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Women and Wine – Lesson 13

focused I must admit, when I first saw the title of this week’s lesson I was less than excited. I’m to be a guest teacher at a church this weekend and envisioning myself, a man, warning against the evils of loose women, was not a happy thought. Plus, the dangers of and avoidance of alcohol is something that most of us already embrace. But then as I looked more closely at the texts for this week I became amazed at how impactful this lesson really is.

My Aha! moment came as I noticed the reason why this unnamed mother of king Lemuel warned her son against the consumption of alcohol. If we look closely and listen carefully we can discover the bigger picture and principle being shared.

It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
It is not for kings to drink wine,
Nor for princes intoxicating drink;
Lest they drink and forget the law,
And pervert the justice of all the afflicted. Proverbs 31:4-5

Did you catch it? This mother’s wisdom to her son was that he must remain focused and not allow outside influences to divert him from his mission in life. The key word is focused – having clarity about the purpose of your life and a commitment to fulfill it. That means a lot.

Serving as a poster child of how not to have focus in life is none other than the herculean Samson. From before his birth God spoke to his mother about her future son’s mission in life.

“For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” Judges 13:5

We all know how that story ended. And although some may argue that he ultimately fulfilled his calling, the same cannot be said about his untapped potential in addition to his prophesied role in life. What he could have become we’ll never know. The exploits he could have performed through a long life of faithfulness are only limited by our imaginations. His carelessness in life cost him everything.

Almost as a confirmation that exploring the meaning of being focused is intended, the author of Proverbs 31 begins to talk about a virtuous woman. Starting from verse ten and onward we hear how this focused woman lives her life. Her industry and hard work for her household is exemplary. Her husband is made stronger by the actions of his wife.

“The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.”Proverbs 31:11-12

Likewise, her compassion and care for others is highlighted showing that her concerns are not alone for her own home. Consistent with godliness her heart is drawn out to others.

“She extends her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.” Proverbs 31:20

She is focused and the efforts of her life testify to her understanding of her purpose and her commitment to the same.

This is where we begin to look into the mirror. Our calling as Christians is quite clear. Sadly, for too many of us, our focus lacks the same clarity. The diversions of the enemy strike at our weak points and lull us into complacency. We mean well but often don’t live well.

For our generation, our focus is especially threatened by the very technology that defines our age. The transmission of data and information (much of it harmful) bombards us. The vices projected from our televisions and radios have now found added avenues via our smart phones and tablets. The enemy is determined that our focus must be on everything but our calling.

But God has not left us without guidance. If we listen closely enough we can hear the writers of holy writ speaking to us today.

“I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes”. ” Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Psalms 101:3, Philippians 4:8

What kind of people would we be as a body if those words were included in the motto of our lives? How much more could we do and how much more could we grow if in just this one area of life we were victorious?

We often fail in grasping our potential as children of God. We limit ourselves to what we see in the mirror and often we assume we can do but little for God. I’m thankful that it is not left up to us what our futures will be. I suspect that God’s plans for us are higher than any human thought and only eternity will reveal what we could have done with a different mindset and focus in life.

But it’s not too late for any of us. As long as we have breathe in our bodies we can make right what was wrong. Let’s get focused and show our commitment by our actions. To do so will take our efforts combined with the power of God. On our knees we can ask God to free us from the chains that bind us. And He has promised that whatever we ask in faith, He will do it.

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

  • What does being “committed to God” mean to you?
  • What, if any, is the difference between being a fanatic and being completely dedicated to God?
  • Is it true that as long as I am a good person and faithful in my church attendance and duties, how I amuse myself in private is of no great concern? Why yes or no?
  • Is it true that as long as I understand that the evils I consume through media and or music are fictional it is not really harmful to my Christian walk? Explain your answer.
  • Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: If I am focused and committed to following Jesus, what I choose to watch or listen to will be in stark contrast to those who do not follow Him?. Explain your answer.

We close this week with the familiar words of Paul. The example he uses to make his point is so clear and compelling. Let’s get focused:

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

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

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photo by Curtis Hall

photo by Curtis Hall

The Humility of the Wise – Lesson 12

What do you do?It was named Hurricane Katrina, and it was a life-changing storm. One day you’re living your normal life going about your normal activities and the next day you are destitute. No job. No boss. No office. No employees. No income. No cash. No ATM. No home. No condo. No address. No make-up, comb or brush. No car nor bike. No clothes nor shoes. No appliances. No TV. No computers nor laptops. No school nor teachers. No fitness club. No church nor pastor. No assistance. Nothing but the clothes on your back. Who are you now?

Thirty-four years prior to Hurricane Katrina, a young Jesse Jackson led the children of Sesame Street in the recitation of “I am somebody.” That simple poem, with it’s free-ranging verses, spoke to the need of self-worth regardless of one’s station in life. That message is as sorely needed today as it was back then.

Photo by Curtis Hall

Photo by Curtis Hall

Living by Faith – Lesson 11

Feeding the 5000“Ye seek Me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.” John 6:26

This was an abrupt reality check to the gathered throng. Just one day prior their enthusiasm for Jesus was at a fever pitch. Many in the crowd had witnessed the miracle of the fish and loaves. Imaginations of what the miraculous powers of Jesus could do for them were on each mind as they crowded about Him.

But then, instead of hearing words that would flatter their ambitions, Jesus began to shine a bright light on their hidden motives. Knowing that to follow Him for the purpose of securing temporal advantages was folly, Jesus again explains the requirements of His kingdom.

“Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” John 6:27

Behind the Mask – Lesson 10

Man Behind Mask“Do not exalt yourself in the presence of the king, and do not stand in the place of the great.” Proverbs 25:6

This lesson fits one of my favorite Bible characters perfectly! Not because he was guilty of deceit or of being a sluggard. To the contrary, he was the model of transparency, humility and diligence. If you haven’t guessed, it’s none other than Joseph.

Sold as a young lad into slavery, Joseph had every excuse to be bitter. He suffered a travesty that few of us could imagine. To be betrayed by a foe is one thing. But to suffer betrayal at the hands of your own family members must make the wounds deeper and affect the psyche in a more acute way.

Since we have the benefit of knowing how the story ended, we see the mysterious work of God unfolding before us. No one but God could turn such a tragedy of life into unprecedented victory and transform the unlikeliest to succeed into the hero of a generation.

We see in Joseph the work ethic he must have learned at his father’s home. His diligence in the small affairs of life bore fruit and led to greater and greater responsibilities. His integrity was of the highest caliber and he always behaved  above reproach. Joseph was not someone hiding behind a mask of pretensions.

Words of Wisdom – Lesson 8

Psalms“Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man?” Proverbs 20:6

The answer? God can.

King Saul had forfeited his position as King of Israel. The esteemed prophet Samuel was sent on a mission to anoint Saul’s successor. He was directed to the house of Jesse and once there. he began the process that would lead to the anointing of the next ruler of Israel.Even the wisest among us can misjudge the character and potential of an individual. Although we are all equally loved with a love that spared nothing to redeem us, we each have our own paths to walk in life. And one thing the Bible teaches us and our own experience reminds us is that you cannot judge a person’s future by their present situation.

Looking upon the impressive form of Jesse’s oldest son Eliab, Samuel was certain he was gazing at the next king who would rule Israel. But then Samuel heard the famous words that give us some insight into the mind of God.

“Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” I Samuel 16:7

Dealing With Fights – Lesson 7

FrustratedThis week’s lesson on Dealing With Fights describes why Sam no longer wants to attend organized church. It’s not that Sam is not interested in God, Jesus and heaven. Quite the contrary. However, in this age of hyper sensitivity and the “take-no-prisoners” approach to life Sam sees in church, he reads this week’s memory text and it speaks to his tenuous relationship with the church.

Better is a dry morsel with quietness, than a house full of feasting with strifeProverbs 17:1

Yes, to Sam it may be better to be alone in peace than in a full church with strife. To understand the struggles Sam is facing we’ll use the headings of each day’s lesson. Each one speaks to issues that Sam and many like him are facing and that has the potential to discourage membership in the church body.

What You Get Is Not What You See – Lesson 6

Photo by Curtis Hall

Photo by Curtis Hall

Our lesson this week on What You Get Is Not What You See covers a lot of territory. Proverbs 14 and 15 contain so much valuable instruction that we could probably spend one week on each verse instead of this one week on all 68 verses.

Sound wisdom and instruction seem to be in short supply. Not just for practical everyday living but also our spiritual walk. One verse, in particular, in this week’s lesson sends a loud warning against false assumptions in life that lead to a disastrous ending. It’s one that we often quote yet often take for granted.

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Proverbs 14:12

So simple yet so profound. Conviction in error is still error. Pursuing a direction in life with passion and commitment is not enough. Following your heart or your gut feelings is no guarantee that you are moving towards eternal life.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise. Proverbs 12:15

What is the solution, especially concerning our spiritual walk?

O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself;
It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.
 O Lord, correct me, but with justice;
Not in Your anger, lest You bring me to nothing. Jeremiah 10:23-24


Peace I leave with you