Telescope: A Storyline & Launch Lesson

In my early 20’s I read John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life and it changed me. I’ll never forget reading these two paragraphs, which fueled my ambition to spend my life making much of God:

“You can magnify like a telescope or like a microscope. When you magnify like a microscope, you make something tiny look bigger than it is…. But when you magnify like a telescope, you make something unimaginably great look like what it really is. With the Hubble Space Telescope, pinprick galaxies in the sky are revealed for the billion-star giants that they are. Magnifying God like that is worship.

“We waste our lives when we do not pray and think and dream and plan and work toward magnifying God in all spheres of life. God created us for this: to live our lives in a way that makes him look more like the greatness and the beauty and the infinite worth that he really is. In the night sky of this world God appears to most people, if at all, like a pinprick of light in a heaven of darkness. But he created us and called us to make him look like what he really is. This is what it means to be created in the image of God. We are meant to image forth in the the world what he is really like” (John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, pp. 32-33).

As I reflected on John 3:30 (“He must become greater; I must become less”) and pondered a classroom Storyline that would articulate a compelling invitation to the better Story, my mind kept returning to Piper’s metaphor of a telescope. That’s what John 3:30 is all about: “to live our lives in a way that makes [God] look more like the greatness and the beauty and the infinite worth that he really is.” That’s how “Telescope” became my classroom Storyline.

Our HS Bible team planned a launch lesson that would introduce this controlling metaphor. We brought microscopes into the classroom and directed students to explore telescopic images of deep space at HubbleSite. Then we asked them to compare and contrast:

  • What do microscopes and telescopes have in common?
  • How do they differ in their function?

Microscopes

Microscopes make tiny things look bigger than they really are.

Telescopes

But telescopes help us see unimaginably great things for what they really are.

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Glorify

After exploring the breathtaking images from the Hubble Space Telescope, we made the connection: to glorify is to magnify. Human beings were made to magnify; we automatically magnify whatever we are pointed at, whatever we build our lives around. If a person aims his life at sports, money, relationships, or material possessions, he magnifies those created things. When a person aims his life at the glory of God, he makes much of God.

Then we had students reflect on these questions:

  • Piper said, “In the night sky of this world God appears to most people, if at all, like a pinprick of light in a heaven of darkness.” To what extent can you relate to this? Does God presently appear great and glorious or dim and distant to you?
  • Who are some of the people in your life who have been like telescopes, helping you see God for what he is really like?
  • What are some “smaller things” you are tempted to magnify like a microscope, making much of things that are not ultimate?

Classroom Visuals

Here are the posters we created to display this Storyline in our classrooms.

To keep this from becoming a bookend theme, we plan to give students time to reflect throughout the year, making connections between class content and their awareness of God’s glory. We trust that God will cause many to move from seeing him as dim and distant to seeing him as great and glorious.

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