Friday, May 3, 2019

Outdoor Object Lesson 96: Transparent Honesty


Key Text

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:16


Thing of something that is transparent or see-through. What did you think of? The first thing to come to most people’s mind is glass. The most beneficial thing about glass is that we can see through it, yet it provides a barrier. Now, can you think of something living that is transparent? This is a bit harder. There are living organisms that have transparent parts. For example, the common house fly (Musca domestica) has transparent wings. How about a plant, have you ever seen a plant with see-through parts?

The flowering plant known as honesty (Lunaria annua or Lunaria rediviva) has large flat seed pods that grow to be about the size of a U.S. quarter ($0.25) or larger. This plant produces beautiful purple or white flowers. It is native to Europe but grows in the United States well especially in warmer areas.1 As it grows, it produces its large thin seed pods that start off green. As the seed pods dry and prepare to disperse their seeds, the paper-thin fleshy sides turn translucent and you can see the seeds inside. This see-through characteristic gave rise to the plants name—honesty.

When we are honest, we are transparent, or see-through about the truth. We are upfront about our intentions. We do not cloud or distort the truth or make it hard for people to ‘see’. Being transparent or see-through has long been a metaphor representing honesty. "Perfect sincerity and transparency make a great part of beauty, as in dewdrops, lakes, and diamonds." ~ Henry David Thoreau

Paul discusses the benefit of being open and transparent about actions and intentions (2 Corinthians 1:12–23). God considers honesty and telling the truth so important he included it in the Ten Commandments. Honesty is at the heart of our Key Text which is the ninth commandment. The thing about lying is that no matter how good you are at it, the truth is always transparent to God. Just like you can see the seeds inside the seedpod of the honesty plant, God can see your true thoughts and intentions. The Bible says man looks on the outward appearance but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Jesus promised that those who are honest and pure in heart will see God (Matthew 5:8). Honesty is the best policy.


Why is it hard to tell the truth sometimes?

How will your belief about God impact your commitment to honesty?

Why do humans lie and twist the truth so often?

Do you think it is ok to lie sometimes? Why or why not?


1. Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Honesty,” Encyclopedia Britannica online, last modified May 12, 2015, accessed May 3, 2019 from

Written by David F. Garner
Photo credit: MabelAmber via

Friday, April 26, 2019

Outdoor Object Lesson 95: Elephant Training

Key Text

"not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:25 (WEB)


One of the biggest animals in the world is an elephant. You have probably seen pictures or video of them and maybe you even gasped at how massive they can be. If you have ever seen one in person, than you know that pictures or video do not really give you a good idea of just how large they are. The first time I saw a live elephant in a zoo I was stunned speechless, even though I had seen numerous pictures. His trunk was like a fire-hose and his legs the size of pillars. Everything about the elephant is so big, except one part. As he turned I couldn't help but laugh at the comically small, wispy tail.

Many animals, including reptiles and others abandon their young to survive on their own. This is not so for African elephants. It would be easy to assume that newborn elephants could easily survive on their own because they are huge. Newborn elephants weigh about 200 pounds (91 kg)! But they need a lot of help. Adult elephants work together to raise their young. Mothers work together to help newborns find their footing, they also teach them how to nurse. The entire herd slows their pace when walking so the young can keep up. The older elephants teach the young which plants are safe to eat, how to eat them, and which ones to avoid. Raising the young is an effort that requires the whole herd.

It is similar for Christians. We must show other Christians how to live in Christ and we do this through our changed life. This is part of the fruit we bear. This is not a passive activity only. We must actively be involved in helping show others how to live like Jesus. One of the best ways to do this is by studying the Bible together. Christians meet together regularly to study the Bible, pray, and spend time together. This is not simply for fun. It is so that we can learn from each other how to be more like Jesus.

If you are not meeting together with other Christians how can you expect to learn and grow? Just like the young elephants, we must learn how to grow from those that are more mature, or our faith will die. As you grow in Jesus, it is important that you show others how to get to know Jesus and how to be more like him. This not only helps them, it also helps you by keeping your focus on your own relationship with Jesus. If you do not disciple others as you mature in Christ, then you are not truly living as a Christian. We need each other, we need to be a part of a Christian family. That is the way Jesus intended it.

What person in your life helped you learn how to follow Jesus?

Are there any benefits to us if we show others how to be disciples? If so, what?

Who are you discipling?

Who are you pouring your life into?

1 National Geographic Society, "African Elephant," National Geographic online, (2019), accessed May 21, 2019 from

Written by David F. Garner
Photo credit: garyskirrow via

Friday, April 12, 2019

Outdoor Object Lessons 94: No Food No Worries

Key Text

“Here is the perseverance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”” Revelation‬ ‭14:12‬ ‭(WEB‬‬)


Have you ever seen a giant moth? One of the biggest moths in the world is called the Atlas moth (Attacus atlas). Its wingspan is between 9-12 inches (25-30 cm)! The atlas moth is primarily orange and has beautiful geometric patterns of white and black across its wings. As with other moths, the Atlas begins its life as a caterpillar. It eats and grows until it is ready to turn into a winged moth. Then it wraps itself in a cocoon and the pupa slowing transforms into an adult moth. Once it has transformed, the Atlas moth can no longer eat. It has no functional mouthparts. In fact, many moth species are unable to eat once they transform from the larva state. The Luna, Polyphemus, Promethea, and other species of adult moths do not have mouthparts.

Because it has no mouth, the Atlas moth must survive off the energy it consumed as a caterpillar. It spends most of its short adult life being still in order to conserve energy. It’s one purpose as an adult is to reproduce. It does not waste time looking for food sources to perpetuate its own life. God gave the adult moth one job. And it has everything it needs to do it.

Likewise, as Christians living in these last days, God has given us one job. We may fret that we don’t have certain talents, good looks, money or other things. God has given or will give what we need to do the job he has given us. In the next life we will have everything we want, long life, good looks, money, even the streets will be paved with gold. But in this short life on earth, God has left us one job— to tell people of his soon return.

We are to live with this as our primary priority. We are the Remnant people. We do not have time to be preoccupied with chasing after worldly things. We have an urgent message for the world. Jesus instructed us not to worry about anything, not even what we will eat (Matt. 6:31). We need to be focused on telling people to get ready for Jesus’ soon return, encouraging them to repent and prepare for his coming judgment. We need the perseverance to stay focused on our one task, which is to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.


Is it wrong if we do have good looks or lots of money? Do you think God gives these gifts to some people for a reason?

How do we share God with others when they don’t seem to want to hear it?

Does God expect us to trust him even if we have lost everything?

Is it wrong to feel worried about things?

How do you stay focused on God even when you feel worried?

1. Kasey, "Atlas moth," Remain Gardens: Iowa State University, July 2017, accessed March 13, 2019 from

Written by David F. Garner
Photo credit: Crazygoat

SDA Belief Series 13/28

Friday, April 5, 2019

Outdoor Object Lesson 93: Growing In Christ

Key Text

“Putting away therefore all wickedness, all deceit, hypocrisies, envies, and all evil speaking, as newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the Word, that with it you may grow, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious: coming to him, a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God, precious.” 1 Peter‬ ‭2:1-4‬ ‭(WEB‬‬)


Birds can be funny and odd creatures at times. Perhaps one of the most unusual things birds do is called “anting.” A bird will deliberately find an ant hill, sit on top, spread its feathers, and let the ants crawl all over it. Sometimes, the bird may even pick up the ants with it’s beak and place them on itself! If humans tried this they would certainly regret it. But many bird species are known to do this purposely and suffer no ill effects.

Over 200 species of birds have been observed performing this odd ritual including blue jays, crows, and turkeys. Scientists have studied this peculiar behavior since the 1930’s but still cannot fully explain why birds do it. Several theories have been proposed to explain this behavior including that the ants help to remove small parasites from the birds feathers and skin. Other theories suggest that perhaps the birds just enjoy it. But no one knows for sure why birds put ants all over their bodies.1

It can be similar for outsiders watching Christians. Why do Christians do weird things regular people don’t? It has been this way since Jesus called his disciples. Outsiders often can’t understand why someone would give up their money or possessions, leave a comfortable life or even risk their life for some guy named Jesus. Why do Christians give up some behaviors that might feel good or be easy? Why do they waist time going to church and reading some old book? Why do Christians make such a fuss about good behavior? What’s wrong with a little white lie or getting revenge on someone who really deserves it?

When we accept Jesus into our life and invite the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside, we are sure to change our behaviors and ideas. Growing in Christ means we become more like him. We put away the “normal” things of this world such as wickedness, deceit, hypocrisy, and evil speech. We do “unusual” things like spend a lot of time getting to know Jesus and risking our reputations and our lives for him. God said his ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). Jesus said we may even be hated because we are different when we follow him (Matthew 10:22). It is ok to be different. It is a sign of your spiritual growth. Being different may cause people to ask why, and this is a great opportunity to tell them about Jesus!


Have you ever felt odd because of the choices you have made for Jesus?

What changes have you seen in your life that let you know you are growing in Christ?

Does being different guarantee that we will experience persecution?

If we don’t feel odd about our behavior as Christians does that mean we are not living like Christ?

What changes do want to see in the future in your life? Pray that God will continue to make you more like Jesus.

1. Birds Rub Ants on Themselves, and No One Knows Exactly Why," Atlas Obscura online, (November 21, 2017), accessed March 11, 2019 from

Written by David F. Garner
Photo credit: 442683 via

SDA Belief Series 11/28

Friday, March 29, 2019

Leadership Lesson Series: Including Students With Disabilities

In many churches and religious communities across America, children and youth with disabilities are under-served. It was reported in a recent study published by The Journal of Scientific Study of Religion that children with chronic health conditions are more likely than healthy children to never attend a church service in their life. This is especially true for children with conditions that affect social interaction and communication (e.g. autism, ADD/ADHD, personality disorders).1 This is not too surprising because of the continuation of stigma that surrounds those with disabilities, especially mental disabilities. There are still many myths and a general lack of understanding about persons with disabilities even among church workers and youth ministry volunteers.

Parents of children with disabilities are likely part of the reason this population of children attend religious services less. It is conceivable that they may seek to isolate their children more than parents of healthy children out of a desire to protect their children. Church ministry leaders and volunteers can do a lot more to make such parents and students feel more welcome and accommodated. In fact, we have a duty to serve this population of children and youth as we do all populations! (see Luke 18:15-16) 

The lack of understanding that pervades much of the general population regarding persons with disabilities needs to be addressed. Youth ministry leaders, workers, and volunteers have a duty to learn and seek to understand how they can better serve this population. Below are simple steps you can take to educate yourself and those you know both within your ministry and in your church and community.  Ideas on how to include persons with disabilities in your programs and activities are also outlined.

Check your assumptions. A young man attended my church for several years who was paralyzed from the waist down and used a wheelchair. I had regrettably never taken the opportunity to get to know him. One weekend he rolled to the front of the church at the time the sermon was to begin. As he began to preach, I thought to myself, "I hope this sermon is good." By the time he finished I realized it was one of the best sermons I had heard in a long time. When I first saw him upfront, did I assume he was mentally substandard? I would like to think not, but many people do equate physical disability with mental deficiency, however unintentionally. In fact, this is usually incorrect. I later learned that my church member was a college English professor! His physical ability had no bearing on his mental prowess. We must take time to analyze our conscious and subconscious assumptions about people with disabilities. We must stop expecting less of them. We must keep an open mind and never make assumptions or judge someone based on their appearance or our previous experiences with other disabled people. Do so now. How do you view students with disabilities? How did Jesus see them?

Make space in your programs and activities for those with disabilities. This process may seem daunting. There are so many various disabilities affecting all aspects of being including physical, mental, social, learning, and behavior. Begin by building a welcoming culture among your leaders.  This is easily done by raising awareness. Study how Jesus interacted with the disabled in staff worship or at a general worship program for your participants. Learn about each student's unique condition. There are non-profits for nearly every major chronic health condition that provide free information online (example: Autism Speaks). Check out Key Ministry which seeks to empower churches to serve children with disabilities.

Educate staff and yourself about how to create an welcoming atmosphere. Invite a professional who works with those with disabilities to give a presentation or training to your staff and volunteers. Someone trained as a social worker, special education teacher, occupational therapist, school guidance counselor or licensed mental health counselor are all good options.

Seek out students with disabilities and invite them. The best thing you can do to make children and parents in this population feel welcome is to build a relationship with them. Get to know those in the community/congregation you serve and seek out youth and their parents whom you know to be disabled. Tactfully invite the parents to accompany their students if they prefer. Tell them you are trying to better serve all populations including children with disabilities and you invite their feedback about changes you could implement to better serve and include them. Every child is different and every disability is unique. Students and their parents/caregivers know best what they need so take your cues from them. Consider assigning one staff or volunteer to each child with a disability to serve as an aid. This may be best especially if the parent/caregiver decides not to stay.

Taylor activities and programs to be inclusive. This step may take a bit of learning and planning. Because of the diversity of needs among different chronic health conditions, it is best to find what changes each child needs by talking to that student or their parent/caregiver or by getting recommendations from the aforementioned professionals. A few general pointers will also help. Plan programs in a place that is accessible by wheelchair. Reserve room near the front or back for students that need that specific place. (For example, students with poor eyesight can see the screen better if they sit on the front row) Consider turning the volume and lights lower as many students are sensitive to loud noise and bright light. Plan activities that are inclusive of kids with all abilities. You may even consider a separate program for students with special needs.

Some examples of inclusive activities and games:
  • Sitting activities/games
  • Slow paced activities/games
  • Games/activities that use only one sense or body region (examples: ones that involve hearing only if you have blind participants, using only upper extremities for those in wheelchairs) 
  • Games/activities that require only parallel social interaction (i.e. each participant works on their own project along side other participants and it does not require much social interaction)
  • Activities/games that are primarily mental not physical (this would be appropriate if your participants have physical but not mental limitations) 
  • Find more ideas here.
Remember, you do not have to do everything perfectly. Seek to learn as the more you know the better equipped you will be to meet each unique need. Parents and caregivers are much more likely to bring their students with disability if they know they will be treated with respect and the leaders are working to actively include them.


1. Andrew L. Whitehead, "Religion and Disability: Variation in Religious Service Attendance Rates for Children with Chronic Health Conditions," The Journal of Scientific Study of Religion 57, iss. 2 (June, 2018): 377-395, accessed March 10, 2019

Written by David F. Garner
Photo Credit: BeatriceBB via

Friday, March 22, 2019

Outdoor Object Lesson 92: Does God Exist?

Key Text

“He said to him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead.’”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭16:31‬ ‭(WEB‬‬)


What is the biggest bee you have ever seen? Do you think there could be a bigger bee out there somewhere? In 1858 a scientist by the name of Alfred Russel Wallace discovered the biggest bee he had ever seen. He was on a scientific expedition in the Indonesian Islands. While out collecting species of insects, he came across a giant bee 1.5 inches (38 mm) long with enormous pinchers! The bee species was eventually named after him called Wallace's giant bee. The Indonesian name for the bee is raja ofu, which means king of the bees.1

After Wallace's return, it was determined that his bee was the biggest bee species ever found. It still holds that record today over 150 years later. It has a wingspan of up to 2.5 inches (63.5 mm) wide. Like other bee species it is the female that grows biggest. The males are much smaller than the females but are still quite large. What is unusual about Wallace's giant bee, is that after his discovery, no one saw the bee species again for over 100 years. It was thought extinct. The bee was finally found again in 1981 by Adam Messer an entomologist (a scientist who studies insects). He found it because he wanted to know if it still existed and to study it if possible. After Messer completed his study, no one saw or officially documented the bee again for many years. It was not until almost 40 years later that another scientist would again find Wallace's bee. In 2019, Clay Bolt and a team of researchers finally found one after searching for 6 days. The keen eyes of their local guide noticed a small movement up in a tree and was responsible for this rediscovery.1,2

Why has there been so much time between each rediscovery of Wallace's giant bee? This is partly due to the remoteness of the islands it inhabits. There are only three small islands in the world where this bee species lives. They are mostly or completely uninhabited by humans. Additionally, the bee is very private. It does not live in a hive like honeybees and stays hidden quite well. It also does not build it's own nest, instead making a home in the nests of termites. This makes it especially hard to find. However, it can always be found if someone goes looking for it.

It is just like that with Jesus. We have record in the Bible of people talking to God and even seeing him a very long time ago. Some people say that God is not real because no one has seen him recently. Some say that God is extinct. They say the record in the Bible is outdated and unreliable. Some say that God may have existed and interacted with humans in the past, but doesn't anymore. The thing is, many of these people did not look for God. They just believed he does not exist because someone else said so. Some people have gone looking for God but gave up after a short while. God has been there all along.

He does not force himself on us. He does not get in our face to prove that he is there. He allows us the choice to find him. He has provided enough evidence of his existence that if we want to find him, we can. Even if God did try to further prove his existence with additional evidence, many would still find a reason to doubt. As it says in the key text, if people don't listen to the Bible, they won't believe even if God were to raise the dead right before their eyes. Wallace's giant bee does not hide from anyone, it has been in the same place all the time. People just have to go looking for it. God has been there all along, he is just waiting for us to reach out, for his is near each of us (Acts 17:27).


Have you ever gone looking for God?

Why does God not just show up to all of us like he did to Paul or other people in the Bible?

What evidence has God provided, perhaps in your own life, that he is there?

Will you reach out for God now and ask him to demonstrate how close he is?


1. Wikipedia contributors, "Megachile pluto," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed March 3, 2019).

2. Matt Simon, "The Triumphant Rediscovery of the Biggest Bee on Earth," Wired Magazine online, (accessed March 3, 2019).

Written by David F. Garner
Photo Credit: Dr. Laura Russo
Photo used with permission. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

Outdoor Object Lesson 91: Our Tent Home

Key Text

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is dismantled, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” 2 Corinthians 5:1 (BSB)


Note: To illustrate this lesson it is ideal to have a tent set up or partially set up that can be quickly collapsed on que. 

I think Paul the Apostle would fit in well if he were alive today. He loved to travel and spent a lot of time living in a tent. He also wrote to his friends a lot about his travels, so he would probably enjoy using social media. Paul was very knowledgeable about tents because he was a tent maker. He knew how portable they could be. He also knew how many drawbacks they have as a permanent residence. Tents make a nice temporary home while traveling. But they are not ideal for living in long-term when compared to a permanent house. 

In the key text, Paul is comparing our life here on earth with our future life in heaven. The Bible assures us that this life we are now living is temporary. It does not have all the comforts of a house. There is hardship and troubles. Storms can wreak our lives and blow our tent over so to speak. Tents are simple and only provide the bear necessities. Much like this life we often only have the essentials to live. We do not have the assurance of tomorrow. This life may collapse around us, it may wear out. Sickness, pain, financial hardship, unkind people, and death have likely afflicted you in this life. 

Paul reminds us of the hope we have in Jesus. Even though our home, our body, this whole life may be dismantled, we know it is only temporary. God is building us a permanent home in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy, where thieves cannot break in and steal (Matthew 6:20). He is preparing new bodies that are incorruptible (1 Corinthians 15:52). He has prepared a place with the Tree of Life that will provide healing to the nations, and where every tear will be wiped away (Revelation 22:2, 21:4). 

God has already demonstrated the fulfillment of a promise like this before. The Children of Israel lived in tents for 40 years as they wondered the wilderness, hoping for the day when they would arrive in the promised land and build permanent houses. And one day, God fulfilled his promise to them. Even greater assurance is provided by the resurrection of Jesus. While in this temporary life, he did not even have a tent to live in! But God has already raised him to life in an incorruptible body and taken him to live in a permanent home in heaven! He has promised to do the same for you and me. 


Have you ever had a tent collapse on you before? How did that experience make you feel?

Have you ever felt as if your whole life has collapsed around you like a tent?

Does the hope of eternal life make difficulties in this life easier to cope with?

Do you ever feel like the promise of heaven is too far away or doesn’t seem to make your life easier to deal with? Why do you think that is?

What other promises in the Bible can you cling to when your life is falling apart?

Written by David F. Garner