Friday, January 12, 2018

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday January 14, 2018

Over 147,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

A BOLD FAITH
(Boldly serve only GOD)
(Daniel 3)

   The effects of Daniel’s interpretation and revelation to King Nebuchadnezzar concerning his dream in chapter 2, no doubt played a role in his decision here in chapter 3, to build a 90 foot statue of himself made of plated gold, with the intent to have everybody in his kingdom bow down and worship his molten image, as god. 
    In the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream by the prophet Daniel, the Babylonian king represented only the “head” of the gold statue that was made of various other elements, which represented other kingdoms that would come into being after his kingdom ended.
    This towering edifice, erected on the plains of Dura in the province of Babylon in chapter 3, was Nebuchadnezzar’s way of heading off these coming kingdoms, and making himself “immortal”, so to speak, having a kingdom of his own that would be passed down from generation to generation and, in effect, would never end. It was a foolish attempt by Nebuchadnezzar to defy the GOD of Daniel, WHOM Daniel said had given him the answers concerning his dream in the first place.
    After having the statue built, Nebuchadnezzar summoned eight “classes” of his top officials to attend the dedication ceremonies for this new idol of himself. The “princes”, who were the chief representatives of the king, the “perfects”, who were the military commanders, and the “governors”, who were the civic administrators, were all called to attend. In addition, the “counselors”, who advised governmental authorities, the “treasurers”, the “judges”, the “magistrates” and other “provincial subordinates” who served in an official capacity, were also called to attend.
    Here in this chapter Nebuchadnezzar is not calling for the people to honor one of the traditional gods of Babylon, here he is actually instituting a new form of religious worship with his own image as the centerpiece, or object of adoration. It is an attempt by the king to unify government and religion in Babylon, placing himself at the head of both, literally.
   Nebuchadnezzar then issued a decree that everyone in the Babylonian kingdom must bow down and worship his newly constructed image of himself whenever they hear the sound of the music playing. Anyone who refused to comply with his command would be thrown into a fiery furnace and burned to death. Surprisingly, there were three young men, of Jewish descent, who failed to comply with the king’s edict.
    Now there were some astrologers who went to King Nebuchadnezzar and reported to him that a certain trio of Jews, namely Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were noncompliant to his new edict. The king flew into a rage (v.13) and ordered that these three men be brought before him immediately.
    As we know, these three had all been recently promoted, along with Daniel, to very high positions in Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom as a result of Daniel’s correct interpretation of the king’s dream in chapter 2. And it is only because of his fondness of the trio that Nebuchadnezzar decides to give Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego a second opportunity (v.15) to change their minds, and bow down to his statue and worship it as god.
    Nebuchadnezzar further admonishes Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that, if they refuse this final time to worship him, they would be immediately thrown into the blazing inferno prepared for those who refused to comply with kingdom policies. However, because of their strong dedication and conviction to WHO they knew was the Almighty GOD, they defiantly and steadfastly refused to obey the king’s command, and what follows, is one of the most famous examples of “men united in dedication to GOD” that can be found anywhere in the annals of recorded biblical history.
    Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego boldly replied to Nebuchadnezzar in a state of solidarity that, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the GOD WHOM we serve is able to save us. HE will rescue us from your power, your majesty. But even if HE doesn’t, your majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up (Vs. 16-18 – NLT)”.
    In verse 19 we see that the demon inside Nebuchadnezzar “distorted his face with rage”, and he commanded that the heat in the furnace be turned up seven times hotter than it was normally kept. And with that said, the trio was tossed into the flaming furnace. It was now so hot that, when Nebuchadnezzar’s men opened the door, they were killed by the heat that poured out from within the furnace.
    Moments later, Nebuchadnezzar, from a safe distance, peered into the furnace, and to his amazement, he was able to see Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego with a fourth person, who seemed to be an angel of sorts, all walking around inside the blazing inferno. The king then ordered the men to come out of the furnace, and when they did, everyone present was astounded by the fact that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not harmed by the fire in any way. In fact, they didn’t even smell like smoke, and their clothes were all intact.
    When we stand by GOD, GOD always stands with us. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were all employed by an important man, in fact a king, named Nebuchadnezzar. However, they had sense enough to know that they should only worship GOD, WHO is the CREATOR of man. If we fear and worship our earthly employers more than we fear and worship GOD, we are already on our way to the ultimate blazing inferno that is “Hell”.
    Employers should be “served”, sure enough, in exchange for the wages that they pay us, but only GOD should be “served”, and “worshiped”. We should never “obey” an employer who is demanding that we “disobey” GOD. JESUS says that it is impossible to worship GOD and mammon (money) (Matthew 6:24), and of course, HE is right. We will eventually have to choose one over the other.
    Our faith must cling to the conviction that GOD is able to keep us safe from the perils that crop up in this life, because, after all, it is HE WHO controls all things in this life, both now, and forever. However, our faith should also affirm that, whether or not GOD does choose to save us, is always a matter for HE HIMSELF to decide. We, as Christians, only need to keep our priorities in order, which are, “we are to worship GOD only”, “love people”, and “use things”. And when we mix those priorities in any other order, we automatically place ourselves out of the Will of GOD.
    GOD, will never support us, nor reward us when we choose to make decisions that place HIM second to people, places, and things, in our lives. Christians are to remain steadfast in their convictions to GOD, even in suffering, always standing up for an innocent CHRIST, WHO stood up for us in our guilt, and taught us through HIS words and actions, how we can overcome that guilt. And even if it costs us family, friends, jobs, things, or even our own lives, we must count it all joy, because we have shown ourselves to be men and women of GOD, in pursuit of GOD’s OWN heart, through obedience and faith in HIM.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website



Friday, January 5, 2018

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday January 7, 2018

Over 147,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

SINCERE FAITH
(Remaining faithful in all circumstances)
(Daniel 1)

   The book of Daniel was written in the sixth century by the prophet Daniel who, of course, actually lived through all of the events that are recorded in its pages. At the age of around sixteen, Daniel was taken captive, along with many other elite young men of Judah, during the first Babylonian invasion by King Nebuchadnezzar in 605 B.C. They were then set apart from most of the Jewish exiles, and taught the language and literature of the Babylonian citizenry.  
    Early on in their exile, King Nebuchadnezzar also sought to place this group of elite young men on a special diet consisting of food from his own table. However, most of those foods were forbidden for any of the Jewish people to eat at any time, and so, now, young Daniel and his friends find themselves faced with their first religious dilemma since being forced to leave their homeland of Judah.
    As far as GOD is concerned, the obverse of “love” is always “obedience”, and the obverse of “privilege” is always “responsibility”. We, as privileged Christians, are responsible to GOD to show our love for HIM, through, our obedience to HIM. In Daniel chapter 1, the young prophet, Daniel (his Babylonian name “Belteshazzar”), Hananiah (“Shadrach”), Mishael (“Meshach”), and Azariah (“Abednego”) are all faced with a choice of either “obeying GOD”, or, “obeying man and disobeying GOD”. It is a dilemma that many professed Christians often face in today’s society, and perhaps, more often than not, we choose to obey man, and disobey GOD.
    This form of disobedience can often be seen on our jobs, for example, where we may have been told that we must work seven days a week by the boss, for instance, and we know GOD says we must work no more than six days a week. If we choose to disobey GOD, it sends a clear message to GOD that we fear man more than HIM, or, that we are more concerned about pleasing man, than we are about pleasing HIM, WHO, by the way, is the CREATOR of man.
    Daniel and his friends all made up their minds that they were going to obey GOD, no matter what happened to them as a result. They loved and feared GOD more than they feared their earthly captors. Their desire was to please GOD in all that they did, and they resolved that, even though they no longer lived in their own homeland, or culture, they were all still bound by the laws of a sovereign, omnipresent GOD, whose sovereignty knows no geographical boundaries. They knew that their GOD was and is, GOD everywhere, and that HE rules over all things, everywhere.
    With that in mind, Daniel boldly asked to be excused from eating and drinking the food and wine of the pagan king of Babylon. The chief official was reluctant to grant Daniel’s request because the king held him responsible for their well-being. If they didn’t eat, they could fall into bad health, and the king would perhaps, punish him severely.
    However, GOD intervened and moved on the heart of the official to show favor to young Daniel and his friends, and he allowed them to eat their own traditional diet of foods, on a trial basis, for ten days. And sure enough, at the end of the ten days, Daniel and his friends appeared to be even healthier than those who remained on the king’s regimen, and as a result, they were allowed to continue on with their own traditional diet.
    GOD always intervenes on behalf of those who obey, trust, and keep their faith in HIM, especially during difficult situations. Compromise oftentimes seems like the easy way out, and sometimes we are only too eager to fit into situations that may be rationalized as being “not that bad”. One might reason, “Why make a fuss about something as simple as a diet, or, violating GOD’s Sabbath Day law for that matter?” We can easily rationalize that “nobody will be hurt if we don’t obey that commandment just this once”.
    Such thoughts may even have crossed Daniel’s mind also, however, ultimately we see Daniel did the wise and right thing, and made “doing GOD’s Will”, his priority. No amount of rationalization can justify disobedience to GOD, no matter how small a thing we convince ourselves that it is. This is something that every Christian, who desires to live a GODly life in a secular society, must come to terms with.
    I also realize that some Christians can seem totally obnoxious to others when defending, or taking a stand for their faith, and perhaps we can all benefit from this lesson by noting how respectfully young Daniel handled his dilemma with pagan royalty. Here in this passage, we see that he did not demand that his captors do anything, but rather, he asked for their permission. He respected the position of the Babylonian officials, and how his request could jeopardize the lives of himself and his friends just by asking.
    In the final analysis, we should earnestly seek ways by which we can always put GOD first, and still show respect to those around us. And if there is any way to satisfy both, that would be the wise route to take. But remember, never let your obedience to man, throw you into conflict with, or, cause you to be disobedient to, GOD.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander    





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website



             



Friday, December 29, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday December 31, 2017

Over 146,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

FAITH TO UNITE
(CHRIST calls us to unite in love and service)
(Ephesians 4:1-16)

   In Ephesians chapter 4, verses 1-16, the Apostle Paul urges us to maintain attitudes that express love and unity within the Body of CHRIST, which is the Church. In the Greek the word Paul uses for “worthy” in verse 1 is “axious” and it literally means “to balance the scale”. Here Paul is saying that we must give “equal weight” to our “calling” and “conduct”. In other words, we must make an effort to practice what we preach, and our doctrine must be balanced with our lifestyle.
    This passage, along with Romans 12:1, and 1 Corinthians 12, constitutes “the Christian image of the holy Body of CHRIST”. Whenever a person joins themselves to a society or faith, they must obligate themselves to change or adapt to a living style that is compatible in that society, or faith. People who choose to join the body of CHRIST must adapt their style of living into a way that is compatible with GOD’s Word. We must work on being “humble” and “gentle, and also be “patient” and “loving” to those who are our “neighbors”, who are also living in the “community of GOD” (v.2).
    In verses 4-6 we find no less than seven theological elements of the Christian Church. There we see that;

·         We are all one body
·         We have the same SPIRIT
·         We have all been called to the same glorious future
·         There is one LORD
·         There is one Faith
·         There is one Baptism
·         There is one GOD and FATHER over us all, in us all, and living through us all.

JESUS, the ONE WHO descended from Heaven to this lowly earth in order to usher in to us, “a brand New Covenant” from GOD, is also the ONE WHO gives us all certain gifts that should be used to enhance, improve, nourish, and grow HIS Body, the Church. The apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are responsible for equipping GOD’s people to do HIS work and build the Church to the point, where, we are unified in Faith and knowledge of JESUS CHRIST, and, are mature and full grown in the LORD. Our goal is to measure up to the example that CHRIST JESUS showed us as a 100% man, during HIS life here on earth (Vs.11-13).
    GOD does not wish for us to continue to act like children who can’t make up their minds about what they believe. HE doesn’t wish for us to fall prey to the cleaver liars who make their deceitful words sound like the truth (v.14). And if we are able to hold fast to the truth, becoming more and more like CHRIST, the whole Body will be fitted together perfectly as each part (person) does their own specially assigned work. By performing our own special work assignment to the best of our GOD-given ability, we will also be helping the other parts of the Church to grow so that the whole Body is healthy and operational, and filled with love (v.15-16).
    To waver back and forth like a ship lost at sea, is not the life of a true Christian. Each member of the Body of CHRIST must grow and mature and reflect GOD’s image to others through our own behavior, by standing firm in GOD’s Word. Satan will always plant people in the Church who will try to introduce his agenda through the things that are popular in the world, such as miming (witch craft), worldly music, trunk or treat, trunk fest, fall festivals and other things that parallel Halloween, etc., but serious, mature Christians must resist such influences in the Church, and, in their personal lives.
    The Church must function like a body because it is a body, the Body of CHRIST. It needs all of its parts to be working properly, held together by “love” if it is to have a productive spiritual life, and grow by GOD’s standard of success, not the world’s standard. And we should always remember that, most importantly, the one thing that will keep the Church healthy and efficient, is by it maintaining an intimate and personal connection to JESUS CHRIST, WHO is the head, brains, mind, and SPIRIT of the Body.
    The Church has never needed our human ingenuity to operate successfully. It only needs us to share the gifts with the Church that GOD has so graciously given us, and it is incumbent upon us to know the difference. We don’t need to try and improve upon that which GOD has already perfectly set up. We just need to be obedient and do things the way GOD says do it. And when we take the time to study the plan of GOD, we’ll find that it is not open to our own personal interpretation, but rather, we’ll find that “the Word of GOD interprets itself to us” all by itself.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website



     


Friday, December 22, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday December 24, 2017

Over 146,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

FAITHFUL SEEKERS OF THE KING
(The heart of Christmas is worship)
(Matthew 2:1-12)

   The Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible describes “the wise men” mentioned in Matthew chapter 2 as “astrologers” who came from the Persian Empire. In the Septuagint, which is the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, the term “wise men” is translated from the Greek word “magoi” (mag-ohee), and it means “astrologers”, or, “people who study the stars”.
    The Greek historian, Herodotus, who wrote in the fifth century B.C., identifies the magi as a group of Medes who had priestly duties in the Persian Empire, and were grouped with the likes of magicians and sorcerers. They served as advisers in the Babylonian royal court, and also among their duties, they were called upon to interpret dreams for the presiding kings.
    Here in Matthew 2, it was men of this ilk that traveled to Palestine from the east in pursuit of a legendary star that had been talked about down through the ages. It was said that this star would be the first sign of the coming of the long awaited MESSIAH, WHO, would serve as the king of the Jews.
    These particular astrologers, while pursuing their career interest of observing the stars, had each received an unexpected sign from GOD that would lead them to stray from their normal course of studying. Here in this passage, GOD has apparently broken through their misguided evil system of forecasting through the stars for kings, to now, noticing an unusual, never before seen star, that traveled, not from east to west, as all other planetary movement goes, but rather travels from north to south.
    Not all scholars agree on the timing of the arrival of these Magi into Palestine, however, it is generally agreed that their arrival came shortly after the birth of JESUS in Bethlehem. It is also generally agreed that these men, despite their secular backgrounds, had listened to GOD with an open, unbiased heart and mind before eagerly setting out on their journey.
    In addition, to their eagerness to go to Palestine, the fact that, after their encounter with Joseph, Mary, and the baby JESUS in Bethlehem, these wise men did not return to King Herod to give him a report concerning their whereabouts, as Herod had requested that they do (Vs.7-8). Instead, they returned home a different way from the way in which they came. This fact serves to show that these men were continuing to listen to the voice of GOD for guidance, even on their journey back home to the Persian Empire.
    After the Magi had left, an angel of the LORD appeared to Joseph in a dream instructing him to take his family and flee into Egypt. He was to sojourn there and wait for further instructions. The angel told Joseph that King Herod was going to try to kill baby JESUS. Joseph listened and was obedient to the word of GOD. He left immediately and remained in Egypt until after the death of Herod in 4 B.C. (Vs.13-19).
    After Herod’s death, GOD called for Joseph to come out of Egypt, fulfilling the prophecy that was spoken by the prophet Hosea more than 700 years earlier (Hosea 11:1). The angel of the LORD returned to Joseph in a dream one night, and instructed him to return with his family back to Palestine (Jerusalem). Joseph was once again obedient to the word of GOD, and the baby JESUS was saved from all harm, as a result.
    However, later Joseph became concerned as to whether Herod’s son, Archelaus, would adhere to his father’s wishes and efforts, and try to find and take the life of JESUS also. In order to comfort and bring peace to the minds of Joseph and Mary, the LORD, for the third time, sent HIS angel to Joseph in a dream and instructed him to move his family to the tiny town of Nazareth were JESUS would be protected and would grow to be all GOD intended for HIM to be. This move also fulfilled another ancient prophecy which states, “JESUS would be called a Nazarene”.
    Joseph continued to be consistent in his obedience to the LORD, and he always trusted GOD’s voice, and responded positively to HIS guidance. He also seemed to be a man who was always willing to follow GOD’s lead immediately, without hesitation, whenever HIS divine guidance and instructions was offered to him.
    We may not know much else about Joseph, as Scripture doesn’t provide us with many other details of his life. However, one can clearly see, through the limited mentioning of him by the New Testament writers that, his desire and attention to being obedient to GOD was always at the forefront of his mind.
    We can still, to this day, take comfort in the thought that GOD is still guiding men and women just as HE guided Joseph and Mary in the first century A.D. And those who are prepared to shrug off the pressures and gravitational pull of this world, to respond to GOD with an open mind, will ultimately find salvation in JESUS CHRIST. Everyone who trusts in GOD will be guided by, and drawn to JESUS. In fact, JESUS says that no one can be drawn to HIM unless GOD the FATHER draws them (John 6:44).
    True Christians do not look at Jerusalem as “a burial place”, but rather, they focus their attention on Bethlehem as the “Birthplace of Life”, the “true life”, that can only be found in CHRIST JESUS. And because of HIS humble birth into humanity over 2000 years ago, and because HE died for all mankind in general, and all Christians in particular, and then, rose again, we can now look forward to a bright future in the glorious presence of the Almighty GOD the FATHER in Heaven, if we choose to. There we can live forever in a place where death doesn’t exist, and, where tears never fall.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website



     

      

Friday, December 15, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday December 17, 2017

Over 145,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

FAITH TO PERSERVERE
(The power of the Gospel overcomes all opposition)
(Acts 14:8-28)

   After arriving in Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came across a lifelong cripple who had been born with his disability being in his feet. The cripple man was listening as Paul preached JESUS to the crowd who had gathered to hear them.
    Here in this passage we see Paul and Barnabas, preaching JESUS to a crowd of pagans, who lacked any Jewish background whatsoever, that they could appeal to, and yet, even in this atmosphere, Paul was able to take notice of this cripple man and realize he already had enough faith to be healed. And so Paul called out to the cripple man and commanded him to stand up. And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.
    When the crowd saw what Paul had done for the cripple man, they shouted aloud in their own local dialect, (a language that he and Barnabas could not understand), “These men are gods in human bodies!” they said. And so they had foolishly demised that Paul was the Greek god Hermes, because he was the chief speaker, and Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus.
    There was a temple that was already built for Zeus worship, located just outside the city of Lystra, and the priests of that temple, and the people of Lystra  began bringing oxen and wreaths of flowers, and prepared themselves to give sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas at the city gates.
    The worship of the idol gods Zeus and Hermes in that area can be traced back to an age-old legend about the two gods coming to earth in disguise, and none of the residents of Lycaonia were willing to show them any hospitality. Finally, an old peasant couple by the names of Philemon and Baucis took them in. As a result, this couple was made the guardians of the temple of Zeus, and when they died, they were turned into two great trees by the idol god. The rest of the people of Lycaonia were killed for refusing to lend hospitality to the two gods. This time the highly religiously superstitious people were determined not to make the same mistake as their predecessors had.
    When Paul and Barnabas heard about what the people were planning to do, they tore their clothes in dismay, and rushed down to stop them. They explained to the crowd that they were only human, just like them, and that they only came to preach the Gospel of CHRIST so that they might refrain from just such idol worship and worthless things. Even after the pair explained certain facts about GOD to them, they could scarcely restrain the people from trying to sacrifice to them.  
    About that time some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and turned the worshipful crowd into a murderous mob, and they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city and left him for dead. The next day Paul and Barnabas left Lystra for Derbe where they hoped that they could, perhaps, preach to a more rational, less hostile audience.

PAUL AND BARNABAS RETURN TO ANTIOCH OF SYRIA
Acts 14:21-28
   In Acts 14:21-28, we see that, after preaching the Good News about CHRIST to the people of Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch of Syria, the missionary branch of the early Christian Movement. It had been a mission that was very successful, despite the severe persecutions and rigors of their travels by land and by sea. And even though Paul had been nearly stoned to death in their initial visit to Lystra, near the end of their journey, they persisted in their charge from the HOLY SPIRIT, and he actually got up and went right back into Lystra, before returning back to their base at Antioch of Syria.
    Barnabas and Paul (Saul) were sent out by the HOLY SPIRIT to serve and to grow the Church of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, and it is in that same SPIRIT that we Christians operate today when we commit ourselves to the work of CHRIST. The early church had many struggles and persecutions, and Barnabas and Paul warn of that fact to the Church, at the end of this maiden journey. They also encouraged the believers to continue on in the faith, and reminded them that, in order to enter into the kingdom of GOD, we, like JESUS, must go through many trials tribulations along the way.
    During their maiden missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas appointed many elders, and planted and established many branches of the Christian Church along the way. There was also much praying and fasting done, before turning those men over to GOD, WHO was faithful to empower them in every area of their ministry.
    When Paul and Barnabas had arrived back at Antioch, they called the Church together and told the congregation about all of the things that GOD had done for, and with them on their trip, including how HE had opened the doors of faith also to the Gentiles in every city and town that they visited.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website