Friday, April 21, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday April 23, 2017

Over 128,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

GOD’S RECONCILING LOVE
(We can be more than conquerors through CHRIST)
(Romans 5:6-11 and 8:31-39)

   The sin of Adam brought physical death. The Resurrection of CHRIST brought spiritual life. Because one man disobeyed GOD, many people became sinners (Romans 5:12). However, because one other MAN obeyed GOD, many people will be made right in GOD’s sight (Romans 5:17).
    In the original Greek, the word Paul uses for “access”, in Romans 5:2, is “prosagoge” (pros-a-gogue-ay), and it means “to introduce, or usher someone else into the presence of royalty”. It can also be defined as “a safe haven”, or “harbor”. We have “access” to GOD through our faith in JESUS CHRIST, WHO came into the World, and overcame the World, by way of HIS enduring SPIRIT.
    We can now rejoice in our trials because we know that those trials are not meant to make us fail, but rather, they are tests, that are meant to strengthen us, and make us better warriors in the army of CHRIST. Trials help us learn to endure, and endurance develops strength and character. Our character then strengthens our hope and confidence in the gift of salvation (Romans 5:2-4).
    In John 15:13 JESUS says that, “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (KJV). This gives us confidence in salvation, because, here JESUS is saying in effect, that, from that glorious moment when HE died on the cross at Golgotha, we, as believers, were no longer just HIS servants, but, at that moment, we became HIS friends. By the sin of Adam, all men became sinners and were alienated from GOD. In total contrast, by the righteousness of CHRIST, all men can become righteous, and can be restored back into a right relationship with GOD (Romans 5:18).
    Paul says it more clearly in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 where he states, “For since by man came death, by MAN came also, the resurrection of the dead. For in Adam all die, even so in CHRIST shall all be made alive” (KJV). There are two basic Jewish ideas that come into play when reading this passage and the first one is “solidarity”. The Jews never really thought of themselves as individuals, but rather, they were a part of a chosen clan, a family, or a nation, and whatever happened to one, happened to all.
    The other thing that comes into play in this passage is that, at least in those days, death was considered to be the direct consequence, or result, of sin. The Jews believed that sin was intimately connected with death, and in essence, they are right. GOD’s love, however, is not limited to just a select few, and HE proved that when HE extended HIS love to the entire ungodly human race by sending HIS SON JESUS to die on the cross for our iniquities. And since HIS death brought reconciliation to us all, while we were still HIS enemies, we are now reconciled, and should have confidence that HIS sacrifice will complete the work of salvation in us (Romans 5:6-11).
    GOD’s law was given to us so that all people could see how sinful they are. The more people sin, the more abundantly GOD’s wonderful grace and kindness will manifest itself. And just as sin had previously ruled over all people, bringing them to death, so now GOD’s grace and kindness rules instead, giving us right standing with HIMSELF, and resulting in eternal life through CHRIST JESUS, our LORD (Romans 5:20-21).
    Through faith in CHRIST, we can see an ultimate happy ending to the unpleasant circumstances that we now find ourselves in. Faith gives us hope to see beyond our suffering, tribulation, understanding, and lack of understanding. Faith enables us to realize how GOD can work a greater good in our lives through difficult times. And we can also rejoice and come to rest in the hope of a glorious future that was prepared for us long ago, by a kind and loving GOD.
    GOD does not want us to wallow in the troubles and failures of this life. HE wants us to always, through our strength in CHRIST JESUS, be able to look beyond this world to a future with HIM. We need to know that HIS power and love will always be able to overpower all of the worries and issues of this life. And, when we can finally come to rest in the thought, that this life is not the final act of the human drama, that is when we truly have faith and trust in GOD.
    As Christians, we know that all things work together for good, to those who love GOD (Romans 8:28), but when trouble comes, we’re sometimes hard pressed to recall it. Paul was convinced that nothing could separate him from the love and safety found in GOD (Romans 8:38-39), and we, if we are truly believers, should and must, be convinced of that too.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

  

Friday, April 14, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday April 16, 2017

Over 128,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

JESUS’ VICTORY OVER DEATH
(JESUS’ victory over death can be ours as well)
(John 20:1-10 and 1 Peter 1:1-9)

   In the Greek, the word New Testament writers use for “resurrection” is “anastasis” (an-as-tas-is), and it is “a moral recovery of spiritual truth”. It also means, in the physical sense, “to stand up again”. In John chapter 20, verses 1-18, Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-19, and Luke 24:1-12, these authors of GOD share their respective Gospel accounts of the Resurrection of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST.
    The Resurrection of CHRIST is the essence of the Christian faith, and the core of all of the Apostles teachings. All accounts tell us that it was early in the morning of the first day of the week, while it was still dark, when JESUS’ body was discovered missing. By combining all four Gospel accounts, we can see that Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom JESUS once removed seven demons (Luke 8:2), Mary, the mother of James and Joseph, Salome, who was Zebedee’s wife and the mother of James and John, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager, all went to the tomb of JESUS to anoint HIS body for burial, with spices.
    Perhaps no one had ever loved JESUS as much as Mary Magdalene did. HE had done something for her that no one else could ever do, and she never forgot it. It was the custom of the Jews to visit the tomb of a loved one for three days after the body had been laid to rest. They believed that, for three days, the spirit of the deceased person would hover around the tomb, and only departed when the decomposing body became unrecognizable.
    The day following JESUS’ Crucifixion was the Sabbath, which is our Saturday, so to visit on that day would violate the Sabbath law. That is why their first visit had to occur on that early Sunday morning. The original Greek writings of the New Testament authors tell us that, it was during “proi” (the fourth night watch) when they visited the tomb. The Jews divided their nights into four watches. The first night watch was from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the second watch was from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m., the third watch was from 12 a.m. to 3 a.m., and the fourth and final watch was from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. It was during this forth watch, called “proi”, that, the women came to the tomb.
    Tombs, in those days, were “cave-like” compartments that had been carved into the side of a hill, or mountain, and then, covered by a circular shaped rock, which rested, in a slanted groove that had been carved out, along the front opening of these compartments. This extremely heavy rock had to be rolled uphill to open, and downhill to close. So we can envision that it was much harder to open than it was to close.
    In addition, Matthew tells us that JESUS’ tomb was also sealed by Roman officials, at the request of the Jewish leaders (Matthew 27:62-66). They also placed guards out in front of the tomb. Matthew also records that there was a great earthquake associated with an angel of the LORD, who came down from Heaven and rolled away the stone from the entrance of the sepulcher, and then, sat on it. This apparently frightened the Roman guards so much, that they actually fainted (Matthew 28:2-4).
    When the women arrived at the tomb, they were shocked and frightened by what they saw. However, the angel was able to allay their fears and invite them to look inside the cave so that they could see that JESUS was no longer there. The angel then urged them to go and tell JESUS’ Disciples the good news, that, JESUS had arisen from the dead, just as HE had said that HE would.
    The women then ran and found Peter and John, who were somewhat puzzled, and were thinking someone had broken into the tomb and removed JESUS’ body (John 20:2). Peter and John ran to the tomb, and with John arriving first, he looks in and sees JESUS’ “body wrappings” (“bussinos” (boos-see-nos) – “linen bandages or torn sheets”) lying there in the tomb, but he sees no body.
    Then Peter arrived and actually went inside the cave, where he too, only sees the cloth that had enwrapped JESUS’ body. When Peter saw this, he remembered and realized what the Scriptures had said, and also, what JESUS had said about rising from the dead after three days, and Peter believed, and they went home.
    The Apostle Peter, perhaps, wrote his inspiring first letter (1 Peter) while residing in Rome, near the end of his life. Its purpose was to lend comfort and encouragement to the Jewish Christian Diaspora, who, were living as foreigners in the various towns of Asia Minor (now northern Turkey). In chapter 1 of that letter Peter focuses on “triumph through suffering for CHRIST”, and how the “Christian Hope” will serve as motivation to make our life here on earth, conform more fully to the word of GOD, as we go along on your “Christian Journey”.
    Peter apparently wrote this epistle around the time of “the great persecution of the Christian Church” by the Roman emperor, Nero. Nero, who was an outstanding practitioner of the form of witchcraft called “Miming”, often used his miming talents to make light of his terrible persecutions on the Church by mocking the Christian’s sufferings, while performing in the theaters in and around Rome.
    Peter and the other early church leaders banned miming in the Christian Church for obvious reasons (witchcraft is “anti-CHRIST”). Nowadays, however, because of our ever-growing desire to be entertained in worship services, many so-called Christian Churches have both “wittingly and unwittingly” re-introduced this demonic form of entertainment back into church worship services, and other church functions, simply because we fail to properly research hardly anything anymore, before we begin to incorporate it into our programs. However, we’ll let that (miming) be another Sunday school lesson. For now, let us focus on the Hope of Eternal Life that is offered through Salvation, through JESUS CHRIST.
    Peter’s first letter is rich in references to and from the Old Testament. Any Jewish Christian would find special significance in the term “Diaspora” that is translated “scattered” in the opening lines of this letter, and any Gentile reader wouldn’t help but notice Peter’s call for living a holy lifestyle, despite their background, or total ignorance to the Word of GOD.
    Those Gentile converts would have also been greatly encouraged by the fact that, even though they weren’t yet versed in the Word of GOD, they were immediately accepted as “GOD’s people” by the Christian Community. In 1 Peter 1, verses 1-2, Peter lays out the theological foundation of “encouragement” to his fellow Christians who were scattered abroad.
    In the biblical Greek, the word used for “encourage” is “parakaleo” (par-ak-al-eh-o), and it means “to call near, and to invoke by imploring and consoling”. It also means “to be of some good to, by comforting through prayer and exhortation”.  Here Peter reminds the Jewish diaspara that GOD had long ago chosen them, and, that they had also been sanctified by the HOLY SPIRIT through the atoning blood of CHRIST JESUS. They had been touched by the “GOD-head”, the “Whole of GOD”, and set aside to do “greater things” with their lives. Here Peter shares his personal desire (v. 2c) that they be showered with an abundance of GOD’s grace and peace upon their lives.
    In verses 3-5 Peter speaks of the “living hope”, or “wonderful expectation” that comes through the resurrection of CHRIST JESUS, which promises us a divine inheritance in Heaven. GOD has preserved a priceless inheritance for HIS people, which is kept “pure” and “undefiled”, and, kept out of the reach of “change” and “decay”. We are also protected by GOD’s power, here on earth, until we can receive those Heavenly benefits of this “wonderful salvation” for trusting in HIM only.
    We can come to rest in the thought that this life on earth is not the final act of “the human drama”.  And even though, by choosing the Christian Walk, we are no longer permanent residents of this earth, but rather, become citizens of Heaven, it is still necessary, for now, to endure those tests and trials that are set before us.
    These tests and trials are not meant to make us fail, but rather, are given to us to grow our faith and make us strong and pure, to better serve GOD’s purpose for us, in this life. To persevere through those trials and tribulations will bring much praise and glory and honor on the day when JESUS returns, and is revealed to the whole world (Vs. 6-7).
    Faith, Hope, and Love are the three great enduring things, and of the three, love is the greatest (1 Corinthians 13:13). Our living “hope” is spun by the promise of GOD. We “love” HIM, even though we have never seen HIM. And though we do not see HIM, by “faith”, we trust in HIS Word. And even now, we can rejoice with an inexpressible joy, because our reward for trusting in HIM will result in the salvation of our souls (Vs. 8-9).
    Salvation is something that every prophet since the beginning of the age wanted to know more about. They prophesied of this great salvation, through GOD’s SON, that had been prepared for mankind, even though they themselves, probably, had many questions as to what it all meant. They often wondered just what the SPIRIT of GOD in them was talking about, when HE informed them in advance, about CHRIST’s suffering here on earth, and HIS great glory, afterwards.
    These great men of GOD were told all these things would not happen in their lifetimes. However, today, this Good News is being preached throughout the world by those who actually embody the power of the HOLY SPIRIT on a continuous basis. And it is something so wonderful, that, even the angels are eagerly watching the events unfold in the lives of those who experience the Christian Hope, by way of a transformation of the heart, through the power only found in GOD’s Word, which is JESUS CHRIST (Vs. 10-12).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website
  


Friday, April 7, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday April 9, 2017

Over 127,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

JESUS AND NICODEMUS
(JESUS is GOD’s greatest expression of love)
(John 3:1-21)

   Nicodemus was a member of the “Sanhedrin”, the ruling council, or, governing body of religion and state under Rome. He was a Pharisee who had zealous dedication to GOD’s Law. He was also “a teacher of Israel”, and held the distinctive office of being an authoritative interpreter of Scripture. However, he did come to JESUS with an open mind, intent on listening to the Man, WHOM he himself, had seen perform many miracles.
    Right away JESUS stuns the seasoned scholar by saying to him, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of GOD” (John 3:3 - KJV). In other words, JESUS was telling a man who was thought to be “spiritual” by almost everyone, including his own self, that, before any spiritual questions can be dealt with, a man must be born anew, spiritually. He would have to be baptized in the SPIRIT that JESUS HIMSELF would later impart (in the person of the HOLY SPIRIT) to anyone that believes in HIM. And even though the concept of a “spiritual rebirth” is clearly evident in the Old Testament also, here, Nicodemus is still, clearly confused by this divine revelation of truth that JESUS has just imparted to him (John 3:4).
    JESUS further elaborates on HIS prior statement regarding spiritual rebirth in verses 5-7, by stating, “The truth is, no one can enter the Kingdom of GOD without being born of water, and, the SPIRIT”. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the HOLY SPIRIT gives new life from Heaven” (NLT). In other words, JESUS is saying that, the first requirement for a person to be eligible for the kingdom of GOD is that GOD has to allow that person to exist in the first place. When a woman’s “water” breaks after the fullness of the time of her pregnancy, a person, or persons are born into the world and human life begins its journey in earnest in the physical world. However, only through accepting CHRIST JESUS, first with our lips, and then, in our hearts, (and thereby, inviting the HOLY SPIRIT to dwell within us), can a person ever receive a new spiritual, eternal life in Heaven. 
    To be “born again” is the phrase that clearly describes the goal of the aspiring Christian. It is the true Christian’s desire, that GOD will exact HIS divine power upon our lives with a “moral infusion” that will transform us into a people that can, at all times, reflect HIS image to others, through our own behavior. And just as “Natural Birth” marks the beginning of our new life in the physical world, and makes us “children of man”, “Spiritual Birth” marks the beginning of our new life in CHRIST JESUS, and makes us “children of GOD” (John 3:5-6).
    At this time, JESUS responds with a question of HIS OWN, by asking Nicodemus, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these thing (v. 10 – KJV)? In other words, HE was asking him, “aren’t you a respected Jewish teacher and yet you don’t understand these things?” If you don’t believe the things that GOD is doing on earth, you can’t possibly believe the things that are done in Heaven” (John 3:10-12).
    Then, after giving Nicodemus a prophetic revelation of how HIS earthly ministry would end (Verses 13-15), JESUS goes on to utter what is, arguably, the most well known verse in all of Scripture, when HE states, “For GOD so loved the world, that HE gave HIS only begotten SON, that whosoever believeth in HIM should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 - KJV).
    It is “the statement” in Scripture that, perhaps, more clearly than all other statements, reveals to us that “GOD’s motivation towards HIS people is “love”. It is a love that is not limited to a few, or, just to a single group of people. GOD’s gifts of Love and Salvation are for everyone who dares to believe. GOD’s purpose in sending HIS OWN SON (HIS first advent) is for our “Salvation”, and not for our “condemnation”. In fact, there is no judgment awaiting those who believe.
    The “lost sinners” are those who do not accept CHRIST JESUS as their LORD and SAVIOR, and by rejecting HIM, “they already stand condemned” (are already judged). They will remain lost, unless they put their trust and faith in CHRIST JESUS, while they yet live (v. 18).
    The Scriptures tell us that their judgment (the lost person) is based on this fact: “the LIGHT from Heaven came into the world, but they loved the darkness more than the LIGHT, for their actions were evil. They hate the LIGHT because they want to sin in the darkness. They stay away from the LIGHT for fear their sins will be exposed and they will be punished. But those who desire to do what is right come to the LIGHT gladly, so everyone can see that they are doing what GOD wants” (Vs. 19-21 - NLT).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website




Friday, March 31, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday April 2, 2017

Over 126,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

GOD AS OUR SHEPHERD
(GOD walks with us through our fears)
(Psalm 23)

   Perhaps there is no more endearing image of JESUS in all of Scripture, than the one HE presents of HIMSELF as the “Good Shepherd” in John chapter 10. The imagery of the Good Shepherd is forever woven in the minds and hearts of all who believe in CHRIST JESUS.
    In ancient times shepherding was looked upon as an unpleasant and humble task, and so it was usually passed on to the youngest member of the family (the person who couldn’t reject it), or as it was, to the most humble position in the family. GOD used the idea of this humble position to show us the humility of JESUS our LORD as our great SHEPHERD.
    The Bible is rife with passages that use the analogy of the loving Shepherd as a provider and protector of that which he oversees. He is one who risks his life to seek and save, even that one lost or straying sheep, who may have separated itself from his beloved flock.
    The leaders of the Christian church can also be likened to the good Shepherd, and the members of their congregation, can be likened to the flock. It is the duty of the pastor to spiritually lead, and feed his flock with the nourishing food of the Word of GOD, and he must do so, willingly and eagerly, without constraints, and not for the love of money, nor, for the power that he has obtained due to his position. He must lead by example at all times, and his behavior must paint a picture of the patience and love of GOD, our LORD and SAVIOR, through JESUS CHRIST.
    In the Latin Vulgate, the word Jerome uses for “Pastor” is “Shepherd” in Ephesians 4:11. It describes the function of one in such a position in the Church of GOD. It is the duty of each member of the flock, to come into a personal relationship with the SHEPHERD, because of their continued need for HIS love, guidance, and protection. They should always be able to discern HIS voice from all other voices, and also be able to distinguish that which is representative of HIS work.
    The only way, to achieve that kind of relationship with GOD, is by familiarizing oneself with the SHEPHERD, JESUS CHRIST, WHO is “The Word”. Only then can one ultimately realize the purpose for which he or she has came into the world, and that is, of course, to serve and obey GOD.
    GOD’s voice can only be heard, through a leader who has patterned his life after the examples of service that were shown to us by JESUS CHRIST during HIS three-year ministry. JESUS’ impeccable standards will manifest themselves through anyone who truly represents HIS cause. There is no way to mistaken HIS unique and lofty standards for those of any “false representatives” that may have came down the pike, either before, or since HIS time. One only needs to know JESUS the SHEPHERD, WHO is the real deal, in order to discern the fakes, who misrepresent, in the name of the LORD.
    Here in Psalm 23, the most famous Psalm in all of Scripture, King David celebrates the security that one can find only through GOD’s protection. We are all like sheep in the eyes of GOD, and like sheep who can’t survive in the wild without the care and protection of a shepherd, so too, we can’t survive in the world, which is dominated by satan, without GOD as our provider, protector, and guide (Vs.1-4).
    In verses 5-6, David presents us with the imagery of a guest in the house of the most generous owner imaginable. In those days, good hospitality was greatly valued, and the needs of the guest were eagerly provided for. The host gladly cared for his guest and made them feel satisfied, safe, and comfortable.
    GOD HIMSELF sets a table before us in the mist of the surrounding dangers and atmosphere of this world, and HE treats us with HIS generosity and kindness whenever we decide to come out of the world, and into HIS glorious house, as HIS guests. And despite our disobedience and offenses against HIM while we are living for world, HE shows us mercy, kindness, and generosity, and HE is willing to allow us to take up permanent residency with HIM, all the remaining days of our lives.
    Just as every good shepherd knows his sheep, every good sheep should come to know his shepherd’s voice. Such knowledge can mean the difference between life and death, in many cases. It can also be the difference between danger and safety, starvation and nourishment, or, shelter and homelessness.
    To be alone in this world, and have no hope of anything beyond this world, is a frightening thought. We as Christians, no longer have to entertain, or envision that thought. And so, we should be forever thankful to our “GOOD SHEPHERD”, our LORD and SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST, for making the wonderful gift of Eternal Life in GOD’s own glorious presence a reality, by way of HIS vicarious sacrifice for us, on the cross at Golgotha (Calvary Hill).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander






     


Friday, March 24, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday March 26, 2017

Over 126,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

RESTORING RELATIONSHIPS
(GOD can restore us with HIS abounding love)
(Joel 2)

   It must not be forgotten that JESUS HIMSELF was raised on Scripture. HE based HIS entire ministry on what it says. And HE approached HIS death with its words on HIS lips.
    Peter C. Craige once wrote, “When people cease to care, then religion, morality, social customs, and values, all cease to function as mortar that holds together a society, and maintains ancient faith”.
    In the Old Testament book of Joel, the prophet’s strong images of the locust here in chapter 2, verses 1-11, and his urgent call for reform in verses 12-17, remind us that our personal relationship with GOD should take priority over the secular affairs of this life, even marriage (v.16).
    When we become too pre-occupied with worldly affairs, then, we truly have become too pre-occupied with the wrong agenda, and we have become overly concerned about things that we have no control over. The only thing in life that we really can control is our own choices, even though a lot of times the devil can convince us that we don’t have a choice. In fact, satan is forever busy trying to convince us that it is impossible to obey GOD, and then he shows us how easy and fun it is to do the wrong thing, which is obeying him.
    However, we always have control over our own choices, whether we know or not, for perhaps it is the greatest power that GOD ever bestowed upon mankind. Our relationship choices are always critical to our personal wellbeing, and oftentimes, even to the wellbeing of those whom we love. Our relationship with GOD is our greatest asset, and it too can also affect those whom we love and care for, but in a good way.
    In this terse but powerful book, Joel is addressing, not only his generation, but also future generations as well. In verses 12-17 we see “a call for repentance” by the prophet of GOD, as Israel moves ever closer to the catastrophic invasion and capture of Samaria, in northern Israel, by Shalmaneser’s Assyrian army in 722 B.C. (2 Kings 17:7-23).
    However, if we, in this generation, do not put a halt to our moral slide into imperviousness toward GOD, we too can face the same unfortunate results that Israel had to suffer with way back then. We know this to be likely because the same thing happened again to Israel, as history now records how Jerusalem, in southern Israel, fell to Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian forces in a like manner in 586 B.C., and this was an even greater disaster for “GOD’s chosen people” than the first (2 Kings 25).
    The phrase “The Day of the LORD” is one that can be used to describe “any time that GOD chooses to intervene into our existence” for the purpose of “judgment”, or, even “blessing”, as far as that goes. And even though it may be, for the most part, associated with the “End Times” in our thinking, it can, and has, always taken place at any point in history that GOD chooses to exact those actions upon us.
    However, one of the things that Joel points out in this passage is that, it’s not too late to repent, until GOD says it is, and he appeals strongly to his people, Israel, to take advantage of GOD’s grace and patience, buying up whatever time they have left to appeal to GOD with repentant hearts, so as to obtain HIS mercy and forgiveness (Vs.12-14).
    In verses 18-32 we can see a light at the end of the tunnel when we humble ourselves and earnestly appeal to GOD for mercy and forgiveness for our offenses against HIS moral codes and precepts, personally, and, as a nation. The LORD promised HIS people then, and HE promises us now, that, HE will pour out, not only physical blessings upon us, but more importantly, HE will pour out HIS HOLY SPIRIT upon us, and we as a remnant, will experience extraordinary wonders, and this includes men, women, and children alike.
    We can now all experience the beauty of a restored relationship with GOD, through JESUS CHRIST, if we choose to. Joel’s prophesy, contained in verses 28-29, regarding GOD’s outpouring of the HOLY SPIRIT, is one of the oldest such prophesies in Scripture.
    In the New Testament this prophesy delivered by Joel is cited by the Apostle Peter in Acts chapter 2, verse 17, as he delivers his, now famous, “Pentecost Sermon”, the first sermon ever preached in the Christian Church. There Peter suggests that Joel’s prophesy was being fulfilled at that moment, as they celebrated the very birth of Christianity as an organized force of GOD, in the world.
    This timeless book, which seems to place no particular importance on dates, does however suggest that, “even now” is still “the right time” to repent. However, Joel warns us that, “true repentance” is more than just saying, “I’m sorry”, but rather, true repent is a thing of the heart, not just words, or even actions. He tells us in verse 13 that GOD wants us to “rend our hearts”, or “drastically change the way we think” (attack sin while it is still in the thinking stages, before we commit it).
    Earnest repent is not about us hating the consequences of sin (the problems brought on as a result of sin), but rather, it calls for us to actually hate the sin itself (hate sin enough to not want to go there in the first place). When our hearts are truly broken by sin, and we long to return to GOD, then, and only then, will we experience the necessary changes in our lives that GOD promises, are soon to follow.
    In the biblical Greek, the word used for “repent” is “metanoia” (met-an-oy-ah), and it means “to have a strong compunction for” or, in other words, experience “a strong feeling of uneasiness that is brought on by a sense of guilt, or, sting of the conscience, before we do the wrong thing, not after”.
    No one has ever gone through this life, except JESUS, without ever having the need to repent. Only HE, WHO is now much more than man, can make that claim. And so the question for Christian converts becomes, “When the “waves of joy” that we experience when we first become Christians, have crested, and then begins to level off, will our waters still flow in the direction of JESUS CHRIST?
    Conversion to Christianity can never be viewed as “an emotional undertaking”, but rather, it is a “lifestyle change” or “a metamorphosis of the heart”, an alteration from worldly thinking and behavior, to GODly thinking and behavior, sharing the mind of CHRIST, WHO is “the standard example to aspire to”, if, we indeed desire to overcome the world as HE did.
    All GOD ever asks of us is that we stay faced in the right direction, focused on the life example of CHRIST, the only man who has ever overcame the gravitational pull of this world. As our great pioneer, JESUS blazed a “lighted path” through this dark world for us to follow, and to also lead others to. However, this lighted path also goes through “the cross” and so there must be some suffering along the way. But JESUS promises that whosoever can withstand these tribulations until the end, ultimately, will be “saved” (Matthew 24:13).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander







Friday, March 17, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday March 19, 2017

Over 125,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

THE JOY OF LOVE
(How to be rightly related to CHRIST, and each other)
(John 15:1-16:4)

   Throughout the Old Testament, the analogy of the “vineyard” is used as a depiction of GOD’s beloved Israel. However, this term is never used apart from the idea of degeneration. The descriptions by Isaiah (Isaiah 5:1-7), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2:21-22), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 15 & 19:10-14), Hosea (Hosea 10:1), and King David (Psalm 80:8-13) all stress the point of degeneration, or, a moral decline of GOD’s chosen people (the Church).
    In John 15:1-16:4, the author of GOD writes of JESUS’ instructions to HIS Disciples, that they should be “rightly related to HIM”, “rightly related to each other” as Christians (15:11-17), and, “rightly related to the World” of Unbelievers (15:18-16:4).
In other words, Christians are to have three respective duties. They are to;

·        Abide in JESUS (Vs.1-10)
·        Love each other (Vs.11-17)  
·        Witness and testify to the World (Vs.18-16:4)

    “I am the True Vine” is the last of the seven, now famous, “I am” statements of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST that are found in the Gospel according to Saint John. The scene in this particular passage, takes place on the eve of JESUS’ trials and subsequent Crucifixion by Roman method. Here JESUS seeks to relate and demonstrate to HIS Disciples, and to us, just what GOD THE FATHER, and HE HIMSELF, expects from HIS followers as Christians living in the world.
    JESUS, as the “True Vine”, fulfills that which GOD had intended for the Israelites and the world in general. GOD is the Cultivator and Protector of all of life, human and otherwise, and HE desires good fruit from each of us. In fact, we see JESUS stressing that point in this passage (15:2-16), no less than eight times. The fruit, which GOD expects from the human side of HIS creation, is “obedience”, “righteousness”, and “justice”.
    JESUS tells us that every branch, or person in this case, that does not produce good fruit will be cut off from HIS vine, and indeed, cuts themselves off from eternal life. Here we see that, every person (branch), who professes to be a follower of CHRIST, is not necessarily a “true follower”, or “a producing branch” of “THE TRUE VINE”. Such branches, or people, will be cut off from THE TRUE VINE in the last day, or in the “time of harvest”. The great example of this is Judas Iscariot. Although Judas Iscariot was a branch of THE TRUE VINE, he was not a producing branch, or true follower. He did not produce good fruit, and therefore, had to be cut off from THE TRUE VINE, and burned in the end.
    In the Greek, the word the Apostle John, and other New Testament writers use for “remain” is “meno” (men-o), and it means “to stay in a given place, state of mind, relationship, or expectancy”; and “to abide, continue, dwell, or endure”. This word occurs 11 times in this particular chapter of this Gospel account of John. The fruitfulness, of which JESUS speaks of in this passage, can only occur, as a result of HIS life being reproduced in ours.
    In other words, our life and behavior must reflect JESUS’ life and behavior, and we must “remain” in HIM, or “continue” to reflect HIS image to others, through our own behavior and actions, throughout our remaining lifetimes, after pledging ourselves to HIM.
    We, as Christians, must prove to the world, through our behavior and actions, not our mouth, that Christianity really does produce the best men and women. It is only by doing this, that we can be considered to be “true followers”, or “producing branches” of the “TRUE VINE” of GOD, which is CHRIST JESUS.
    All those who remain, or abide in JESUS, will also continue to bear good fruit until the day of the final harvest. However, all those who fail to remain in JESUS, or, in other words, “remain on the LIVING VINE”, despite all of GOD’s tender loving care and faithfulness to them, they will have to be lopped off from the VINE, and cast into the fire to burn as useless wood in the end.
    In John 15:11-17, JESUS moves on to instruct HIS disciples (and us), as to how we should “rightly relate to each other” as Christians. Here, we see JESUS delivering to all who seek to follow HIM, the only commandment that HE would ever give, and it is to “Love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12), and it is a commandment that the Apostle John personally, never forgot.
    According to Jewish folklore, the Apostle John, who lived longer than all of JESUS’ original twelve Disciples, in his old age, had to be carried into the Temple, because he could no longer walk. At that time, the Apostle’s sermon consisted of only one sentence, “Little children, love one another”. It is one of the more lovely stories in a Biblical Church history that consists of countless lovely stories from the early Church. Every time I think of it, it nearly brings me to tears.

THE WORLD’S HATRED OF CHRISTIANS
John 15:18-16:4

   In John 15:18-16:4, JESUS instructs us on how we should relate to the world. I continue to stress the point that, when we choose the Christian walk, we automatically become strangers to worldly behavior. We are no longer permanent residents of this earth, but rather, we become citizens of Heaven, and therefore, the laws of GOD should become paramount to us.
    Here in this passage, JESUS warns of the hatred that the World will have for those who follow HIM. As long as a person belongs to the World, the World will always love that person. That is primarily because that person resembles the World through his or her behavior and actions, and to hate that person, would, quite literally, mean hating themselves.
    The person who hates “the true Christian”, hates JESUS, and thereby, hates GOD. Anyone, who is shown the Word of GOD, and does not accept it, is guilty of denying CHRIST, who is the “personification” of the Word of GOD, and therefore, is GOD.
    We as Christians have a duty to go out into the world and share the Gospel with dignity and respect. JESUS empowered us with the HOLY SPIRIT, and GOD goes before us, to prepare the hearts of those to whom we may be speaking. “Be of good cheer”, and “be not afraid” is what JESUS said to Peter and HIS other Disciples that day in far off Palestine, where HE “walked on water”, in order to give them encouragement to “remain in HIM”.
    We, as Christians, are called to go out into the world and spread GOD’s wonderful gospel with dignity and respect, and we don’t have to be afraid as we proceed. JESUS will always come to us, from across the storms of life to render aid to us when we’re in need of it, but we must continue to bear good fruit, by remaining in HIM, if we are to expect HIS help with our mission. If we fail to bear good fruit, as Judas Iscariot failed to, we will be cut off from the “TRUE VINE” that brings with it, Eternal Life.
    JESUS eternally encourages us through these immortal words that HE spoke to HIS closest disciples, just prior to HIS ascension back into HIS Heavenly Realm; “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the FATHER, and of the SON, and of the HOLY GHOST: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I AM with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:19-20 - KJV).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander








Friday, March 10, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday March 12, 2017

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SAVING GRACE
(Made alive with CHRIST)
(Ephesians 2:1-10)

   Whenever we decide to choose the Christian walk, we are also choosing to alienate ourselves from worldly attitudes and behavior. We are no longer permanent residents of this earth, but rather, we become citizens of Heaven in advance, so to speak, and therefore, the laws of GOD should become paramount to us, right now, while living here on earth.
    Aspiring Christians need to begin to let GOD dominate our thought process, if we are to move away from the spirit of this world, satan, who refuses to obey GOD at any time. We have to, in effect, “change our mind”, or “repent” from our former “worldly way” of thinking. We then can, in a very real sense, begin to “share the mind of CHRIST”, and we can begin to incorporate HIS thoughts into all of our decision-making.  
    In the biblical sense, the word “heart” is translated from the Greek word “kardia” which describes one’s “thoughts” or “way of thinking”, not one’s emotions. Still, our conversion is often treated as “an emotional experience of psychological change”. And even though here in Ephesians 2, Paul correctly depicts “conversion” as a “spiritual transformation”, or, “a metamorphosis” from “a state of spiritual death” into “a state of spiritual life”, this passage does have some psychological implications also.
    Before our conversion to Christianity, we generally follow the ways of the world and are driven by sinful thoughts and desires. And while, even after conversion, we still are capable of sin, our lives are, for the most part, re-oriented toward GOD, through the power of the HOLY SPIRIT. However, all in all, it is not until a person actually falls in love with goodness, that wrong things, will no longer fascinate, and have power over them.
    The reality of “our inward change”, must, in time, be reflected in a true change of lifestyle, actions, and behavior, and if it’s not, the supposed conversion, is not real. Our relationship with GOD is our greatest asset, and it must be nurtured and invested in, in order to keep us from “backsliding” and returning to old worldly behavior, or “spiritual bankruptcy”.
    Human nature has long been corrupted, and we constantly tend to desire to create “a god who is made in our own image”, instead of desiring to worship the GOD, WHO made us in HIS divine spiritual image. The GOD of our salvation through JESUS CHRIST is the only GOD, and theologians often debate whether it is salvation or faith that HE grants to us freely.
    However, the true Christian has “faith” that “the gift of salvation” is an example of how GOD’s grace is greater than all of our sins combined. Paul tells us that GOD acted graciously to grant salvation to each of us who believe, and, no amount of good deeds can earn us what GOD freely gives.
    GOD determined long ago to form the Christian Church out of the now flawed humanity that is “us”. He always took those of us who were “dead in sin” and made us “alive in CHRIST JESUS”. HE, quite literally, re-fashions us to make us suitable for every good work that HE has prepared for us to do, and, through JESUS CHRIST, HE closed the gap between us and HIMSELF, and brought us back into “a personal relationship of friendship with HIM”.
    GOD sees the unbeliever, who is walking with satan and is thereby, in step with, even this current generation and it’s worldly way of thinking, and HE desires to exchange our old “life of misery”, and “temporal happiness (at best)”, for “a life that is filled with grace, mercy, and eternal spiritual riches”.
    Salvation, and GOD’s continued abundant grace, is available to all people. However, one has to voluntarily choose to become a partaker in that salvation and enormous grace. Every human being has the opportunity to be “made alive with CHRIST”, to be at “oneness and peace with CHRIST”, and, to “be a temple for the LORD”, our GOD and SAVIOR, WHO is now, in Heaven. We’ve always had the “liberty” to choose, however, we can never obtain “freedom”, until we use that liberty to choose CHRIST JESUS, and walk away from the trappings of this world, which, right now, is being dominated by satan.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander