Wednesday, August 31, 2005

What’s really important in life?

Knowing what’s most important to us is sometimes masked by circumstances and then unveiled in a surprising way. For example, one woman’s life destroyed by hurricane Katrina said on the news that she stayed in New Orleans to be with her home (possessions, etc.), but in the aftermath of the devastation, she wished that she had left town. She almost lost her life. It took a hurricane for her to really know the importance of her life.

What’s really important in life? The Health Colonel lists Zig Ziglar’s answer to this question. Zig’s answer is somewhat long, but you might try pairing it down by eliminating a few items. Then ask the class to identify how Paul might modify the list based on what he wrote in Romans 1:1-15.

P.S. If this blog is valuable to you, please forward it to other Bible teachers. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Actions that demonstrate the importance of great deals

This week’s Explore the Bible lesson is “What do you think of the gospel?” from Romans 1:1-17. The Message paraphrase puts verse 5 as “we received both the generous gift of his life and the urgent task of passing it on to others.” We understand that people who accept the gospel demonstrate the importance of its value when they pass it on to others.

To illustrate, my wife bought some colorful, low-priced, easy-to-care-for blouses at Wal-Mart. Her experience told her these blouses were a good deal. Within the week she acted to pass on the news of her purchases to family and friends. Many of them rushed to Wal-Mart to get in on the deal. She made phone calls and personal visits to people she loved to tell them so they could get in on the opportunity. This exemplifies the attitude of Christians as they readily share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ with others. They make it a top priority matter.

In your class, lead off with an example of a “good deal” from your experience and allow others to share their experiences. Not all of the situations need be examples of purchases. For instance, someone might want to share a great experience they have had with a doctor, or medical facility.

Read the testimony of Otis Jefferson and ask the class to identify from it what actions he regularly takes that demonstrate how much he values dialysis and the work of the National Kidney Foundation.

Monday, August 29, 2005

What do you think of the gospel?

How does your day-in, day-out behavior demonstrate that the gospel is important to you? You’d hope to find suggested ways in the LifeWay material to discuss with your class, but it’s not there based on my first reading.

The gospel is the good news of what God has done to save people dead to Him. Put up a list of ten possible actions (in random order) if taken would illustrate some level of importance of the gospel in a Christian’s life.

Work with the class to prioritize from the list the five (5) most important actions if taken. Hopefully, there will be some discussion over the listed items and the exercise is more than a “no-brainer”. Below is a suggested list with which to begin, but make changes to it based on your class and how God leads you.

A. Meet the immediate need of a poor person God places in my path.
B. Go on a mission trip to Kenya.
C. Challenge the teacher when he presents a “truth” that doesn’t sound totally Biblical.
D. Set prayer request reminders in my computer’s task management software to help me remember to pray on certain days for specific people.
E. Share my faith with other people.
F. Hosting fellowships at my house.
G. Write cards or notes to encourage others
H. Break out of my Christian click to meet new people
I. Mediate on Scripture to help me make decisions.
J. Make and revise plans daily to be involved where I can fulfill the “sense of mission” God has put into my heart.

Note: LifeWay posted on the web its QuickSource material (Google’s HTML version, whose auto layout is a little hard to read) for this week’s Explore the Bible lesson “What do you think of the gospel?” from Romans 1:1-17. This includes Keyword identification, a Discussion Plan and a Parable Plan. Also, LifeWay’s material for this lesson as provided in the Adult Learner Guide (also Google’s HTML version) is available on the web. The PDF file downloads from the LifeWay server was incomplete.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Alternative ideas from background passages

Pastor Brad Shockley of Cedar Hill Baptist Church offers commentary on this lesson that does not focus on the selected LifeWay topic of “Maintain Bible Study and Prayer.” Instead, he concentrates on the role of angels, particularly as can be discerned from Daniel 10. He describes the cosmic battle between “faithful and fallen” angles as fascinating.

If you are struggling with the LifeWay lesson, visit Shockley’s material for an alternative. I liked it since the reality and role of angels are deep truths from Scripture. These truths can drive us to maintain regular Bible study and exercise the practice of prayer frequently. presents a summary of what the Bible teaches about angels that might be handy.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

What drives us to our knees?

Don Schuman’s lesson commentary on “Maintain Bible Study and Prayer” in effect asks “What drives us to our knees?” Here are a few experiences I can recall.

- Learning a deep truth from Scripture
- State of utter helplessness
- Awareness of God’s presence
- Awareness of my depravity
- A longing for God
- Sense of mission for God
- Facing usually adversity

How about you? Amend this list with your own and share it with your class. Discuss their past experiences, but what they see as possible future instances where they will need to be prepared to pray as Daniel did in chapter 9.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Reading keys

Tom Landry was a super Christian man and a great football coach, particularly with the Dallas Cowboys. However, he was also an innovative defensive coach with the New York Giants opposite Vince Lombardi who coached the offense. Described in the section “The Defense Answers” (scroll down), Landry invented the art of “reading keys”:

  1. "But Landry’s approach to defense went far beyond simply making a rather small change personnel to create a new alignment. He pioneered in having defenders read keys. In the first fifteen years or so of the modern T formation, linebackers and defensive backs generally watched the quarterback, so they were susceptible to fakes by a good ball-handler. Landry taught them to keep their eyes off the quarterback, for the most part."
  2. "For example, linebackers usually keyed on the guards (although, against certain teams or certain offensive sets, a linebacker might key on one of the running backs). If a guard pulled, it usually indicated which way a play was going, and linebackers were expected to flow in that direction."

The benefit of reading keys is that a player can be trained to react quickly and correctly to offensive plays. Otherwise, the offensive element of surprise might always defeat even the best defensive team. Training to read keys happens everyday in practice. A coach teaches players their keys based on position and situation, and then runs practice drills time and time again until players learn to react without thinking.

Christians can take a page from the football playbook and learn to read keys and respond without thinking. For example guys, we men have to learn to avert our eyes when we come into proximity of an attractive woman wearing a low cut blouse. We also need to get our mind onto a prayer for her as fast as possible. It is very difficult to stare at her in lust if we avert our eyes and also ask Jesus to bless her and teach us to see her as a potential Christian sister as opposed to a sexual object.

How do we learn to read keys like this? Remember the words ‘maintain, practice, and regular’. Maintain bible study to learn the ‘keys’ . For instance, Proverbs 4:25 tells us to “look straight ahead”. Thus, when you are tempted, practice “looking straight ahead.” Next, regularly enter into prayer. Train yourself to read keys to become a person after God’s own heart.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Bible study, prayer, confession

This week we are studying “Maintain Bible Study and Prayer” from Daniel 9:1-12:13. Watch the preview video of a “prayer group therapy” skit. Funny stuff. It’s referenced in the lesson series Spiritual Growth Bible Study Guide by John Underill, pastor at Valley Fourth Memorial Church in Spokane, Washington. Follow the Next Page link in the upper right side of the page to see his outline and Small Group Leader’s Guide.

Here are links to his companion material on prayer and confession. Both include downloadable PowerPoint files to help you in using the material.

Great material. Do you think of yourself as a mature Christian? Why or why not? What do you think of his suggestions for individuals and families (at the bottom of the first page)? Could you use some of his “Introductory Questions” in your class?

Monday, August 22, 2005


The key words for this week’s lesson “Maintain Bible Study and Prayer” from Daniel 9:1-12:13 are maintain, practice and regular. Proverbs 19:27 warns that to stop listening to instruction is equivalent to approaching life with your back turned. Backing your way down life’s highway could lead to disaster.

This can have immediate consequences such as what can happen if you ignore a railroad crossing signal, or it can have long-term impact such as what might happen if you stop serving, for example, in your local church.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Hope helps us on a daily basis

Christians take joy that God has revealed the future to us. He has told us what will happen in the end. For example, “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it” (Phil 1:6). He is sovereign and will see that His work to perfect me, for example, will not be thwarted. Praise God for His sovereignty! That thought fills me with joy.

When it comes to "threatening circumstances" today, I am an enemy to myself, a threat to my own well being. What Christian hasn’t prayed to be rescued from “this body of death?” But the Lord has been given all authority, and He has promised to complete His good work in me. I take great joy in His authority for this reason. I can be confident that He will overcome even me!

An unbeliever doesn’t have the joy of knowing this. So he is still personally fearful and without hope—except for the kind that the world can provide—a banker, a lawyer, a doctor, a therapist, an employer, etc. Oh, if I could only help him understand what he is missing!

Discuss with your class how hope in Christ helps us in very practical ways such as those listed below taken from here:

1. An awareness of God’s purposes gives us direction.
2. Biblical hope dispels false hopes. There cannot be any ‘new age’ of perfect harmony, until Jesus returns and ushers in “the age to come” (Mark 10:30).
3. When the Powers of destruction seem overwhelming, despair is overcome by faith that all things are in God’s hands. 4. An expectation of Jesus‘ return reminds us that we are accountable to God. Jesus compared himself to a king who goes away on a journey, and later returns to his kingdom (Luke 19:15). Are we good stewards of His dominion? We are called to watch (exercise discernment) and pray, urgently seeking for God’s reign to be a reality in our lives.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A future hope

Reading Dennis Tucker’s “Rejoice in the Lord’s Sovereignty” lesson commentary in the Baptist Standard, made me wonder: “If Christians choose to live faithful to God in difficult times, can we expect that the hearts of evil ones around will be changed?” I would have to answer, “Not really.” In this case, a Christian’s desire to see evil changed to good is dashed. Thus, just as the exiled Jews during Daniel’s time needed reassurance, suffering Christians today need encouragement.

When evil continues to triumph so abundantly today, we find hope in the same Person that controlled events in Daniel vision—The Ancient of Days (by William Blake). Evil surrounding us may not be immediately cutoff, but we can have faith that God is in control. We must learn to accept God’s plan for dealing with evil since He is sovereign.

Tucker writes “the book of Daniel suggests that in light of the pain and fear of the present moment, we must choose faithful living and then lean into the presence of a faithful God.” This reminded me of Proverbs 23:17-19.

Finally, I was meditating yesterday on Mark 1:2 and God said thru the prophet Isaiah that He would send a messenger in advance to prepare the way for Messiah. Two verses later, Mark simply writes, “And so John came”. In other words, God said what he would do and later it happened exactly that way. God said. John came. We can be confident that God will do what He has said He will do. Lord Jesus will return.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Take joy because God is in control

The decisive pacific naval battle of WWII was fought at Midway Island, in June 1942. After the successful Doolittle raid on Tokyo, Japanese commander Yamamoto decided to attack Midway Island and in doing hoped to draw the American carrier fleet into a battle they would lose because of Japan’s experienced carrier air power (remember Pearl Harbor).

However, the US had broken Japanese naval codes and learned of the plan in advance. Hence, US naval commander Admiral Nimitz used US carrier air power to ambush the unsuspecting Japanese carriers as they approached Midway. The Japanese lost four carriers and the US one. Afterwards, the US took control of offensive operations in the Pacific theater. This brought joy and hope to American forces.

Just as the US knew of the Japanese plan in advance, the LORD God knows the plans of His enemies in advance. He is in control of what will occur. Hence, we can take joy because God is in control.

We understand Daniel’s vision on the scale of powerful world empires, but what about the small changing circumstances in our personal lives? Does God know in advance about the difficulties we will face? Absolutely! Why doesn’t He prevent them, or surprise attack the enemy? Remember God is faithful and loving and He is acting in accord with His purpose to conform us to the image of Christ Jesus (see Romans 8:29, 1 Corinthians 15:49, and 2 Corinthians 3:18). Take joy because God is in control of even the smallest details of our lives to shape us into the image of His Son Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Symbolism in writing

God “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17), so we can “Rejoice in the Lord’s Sovereignty” when we find Christian symbolism in unexpected places.

For example, John Granger’s books The Hidden Key to Harry Potter and Looking for God in Harry Potter we discover that the fantastic beast called a Griffin in the Harry Potter books symbolize Jesus Christ. It has “the front legs and head of a giant eagle, but the body and hind legs of a lion,” and it represents Christ in two ways:

“First, Christ is the God-man, so double-natured symbols are a natural match for him. More important, though, is that the two natures here are the lion and eagle. A beast that is half "king of the heavens" (eagle) and half "king of the earth" (lion) points to the God-man in his role as King of heaven and earth.”

See Harry Beasts for more examples, such as the Unicorn, the Phoenix and the Stag. Discuss the Christian symbolism of each with the class as an introduction to understanding the symbolism in Daniel 7, which describes four (symbolic) beasts, ten horns, a little horn and more. God is in control and we can take joy in how He orchestrates everything into His purpose.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Visions from God

Gody Sanchez had a Vision From God. Maybe it wasn’t on the scale of Daniel’s four beast vision in Daniel 7, but Sanchez envisioned how to turn the noisy leaf blower beast into a quiet electric leaf blower—“he preserved jobs, negotiated peace, inspired hope, and did a small part to save the planet.”

Discuss Gody’s story with the class and point out how he ‘saved the day’. Did the Sanchez’ vision cause people to glorify God? How did it change Gody’s life? Was it encouraging?Ask the class about similar stressful situations they know of where God spoke to them or others in a vision.

Penn Clark lists 10 Characteristics of a vision from God based on the life of Paul. How does Daniel’s vision stack up regarding these same 10 characteristics?

I’ve always marveled at the Shakers and their visions to achieve earthly perfection. Community? I dig that. Regular confession? Makes biblical sense. Separation from the world? Hmmm. Celibacy? You’re kidding…

Have some fun this week as we prepare to study “Rejoice in the Lord’s Sovereignty”.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Keep on, keeping on

When Daniel learned of the edict designed to trap him, he immediately prayed to God. That is, he had trained himself to remain faithful when pressure came. To “stand firm in faith” means that we must also train ourselves to be faithful when pressures come.

For me, the challenge comes after a failure of some sort—maybe a spat with my wife—all my fault, of course. It’s frustrating and discouraging. It’s not like the first time it’s ever happened. Right? Should I just give up on being a Christian at this point? What would you do?

The Bible says in Proverbs 24:16a, “for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again”. We are not to give up, but we are to be faithful. Philippians 2:12-13 says, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

There is a boxing scene in the movie Cool Hand Luke, where Paul Newman (Luke) gets repeatedly knocked down by George Kennedy (Dragline), but time and time again, he keeps getting up. Show a clip of that scene from the movie and discuss how "fighting to stand firm in faith" is a knock down, drag out business.

There is a similar “don’t give up” fight scene in Last Samurai with Tom Cruise—where eventually, Cruise learns to fight like a samurai. That added element can be used to illustrate that a Christian must keep on, keeping on in order to learn to stand firm in faith.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Preset boundaries

In chapter 17 of their book Every Man, God’s Man, Steven Arterburn and Kenny Luck challenge men to stand firm in faith by setting boundaries in advance. These “fences” liberate a man to finish the course in faith. On page 198 the authors offer sample boundaries, which I list below. Share these with your class and discuss the idea of setting predetermined boundaries to help us stand firm in faith. Remind the class that Daniel practiced this discipline. For example, when offered gifts he immediately declined. He had set a boundary to not accept gifts.

1. Blocking pay-per-view option at the hotel front desk
2. Refusing to make low-blow putdowns during marital disagreements
3. Saying no when asked to do things on weekends that don’t involve the whole family
4. Never being alone with a woman who is not your wife
5. Turning the channel when there’s gratuitous skin on the tube
6. Refusing to keep self-destructive secrets from your wifeNever making a significant financial or family decision without first consulting your wife.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


In chapter 8 of their book Every Man, God’s Man, Steven Arterburn and Kenny Luck challenge men to stand firm by not allowing the Devil to gain a foothold on which further attack can be based.

These footholds occur in every aspect of our lives and knock us spiritually off balance, making it impossible to stand firm in faith. Cover the list below (from page 101 of the above book) with your class and discuss which ones are troublesome for class members.

1. Ted rationalizes spending more money than he makes. Foothold.
2. Scott believes giving to God’s kingdom is optional. Foothold.
3. Chris, a pastor, maintains that counseling women alone is fine. Foothold.
4. Matt habitually uses fear to control his wife and kids. Foothold.
5. John travels for days a week because he doesn’t want to lose his spot in the President’s Club, but [the relationship with] his wife and kids are dying on the vine. Foothold.
6. Dave puffs up his performance on certain accounts to make a good impression with his manager. Foothold.
7. Warren harbors resentment against his wife because she’s rarely responsive to his sexual advances. Foothold.
8. Aaron has developed his own personal theology about drinking: If he ties one on occasionally, it’s no big deal. Foothold.
9. Jay doesn’t think twice about flipping through men’s magazines like Maxim, Gear, and Details at Barnes & Noble. Foothold.
10. Greg doesn’t see anything wrong in renting Monster’s Ball on video, even though he heard Halle Berry does a twenty-minute sex scene early in the movie. Foothold.
11. Darold believes in a personal God but scoffs at those who say that Satan exists.

What might be an equivalent list for women if your class is a couple’s class?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Stand Firm in Faith

I was in Costa Rica this last week and had momentary trouble regaining my balance on arriving at the zip-line, tree stands incorporated into our canopy tour. Just as I unhooked from the cable, I experienced a feeling of tipping backwards. The sensation was short lived, but it serves to help illustrate this week’s lesson out of Daniel 5-6 challenging us to Stand Firm in Faith.

I made a list of situations where I have had some difficulty standing. You can add your thoughts and use the final list as a way to introduce the idea of “specific issues where it may be difficult for us to take a firm stand.”

1. Walking across a chasm on a rope bridge.
2. Traversing a “barrel bridge” across moving water (in an amusement park)
3. Vertigo when quickly standing up from a supine position
4. Misstep while hiking with a loaded backpack
5. Standing up out of a ski lift chair at the right moment.
6. Walking in a pitch black room.
7. Standing in a bus or rail car that lurches forward, or quickly stops.

My co-teacher, Curt, rides a motorcycle. To keep that thing balanced, here are a few things he must think about occasionally.

Our Rock, Jesus Christ is always solid. We can depend on Him.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Last minute helps

Quickplan from LifeWay for Use Godly Tact and Discretion.

The Parable Plan from LifeWay.

The KeyWords from LifeWay for this lesson.

Questions from University Baptist Church, Huntsville, AL:

1. Why was Daniel reluctant to eat the food provided for him? (1:8)

2. What was the result of the test Daniel proposed? (1:15-16)

3. Why did Daniel ask the reason for the king’s decree being so harsh? (2:15)

4. How did Daniel deliver bad news to the king? (4:15)

See here for answers.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Game to not say anything negative

The following idea was taken from a post to It would be an interesting experiment in any class. Set the penalty amount to $1.00 and it might be acceptable. Let me know if you try it!

If you'd like to make a major, powerful change in the way your team (class) interacts, get them to agree to the following experiment.

The Game: For a certain period of time (a month works well), everyone is prohibited from saying anything negative. All comments and questions, however urgent or important, are to be posed in a positive way.

The Rules: If a person cannot find a positive way to make his point, he cannot say anything at all. Couching a criticism in a positive statement does not make it positive. The deciding factor, when there is doubt, is how it makes the recipient of the comment feel. If it stings -- however
nicely it is said -- it is deemed negative.

The Penalties: Every time a negative comment is made, the perpetrator must donate $5 to a common pot. At the end of the time period, all the money is counted and given to charity.

Marshall Thurber, a partner in a large San Francisco real-estate firm, did a similar thing with his employees. He began during the company's weekly Monday meeting by reading a page from a book about the life of Rolling Thunder, an American Indian medicine man.

"He [Rolling Thunder] said that people have to be responsible for their thoughts, so they have to learn to control them. It may not be easy, but it can be done. First of all, if we don't want to think certain things, we don't say them. We don't have to eat everything we see, and we don't
have to say everything we are thinking. So we begin by watching our words and speaking with good purpose only."

According to the rules Thurber's employees went by, anyone observed speaking with other than a good purpose had to put $2 in a money bowl. The game had a "transforming" effect on his entire office, Thurber later reported. Nothing he did before or since, he said, had such a powerful

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Tact = Gentleness

Rev. Bruce Goettsche of Union Church, offers some practical hints on becoming more gentle, to which he equates tactfulness.

1. pray that God will make you softer in time of conflict--lower your voice rather than raise it
2. no matter what the circumstance speak calmly
3. make eye contact
4. remember that most people you encounter are not trying to annoy you . . .they are "just trying to do their jobs"

Present these to your class and ask how they might work for developing tact? Based on their experience, what other suggestions can they make?

A post by Esther Cook recounted her story about her father’s lack of workplace tact and the consequences. Read and discuss with the class what she says: “My father lost a job because his criticisms of others were too devastating, and IBM thought the damage he did to others outweighed his own brilliance--and he developed integrated circuits that made IBM millions. IBM had signs all over saying, "THINK" but when he could really think, they fired him. Had IBM [taught tactfulness], my father would have learned Tact as a skill, stayed there--and suffered far less in his personal relationships all his life. IBM would be even richer than it is today. My father lost at least $200,000 income through not understanding tact. IBM lost millions.”

Challenge the class to think of examples where use of tact benefited others and not just the person who demonstrated it? E.g. Daniel’s use of tact benefited him (he was able to meet with the King—Dan. 2:14-16) and it benefited the other wise men (they were not slaughtered as the King had commanded—Dan 2:12).

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Under authority

“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself…,” Daniel 1:8. Why was Daniel able to be so resolute? Another example of resolve was displayed by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3:18. “But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” How were they able to be so decisive in advance? Daniel 2:14b says that Daniel displayed wisdom (seeing a matter from God’s perspective) and used tact (consideration in dealing with others and avoiding giving offence) in his interactions.

Proverbs 15:1 says that, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Surely, our four friends wanted to be effective in their communication. We all want an effective result, but they were wired to obtain it using the virtue of tact.

How can we develop tact? Gifford Pinchot says we “Learn tact simply by being absolutely honest and sincere, and by learning to recognize the point of view of the other man and meet him with arguments he will understand.”

Share this suggestion with the class and ask them to comment on it. Ask them to share how they learned to use tact. One answer is to train our selves to use good manners. “Yes sir.” “No Mam.” To place one’s self under authority is another way. I’ve never met anyone that is truly tactful that is not also under authority.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Top 10 people that bring out the worst in me (you)?

10. One couple annoys me for some reason, but I can’t put my finger on why.
9. A person who makes an emphatic statement that I know is wrong.
8. A sour-face person that won’t stop whining and complaining.
7. A self-absorbed person that wants to talk only about himself (herself).
6. A car salesman who acts like you are stupid.
5. A person who asks for substitutions and makes order changes while sitting at a drive thru window.
4. A know-nothing co-worker who sucks up to the boss.
3. A family member who tells me how to live my life, raise my kids and spend my money.
2. People who criticize and judge other people.
1. Anyone with a view that opposes what I think.

This week we are studying how to "Use Godly Tact and Discretion" based on Daniel 1:1–4:37.