Author Archive

My Flat Tire

Flat tireLet me tell you about the flat tire I recently had. Flats happen and usually at the less than perfect time and place. Mine would prove to be no exception. It was just another unexpected twist in an already unusual day.

I left out driving to Columbus Ohio early Friday morning around 7 am. I was scheduled to speak at a church the next day so I had all day Friday to get there.

With my camera on the seat next to me, I was hoping to stop along the way and take a few pics of anything that caught my eye. It’s a pretty drive going up I-75 from Atlanta to Ohio.

Sure enough, as I got into the mountains of Tennessee the scenery was spectacular. It had rained earlier so the mist rising added to beauty. I saw an exit sign for a mountain overlook so I took it hoping to experience some special views. At the exit was the entrance for another park and I stopped there and took a few pics.

Great Blue Heron

As I left there to head to the mountain overlook view, I noticed a small pond with a Heron perched on some logs. I quickly pulled over and spent a half hour or so taking bird pictures. This was turning out to be a great day of traveling.

I soon got back on the road to make my way to Ohio. I crossed over into Kentucky knowing that I only had 5 hours to go.

As I’m driving my phone rings and a friend of mine I do some training with was on the other end. She said “Curtis, where are you? I don’t see you anywhere and the airport is packed.”

What?! Airport?! I’m driving to Ohio!

As we talked I realized to my horror, and I mean horror, that I was supposed to be in Florida the next day to provide training for the Southeastern  Conference!

Somehow I booked two events on the same day. My initial Florida invitation had changed and I overlooked changing my calendar which resulted in accepting the Ohio invite for the same day.

Panicked, bewildered, confused adequately explain my state of mind. I pulled over not knowing what to do. I bowed my head and prayed “Lord please, I don’t know what to do. Please help me to fix this.”

I thought I should call the pastor whose church I was to speak at and share my dilemma. I reached him and after explaining my predicament he was gracious and told me I could reschedule if I needed to. The same graciousness was given to me by the ministry leader who invited me.

That was a huge weight lifted but that didn’t fix everything. My original flight was scheduled to depart in less than an hour so there was no way I could make that. I called Delta to see what my options were.

After about twenty minutes I finally spoke to a Delta agent and arranged to book a later departing flight at 9 pm that evening. Whew! So far, so good. I now just needed to turn around, drive 4 hours back to Atlanta and then get to the airport and all would be well.

Remember that flat tire I mentioned at the beginning? Well, as I pulled back onto the highway I failed to see a huge lip from the shoulder onto the concrete road. I hit that lip with a bam! Instantly my tire warning light came on and I knew I was in trouble.

I pulled back over, got out and heard the last few gasps of air leave my busted tire. I couldn’t even say anything. All I could do was look at the flat tire and wonder to myself what in the world was happening to me that day.

Thankfully I was able to change the tire without any problems and I made my way towards home on the temporary doughnut spare.

That was enough drama for me but that’s not the end of the story. As I’m driving back over the mountains of Tennessee rain began to fall. It quickly turned into a torrential downpour. It was so bad I couldn’t see 5 cards ahead of me.

As I’m praying “Lord help me to get home” I thought about the lessons of that storm. It was raining so hard but I knew a few things for sure. One, I was not going to stop nor would I go back to where I was before the storm began. I was going to keep going forward.

I believed that sooner or later I would get past the storm. I kept my eyes looking for the break in the clouds ahead. Up above was only darkness. All around me were sheets of rain. I had to keep going.

Finally, in the distance I saw it. The sun. It was breaking through the distant clouds ahead of me. I knew once I made it that far things would be better. I needed to keep heading towards the light.

Even as I was driving through the storm I couldn’t help but think about how that typified life. Sometimes we find ourselves in the middle of a storm when we least expect to. We can choose to give up, retreat or go forward. I’ve spent too much time stopping and sometimes retreating. I need to remember this storm and simply continue to go forward.

I finally made it home and on to Florida. I had a great day of training and did all I could to help others to be successful in their ministries. I won’t be surprised if the day that my Ohio event is rescheduled to turns out to be the perfect day. That’s just how God works.

BTW, I’m writing this from Costco as they replace my blown tire. Using my road hazard warranty, it’s only going to cost me $17.00 to replace it. Ain’t God good?

photo by Curtis Hall

photo by Curtis Hall

“Get Up and Walk!” Faith and Healing

Curtis HallThis week, instead of my normal article based on a theme of the lesson, I thought I would give you a look into the teacher side of preparation. As some of you know I have a ministry that provides training to Sabbath school leaders and adult class teachers throughout our denomination.

This coming Sabbath I have been invited to assist a church in Columbus, Ohio. Along with the staff training, I will lead the Sabbath school lesson discussion in place of the sermon during the 11:00 service. That might sound unorthodox, but there is no better time to lead a bible-based group discussion than during the time when the church as a whole is gathered.

This week’s lesson on “Get Up and Walk!” Faith and Healing is a great topic for a stimulating discussion. I find that stories of Christ’s interaction with are powerful case studies in righteousness. The stories of Jesus and the leper, the centurion and the paralytic are full of examples of His care and concern for humanity. One of our goals as teachers is to help show the relevant application for today. How do these stories apply to us?

As the author of the lesson pointed out, Christ’s actually touching the leper shows His personal interest in the individual. I’m certain we’ll explore that. I’ll also talk about how the disease of leprosy correlates with the disease of sin.

The topic of faith and healing is one with which everyone can identify. Many of us have struggled with the issue of faith during difficult times. I know that many in the audience on Sabbath will know first-hand of crying out to God during times of extreme duress. The stories we will cover can provide reassurance and help to develop our faith.

But beyond that I want to take the discussion to another level. What do we do when it appears God is not answering our prayers for help? What do we do when the answer is No, or worse yet, there appears to be no answer?

One explanation we’ll touch on is pretty straight-forward. It’s the matter of cherished sin. David, who had a lot of experience with sin and confession, gives one of the clearest explanations for unanswered prayer.

“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” Psalm 66:18

This will present an opportunity to talk about having a heart free of offences towards God and man.  There are many supporting texts to help drive this point home. But with this point we must be careful to not lose the purpose of our confession – reconciliation with God. God wants us to live in harmony with Him. Our repentance and confession are but steps in the path towards being in harmony with God.

The more difficult part of this line of discussion is what to do when there appears to be no answer from God. Has God forsaken us? Is God too busy with others that He has no time for us? Is there something in our lives that has caused Him to turn away? Those are the types of questions that are harder to answer. But there is an answer.

To prepare for this line of discussion I turn to my favorite source for background information, www.whiteestate.org. In my preparation, I always include a search of the E.G. White writings on the subject at hand, and if you are a teacher you should too. One of the online books available on this site is Christ Object Lessons. For background on answered prayer I strongly recommend you read the chapter entitled “Asking to Give,” an eye-opening chapter examining the story of the importunate neighbor. It’s from this story that we get one of the most famous promises in the bible:

“And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Luke 11:9

During my research for further insight into this question I came upon the following quotation from Ellen White. It’s a little lengthy but it’s packed with so much truth that I did not want to omit anything. I’m certain that I will explore this line of thought during our Sabbath school discussion.

“When we do not receive the very things we asked for, at the time we ask, we are still to believe that the Lord hears and that He will answer our prayers. We are so erring and shortsighted that we sometimes ask for things that would not be a blessing to us, and our heavenly Father in love answers our prayers by giving us that which will be for our highest good—that which we ourselves would desire if with vision divinely enlightened we could see all things as they really are. When our prayers seem not to be answered, we are to cling to the promise; for the time of answering will surely come, and we shall receive the blessing we need most. But to claim that prayer will always be answered in the very way and for the particular thing that we desire, is presumption. God is too wise to err, and too good to withhold any good thing from them that walk uprightly. Then do not fear to trust Him, even though you do not see the immediate answer to your prayers. Rely upon His sure promise, “Ask, and it shall be given you.” Steps to Christ, page 92

I’ll leave you now with another promise assuring us of God’s faithfulness to His people. I hope you have a wonderful Sabbath and a stimulating, inspiring and encouraging lesson discussion during your Sabbath school.

“The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.” Psalm 34:10

Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:

  • What does “faith in God” mean to you?
  • Is strong faith a gift for some or is it something that anyone can develop? Explain your answer.
  • If one gets all the things they pray for, is that not evidence that God hears their prayers? Why yes or no?
  • Is it true that if a person is in dire straits financially, there is something wrong in their relationship with God? Explain your answer?
  • Does Jesus still heal people as He did during the bible days? Why yes or no?
  • Is it true that if we were more faithful to God there would be more miraculous healing in our midst? Explain your answer.
  • Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: If I faithfully serve God He will grant me anything that I desire. Explain your answer.

We close this week’s lesson a snippet of Jesus’ interaction with the man let down through the roof. It gives great insight to the priority of life.

For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”  And he arose and departed to his house. Matthew 9:5-7

Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!

Taste (580x439)

The Sermon on the Mount

Curtis HallTwenty-five years ago in 1991, the first For Dummies book was published. It was titled DOS for Dummies and it was the first in a long line of instructional books that presented complex subjects in simple, non-threatening ways. From that first computer software book the brand has expanded to cover a huge variety of topics covering almost all aspects of life. There is and has always been a need to have the seemingly complex explained in a way that is easy to understand. And Jesus did it first in The Sermon on the Mount.

“And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”Matthew 7:28-29The Sermon on the Mount has been hailed as the most profound talk ever given on the Kingdom of God. It is a masterpiece of simplicity, walking hearers through what it means to be righteous before God and how to live in the present world. It provides an eye-opening, “aha!” moment. It could have been termed “Righteousness for Dummies.”

photo by Curtis Hall

photo by Curtis Hall

The Ministry Begins

Curtis HallIf one didn’t know better they might think that Jesus could have benefited from a savvy P.R. marketing manager. We know that first impressions are lasting, and it is imperative for any public figure to get their debut right.

To common logic it would seem Jesus would make a grand announcement that He had arrived. I can see Him now giving a press conference outlining his agenda and the wonderful gifts He would give to the people.The society in which Jesus began his ministry was very religious. At the top of the hierarchy of life were the religious rulers who held sway over every aspect of daily living. The temple sacrifices were an acknowledgement that the nation had one purpose in life – the coming of the Messiah.

It would seem to help His cause if He affirmed the people in a way that was non-threatening. Change is difficult for anyone so it would make sense to not disturb the comfort zone of the masses. Just give out some vague generalities and promises that He would make the nation great again and His chances of acceptance would be greater. But man’s ways are not heaven’s ways.

“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17

photo by Curtis Hall

photo by Curtis Hall

Son of David

Curtis HallIn this week’s lesson on the Son of David I originally planned to focus on the character of Joseph, since he is often marginalized in our discussions of the incarnation of Christ. Mary rightly draws our attention, as it was she who actually carried to birth the long-awaited Messiah. But it was the lineage of Joseph that the prophecies of old had foretold. 1

“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” Isaiah 11:1

Matthew records that Joseph was a just man. That one sentence contains a wealth of insight into his character. In a time that could best be described as a crisis, Joseph showed the kind of man he was.

The Bible doesn’t comment on how Joseph was made aware of Mary’s pregnancy. I can’t begin to imagine how such a conversation unfolded. My guess is that he knew Mary to be a woman of integrity and this factored into his response.

Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. Matthew 1:19

I’m convinced Joseph believed what Mary told him, but for some reason felt it best to give her a letter of divorcement. He would use the most discreet method available to end their union. He did not have to take that route. There were more drastic and public actions he could have taken.

photo by Curtis Hall

photo by Curtis Hall