Friday, March 31, 2006


Isaiah 30:18 is the basis for Step 5 of “Do you live according to God’s truth?”. God never ceases to amaze us! Judah would get whacked for its rebellion, but unexpectedly, God would show compassion and justice to future generations. Praise God! I can’t wait to sing the Doxology. Troy Bush mentions different views of God (dictator, grandfather). What’s your view of Him?

Now that we’ve covered all the focal verses, what questions do you have?

Here’s mine: Since each lesson in this series covers several chapters, do you think we are getting the meat of Isaiah, or are we just speed reading the ‘headlines’ as we fast-forwarding thru it?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Got your ears on?

Step 4 of the LifeWay lesson “Do you live according to God’s truth?” is based on Isaiah 30:12-17. Instead of quiet confidence in God’s plan, the Judahites made their horses ready to run away on the day of battle, but forgot that victory rests with the Lord (Proverbs 21:31). They hoped to outrun the Assyrians when attacked, but after reeading Isaiah’s message, that'd be like trying to outrun an explosion (scroll down), an impossibility (Proverbs 21:30). Isaiah was a “party pooper”.

LifeWay titles step 4 as “Receive God’s Message”. Does receiving the message from You Can Run but You Cannot Hide make you want to run (i.e. say, "Enough is enough!")? I liked how the video portrays a change in attitude of the church members!

Judah’s leaders mistakenly thought they could get away with a lifestyle of tricking and bullying others. They “pulled the wool over people’s eyes”, and “lorded it over others", but they didn’t have their “ears on” to hear God’s message. What other sayings can you associate with Isaiah 30:12-17? Did LifeWay's "a stitch in time saves nine" make sense to you?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

What are you banking on?

Step 3 of this week’s lesson is based on Isaiah 28:16-18, which includes the reference to “a stone in Zion”. The ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy was Jesus Christ (Matt 21:42, 1 Pet 2:4-6), but what do you think it meant in the near term to the people of Judah?

James Adair thinks the near term fulfillment was a renewed society established after the return from exile.

The LifeWay Leader Guide titles this step “Rely on God’s Foundation”. You might consider singing The Solid Rock at this point in the lesson.

Based on Isaiah 28:16-18, a wrong foundation is to count on injustice and unrighteousness in some way to solve problems in life. For example, the tax reporting date of April 15 is approaching and many people are preparing their returns. False reporting of income or deductions garners a gain based on injustice and unrighteousness. This indicates a trust in money and wealth as a foundation for living.

One liner: “If my business gets much worse, I won't have to lie on my next tax return.”

Scott Buzzell says, “I’m banking on God to heal me”. In place of trusting God in a situation, I think we “bank on” youthfulness, health, wealth, personality, chance, desires, talents, intelligence, job, etc. Add to this list using the comment link below.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Remote control living

Step 2 of “Do you live according to God’s truth?” is based on Isaiah 28:14-15. The Judahites believed the scourge of the Assyrians would not touch them. At best, that was wishful thinking. They were self-deceived. How do you plan to illustrate Self-deception, or wishful thinking to members of your class?

Consider using a TV remote control. When a scene on TV disagrees with our tastes, for example, we’ve learned to switch channels until we find an agreeable program. Is this our basic strategy in life also? For example, whenever we’re confronted with a problem in life, what alternate truth do we select to avoid reality?

It would be great to see comments from some of you readers giving examples of how we practice self-deception or wishful thinking today by simply 'changing the channel.'

P.S. The idea for this illustration comes from the movie Life is a State of Mind, which you might find interesting to watch this week.

Monday, March 27, 2006

I know better than ...

We turn from dealing with last week’s attitude of “I’m not accountability” to this week of addressing the attitude “I know better than God.” LifeWay’s Explore the Bible lesson is “Do you live according to God’s truth?”. It has a background passage of Isaiah 24:1-31:9, and focal verses: Isaiah 28:14-18; 30:12-18.

The Leader Guide suggests using Pack item 7 to introduce the lesson, which I like because of its focus on everyday attitudes about the Bible that obviate its use. For example, when it comes to principles for everyday living, some hold the attitude that ‘common sense’ is more important than any truth found in the Bible.

As an alternative you could introduce the lesson by showing your results on this philosophy quiz (see mine below), which can be interpreted using the definitions from this site. You might show one-line definitions of each philosophy to help members understand the alternatives people use today instead of depending on truth found in the Bible for daily living.

Divine Command








Justice (Fairness)






Strong Egoism




What philosophy do you follow? (v1.03)
created with

Saturday, March 25, 2006


Meme: What is the best excuse you've heard when someone you know was busted (i.e. held accountable)? Was it for a traffic violation? A late fee? Service cancellation?

PPT slides I will use tomorrow...

Friday, March 24, 2006

Step 5 concludes the lesson “Do you think you are unaccountable?”. A chart in the Ilumina Bible indicates five alliances we tend to make today. We trust government and the legal system over God’s plan for moral behavior. We trust in science before believing what the Bible says. We trust that education can better guide us into success rather than God’s counsel. For healthy living, we follow medical care advice more readily than God’s plan for moral living. We seek financial independence and forget to trust God for our needs. Why should we trust God? See Jeremiah 29:11.

An inner peace comes when we trust in the sovereign Lord and lean not on our own understanding. As a closing exercise, ask members to identify the essential truth in each of the following proverbs and then contrast that truth with what we tend to believe that’s in opposition to that truth. Explain how obeying the truth in the proverb teaches us to trust God. What possible accountability comes from ignoring the truth in the proverb?

Proverbs 22:24-25 Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.

Proverbs 22:26-27 Do not be a man who strikes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you.

Proverbs 23:4 Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint.

Proverbs 23:17 Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD.

Proverbs 24:17-18 Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him.

Proverbs 24:19-20 Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future hope, and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.

Proverbs 24:28 Do not testify against your neighbor without cause, or use your lips to deceive.

Proverbs 19:3 A man's own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the LORD.

Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.

Proverbs 20:22 Do not say, "I'll pay you back for this wrong!" Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.

Proverbs 21:31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The relationship that matters

Step 4 of this week’s LifeWay lesson “Do you think you are unaccountable?” is based on Isaiah 18:1-7. Commenting on these verses, Dr. Sam Tullock says that for safety and security against Assyria, Judah sought an alliance with Cush. Judahites thought they could rely on Cush technology, but Isaiah reminded them that all people are accountable to the LORD of Hosts.

The idea of trusting God instead of alliances with men applies to any area in which we experience genuine fear (see additional notes section). Ask members what alliances they have entered into to alleviate their fears. God will hold all of us accountable for our relationship with Jesus Christ, not our trust in lawyers, doctors, police, or car manufacturer, for example.

In his sermon last evening, pastor Scott Riling reminded me as a teacher that we don’t approach forming a message for Sunday from a perspective of “what can I say that’s new”, but we start with a deep love and commitment to Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit, God will give His message to class members.

As a teacher, do you depend on an alliance with some commentary to alleviate your fears about a message for Sunday morning?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Privilege doesn’t count

Isaiah 17:7-9 is the basis for Step 3 of this week’s Explore the Bible lesson “Do you think you are unaccountable?”. The LifeWay material titled this step, “The Privileged are Accountable”. No doubt Israel/Judah had a priviledged position with God, but He did hold them accountable. I like James Adair’s summary discussion of the background passage Isaiah 13:1-23:18 because his challenge to Americans in our position of privilege to be responsible to love people and meet their needs.

As an object lesson to the people, Isaiah periodically stripped naked before the people of Judah over a three year period—see Isaiah 20:1-6. Like servants that could be forced to go naked, Isaiah demonstrated that the people of Judah would go naked in slavery to a conquering army God would use to hold them accountable. What symbolizes loss of privilege today?

You might take time to cover this list of seven Christian privileges (scroll down). Is there a Christian privilege that can be lost as a result of being held accountable? Watch this video and then discuss two questions: What are Americans on the hook for today? and Are there differences between Americans today and the Judahites?

Have you taught, or been taught that verses 13-15 refer to the Devil? What do you think of Adair’s explanation? Note: Adair’s discussion of Isaiah 14:3-23 answers the idle question I asked in Step 2.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Uncomfortable load

Step 2 of “Do you think you are unaccountable?” is based on Isaiah 17:1-3. The Lifeway material summarizes it with the heading “The Powerful Are Accountable.” Isaiah prophesied the destruction of Syria and Israel (the northern kingdom), which happened in 732 BC and 722 BC. We conclude that God did hold those nations accountable even though they behaved as if they were unaccountable.

Randy "Duke" Cunningham loved to hold people accountable, but the powerful congressman recently found out how uncomfortable accountability can be. Read elements of this story to introduce the idea of accountability focus after you set the context of the key verses and comment on them. What illustration are you going to use in Step 2?

Idle question: If you could use any other verse in Isaiah 13:1-23:18 to make the point that the powerful are accountable, what would you recommend?

Monday, March 20, 2006


The Bible teaches that God created humans, but what about you personally? Did God create you, or are you only the result of a biological act? Science explains conception in great detail and you may think that you are no longer accountable to God as a result.

The title of this week’s LifeWay lesson is “Do you think you are unaccountable?” and it is based on Isaiah 13:1-23:18. Your life is valuable and God holds you accountable for how you use it.

Paul taught in Romans 3:19 that everyone is accountable to God, so the challenge as a teacher this week is to help apply that fact in a way that makes a difference in how we and members in our classes live our lives. How do you plan to do this?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Interesting or boring?

Some teachers eschew the LifeWay lesson materials in favor of preparing their own lessons. The reasons for this vary, but I’ve heard comments like, “The material is boring,” or “The suggested applications are weak.”

LifeWay’s EXTRA helps avoid staleness of the material, which is prepared months in advance, but I’m still driven to look for ideas that help make the Bible lessons more clear, interesting and relevant.

I use LifeWay material as a starting point for structuring my own lessons. This helps me “own it” when I teach. I like distributing the Learner Guide to all members to promote studying the “same lesson” in advance of meeting together.

What are your thoughts about using LifeWay materials?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Taking God at His word

To conclude this lesson “Do You Take God At His Word?” ask, “Have you ever wanted to remove a spot in a piece of clothing, or carpet?” Did you use a particular “spot” remover because of the claims on the product label? Were you totally satisfied? Probably not. However, we can depend on the Lord to do what He says He will do. Look for opportunities this week for God to demonstrate His integrity.

We Baptists are known as a people of the Book. Recently I read “The Heart of a Baptist” by SWBTS faculty member Malcolm Yarnell. His paper was encouraging to me, but it was trounced in comments made on The remarks by one Minister of Education seemed over the top to me. Yarnell’s terminology might prevent the paper from being widely read, but I think would be good for all Baptists to hear. Let me know what you think of it. Should I send it to all class members to read?

Friday, March 17, 2006


James Adair comments on history of Isaiah 7-12, which is the basis for the LifeWay lesson “Do You Take God At His Word?”. He mentions that it’s easy to believe God is on your side when you’re on top, but trust and hope are much harder to come by in the midst of hardship. In such times, we must remember that God is our help (see for example, Exodus 23:22). He promised to always be with us, and he will never forsake us.

Adair also relates the interesting story of Enlil-Bani. In a time of suffering, worry and doubt, have you ever received great news that caused you to praise God (Isaiah 12:1-6)? Adair might term such an occasion as a time when you drank from the “well of salvation.” See also Philippians 4:6-7.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Missed blessing

Step 4 of “Do You Take God At His Word?” is based on Isaiah 7:10-14,16. One idea is to contrast responses to the commands of God by Isaiah and Ahaz. Do this by observing Isaiah’s response in verses 3-9 compared to Ahaz’s response in 10-14. While Ahaz talked “religious and pious”, he had no faith and trust in the Lord. He tried the Lord’s patience.

God wanted to bless. He wanted to announce His plan for a savior, but Pastor Jim McCullen notes that God commanded Ahaz to talk to Him and Ahaz refused. In what way do we refuse to talk to God today? That’s right, prayer. We “have not because we ask not.” In what ways do you try God’s patience? What blessings are we missing as a result? See Proverbs 16:20, or Proverbs 1:23.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Where to find courage?

In response to fear, Step 3 advises, “Hearing the Lord’s Promise”. Isaiah 41:13 reminds us of what the LORD God says. Do you believe He will help you in a time of fear?

In Isaiah 7:3-9, the Lord explicitly said to King Ahaz through Isaiah that an attack from the Syrian and Israelite kings would not happen. The Lord challenged Ahaz to trust Him, or he would not stand at all.

Where do you find courage, or help when you need it? In God’s promises? Do you have a verse that best reminds you that the Lord will do what he promises? Troy Bush gives FedEx Kinkos as an example of a business that does what it promises. He uses a stray dog as an illustration of worry, doubt and fear.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Feeling fear or safe?

Step 2 of “Do You Take God at His Word?” is based on Isaiah 7:1-2, where King Ahaz and all Judah experienced genuine fear. They shivered like quivering leaves of an Aspen tree when Israel and Syria attacked from the north. Judah also planned an alliance with the Assyrian’s. Approaching such a powerful killer with an alliance plan could have also engendered genuine fear.

You can have a discussion about Isaiah 7:1-2 and fear, but the key is get at the relationship between experiencing fear and trust in God.

Additional notes to myself:

In what circumstances have you experienced genuine fear? A situation involving your children? Involved in a bad car accident? A lightening storm approaching your house? Target of a mugging? Victim of a false accusation? Just diagnosed with a terrible condition? A wrong turn on a dark street? Hear an unusual noise while you’re alone at home? Just fired from a job? First day on a new job? Put a contract down on a house and wonder if you can pay for it?

How does fear in such circumstances relate to your trust in God? In what way does such fear motivate you? What would alleviate, or prevent such fear from occurring in the above circumstances? What would cause you to feel safe?

“No fear” and “Know fear” are popular expressions today. Why? Who said, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself”? What were the circumstances? Have you heard the expression, “Fear is man’s best friend”? How is that so? What is the “Fear Syndrome”?

Monday, March 13, 2006

End of the aqueduct, the channel of the blessing of the Most High

Please take time this week to read Ray Stedman’s sermon, O Come Immanuel on Isaiah 7, which is the basis for this week’s Lifeway lesson “Do You Take God at His Word?” I first read Stedman’s sermon years ago and was astounded at the meaning of “the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Fuller's Field.” Is it good stuff or what?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Serve by sharing

The slides I plan to use for “Do you volunteer to serve?” are posted here. This sharing is an act of service don't you think?

Question? Would you be willing to share the materials you prepare for LifeWay Explore the Bible lessons? For example, you could upload them to, and then post a comment here that includes a link to your material. Others would then be able to benefit from your material after you are through with it (oddly enough not everyone keeps to the same lesson schedule) . Leave a comment and tell me your reaction.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

How are you reading Isaiah?

I read the Bible differently than I do other books. For example, I’m reading Red Mars of the well known Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. It’s words turn into pictures in my head that become scenes which are woven into an entertaining story.

Incomparably, the words in the Bible are a lamp from God that provide direction for my life, and they judge my thoughts and attitudes. They teach and correct me that I may be fully prepared for opportunities to serve the Lord, which are sure to come.

Do you read the Bible only to prepare to teach as an act of spiritual service, or do you also read it to maintain your relationship with its Author?

I’ll try to post my PPT slides for “Do You Volunteer to Serve?” later today. The concluding slide looks something like the following:

Friday, March 10, 2006


Based on Isaiah 6:8-11, Step 5 of “Do You Volunteer to Serve?” generates lot’s of questions. Why did Isaiah volunteer? Why did his message to the people of Judah have the opposite effect of what was intended (their hearts were hardened by the message)? Does God harden the hearts of people today the way the hearts of the people of Judah were hardened?

How can we help members understand God’s love for us and that obedience to Him brings blessing? Instead people sometimes see God as uncaring and unresponsive and they become even more disobedient (harden their hearts). After all, if God doesn’t care, why should they? Are you becoming insensitive to a particular sin in your life today? Is your heart being hardened?

Read this article or this article for examples of “hardening of the attitudes”.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Being specific

The Leader Guide summarizes Isaiah 6:6-7 with “What has the Lord done for me?” to serve as Step 4 of “Do You Volunteer to Serve?” Isaiah confessed specifically his unclean lips and God responded by changing him to remove his guiltiness and forgiving him of his sin. The key idea is to focus on being specific in confession of sin.

Being specific with God offers obvious benefits over that of remaining general, so how is the Lord working in your life now to encourage confession of specific sins today? Is He using particular passage of Scripture? Some work of the Holy Spirit? A current trial, or failure? A relationship with a particular person?

I think I will remind members of 1 John 1:9 and Psalms 32:5. You could ask members to privately write a specific sin on paper, confess it, and write 1 John 1:9 over it. Then tear the paper up and place it in a garbage can. Or you could emphasize the nature of being specific using selected quotes such as “Milestones must be concrete, specific, measurable events, defined with knife-edge sharpness.” Frederick P. Brooks, Jr.

Bill Gaither describes in It’s More Than the Music (chapter 5) how he wrote the song “He Touched Me”. Bill writes, “I had noticed that no matter what a person has done, no matter how deeply the scars have been cut into a person’s soul, when that person cries out to God in simple faith, he or she can be set free from the hurts of the past.” You might consider singing this song as a class (with the lyrics on screen).

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Unclean lips

Step 3 of “Do You Volunteer to Serve?” is based on Isaiah 6:5. What do you think of this Seven Reasons for Swearing? I’ve been guilty of using reasons 3 and 4.

After covering Isaiah 6:5, I’m thinking of reading Romans 5:6-8 with emphasis on verse 8. Bill Gaither’s book It’s More Than the Music mentions Rusty Goodman’s song “Who Am I?”. You can hear an excerpt or read the lyrics, or ask someone in your class to sing it.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Hearing and serving

Step 2, Isaiah 6:1-4. Judah’s King Uzziah was dead, but a holy and majestic LORD GOD was still on His throne. Christ Jesus was lifted up on a cross and following his resurrection and ascension, He now sits at the right hand of God.

In his vision of God, Isaiah could hear the seraphim praise God. Hear the Hebrew reading and chanting of Isaiah 6:3, or as a class sing Holy, Holy by Michael W. Smith (or select a song of your choice).

Can you hear the holy, holy, holiness of the Lord? Does it shake you! How does hearing God praised motivate you to serve Him (with your life)? Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, and confession and repentance is a fiery purification process to prepare us for service to a holy God.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Seeing and serving

Co-teacher Curt did a great job yesterday motivating our study of Isaiah. He not only introduced the book, but he went on to lead us to see that we must obey the Lord. Read James Adair’s comments to help set the context for this week’s lesson “Do You Volunteer to Serve?”, which is based on Isaiah 5:1-6:13.

When King Uzziah died, I suppose the citizens of Judah could see only the death of a leader and worry about the implications, but Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up and His robe filled the temple (Isaiah 6:1). That motivated Isaiah to volunteer to serve.

What motivates you to serve God? Are you better at serving, or at seeing and telling others what needs to be done? What is your vision of the Lord? Does that vision prompt you to serve? Do you have some commitment that keeps you from serving? Is it time for you reevaluate that commitment?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

How to correct wrong thinking

Step 5 of LifeWay’s Explore the Bible lesson “Do you rebel?” is based on Isaiah 1:18-20. Through Isaiah, the LORD presents a choice to Judah. Eat the best the land has to offer, or be devoured by the sword of an enemy. Argue it out. Reason together. Discuss it. Why did the LORD invite dialogue on what appears to be a “no brainer” choice? The crux to understanding these verses is to grasp the depth of what it means to be a rebel.

A rebellious person is stubborn and not teachable, and caught up in wrongdoing. A rebel, by definition, has already chosen his way and it’s the way of death.

God offers an opportunity for life. Does a rebel hear God’s invitation, but rejects God’s authority? What does a rebel value so much that he chooses death instead of life with God? Does he reject God’s offer because of pride, or wrong thinking? What’s your understanding of a rebel? Can you personally relate to what it really means to be a “rebel”?

P.S. Posting this early since we are going camping for the rest of the week.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Meaning of stop

Step 4 of “Do you rebel?” is based on Isaiah 1:16-17, where Isaiah says to stop doing evil. To help make the point of what “stop” means tell the following joke (as told to me by an officer friend from Ft Worth).

A cop stops a man for running a stop sign and the subject gives the cop a lot of grief explaining that he did stop.

After several minutes, the cop explained to the gentleman that he didn't stop, he just slowed down a little.

The gentleman said 'Stop or slow down, what's the difference?'.

The cop pulled the guy out of the car and started hitting him with a nightstick and then said, 'Would you like for me to stop or just slow down?'

When the Lord tells us to stop sinning, He means for us to stop, and not just slow down.

P.S. Site statistics for February were down from January's numbers. Total visitors dropped by a third, and the number of users who visit the site more than once in the month dropped from 82 to 62, down about 25%. Hmmm?