I had been looking forward to having a Bible study with this couple, yet was a bit apprehensive. Would they understand the importance of taking twelve hours to go through the 1,100 verses found in The Stranger? I knew the husband had a staunch religious background. Would we get off track on controversial issues? Then, at the Mississippi TERM* seminar, one of the GoodSeed staff introduced the wood dinosaur puzzles! What a set of tools these have been! Let me tell you how they help.
When I began our study, I held up one piece of the dinosaur puzzle and asked my students what it was. They could not tell. After a few guesses, I showed them the rest of the puzzle. I explained that just like we could not tell what one piece of the puzzle represented until we could see the rest of the puzzle, in the same way we could not understand the Bible unless we took a good look at the book as whole from beginning to end. For us to study the main theme of the Bible would require a commitment of twelve hours!
Next, I held up a dinosaur puzzle that had been assembled incorrectly—with the pieces jammed together at unusual angles. Everyone could see that the puzzle had used most of the pieces, but somehow it didn't have a semblance of order about it. I explained that many people are confused about the Bible, because they have not taken the time to study the main theme of the Bible in an orderly, logical manner. Thus their biblical understanding is incorrect.
Finally, I showed them a correctly assembled puzzle. I told them that when we completed our study, they would understand the Bible's main message clearly. The other themes of the Bible would also fit together correctly, once they had the basic message in place.
The puzzles were very effective in communicating the importance of taking the time to understand the main message of the Bible—the Gospel! It was such a joy to complete the study and see them put their faith in Christ as their sin-bearer! The Holy Spirit began immediately instructing them by filling in the rest of the puzzle, putting meat on the bones and helping them reject things that did not belong to the puzzle. It was a simple step for them to see that concepts like purgatory, prayers for the dead, and baptism for salvation did not fit God's plan.
At one point, they asked, "Why are there so many different denominations?" Once again, I pulled out the jumbled puzzle, and showed how some churches assembled pieces in the wrong places. I was able to point out the benefit of looking at the whole of scripture, interpreting the Bible based on a clear understanding of the main theme, rather than focusing attention on one piece at a time.
I'm convinced that we need to take the time to make sure people get all the pieces in the correct place right from the start! It takes less time to put the puzzle together right the first time, than to try to rearrange the pieces after they have been jammed together in the wrong way! As for those who are confused about the Bible's message, we need to take the time to start at the beginning, and carefully lay out clear biblical foundational truths in a way that makes sense.
*TERM is an acronym for The Emmaus Road Message.
Obtain the supplies needed:
Obtain three identical wood puzzles. I have used dinosaurs, although they can come as various insects, etc. If you buy a grasshopper or rabbit puzzle, it would add another dimension to your illustration. (You could say, "When studying the Bible, be careful how you jump around from passage to passage!")
Prepare the tool:
Pop this one out of its template. DO NOT assemble. Put this puzzle in a box or clear plastic bag where the non-assembled pieces can be clearly seen.
Assemble this puzzle incorrectly. Try to make it look like something. For example, if you have a dinosaur puzzle, you can use the legs as antenna, and make it look like a large bug. Make sure what you come up with DOES NOT look like what it is supposed to.
Assemble this puzzle correctly.
Teaching with the Puzzles
Here is an example of how this visual aid can be used: