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Enduring Temptation – Lesson 3

squirrel (300x249)For the last two weeks I have been engaged in a war of wills with a family of squirrels. Those cute little creatures always scampering about my yard had now become my opponents. Unbeknownst to me these creatures had taken up residence in my house.

My wife had suggested some time ago that there could be critters in the attic. I assured her that was not the case as I could see no evidence of that. But over time I too became convinced that something was scratching in the walls of our house.

I engaged a wildlife trapping company who came out for a week in an attempt to capture and relocate these uninvited guests.  That endeavor failed and I was back where I started – squirrels in my house.

After doing another visual inspection of my house I discovered a hole in my roof that the squirrels were using for their entry. I don’t know how I missed that hole all this time but now that I had discovered it I knew that my problem would be soon solved.

I got the hole repaired and even included some tin under the new tiles. Later that evening after the repair I watched as the trio of confused squirrels tried vainly to reenter the house. I must admit I took great satisfaction in knowing that I had removed these pests and that I could now focus on other things besides being consumed with removing the squirrels.

Sometime during the next day I looked up towards the repaired hole expecting to see the sad squirrels gazing longingly at their former abode. Instead, to my dismay, I saw a new hole beneath the one that had been repaired. They had found another point of weakness and had reentered the house. This was now war.

Gathering up some fresh supplies I waited for my opportunity. I had to wait until they went outside for their normal time of foraging. This made for a long day as I could hear them chewing away as they expanded their new entrance. It almost seemed as if they were taunting me. Who chews for hours?!

My patience paid off and I observed them outside frolicking in the leaves. I pounced and quickly climbed my ladder and blocked off their new entrance. All the while I was doing this I noticed the squirrels watching me. Their little eyes seemed sad but I was unsympathetic – they had to go.

As I climbed down from the ladder I begin to think how this week’s lesson on Enduring Temptation played out in real life through my encounter with the squirrels. It was a fitting example of the process of temptation.

My house, which I assumed was secure, was really not. There were points of weakness that the squirrels exploited. That alone reminded me of the text “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” 1 Corinthians 10:12. We can never feel we are beyond the power of temptation.

I also pondered the truth that a victory gained does not mean the battle is won. As the squirrels watched me block up their point of entry I knew that they would not cease in their attempts to reenter the house. Vigilance on my part was needed.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Today I’m having a tree removed that made it easy for the squirrels to gain access to my roof. This can’t stop them completely but it will certainly make their task harder. I saw the correlation in our fight against sin. We must remove, as far as possible, those avenues of entry that Satan exploits. That may be easier to say than to do, but it must be done.

“All who name the name of Christ need to watch and pray and guard the avenues of the soul, for Satan is at work to corrupt and destroy if the least advantage is given him.” Ellen White, Adventist Home, pg 403

I could go on and on but just a short while ago I discovered a new point of entry these persistent critters had found to gain entry to my home. Time to renew the battle.

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

  • What does the word “temptation” mean to you?
  • What does it mean to gain the victory over temptation?
  • It is said that being tempted is not sin. Does that mean if I have impure thoughts I am not sinning as long as I don’t act them out? Why yes or no?
  • What does it mean to control the tongue?
  • How serious of a sin is gossiping?
  • Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: I will become less tempted the stronger my relationship with Christ grows. Explain your answer.

We close this week with the wisdom of the Psalmist. Thank God for His Word:

“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Psalms 119:9-12

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

For online lessons please visit  http://www.ssnet.org/lessons/14d/less03.html

The Perfecting of Our Faith – Lesson 2

pvtv_logoNow Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself. Genesis 18:11-12

Sarah had just overheard Abraham being told again that his wife would bear him a son. It was humanly impossible for Abraham and Sarah to have a child. Although firm believers in God, this promise was more than they could take in.

Their reaction to the promise of God was quite similar to ours when we hear the word “perfection.” Our disbelief in the idea that man, even through divine power, can live a life above sin, being spiritually mature and totally submitted to God, makes us laugh within.

But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. 1 Peter 1:15-16

James, the Lord’s Brother – Lesson 1

pvtv_logoI have thought a lot about James over the last week. The discussions about his identity have been interesting. The evidence seems to support the view that James was actually a brother of Jesus, although no one can say with 100% certainty that he was.

As a leader of the early church, James distinguished himself as a man of wisdom. There’s ample proof that he was highly thought of.

Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. But motioning to them with his hand to keep silent, he declared to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Go, tell these things to James and to the brethren.” Acts 12:16-17

What I find most interesting about James is how he described himself. He makes no mention of his bloodline, if he indeed was a half-sibling of Christ.

Nor did James describe himself by any accomplishments made in life. No mention does he make of his education or his business acumen. No mention is made of positions of importance that he may have held previous to the writing of his letter. He presents no human credentials to give authority and legitimacy to his words. James identifies himself as simply a slave.

That’s When

Dying Thief

Death and Resurrection – Lesson 12

TombThen said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. John 11:14

Lazarus’s sisters were crushed. The brother who they loved so much had been taken away from them by the cruel enemy called Death. They had sent word to Jesus that He was sick, knowing that if Jesus could get to Lazarus quickly, he would not die. But hours turned into days and Lazarus died.

Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. John 11:5

After Jesus finally arrived back to Judaea, Martha poured out her heart to Him. Her confidence in His power was unshaken but in her grief she could not grasp the deep purposes of God.

The Sabbath – Lesson 11

SunsetAnd He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27

We need the Sabbath. I am not primarily talking about a period of down time from our busy lives, although the Sabbath affords that. Our need of the Sabbath is deeper than mere rest. We need the Sabbath for our salvation.

The Sabbath reminds us that there is a God who created all things. Those sacred hours provide the time to turn our attention to His mighty creation. Our world, though marred by sin, still serves as a lesson book about the God we serve.

We see the beauty of His creation from the lowly flower full of intricate details to the lofty mountains that tower to the heavens. In each we see the hand of God. We read in nature’s pages the care and concern He has for us and we find assurance and contentment as we reaffirm each week who it is that controls our lives.

“So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Matthew 6:28-30

The Law of God – Lesson 10

pvtv_logoIf ye love me, keep my commandments. John 14:15

God, in sending His Son, demonstrated His love for man. This demonstration of love is designed to pierce the hard-heartedness of man and open up his heart to reciprocate that love. Without love as a motivating factor, the keeping of the law, weighed in the scales of eternity, is just sounding brass and tinkling symbols. Our greatest need is to know and understand that love that was revealed through Jesus the Christ.

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. John 17:3

As He walked this earth as a man we find that Jesus never used force or coercion for the building up of the kingdom of God. The invitation was to whosoever would and there were many who responded to that call of love.

No Inmates Beyond This Point!

PrisonNO INMATES BEYOND THIS POINT!

This was the sign that warned us each time we departed the prison grounds at the women’s federal prison in Texas. As we crossed the boldly red striped line each day we understood what a privilege we have to be free and able to leave the grounds knowing that those who watched us walk away could only dream of the day they could do the same. 

For three days Shelley and I have been conducting a series of workshops to the inmates on job readiness skills once they would transition back into society. For some, the departure date would be decades from now but they were none-the-less engaged as if their freedom was in the near future.

The group of women we served covered a broad spectrum. We had young women all the way to grandmothers that were in the years when most are planning retirement. We had multiple races and ethnicities.

During our time together we learned a little of each woman’s history. Some had been millionaires (not wanna bees), others had never really held a job. We had skilled artisans of a wide variety and even someone who had broken a racehorse in her previous life in the Midwest.

We were struck with how normal many of the ladies were yet through bad decisions they chose to make, they were now convicted felons. We shared useful job readiness information on how to move forward in life once they would be released. But even more important than that we were also able to share example after example of how Jesus had a habit of meeting people at their worst and changing their lives in ways they could have never dreamed.

Meeting people at their worst…, I might have to write something else along those lines.  

Living Like Christ – Lesson 7

Walking on Water (300x123)Where have all of the nice Christians gone? I know they still exist. I have seen them. They stand out because of their constant cheerfulness, even in trying situations. They never have anything negative to say about anyone, including the growing online internet bashing and mocking of others (check out a typical Facebook feed). They always appear supportive of others and are known for their willingness to lend a helping hand.

Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. Luke 7:39

Growing in Christ – Lesson 6

Growing (300x186)The people did not see that coming. They were hoping for and expecting an announcement that the long-awaited kingdom would soon begin. There was no denying that Jesus was more than a normal man. It was not only the miracles He performed but His king-like bearing and an authority that none could deny.

As they sat gathered on the mountainside everyone was in rapt attention, listening to the words He spoke. In the crowd were all classes – from the lowly to the distinguished members of Jewish society. Each with their own dreams of the Jewish nation being restored.

Spell-bound they listened as Jesus began to talk about the kingdom of heaven in ways that they had not heard before. He pronounced blessings upon mourners and the meek, upon the merciful and the peacemakers.

Then He made a statement that must have turned their religious world upside down:

“For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:20