Author Archive

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.

Through providence Joseph found himself standing before the ruler of Egypt. This powerful monarch, who had access to the greatest minds of his country, was in a dilemma. Joseph had just revealed the meaning of the Pharaoh’s dream, and with sincerity and wisdom he gave this advice:

“Now therefore, let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, to collect one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven plentiful years. And let them gather all the food of those good years that are coming, and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. Then that food shall be as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which shall be in the land of Egypt, that the land may not perish during the famine.” Genesis 41:33-36

It is here that we again see the mysterious working of God being revealed. Pharaoh converses with his servants about who they could find for this life or death responsibility. They would need someone who would look after the  survival of the nation. Someone who could get the job done. This would be the position of a lifetime, and Pharaoh must choose wisely.

Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.” 41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Genesis 41:39-41

One moment he was a slave – the next, the second most powerful person in the kingdom. Only God could do this. Joseph did not take credit for his reversal of fortune. No hint of arrogance tarnished his legacy. He understood that it was the God he served to whom he owed everything.

We learn so much from the experience of Joseph. His witness was his life. He lived his life with a high standard when not doing so would not have seemed unusual. He believed that his life was in God’s hands and even the wrongs done to him would not mold his outlook on life. He moved past his hurts and forgave those who betrayed him.

And Joseph’s life reminds us that there is nothing that we do that is insignificant. Every day is another opportunity to live our lives for God. Every day is another opportunity to witness to the benefits of walking with God, wherever we find ourselves.

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

  • What does “being transparent” mean to you?
  • Does being transparent mean that I wear my emotions on my sleeve? Why yes or no?
  • Proverbs 27:5 says “Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed.” What does it mean to rebuke someone?
  • Is rebuking someone equivalent to our phrase of “putting someone in their place?” Why yes or no?
  • It is often said that we should forgive but never forget. Explain how, if at all, we are to apply this way of thinking to our lives as disciples.
  • Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: The closer we get to God the more transparent we will be. Explain your answer.

We close this week’s lesson on Behind the Mask with some wise words from Job. They are fascinating and it’s worth the time to read this entire chapter.

“Do you think you can explain the mystery of God?
Do you think you can diagram God Almighty?
God is far higher than you can imagine,
far deeper than you can comprehend,
Stretching farther than earth’s horizons,
far wider than the endless ocean.
If he happens along, throws you in jail
then hauls you into court, can you do anything about it?
He sees through vain pretensions,
spots evil a long way off—
no one pulls the wool over his eyes!
Hollow men, hollow women, will wise up
about the same time mules learn to talk.”  Job 11:7-12

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

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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


The Blessings of the Righteous – Lesson 5

Law (218x300)

The contrast could not have been greater. On one side stood revered religious leaders whose very presence enlisted admiration. In their regal robes denoting their exalted position, they represented the height of spiritual achievement. Known as sticklers for adherence to the minutest rules of the law, they now appeared in stark contrast to the One that stood before them.
He was dressed in ordinary clothing. There were no trappings of success to be seen. The commonly believed evidences of divine favor were absent from His life. He didn’t even have a home to call his own. Standing on the Mount of Blessings before the masses who had come to hear His words of instruction and hope, He made this declaration,

“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

Was He serious? How could anyone hope to exceed the righteousness displayed by the scribes and Pharisees?  This week as we look into The Blessings of the Righteous, we’ll start with the repeating of the obvious – righteous living is a requirement of God.


A Matter of Life and Death – Lesson 3

What do you do?For the commandments are like a lamp, instruction is like a light, and rebukes of discipline are like the road leading to life Proverbs 6:23 NET

We have an unhealthy relationship with the word discipline. It connotes the worst in our emotions. Pain and some form of suffering are usually associated with this word. And sadly, many people today are damaged physically, mentally and spiritually by our often flawed ideas of what constitutes proper discipline. Simply put, we have merged the word discipline with punishment.

This week as we look at A Matter of Life and Death we will concentrate on discipline from the eyes of God. As the Bible states “his ways are not are ways’‘ and this is certainly true in the area of discipline.

My Simple Prayer (repost)

Simple Prayer

From Ears to Feet – Lesson 2

Cliff PathwayDon’t look down! Whenever a guide says those three words you can rest assured you are not walking on an ordinary path. It is to your advantage and safety that you keep your eyes focused on what’s before you and not what’s beneath you. Your target destination is your aim and your safe arrival is found in keeping the goal in view.

This week as we take up the subject From Ears to Feet, we hear the author of these chapters in Proverbs telling us to not look down. We are journeying to the City of God and dangers are all along the way.

Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Proverbs 4:25

While there are numerous lessons to be gleaned from our study we’ll only have the luxury to consider a few.

Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established.Proverbs 4:26

First, we are on a journey. We are not to be stagnant and resigned to stay where we are. Our religious experience should be growing and deepening as we walk this pathway to the City of God.

The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Psalms 92:12

It is not enough to say we no longer do the bad that we used to do. Our goal is Christlikeness, and that will take continuous effort on our part.