Thursday, August 31, 2006

Missing the boat

LifeWay lesson “Pay Attention” takes its point in Step 4 from Hebrews 2:1-4. What illustration would you recommend to help apathetic people not miss out on the blessing offered in Jesus Christ?

In Noah’s day, I can imagine a crowd floundering outside the arc as they saw the giant boat drift away. Only when it was too late did they recognize the truth it represented. Neither should we apathetically stand by today and watch Jesus Christ drift away.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

More than meets the eye

Step 3 of “Pay Attention” is based on Hebrews 1:4-8,14. See also Psalm 2:7,12, Eph 1:21 and Psalm 103:20. In Bible study I’ve learned over the years the importance Jewish people place on the name of an individual. The name of a person is the essential character of the person.

In verse 4, the writer of wanted to help readers understand the incomparable Jesus Christ, so he chose to contrast the name God gave to Jesus to that of angels. In their minds the light bulb would go on at such a contrast. According to Philippians 2:9-11, everyone will appreciate the supremacy of the name of Jesus.

The Hebrews were turning away from their faith, or at least being presumptuous about their relationship with Jesus. So the writer asked them to look at the Scriptures that give testimony to the position and nature of Jesus Christ.

Ask members, when they last studied the Scriptures to know more of Jesus Christ that they might better glorify God in their lives.

To illustrate this point, put up a picture rich in detail for a few moments and then ask members to tell you what they see. Put the picture back up for a brief time and ask what else do they see. Do this one more time. Each step you’ll get greater and greater detail about the picture named. Say, this illustrates how we can know more about Jesus Christ as he is revealed to us in Scripture.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Listen up

Step 2 of “Pay Attention” pertains to Hebrews 1:1-3, where the supremancy of God’s Son, Jesus Christ is exclaimed. Considering how to get attention, the writer of Hebrews declared vital news to his listeners. He wanted to capture their attention. He did it by asserting central truths about Jesus Christ.

To get attention, he challenged the audience’s understanding of who is Jesus Christ. In Share Jesus Without Fear, one of the diagnostic questions is “To you, who is Jesus?” It's a tool, like a thermometer, that not only gets the hearer’s attention, but it assertains their core belief about Jesus.

To get your class members to “listen up”, you could hold up a thermometer and say, “let’s take your temp” and you’ll get everyone’s attention. Say, in effect, this is how the book of Hebrews starts. The writer wanted to get the attention of the readers.

Alternatively, if you want to start similar to Hebrews, pick some member of the class and discuss with him a detail of his life not known to the class. Start your class by saying, “We all know so-in-so as [state the well known facts such as father, lawyer, teacher, etc], but in talking with him before class I found out that in the past he was [state the new detail such president of an industry association, member of Who’s Who in America, etc.]. After this, state this was how the writer of Hebrews started his epistle. He wanted to get his readers to Listen Up!

Monday, August 28, 2006

LifeWay's Quicksource "Pay Attention"

I'm looking forward to studying Hebrews this fall, which begins with this week's lesson "Pay Attention" from Hebrews 1:1-2:4. LifeWay's Quicksource for "Pay Attention" is found on pages 3 and 7 thru 10. How is Quicksource helpful to you?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Permanent bond

Step 5 of “Singing of love” from Song of Songs 8:6-7 speaks to permanent love between two people. Two have become one in love--a love so strong and capable it can survive the most powerful destructive force and even death. Such love cannot be bought.

How would you illustrate a permanent bond between two mates? Superglue? At one time, birds were upheld as examples of fidelity and virtue because of their monogamous mating habits.

In math, we say that the number 19 is prime (it can’t be divided) like the love described in the focal verses. In addition, the number 19 is the combination of 7 and 12. The number 7 represents God, and the number 12 is a symbol of the Church. The love between these two is a permanent bond!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Resolute love

Since Jan and I celebrated our 38TH today, I understand somewhat the resolve reflected in Song of Songs 6:1-3, the focal verses of Step 4 in this week’s LifeWay lesson “Singing of Love”. The decided commitment of the Lover and the Beloved hit a high note in verse 3. How resolute are you in your marriage (if you are married)? Do you ever toss around the divorce word, or are you unwavering on that issue?

Do you have any ideas for how to illustrate resoluteness in love, or unwavering love?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What's appropriate?

Step 3 of “Song of Love” highlights Song of Songs 2:7, where a Biblical premarital relationship is described. The man takes the lead saying, “Let’s don’t rush this.” One view of sex is that it’s evil. Another view is it’s simply a biological act. What’s the Biblical view? Josh Harris is an expert on purity. I’ve previously used his video on purity successfully in class.

What other good, God-given intimacy do we abuse in our culture besides sex? Josh Harris claims we inappropriately “date” the church. We take advantage of it, satisfy our desires with it, and treat it in an ungodly manner. Discuss with your class improper dating of the church as described by Josh.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Lesson “Singing of Love” comes from Song of Songs, Solomon’s greatest song. To underscore the importance of verbalizing the attraction between a man and a woman in love, Step 2 draws on verses 1:1, 1:15-2:3. She is singular in her beauty and he tells her (2:2). He is respected among men and she tells him (2:3). They are outdoors (1:17), possibly within earshot of others. This couple edifies one another out loud.

Ask members what others have overheard them say to their spouse, or overheard them say on a cell phone? Below are some paraphrases taken from (very graphic site, so be warned!).

Woman: Did you cheat on me?
Man: What do you think? Yes, or no?
Woman: No!
Man: Wrong.
Girl: I hate it when others criticize Frank.
Friend: He looks like Hitler.
Girl: If I didn’t love him, no one else would.
Frank: Thanks!

Man on cell: You asked me how I'm doing, and I tell you--and then you bring it back to yourself. You always do that.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Think of a headline, not a title

Ahhh. We only get one-week of study from Songs of Songs (SoS), God’s handbook for dating, marriage and romance! How can we possibly do it justice in one, short lesson?

My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed attending Tommy Nelson’s 2-day conference on SoS, where he has helped many individuals and couples discover God’s deeper truth about love and sex in marriage.

As teachers, we have a great opportunity this week to teach a Bible book that most members know little about. Think of it as ‘news’ to most members. If you had to write a headline for SoS (as if it were a news story), what would you write?

Come up with some headlines and use them to introduce your study of SoS that will grab member's attention. Make your headlines sound newsy! After all, you do have great news to share!

Some suggestions:

Love making tips from SoS help save marriages in Houston today

SoS expert advises not to marry the ‘right person’

Raisin cakes and apples, the Bible’s aphrodisiac according to SoS

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A letter, not an email

Want to do something meaningful after studying Ecclesiastes? Read Letters from Dad, by Greg Vaughn. The reviews on Amazon are great. I just finished reading it. A class exercise is take one of the sample letters from the book's appendix and show it to the class. Pass out note cards and envelopes and have members write a note to a loved one using the sample letter as a guide. Have members mail their notes and report back to the class later any reactions from recipients they want to share. The results might surprise you!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Main point

Concluding “What’s the Bottom Line?” also concludes our study of Ecclesiastes. Paul Prather shared his conclusion of Ecclesiastes. Dan Puckett frames his understanding of the legacy we leave behind in light of Ecclesiastes. Share the nut of each of these articles with class members and ask them, “What’s your main take away after studying Ecclesiastes?”

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Profit's up

Step 4 of “What’s the Bottom Line?” covers the bottom line, or said in a business way, the ‘net profit’ from the Teacher’s search for what’s meaningful in life. He concludes in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 with “fear God and keep His commandments.”

To illustrate good use of this profit, ask members to think of what prevents them from yielding to temptation when it comes? Is it concern over damaging a good reputation? No. Is it for love of family? No. What is it then? You might share with your class what Pastor Scott Riling related in the Wednesday night message this week. He told Chuck Swindoll’s story of resisting temptation while riding in an elevator. Chuck said,

I was once in Canada. I had been away from home eight days and there were two more to go–a weekend. I was lonely and having a pity party for myself at supper—alone. I bought a newspaper, thumbed through the sports section, and found nothing but hockey—a Canadian favorite but not mine. I heaved a sigh and walked toward the elevator. En route, I heard a couple young women talking and laughing as they used the hotel phone in the lobby. I smiled as I passed by and a few steps later punched the “up” elevator button. I got on. So did the two ladies. I punched ‘6.’ They didn’t reach for the row of buttons, so I asked, ‘What floor?’ One looked at me rather sensually and said, ‘How about six? Do you have any plans?”We were alone on an elevator. In Canada. I was flattered, to be honest, since most folks don’t usually mistake me for Tom Selleck. These women were available and I was lonely. On that trip from the lobby to the sixth floor, I had an extremely significant decision to make...the bait had been dropped. Do you know what immediately flashed into my mind? My wife and children? No, not at first. My position and reputation? No, not then. The possibility of being seen or set up? No.

God gave me an instant replay of Galatians 6:7 where it says, ‘Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked A man reaps what he sows.’ and Ephesians 6:11, ‘Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand agains the devil’s schemes.’ and Romans 6:11-12, ‘Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts.’ During that elevator lift, the memorized Word [verse after verse] flew to my rescue. I looked back at the two ladies and replied, ‘I’ve got a full evening planned already; I’m really not interested.’ They looked at me like I was some sort of fool and stayed on the elevator as I stepped off. I walked to my room grateful for the overcoming power of God’s book.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Where is your focus?

Step3 of “What’s the Bottom Line?” is based on Ecclesiastes 12:1-5. The Teacher once again focuses on influencing young people. What about the older folks? What advice does the Teacher give to someone past middle age, for example?

Because of the Teacher’s call to “remember,” these verses recall to my mind Peter’s last words in 2 Peter 1:15-21, where he also admonishes us to “remember” and “reminds” to “pay attention.”

You might try using an hourglass to illustrate the Teacher’s as well as Peter’s call to remember and pay attention to God. When the hourglass is full (youth) we freely take our eye off of it, but as the sand nears depletion (old age), we stare at the hourglass and ready ourselves as we watch the last grains of sand fall. We want to be prepared to meet God, our Creator, with full focus when the end comes.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The point is...

Step 2 of this last lesson “What’s the Bottom Line?” by LifeWay is from Ecclesiastes 11:9-10. Mark Rathel’s comments suggest an alternate title, “What is the essential point of life?”

According to verse 10, the key idea is to live life, but do it in awareness that God will judge us, each individually. This should inspire living in obedient alertness to God, like an attentive servant ready to do His master’s will. With this in mind, ask members what they personally rejoice about in life as recommended by the Teacher in verse 9.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Create a little tension

To start this last lesson from Ecclesiastes, “What’s the meaning of life?”, I think it would be good to summarize the book beginning with chapter 1 up to the start of this week’s passage: Eccl 11:7-12:14 and see if you can create a little tension: “And the answer is…”.

You can look thru your previous lessons and make your own summary, or just summarize the article The Meaning of Life. This lesson concludes Ecclesiastes, so it’s important to refresh member’s working memory the main ideas of the previous chapters. Otherwise, having forgot the salient points, they may start to reason in circles, or assume the conclusion. If so, the empirical truth of the Teacher’s search would be lost. That would be a waste, since the Teacher was a real man, who conducted a real search for the real meaning of life, and came to an important conclusion. Don’t lose the teachable moment, so ask members to personally answer the question: “What is the meaning of life?”

I liked the illustration of “How can we get all the air out of a glass?” Jesus Christ fills our lives with meaning.

Friday, August 11, 2006

How can I handle...

To conclude “How Can I Handle Life’s Uncertainties?” consider discussing specific issues (which were uncertainties at some point) and the Teacher’s wisdom for handling them. Below is a sample list I put together.

Start with “How can I handle...?”

acute anxiety which keeps me awake at night?
my spouse’s changed behavior?
peer conflict at work?
my spouse’s anger toward me?
people that monopolize discussions?
my poor expectation of others?
untimely death?
the fact that I am twice the age of my new boss?
pressure and stress of my responsibilities?
the uncertainty of the future?

As a funny you could start by playing the video of how to handle mosquitoes.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Where to invest?

The LifeWay material skips Eccl 10 to arrive at Step 4 of “How Can I Handle Life’s Uncertainties?” where we study Eccl 11:1-2, 4-6. The LifeWay Leader Guide commentary suggests that verses 1-2 refer to financial investments. But James Adair narrows his interpretation to the idea of investing in “other people.” He says:

“The Teacher urges his listeners to do good to other people, even if there is no likelihood of immediate return on their investment. Eventually, he says, one's good behavior in regard to others will pay off.”

Pastor Randall Adkisson offers a similar interpretation to Adair’s. How do you plan to present the meaning of these verses?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

No one is exempt

Eccl 9:11-12 declares that the unexpected can happened to anyone in life no matter what talents or resources they might possess. We can all expect the unexpected, so when it happens, don’t give up!

For Step 3 of the lesson “How can I handle life’s uncertainties?”, discuss with members the reasons behind the last time they wanted to drop out of some activity. Alternatively, you can present the following list of 'reasons' people “stopped going to church,” which I gathered from the WWW. As a group, speculate what the unexpected element was behind each excuse.

My boyfriend wouldn’t allow it.
The hypocrisy I observed in the church.
I didn’t need instant friends.
I couldn’t find a church I liked.
I was trapped in a marriage that was going nowhere.
My experience was not fulfilling.
I couldn’t sit still.
I didn’t have to.
My father wasn’t religious.
They didn’t worship God.
Tired of being told I was going to hell.
It wasn’t relevant.
Religion is fraud.
I started working on Sundays.
I couldn’t smoke anymore.
I didn’t want anything to interfere with my weekend.
None of my problems were being solved.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Who is in control?

“Be joyful always…give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thes 5:16-18) were part of Paul’s instructions for living the Christian life. In this week’s Explore the Bible lesson, “How Can I Handle Life’s Uncertainties,” Solomon says much the same thing in Eccl 9:7-10 where he tells us to simply enjoy life. However, because life is unpredictable, we attempt to reduce uncertainty by creating an illusion of control. For Step 2 of the lesson, illustrate illusion of control by repeatedly tossing a coin and calling heads or tails. Initially, the random results may look like you can choose to toss “heads” instead of “tails”, for example. The reality is, however, over a large enough sample size, you will toss an equal number of both choices. Discuss with members situations where they feel in control, but the reality is God is in control.

Monday, August 07, 2006

How can I handle life’s uncertainties?

For August 13, the LifeWay Explore the Bible lesson from Eccl 9:1-11:6 is titled “How can I handle life’s uncertainties?” Verse 9:11 makes clear that uncertainty in life is guaranteed. When things go wrong, how do you respond? To introduce the lesson, show a slide of various quotations of Murphy’s Law and ask members to share ones they have experienced in life. As they answer, highlight how the people involved responded. When finished, point out the topic of the lesson is how to respond when things don’t go as we expect.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Is it Biblical?

To conclude this week’s lesson “How Can I Stay on Course?”, make the obvious point that we should live according to what the Bible says. For many of us, however, when a question in life crosses our minds we wonder, “Is that Biblical?” What are your thoughts about relying on people like Hank Hanegraaff, known as The Bible Answer Man? He accepts questions about the Bible on his radio program and on his web site. Who do you recommend to help determine Godly wisdom?

Regarding this blog site, in July monthly traffic continued to increase, according to I know many of you look for “ideas” when preparing to teach and I’m grateful for all who visit and read these posts. Please remember to take time to share your ideas, too.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Just deal with it

For the final point of the lesson “How Can I Stay on Course?”, Step 5 of the LifeWay material, which is based on Eccl 7:21-22, advocates allowing for human frailty when dealing with rude, unkind, and impatient people. In modern speak, I often hear the phrases, “just deal with it,” “suck it up,” or, “don’t let it get you down! Just keep going.”

When confronted with rudeness, unkindness, or impatience, the idea is to forget it, avoid becoming resentful, or even worse, developing an attitude of hate. Don’t let it become an excuse that turns you into victim of your own making. Take Solomon’s advice in Proverbs 17:14, “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Eccl 7:10-14 is the basis of Step 4 in the August lesson “How Can I Stay on Course?”, or “live life with Godly perspective.” Going a bit further, James Adair writing for the Baptist Standard titles the lesson Fear God, but Beware of Legalism as he focuses on Eccl 7:16-18 to highlight living according to the principle of moderation set forth by Aristotle.

According to Nancy Mansell, Master Christian Life Coach, “The Lord says we shall do all things in moderation.” Is that true? Nevertheless, how should a Christian respond to the idea of doing “all things in moderation?”

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Foolish pride

Step 3 of the August lesson “How Can I Stay on Course?” is based on Eccl 7:5-9. Show this video and make the point that we sometimes miss the obvious because of our pride. Point out that the pride of the guards in the clip makes them look foolish. Similarly, our pride causes us to become foolish when we ignore, for example, appropriate criticism from others. Have members share what helps them avoid foolish pride in their lives.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Prepare to die

In the movie Princess Bride, the character Inigo Montoya played by Mandy Patinkin has the line, “Prepare to die.” Count Rugen played by Christopher Guest answers, “Stop saying that!”

In Eccl 7:1-4, Solomon is declaring what’s best (for gaining wisdom) and he says in essence, “Prepare to die.” Like Count Rugen, we want to say, “Stop saying that!”

For Step 2 in the lesson “How can I stay on course?” take time to explain these verses, otherwise people will be confused by a couple of the assertions made in the text.

Members should be able to discuss what steps they have taken to prepare for death, for example, preparing a will. This document will help settle earthly matters, but what’s needed to prepare for meeting God? Those are what’s best here on earth.