortunately being on shore doesn’t keep us safe. Our nasty beastie is called death, and one day it will find us. We need someone to rescue us when that happens – to resurrect us so we can live out our eternity the way God intended it – which is in heaven with Him.

Jesus Christ defeated the Kraken called death. Like Jack Sparrow, he willingly jumped into its jaws to save others. But here’s the most amazing part … Jesus didn’t stay there. He came back so that we too could come back from the dead as well!

images3.jpgMost of us long to make a difference in life.  We long to have a life that counts.  A life that matters.  But if you’re like me you get distracted.  You get distracted by many pursuits.  Some are worldly and some are “godly.”  Some seem worthwhile while others seem fleeting.  Some seem good but not necessarily great.  And so we can often feel like our lives are filled with many moving targets that we’re striving to hit, but always falling short and feeling frustrated.  We can have good intentions but these intentions rarely become intentional in practice.  

The Apostle Paul was different.  He lived his life with an aim.  And though it was a simple aim, he was driven by it and passed it on to others.  In 1 Timothy 1:5 Paul says, “The aim of our charge is love …”  Paul knew that God had entrusted him with the gospel (1 Tim. 1:11) and in turn he entrusted it to his “true child in the faith” Timothy (1 Tim. 1:18).  This gospel penetrated his heart, his teaching, and his life.  But the aim of his charge as an apostle was summed up in one word — love.  In other words, the end goal (telos in Greek) for Paul’s ministry was love.  His overall aim of his teaching and serving and discipling was to promote love–vertical love for God and horizantal love for others.  In essence, this is what Christianity is all about.  So if we put Christianity into a skillet and boiled it down to one main thing love is what would come out.  Of course Paul simply learned this from Jesus.  Loving God and loving one’s neighbor sums up the law and all the commandments (Mt. 22:37-40).  It’s the core of what it means to glorify God and make disciples. 

And so I ask myself, “What are you aiming at in life?  What gets you going in the morning?  What’s your passion?”  For Paul it was spreading the good news of the gospel so as to promote love for God and love for others.  Simple in word, difficult in practice.  Nevertheless, I want that to be my aim.  I want to live a life of love.  So I ask you.  Will you love God more today?  And will you love others more today as you point them to the gospel that you too have been saved by and entrusted with?        

images811.jpgLast night Emie graduated from preschool.  It was pretty amazing for us.  Needless to say it was hilarious watching all the kids and their different personalities come out on the stage.  First they walked through the alphabet with each kid having a different letter and a short rhyme.  Emie had the letter “X” so she had a long time to wait for her turn.  During that time she spotted Jaime and me and my Mom and Dad who came for the weekend.  When it was finally her turn she got up with a picture that she had drawn of our family and said, “X is for the excellent drawing that I drew and if you look real closely you’ll see what an artist can do.”  It was soooo cute!  When she sat back down her little friend Allie gave her a kiss and hug and said, “I’m so proud of you.”  Later it was time for all the kids to tell what they wanted to be when they grew up.  Most boys wanted to be a policeman and most girls wanted to be a veternarian.  But when it was Emie’s turn and her teacher asked her what she wanted to be, she got up and said, “A Mommy, a Doctor, and an Ice Cream Trucker!”  That’s right, an Ice Cream Trucker.  Somehow I think she would sell a lot of icecream with her cute little face – and probably eat quite a lot as well!  Emie had a great year and I can’t believe she’s on her way to kindegarten!    

Do you struggle with pride?  Do you compare yourself with others?  I love this quote by Piper.  “If an ant measures himself by the Sears Tower, he will not boast over the flea.”

magnify1.gifAs parents we know that we must teach our children.  We must teach them how to tie their shoes and brush their teeth.  We must teach them their ABC’s and their 1, 2, 3’s.  We must teach them to respect others and make wise choices.  And we must teach them first and foremost the gospel and their need for salvation.  But along the way, we often forget that God gives us children not just so that we could teach them, but so that they could teach us.

Children teach us so many things, don’t they?  They teach us how to love others regardless of skin color, personality, and abilities.  They teach us to be real and sincere in our emotions-not being afraid to laugh or to cry when we need to.   They teach us that status and significance means nothing compared to kindness and tenderness.  And they teach us to enjoy life and not worry so much about tomorrow because right now is the moment that really matters.  

Our children teach us so many things.  But perhaps the most important thing our children teach us is how to receive.  They teach us how to receive the kingdom of God.  Jesus tells us that the way of entering into his kingdom is by receiving.  “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Luke 18:17).  Notice, we do not enter the kingdom of God by analyzing some deep problem and arriving at its solution.  And we do not enter the kingdom of God by working hard to be good enough for God’s approval.  We enter it by receiving.  If entrance into God’s kingdom depended on studying and analyzing and working to be righteous on our own, than children could never enter it.  And neither could we.  But thankfully entering the kingdom of God depends upon receiving something, and therefore children can enter. 

How does a child receive the kingdom of God?  He receives it in simple, humble faith.  That’s why Jesus holds up children as an example to us.  Children are able to believe and receive Christ without a mind stuffed with self-righteousness and intellectual, emotional baggage.  Yes they are sinners, but often their hearts have yet to be corrupted with preconceived ideas of God and what he should be like.  They don’t have a little box for God to fit in.  They want him bigger than our self-made boxes.  Charles Spurgeon says that children are “blessed in their ignorance” and that all of us must be delivered from our preconceived notions and “humbly drink in the Word of God” and receive it like little children. 

So have you?  Have you come to God not trying to give him something but simply to receive something from Him?  Have you come ready to admit that you have sinned against Him and ready to receive Christ as the One who paid the penalty for your sins?  Perhaps you have already received Him, but nevertheless, I invite you to pause today and think about what real faith is.

Spurgeon says, “If you want to know what faith in Jesus is, look to the young children who have taken Jesus at His Word, believed in Him, loved Him, and therefore know and are sure they are saved.”  Amen!  May we learn together the value of teaching our children and letting them teach us.     

  • Read Spiritual Parenting by Charles Spurgeon  
  • Quote: “While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” ~ Angela Schwindt

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