Monday, July 31, 2006

What do you think is best?

The August 6 lesson “How Can I Stay on Course?” is based on Eccl. 7:1-8:17. According to Mark Rathel, Solomon answers in these chapters the question asked at the end of chapter 6: “What is good?” Another way of saying this is “What’s best for us?” In the time setting of the movie with the same title, Conan the Barbarian offered a take on What’s Best In Life?

For this week consider starting the class by asking members “According to popular wisdom, what is best for us in this life?” Make a list of their answers on a maker board. Here is a list of recommended “best things.” Here is another. What do you think is best for us in life?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Life failure

To conclude the lesson this week review what wanting wealth can lead to by summarizing Death of Salesman and the main character’s failure in life.

How do we avoid wanting wealth?

Friday, July 28, 2006


Randall Adkisson commenting on “What’s Wrong With Wanting Wealth?” notes: addition of friends brings satisfaction, not wealth. For Step 5 of the lesson, discuss with members how they’ve enjoyed the work of their hands, but missed the fellowship of friends. It’s dissatisfying from the perspective of not having friends with whom to share life. Explore with the members (especially the men) how to build genuine friendships.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I'm sleepy

Verses Eccl 5:10-13,17,19-20 support Step 4 of “What’s Wrong With Wanting Wealth?” intrigue me because of verse 12a: “The sleep of the worker is sweet”. John Piper said, “God can perform more good for those who trust Him while they sleep than they can perform with anxious labor for themselves while awake.” Why do you think the average length of a night’s sleep is getting shorter?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Who? Me?

This article describes an incident that reinforces the equation “wealth equals corruption.” So nothing has changed since Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes 5:8-9, from which Step 3 of “What’s Wrong With Wanting Wealth?” comes.

The LifeWay Leader Guide steers the discussion to the Christian response to corruption in society. You might want to read Amos 5:10-15 and discuss how members should respond to corruption in their own lives.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Solomon is right, of course, but what is he right about?

The translation of Ecclesiastes 4:4 is significantly different in various translations of the Bible. The Amplified reading seems to emphasize ALL the PAIN in work and ALL the SKILL in work and not work itself comes from envy, or rivalry in a life lived without God. The New Living Translation really softens the impact of the verse 4. The HCSB and NASB reading more or less agree with the NIV translation, which puts the emphasis on LABOR and ACHIEVEMENT. For Step 2 of Explore the Bible lesson “What’s Wrong With Wanting Wealth?”, I suggest showing a slide of various translations of verse 4 to members and discuss the meaning of the verse. To help, arrange the various translations in order from literal (word for word) to understandable translations (thought for thought) to paraphrase.

What do you think this verse means? Remember, he is speaking about living “under the sun” (without God), as contrasted to living with God (Col 3:23) where everything that does not come from faith is sin.

The study questions offered by SonShine for this lesson suggests an alternate lesson title, “What is Really Better in Life?”, which can be used to have a “what’s better” discussion with members concerning verse 4.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Todays get rich quick schemes

Once, when considering a new job opportunity, I told a friend that I hoped to make more money so I could give more. He cautioned me against the desire of wanting more money. At the time I wondered “What’s Wrong With Wanting Wealth?”, which is the topic of this week’s Explore the Bible lesson from Ecclesiastes 4:1-6:12.

Here is one get rich quick promotion. Can members identify others such as this one? What is the mindset of the audience that pays to listen to these promotions?

I’m traveling this week and may not be able to blog if the hotels don’t offer convenient Internet access. Be sure and investigate the resource links on the right side of this page for Bible teaching ideas this week.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Serving others in love

The graph below shows the resuls of the poll for "What's Life All About?" Remember Paul's words in 2 Cor 5:14, "For Christ's love compels us...", so serving others out of love for Christ is a sound choice.

This past week we had 203 unique visitors, and 79 returning visitors. So about 13% of the returning visitors voted in the poll. Great job!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

One more take...One more point

Here is one final take on “What Life is All About”. Harry Leafe points out in his book Running to Win (pg.41) that someone held captive to the philosophies of this world can only be freed by God after careful administration of the Word (2 Tim 2:24-26). I suggest closing the lesson in prayer for those who are held captive by the devil and are missing living life with God.

The following is the complete lesson plan for “What’s Life All About?” from Hampton Road Baptist Church.

Supplemental Teaching Plan
July 23, 2006, What’s Life All About?

Background Passage: Ecclesiastes 1:1-3:2

Lesson Focal Passage: Ecclesiastes 1:1-2, 16-17; 2:1, 3-4, 11, 24, 26; 3:16-17

Biblical Truth: Experience teaches the futility of seeking fulfillment apart from a personal faith relationship with God.

Life Impact: To help you experience fulfillment in a personal relationship with God.

I. Introduction

We completed the study of Job last week and will now look at the second of the wisdom books we are studying this quarter: Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is usually ascribed to King Solomon based on Ecclesiastes 1:1. The first three chapters deal with the apparent futility of life without God. Do you ever get concerned with the futility of what you are doing? Mowing the yard is one of those for me. There is something futile about mowing the grass and then fertilizing and watering it so that it grows and you need to mow it! It is just a thought—not a very good one, but a thought. Some others are cleaning the house and washing the dishes: they just get dirty again. Seriously, these are not the things Solomon is referring to. He is talking about the futility of life lived outside the context of a relationship with Him.

In the first chapter, he looks at some of the dichotomies of life and sees nothing but futility in trying to understand these things from your own standpoint. He states that he has great wisdom but it does him little good in and of itself. After all, great wisdom just increases sorrow and grief (v. 1:18).

The second chapter declares that human pleasures, work, and possessions are meaningless.

The third chapter starts with one of the most recognizable poems in the Old Testament, declaring that for everything there is a time and a season (The Byrds). The third chapter bemoans the struggles of life and the injustice of death, concluding that only in God can we find meaning. The Bible in Context section of the Leaders’ Guide is very brief this week and needs to be supplemented.

Open the class in prayer.

II. Is Fulfillment Found in Wisdom? (Eccl 1:1-2, 16-17)

Eccl. 1:1-2 introduce the writer and the theme of the book. While all of the passage from 1:3-15 is good, I will not discourage your decision to move right to verses 16-17. Solomon first sees the futility of trying to find satisfaction in life through the accumulation of knowledge and wisdom—human knowledge and wisdom. This goes along well with the study of Job we just finished. Human wisdom cannot give us satisfactory answers to difficult questions. It is a perpetual process and a downward spiral. The more questions we try to answer, the more are raised. This is not to say we are not to pursue knowledge and wisdom, but it does give us an indication of the futility of the process outside a relationship with Jesus Christ.

The second thing about this quest is found in 1:17: Solomon explored both wisdom and folly and found these to be meaningless as well. I will share a couple of illustrations with you: first, in learning to identify counterfeit bills, U. S. Treasury agents don’t examine counterfeit bills. Instead, they study real ones until they can identify any bill that doesn’t look like the real thing. Robert Kriegel, in his book If It Ain’t Broke, Break It! (1991) says not to look where you don’t want to go. He uses the illustration of a man driving down a narrow country road with bar ditches on either side. Not wanting to end up in the bar ditch, he constantly keeps his eyes on the side of the road. Guess where he will end up. You’ve got it—in the bar ditch. If you want to stay on the road, keep your eyes on the road. If you want to recognize wisdom, look to God, not to folly!

III. Is Fulfillment in “The Good Life?” (Eccl. 2:1, 3-4, 11)

Solomon decides to test the life of decadence to see if that is where he will find meaning. But alas, that is not where we find fulfillment in life either. One thing Solomon says is that he explored these things in the context of wisdom—good try, Solomon! In my day (the sixties) it was using a little weed to “enhance perception.” People often imagine things are much funnier when they have had too much to drink. Smokers think the cigarette makes things “taste better.” This thought seems to be as old as humankind. Unfortunately, it didn’t work then, it didn’t work in the sixties, and it doesn’t work now.
IV. Is Fulfillment Found in Pleasing God? (Eccl. 2:24, 26; 3:16-17)

Solomon finally comes to a startling (to him) conclusion: the best thing to do is live life to the fullest within the context of a relationship with God. God is the giver of knowledge, wisdom, and joy. ALL truth is God’s truth, so it is a noble pursuit to search diligently for truth. Sometimes Christians denigrate science because it does not discover truth within God’s Holy Bible. But that same Bible says that all truth comes from God, so scientific truth (if it is real Truth) comes from God too. Let’s not lose sight of that. Of course, the reality is that the truth science discovers is, for the most part, just a piece of the puzzle in the search for Truth. Still, when we find everlasting, unchanging Truth, whether in Scripture or in the laboratory, it comes from God.

Solomon’s final discovery is that when he looks for wickedness, he finds God’s righteousness and when he searches for righteousness he finds wickedness along side. This is reminiscent of Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares. Ultimately, it is God who is the judge of the righteous and the unrighteous, and it is up to us to approach these issues with a modicum of humility. Quoting again from the movie Rocky, “There are only two immutable truths: first, there is a God and, second, I’m not Him.” Let’s remember that when we judge someone or something. We might use the same principle in interpreting the Truth of Scripture. As a professor of mine once said, “All Scripture is divine; all interpretation of Scripture is human.” Let this help you discover humility.

V. Conclusion

This has been short. I’m sorry I didn’t have time to prepare more. Likewise, I’m sorry I will not post a supplemental lesson plan for July 30 since I will be in Washington taking part in the Washington Institute. Preparation for this institute has been difficult and I am tired. I will be back in town on July 29, and I will conduct the FOCUS meeting on July 30 and I will post the supplemental teaching plan for August 6.

You may wish to close the class period with the playing of hit song from the Byrds or merely read the poem from the King James Version.

Bro. Bob

Close the class in prayer.

Friday, July 21, 2006

How to break free?

The LifeWay Leader Guide concludes the lesson “What’s Life All About?” with a focus on Jesus Christ as the way of salvation (John 14:6). This is important since living life without God is futile, but is salvation the key need of your class members?

If so, then go that direction, but an alternative might be that believing members are captive to the ways of this world. Paul warns against this in Col 2:8, “Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ.” What Bible teaching should you conclude your lesson with if this is the case? How about doing what Paul says in 2 Cor 10:3-5? Could you suggest a passage from Ephesians? Any others?

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Step 4 of “What’s Life All About?” includes Ecclesiastes 2:26, which seems more understandable out of the NLT than HCSB. The last sentence is what seems out of place. God is doing the giving, so why is that futile (vaporous, meaningless, useless, etc.)?

Question: Are you studying the Bible, or are you studying the Quarterly?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Futility in the good life

Eccl. 2:1, 3-4, 11 makes clear the futility of looking for satisfaction by living “the good life”. Read the story of Leo Tolstoy and note how he realized the answer to “What’s Life All About?”, which is the point of Step 3 in this week’s ETB lesson from LifeWay.

I stood next to this light house on the west coast of Michigan a couple of weeks ago. I'm reminded that Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, John 8:12.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Can a satisfying life be found outside of God?

Step 2 of “What’s Life All About” is taken from Eccl 1:1-2, 16-17. Solomon looked for a satisfying life outside of God, i.e. under the sun. He found nothing that offered permanent satisfaction. He found what’s done is done and can’t be undone. Great education didn’t offer a solution. Instead of meaning, it offered only greater sorrow and grief.

Why do even Christians search for meaning in life outside of God today? The enemy can take Christians captive (Col 2:8). Christians are to renew their minds (Rom 12:2), the place where the battle happens and take every thought captive for Christ (2 Cor 10:3-5). Teachers, note our role mentioned in Eph 4:11-16.

With Col 1:12-13 in mind, have people put on sunglasses that have them. Ask them to describe the difference in their view of the room with and without their sunglasses. It’s darker of course. Just as Satan tempted Jesus, Christians are tempted today (1 John 2:16). Accepting the philosophies of this world changes our view.

Monday, July 17, 2006

“What’s life all about?”

Given where I am in life, I’ve looked forward to studying Ecclesiastes. What is the goal of my life now that I’m retired? The goal of a mustard seed is to become a mustard tree. The goal of Jesus’ life was to die for the sins of the world, mine in particular. What am I living for? What am I becoming?

For Ecclesiastes, the LifeWay Explore the Bible lesson unit is called “When Life Seems Absolutely Futile,” which is very relevant in my mind. The first lesson in the series is called “What’s life all about?” and it’s based on Eccl 1:1-3:22.

You’d get various answers if you ask, “What’s the meaning of life?” More simply, pick a choice from the poll on the right (I know the answers are somewhat vague, but you don’t want to read a book on each one).

Sunday, July 16, 2006

"Submit" meaning

The graph shows the poll results from last week's lesson "Submit to the Sovereign LORD". Last week we had 188 unique visitors, and 87 returning visitors. So about 10% of the returning visitors voted in the poll. Thanks for helping out!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Is there a better curriculum?

Mike’s Blog and his readers banter fairly about LifeWay materials in the context of “Deep” Bible Study and Sunday School. On the other hand, Jeff Lee comments at the Boar’s Head about switching his class away from the LifeWay Family Bible Study to their Explore the Bible series, and he adds, “I’m still looking for a better curriculum for our class.” Are you satisfied, or dissatisfied with LifeWay’s Explore the Bible series of lessons? What alternatives have you considered?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Prayer time

Notice the absence of Satan in the end when God deals with Job in Job 42:10-12. Notice also in verse 11 that Job’s relatives and associates eventually came and comforted him. They finally did what should have been done in the beginning. In learning to “Submit to the Sovereign LORD,” Job was able to reconcile with his friends.

Quickly review the main points covered in the study of Job. Based on what was learned, have members write a prayer for someone who is suffering. Most likely, members can’t understand the suffering and need to acknowledge God’s sovereignty in the situation. Confess and ask forgiveness for the pride of presuming that human understanding is even possible. None of us knows the mind of the all powerful Lord.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Tell the truth about God

The study questions posted by SonShine at for this week’s lesson are interesting, especially for Step 4. Concerning Job 42:7-9, God states that “the truth” about Him was not spoken. Sonshine writes,

“16.APPLICATION QUESTION: Put yourself in the “E-B-Z Boys” position now. They had to humble themselves and go to Job. What did Job do for them that Paul also taught in Eph. 4:32?”

I like her point in this question because it teaches the truth about God—he forgives! As we learned in Micah 7:18, he pardons and forgives and delights to show mercy. Wow! I can’t remind myself of that fact too many times. Encourage class members by telling the truth about God!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

True humbling experience

David Hulme, publisher of Vision--Journal for a New World, offers a 3-minute video discussing true humility, which includes a reference to Job 42:5-6. These verses support Step 3 of this week’s lesson “Submit to the Sovereign LORD” from LifeWay’s Explore the Bible. Play the video and ask, “What does the word contrite mean?” (Isaiah 66:2). Contrast Job’s humbling experience with the way we use the term today (Google news search “humbling experience” for examples).

I’m pleased to say I found the weekly study outline of David Self FBC Houston posted on the web. I always enjoy David’s insight and appreciate his steadfast Bible teaching. I’ve added a link to it on right side of this page, too.

Also, please take time to respond to the poll on the right side of the page.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


To “Submit to the Sovereign LORD” requires that we first hear the Lord speak to us as Job did in Job 38:1-4. How does God speak to us today? Hebrews 1:2 declares that God has spoken to us through Jesus Christ. Is there a question posed by Jesus that you cannot answer? Job was humbled and not able to answer God. Which of the questions posed by Jesus humble you and leave you speechless?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Run out of answers

This week’s final lesson from Job is titled “Submit to the Sovereign Lord” and is based on Job 38:1-42:17. God speaks to Job, who cannot answer the LORD since he is unworthy. Later Job repents and admits God sovereignty and his own lack of understanding.

Job ran out of answers once God spoke. Start the lesson by asking, “Who in the class has ever run out of gas?” Have them tell their story. Afterwards liken running out of gas to reaching the end of self. We motor along in life giving answers (even when we do not understand), but eventually we reach our limit of understanding and must submit to the sovereign Lord.

What is the meaning of "submit" as used in the lesson title?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Other sources?

Do you know of any other state papers that publish Explore the Bible commentary? I did not see any in web sites or papers from North Carolina, Alabama, Oklahoma or Kentucky.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Good lesson outline

Today, consider commentary from Tennessee Baptist Convention on this week’s lesson “Respond Positively to God’s Discipline” by Randall L. Adkisson. Sometimes posted late in the week, it always offers a good outline with a summary of the main point.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Good summary commentary

We had a great 4th celebration yesterday. One of the attendees at our gathering was an 82 year old named “Ed” that was stationed at Los Alamos in 1944. It was a pleasure to tell him thanks for his service to our nation.

We are camping and site seeing in Michigan. Hope you were able to do something you enjoy because of the freedom you have.

Today consider the ETB lesson commentary posted by Mississippi Baptist, which always offers a good summary of the lesson’s main point. The commentary on “respond positively to God’s discipline” is by Ginger M. Caughman. I don’t know anything about Ginger. If you do, or have a handy link to info about her, please post it in a comment.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Interesting discussion questions

Today, please consider the ETB commentary that appears in the Baptist Standard of Texas. James Adair commentary on “Respond Positively to God’s Discipline” from Job 33:13-22; 36:8-12 asks some interesting discussion questions.

Have a great July 4 celebration. Remember, “blessed are the people whose God is the Lord.” Psalm 144:15b.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Expanded discussion on suffering

This week I want to make sure you are aware of some of the excellent lesson commentary from various sources cited on this site. For example, check out Mark Rathel’s remarks from the Florida Baptist Witness. He comments on this week’s ETB lesson “Respond Positively to God’s Discipline” from Job 33:13-22; 36:8-12. Mark expands the discussion of suffering by stating:

“A full-orbed biblical teaching to the problem of suffering goes beyond the questions raised in the book of Job. Genesis 3 teaches that suffering may be retributive or punitive. Suffering may be disciplinary; suffering one of God’s lesson plans to bring us closer to him. Job’s experience reveals that suffering may be a form of testing. Hosea teaches that suffering may be revelational. God knows the pain associated with an unfaithful spouse. Suffering may be testimonial. During suffering, we testify to the difference God makes. Christ’s sufferings were vicarious, that is, for our salvation.”

Sunday, July 02, 2006


I’ll be traveling this week and will post when I am able, which may be infrequent.

Site traffic in June was down slightly from that of May (see chart), confirming my suspicion that fewer people study the Explore the Bible Series in the summer. Nevertheless, the site remained roughly steady in returning visitors, which is a good.

Several ideas have been suggested such as make other bloggers aware of the site as well as more teachers (perhaps thru their minister of education). Bloggers are interactive and their participation will increase discussion on the site. Teachers like to make Bible lessons clear, interesting, and relevant.

If you have a blog or minister of education that we should contact, either leave a comment (using the comment link below) or send me an email at ronnieward [AT]


Have a great July 4 celebration. Remember, “blessed are the people whose God is the Lord.” Psalm 144:15b.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Living for external, not temporal values

In closing this lesson, “Analyze Your Actions”, I’m reminded that we are to “lose this life” and seek first the kingdom of God. According to Dr. Harry Leafe’s book Running to Win that means we are to live for eternal as opposed to temporal values.

I’d like you to add everyday examples of “How to live for God” using the comment link below. To get started consider these ideas:

1. In picking a vacation, select a place where you can also minister while you are visiting.

2. In deciding on a place to eat out, invite a widow, or a poor person to go with you.

3. When shopping for clothes, buy also for those who perform services for you (eg. lawn maintenance service, house cleaning service)

Your thoughts?