Friday, July 12, 2019

Outdoor Object Lesson 104: Renewed By Water

Key Text

"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Mark 16:16 (KJV)


The blue mahoe tree (Hibiscus elatus*), also known as the majagua, is the national tree of Jamaica. This beautiful tropical tree has wide, round-shaped leaves and flowers that resemble a hibiscus. They come in lovely orange-red and yellow-orange shades. The bark is coarse and thick. It grows from 60 to 80 feet (18-25 m) tall. Because of its wide leaves this mighty tree provides ample shade from the hot tropical sun. It has a straight trunk and thick wide branches that are fantastic for climbing. This tree is indigenous to Cuba and Jamaica. The blue mahoe is popular as an ornamental tree because of its beauty and shade. It is also popular for its resources. The sub-layer of the bark is strong and fibrous for making rope. The wood is the most sought after part. The outer wood is light similar to pine. The inner section, known as the heartwood, is a grey-blue and contrasts sharply with the outer wood.

The beautiful colors of the wood make it a popular choice for building cabinets and furniture. The grain of the wood is very straight which makes it ideal for tool handles. It is very durable and resists moister damage and fungus growth.1 This makes it a perfect choice for axe handles. In Cuba it is also a popular wood for making baseball bats. Craftsmen are experts at selecting various woods for specific applications based on its properties. That is why they often use the blue mahoe for axe handles and baseball bats.2 It is strong enough to withstand the stresses of repeated impacts.

Any wood, no matter how strong, will deteriorate over time. Wood that is used as a tool handle will be treated very roughly. It will be used and abused. It may be left in the sun and rain. Over time it will dry and crack especially if it is not taken care of. It will get covered with dirt and grime so thick it may be hard to determine what type of wood it is. A good craftsman knows how to restore an old and battered tool handle. It does not matter how rough the surface or how many cracks, a true craftsman can restore a tool handle to its original beauty. There is a special process that must be followed.

The first step is to remove all the dirt and grime. Water and a little soap are used to wash away the hardened dirt and grime that has built up over years of use and abuse. Next, a course sandpaper is used to smooth out any damage or surface cracks. Then the deeper cracks are repaired with special filler putty and the whole thing is sanded with a fine sandpaper until it is as smooth and bright as when brand new. Finally, a sealer is applied to defend the wood against dirt and grime and to keep it from cracking.

This process of renewal is similar to the spiritual renewal Jesus offers. When you were created in the womb, God, the Great Craftsman, formed you for a special purpose. He gave you specific traits and talents suited to the plan he had for your life. Just like the blue mahoe is suited for axe handles because of its properties, you were suited to the plan God has for your life because of the properties he gave you. But at birth you entered a world filled with sin. You have been used and abused. You are filled with cracks and covered with dirt and grime. You no longer have a new shiny finish. But the Great Craftsman can restore you.

First, he will wash away all the old dirt and grime. This process happens inside the mind of each person that accepts him as Savior. He asks us to be publicly baptized by submersion in water as a symbol of the washing that is taking place on the inside. Then he will sand away the cracks and defects in our character. He will fill and repair any damage we have. This happens over a lifetime. Finally, he will seal his work so that no dirt or grime can mar his beautiful masterpiece.


Do you feel like you have been used and abused in this rough life?

Do you think there is something in your life that cannot be fixed?

Are you ready to ask God to begin this process in your life right now and then get baptized?

If you have already been baptized will you ask God to continue fixing the cracks and defects in your life until you are his masterpiece?


1.  Julissa Rohas-Sandoval, "Hibiscus Elantus (Blue Mahoe)", Invasive Species Compendium online, (September 27, 2018), accessed July 3, 2019 from

2.  Expert wood craftsman in interview with the author, June 26, 2019, Majagua Cuba.

Written by David F. Garner
Photo credit: David F. Garner (taken in Majagua, Cuba, 2019)

SDA Belief Series #15

Friday, July 5, 2019

Outdoor Object Lesson 103: Train For God

Key Text

Don’t you know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run like that, that you may win. Every man who strives in the games exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I therefore run like that, as not uncertainty. I fight like that, as not beating the air, but I beat my body and bring it into submission, lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (WEB)


Trail running is one of the more elite forms of running sports. It requires a high level of fitness and nimbleness. In fact, any form of running requires a high level of fitness compared with many other sports and recreation activities. Some of the longest and most grueling foot races in the world involve trail running. The Barkley Marathon held in Tennessee, USA is only 100 miles long but one of the hardest races in the world. Participants climb approximately 54000 feet of elevation, just less than twice the height of Mt. Everest. Since it began, over 800 people have attempted the race and only 15 have ever finished in the required time limit. Another, The Dragons Back Race takes place in Wales along the spine of a mountain range. It is about 186 miles long and includes 51000 feet of elevation gain throughout the five-day race. The fastest racers run for 18 hours a day.

One unofficial foot race is to complete the Appalachian Trail fastest. The AT is one of the longest trails anywhere in the world. From time to time people attempt to break the standing fastest known time. At 2189 miles long, this is one of the longest trail runs anywhere in the world. It also includes more elevation gain than the Continental Divide Trail through the Rocky Mountains or the Pacific Crest Trail on the west coast of the USA which are both longer.2 Currently the fastest record on the AT is 41 days, 7 hours and 39 seconds held by Karel Sabbe.3 Completing this trail at a run is certainly a feat.

Trail running requires a lot of commitment and perseverance. It requires constant training and a willingness to keep going, no matter how you feel. It requires endurance, fortitude, and tenacity. To be good at trail running, it must be more than a leisure pursuit, it must be a lifestyle. You will never succeed at winning, or even finishing any of the races mentioned above if you only run once in a while. The lifestyle of a trail runner is all-encompassing. Every aspect of your life impacts your performance including what you eat, how much you sleep, how often you train, how you train, and what you wear. What you listen to and read also affect your performance. The best trail runners and athletes in the world know that what you listen too and read affects your thoughts and your thoughts greatly impact your performance.

This is why Paul compared our spiritual life to that of a runner. Trail runners understand his metaphor perhaps even better than the rest of us. Of course, anyone, athlete or not can understand what Paul is trying to illustrate. But trail runners experience each of the parallels made to running intimately. They practice the self-control Paul talks about in every area of life.

Pauls main point is that we need to live our spiritual lives like just like trail runners. Our entire lives must be centered around our one goal --heaven. Our spiritual lives should be as disciplined as that of a trail runner. Every single thing we do impacts our performance. What we eat and drink spiritually, whether we rest completely in God, even what we think about all affect our performance.

Salvation is a gift of God. Nothing we do can will earn us salvation. But, once we accept that salvation, we are called to live to a higher standard (Romans 12:2). Jesus says in another place, we must daily take up our cross (Luke 9:23 NET). And in another, Paul admonishes us to put on the full armor of Christ (Ephesians 6:10-20). Accepting Jesus means you are entering a struggle. Jesus will give you every single thing you need to win. He is your trainer, your coach. But you must be faithful in following him and everything he says to do. When you fail, go back to Jesus your coach, admit your fault, and get back on your training schedule. That is the only way to win the race of life and win the incorruptible crown.


Do you enjoy running or think it is an evil form of torture?

How does what we think about affect our performance spiritually?

Does what we eat and drink affect physically our performance spiritually? (The answer is yes, think 7 deadly sins)

What will you do to improve our spiritual training today?


1. Merrill, "The 10 Longest Races in the World," Sports Management Degree Hub, (January 5, 2017), assessed June 11, 2019 from

2. Tee Corley, "5 Reasons the AT Will Be Harder than the PCT,", (March 17, 2015), accessed June 11, 2019 from

3. Adam Ruggiero, "Karel Sabbe Smashes Appalachian Trail Record By 4 Days,", (August 29, 2018), accessed June 11, 2019 from

Written by David F. Garner
Photo credit: Free-Photos via

Friday, June 28, 2019

Outdoor Object Lesson 102: Everyone, Hearts and All

Glass Frog

Key Text

"Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually." 1 Corinthians 12:27


Frogs are unique and amazing creatures. Most people tend to think frogs are cute, especially compared to their rough-skinned cousins, toads. Frogs live all over the world and include over 6000 species. They can get as big as the Goliath frog which can weight up to 6.6 pounds (3 kg) and be over 13 inches (30 cm) long. They can be as small as the gold frog which is about the size of a dime at about 0.39 inches (1 cm) long and weighing only 7 oz (200 g). There is even a species known as the glass frog which has transparent skin through which you can see its blood flowing and food digesting! Frogs will eat just about anything they can swallow but they generally prefer bugs and insects.1 If you watch a frog swallow you may notice that it blinks when it does so. This is because it uses its eyeballs to help push the food down its through.2

Frogs can live in all sorts of habitats from the edges of deserts to up in trees. But they must live near water in order to reproduce. Frogs tend to live in groups known as an army. During mating season, the males croak loudly to attract females. She lays her eggs in the water for the male to fertilize. When the eggs hatch the babies are called tadpoles and look more like fish than frogs. They will eventually grow legs and proceed out of the water to live on land.1 Frogs are amphibians which means they are cold-blooded. Their body stays the temperature of the air or water around them. They do not have the ability to warm themselves so they must sit in the sun to warm up.
Frogs have an interesting circulatory system to pump their blood. They have multiple hearts (including several lymph hearts) in order to keep their circulation flowing. The main heart pumps blood through its body. Some of the fluid from the blood flows into tissues to profuse them. That fluid is gathered by the lymph system and pumped back into the blood vessels by the lymph hearts.3 The frog requires these various hearts to stay alive. But what if some of its other organs and body parts became jealous of the hearts, and decided they wanted to be hearts too? How do you think that would work out?

Probably not well. For a frog's body to function properly, it needs all of its organs to do their job. They cannot try to be a different organ because then which organ would do their job? Just like you and me, a frog needs its hearts, but it also needs its stomach, mouth, nose, tongue, ears, and every other part. Each one is different but they all work together to make up the frog. Paul compared the church to the body of Christ. He said in 1 Cor 12:27 that we are each individual members, but we make up the complete body of Christ. What he meant is that we all have different abilities, we do things differently. These differences are not optional, they are necessary. If we all tried to be singers, who would preach? God has given you and me unique talents that we can use in the work of spreading the Gospel. He expects us to rely on Him to show us how to use them. You may not know exactly how God wants to use you yet, but you can be a f.r.o.g. which stands for Fully Relying On God. He will show you how to contribute to his body.


Do you like to catch frogs or just look at them from a distance?

Do you know what talents God has given to you? If not, ask someone else what talents they think God has given you.

Is diversity important in the church? What kind of diversity?

How do we find out how God wants us to use our talents for him?

1. Alina Bradford, "Facts About Frogs & Toads,", (May 1, 2015), accessed June 6, 2019 from
2. Julie Mianecki, "14 Fun Facts About Frogs," Smithsonian Institute online, (June 20, 2011), accessed June 6, 2019 from
3. Muller, John. "On the Existence of Four Distinct Hearts, Having Regular Pulsations, Connected with the Lymphatic System, in Certain Amphibious Animals." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 123 (1833): 89-94.

Written by David F. Garner
Photo source: Geoff Gallice via under a CC 2.0 license

Friday, June 21, 2019

Outdoor Object Lesson 101: Galactic Significance

Key Text

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained; what is man, that you think of him? What is the son of man, that you care for him?" Psalm 8:3-4 (WEB)


We live in a vast universe that makes us feel quite small. Have you ever looked up at the night sky and tried to count all the stars? It would be very hard because as you were counting the stars would move across the sky due to our planet spinning. When you look up at the night sky on an extra clear night, you can see a line of stars that is extra concentrated. This is known as the Milky Way. It is the galaxy we live in. Our own Milky Way galaxy is one quintillion km across or one followed by 18 zeros! That is equivalent to about 100,000 light years. When you look up at the river of stars in the sky that make up the Milky Way, you are looking at the center of it. Our planet is located in one of the outer arms.1

In pictures of the Milky Way our planet is too small to be seen, only the light from our sun is visible (see above). Our sun is just one of the many stars that make up the Milky Way. Scientists estimate that there are at least 100 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy alone.2 The most mind boggling part is that our galaxy is just one of millions we can see in space. Doesn’t that give you chills? A few years ago, scientists led by astronomer Bob Williams  pointed the Hubble Telescope at a dark spot in the sky. They wanted to see if it could see anything other telescopes could not. After being focused on one point for a few days, the scientists got a surprising picture. Instead of getting a black photo they got one covered in tiny points of light that at first glance might look like stars. It looked similar to a picture of any part of the night sky seen with the naked eye. As they analyzed the image, they realized those tiny points of light were actually other galaxies similar to our own Milky Way.

The implications are staggering! To get that image, the Hubble Telescope was looking at a fraction of the night sky. If you held one finger up at arms length and blocked a bit of the sky you would be blocking a bigger portion then the Hubble was looking at. In that one photo 3000 galaxies could be seen that no human had ever seen before! Each one of those galaxies holds dozens of stars like ours and perhaps hundreds of planets! Scientists everywhere were shocked by this discovery. It meant they had to increase the number of galaxies in the universe was much more than anyone thought. Indeed there are hundreds of billions of galaxies out there in the universe and many times more planets!3

Does that make you feel small? It sure makes me feel microscopic! It also makes me think about how big our God is. He created and sustains all those billions of galaxies spread out so far apart that we could barely understand the distance. Yet, he chose to send his one and only son, Jesus to this little planet to die for us. God could have started over after we sinned by creating life on another planet. He had plenty of options! But he chose the hard path of redeeming us. He did so because that is his nature. He loves us and wants to spend eternity with us. He wants us to have the chance to explore all those distant galaxies. He wants you and me to remember that even though we are tiny and live on one of billions of planets, he chose to forgive our sins and save us.


Will you except Jesus’ invitation?

Do you think other beings live in any of those other galaxies?

How would it affect your faith if we discover aliens on another planet?

Why do you think God chose to save us instead of just creating a new race of beings?

1: Nola Taylor Redd, “Milky Way Galaxy: Facts About Our Galactic Home,”, (November 14, 2017), accessed June 2, 2019 from
2: Elizabeth, Howell, “How Many Stars Are In The Milky Way,”, (March 30, 2018), accessed June 2, 2019 from
3. Nadia Drake, “When Hubble Stared at Nothing for 100 Hours,” National Geographic online, (April 24, 2015), accessed June 2, 2019 from

Written  by David F. Garner
Photo credit: Nick Risinger via

Friday, June 14, 2019

Outdoor Object Lesson 100: Worth of An Earthworm

Key Text

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning?... But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised by the people.” Psalms‬ ‭22:1,6 (‬WEB‬‬)


Do you like earthworms? They seem kind of plain and ordinary. They are probably not the first animal you would choose to keep as a pet. They don’t play with you. They are not especially cute or cuddly. In fact, you might even think they are gross and slimy. To most people, worms are not very important. They are at the bottom of the food chain. Birds eat them for food and humans use them as fish bait. What does an earthworm eat? Just dirt.1 In the Bible, worms represent the lowest order. They are the most insignificant and least important.

We see this in the Key Text where King David says he feels like a worm. He feels insignificant and worthless. He feels like he does not matter. He feels depressed. Have you ever felt doubt or depression? You have probably been teased or felt bad about yourself like King David. You may have even thought you were worthless. Depression is a real concern. It can affect children as young as preschool age.2 Depression is more than just sadness. It is a constant feeling that you don’t matter and that you are less valuable than other people. It can even lead some people to harm themselves.

One of my youth group members named Sam once told me a story about a friend of his named James that experienced depression. Sam and James were both in middle school. James often said negative things about himself. Sam and their other friends sometimes teased James and made fun of him. One day they had been teasing him through most of recess. James kept dropping the basket ball during a game. Finally he was so mad at himself he went to the wall and started beating his head against it and calling himself stupid until his forehead was bleeding. The principal had to intervene. James was depressed and felt so worthless he felt like he needed to hurt and punish himself. Thankfully, he was able to get help from a counselor.

King David also felt depressed. He cried out to God and told him he didn’t even feel like a human anymore. He felt as worthless as a worm. But worms are actually not worthless. Earthworms are very important. As you may already know, earthworms help make soil good for growing plants. They are important in a garden because they turn compost into good fertilizer.1 They may be at the bottom of the food chain but they are still very important. King David took his feelings to God who answered his prayer. King David discovered that God loves us and values us more than anything. That’s why a few verses after the Key Text King David said, “ have answered me. I will declare your name to my brothers. Among the assembly, I will praise you.” Psalms‬ ‭22:21-22‬ ‭(WEB‬‬)

You may feel as low as a worm sometimes. But even worms are important. And God values you much more than any worm. After all he died for you. When you feel sadness, doubt, or depression, I encourage you to tell God. He understands. I also encourage you to tell a person. If you are not an adult yet tell a parent, teacher, or pastor. If you are grown, tell a close friend. Get help from a professional counselor no matter how old you are. Most importantly, talk to God about your feelings every day. He wants to hear so that he can answer your prayers. Then you can proclaim with David, “I will praise you.”


Have you ever felt like you don’t matter to God?

What types of things make you feel doubt about yourself?

Does feeling depressed just mean you have weak faith?

Is it ok to get help from a pastor or counselor when you feel doubt or depression? Is it ok to take medication for it? (The answer is yes, read this article for more info)

What are some strategies you can use to cope with feelings of doubt and depression?

1: National Geographic Society, “Common Earthworm,” National Geographic online, (2019), accessed June 2, 2019 from
2: Mary Elisabeth Dallas, “Depression can start as young as preschool, study finds,” CBS News online, (August 6, 2014) accessed June 2, 2019 from

Written by David F. Garner
Photo source: Natfot via

Friday, June 7, 2019

Outdoor Object Lesson 99: Apples To Apples


"What was sown on the good ground, this is he who hears the word, and understands it, who most certainly bears fruit, and produces, some one hundred times as much, some sixty, some thirty." Matthew 13:23 (WEB)


Apples are an amazing fruit. They are one of the most popular fruits in the world. Part of the reason they are so popular is because there are so many varieties. Whether you prefer sweet or tart, soft or crisp, you are likely to find one you like. Many varieties that grow wild are not very tasty though. Wild apples tend to be very tart or bitter. Apple growers have a word to refer to these. They call them "spitters" because they taste so gross you want to spit them out. But there are also plenty of apples grown in orchards that taste wonderful.

An interesting fact about apples is that every new apple seed will produce a new variety. If you buy your favorite apple at the store, eat it, and then plant the seeds, the apples it grows will taste different. This effect is called extreme heterozygosity. The flowers of an apple tree must be pollinated by a different variety. This ensures that every apple tree will be a little bit different. It means that apple trees can adapt quickly and that is why they are able to grow all over the world in many different climates.1

Have you ever heard the expression, 'the apple doesn't fall far from the tree'? This expression is used to describe how a child is very similar to their parents. An apple falls to the ground right below the tree it grew from. So if you want to know what kind of apple tree is growing you can pick up an apple underneath and figure it out. When someone says this about a person, it is often negative. For example, if a child is caught being naughty, or has a short temper, someone might say, "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" meaning that child is just like their parents.

It is true that we share a lot of similarities with our parents. We inherit their physical characteristics and their thought patterns and emotional characteristics as well. We usually pick up some of their good and bad habits too. We know from the Bible that we also inherit a tendency to sin from our parents. We cannot avoid it. It is true that the apple does not fall far from the tree.

But inside every apple is a seed that will grow into something different. It will produce a completely different and unique variety of apple that has never been seen before. It could be a bitter tasting apple or it could turn out sweet. It depends on what is in the seed. Did you know that you can decided what type of apples you will produce in your life? You decide if you will let your parents influence who you become. You can choose to change who you become. It is never too late, even if you are an adult. You can choose to produce bitter or sweet fruit.

In the Key Text, Jesus compares the love of God to a seed that was planted in the ground. It grows and produces much more fruit than was planted. It produces good fruit, the fruit of the spirit which include love, joy, and peace. When God's seed is planted inside us, we become sweet and nice. We are no longer bitter. It does not matter who our parents were. God's power, when planted in our hearts, can overcome and change us into something good.


What would you change about yourself if you could?

What habits or characteristics have you inherited from your parents that you don't like?

What do you want to become?

Will you ask Jesus to help you become the best version of yourself that you can be?

1. Rebecca Rupp, "The History of the "Forbidden" Fruit," National Geographic online, (JULY 22, 2014), accessed May 28, 2019 from

Written by David F. Garner
Photo credit:  Kookay via

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Outdoor Object Lesson 98: Lava Crickets

Key Text

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:" 2 Timothy 3:16 (KJV)


You have probably read of a flame-breathing dragon and you may have seen a fire ant, but have you ever heard of a lava cricket? No, this is not a myth like the dragon. It is a real insect! Lava crickets (Caconemobius fori) are a type of cricket native to Hawaii. They get their name from the lava flows they live on. As cool as it might sound, the lava cricket does not live on fresh, red hot lava. It moves onto the lava after is has cooled and hardened for about 3 months. Although it has cooled some, the lava surface can still get hot and there are many steaming vents around.

The lava cricket is not well understood at the time of this writing. It has been studied by scientists a few times since it was first studied in the 1970’s but because of the extreme environment where it lives it is hard to study. Additionally, as other plants and animals begin to populate the cooling lava flows, the lava cricket disappears because it does not want to have to compete with other species for survival. Scientists do not know where it goes. It does not have wings with which to fly to a new lava flow. No one knows how it arrives to a new lava flow or how it leaves.

It lives in one of the harshest environments on the surface of the the earth. A new lava flow is more desolate and has less water than many deserts. Plus, it experiences major temperature fluctuations. During the day the surface of some lava flows in Hawaii where the lava cricket lives can get up to 140 degrees F (60° C) and at night can plummet to 50 degrees F (10° C).1 How does the cricket cope with daily temperature changes that can be as drastic as 90 degrees F (50° C)? Scientists don’t know. The lava cricket is one extreme animal!

God has given these crickets the information they need to survive in this extreme environment in their DNA. If we want to know how they accomplish this we must study them through science. As unbelievable as it seems to us, God has provided the lava cricket with everything it needs to survive one of the most severe habitats.1

Similarly, God has provided all the information we need to survive this harsh world in which we live. He has provided a message about how he is going to fix the problems in this world. That message is found in the Bible. We may not understand everything about it. But if we want to learn more we must study it. The Bible was written a long time ago by many different people. Each part contains the same core message which was inspired by God’s Spirit. That message is that God is love. Just as the lava cricket can trust the information God has given it to survive in a harsh climate, so we can trust the information God has given us in the Bible that will enable us to survive the harshest situations in this life. All we need to to is read it.


What is your favorite extreme animal whether real or mythical?

Why did God choose to share his message in the Bible rather than just sending an angel to tell us?

Does the Bible say that we will or won’t have difficulties and suffering in this life?

How do you study the Bible?

1. Francis G. Howarth, "NEOGEOAEOLIAN HABITATS ON NEW LAVA FLOWS ON HAWAII ISLAND: AN ECOSYSTEM SUPPORTED BY WINDBORNE DEBRIS," Pacific Insects 20, no. 2-3 (May 16, 1979): 133-144, accessed May 30, 2019 from

Written by David F. Garner

SDA Belief Series #1