Friday, December 30, 2011

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday January 1, 2012

A LIFE OF INTEGRITY
(Strive to live a life of integrity)
(Genesis 39)

Through Scripture, we learn that the LORD provides us with two “temptation barriers” to help us to avoid sin, one is “HIS goodness”, and the other is “HIS judgment”. In Genesis 39 we see an example of how the knowledge and experience of “GOD’s goodness” prevented Joseph, Israel’s favorite son, from committing adultery with his master, Potiphar’s, wife (Vs. 8-9).
After being sold into slavery by his brothers to a group of traveling Ishmaelites, Joseph had been subsequently re-sold to a man named Potiphar, who was the captain of the guards for the Pharaoh of Egypt. Joseph, through his faithful service to Potiphar, quickly rose to the position of supervisor over his master’s entire estate. The LORD was with Joseph and blessed him greatly in everything that he did, and HE also blessed Potiphar for Joseph’s sake (Vs. 1-6).
In the process of time, Potiphar’s wife became very attracted to Joseph, who scripture tells us, was a very handsome, well-built man. She began to pursue Joseph sexually, but he, time and time again, resisted her advances. He told her that her husband trusted him, and had been too good to him for him to do such wicked a thing. “He has entrusted me with everything that he has, and has withheld nothing from me, except you. No one on his staff has more authority than me. It would be a great sin against GOD”, he told her (Vs. 7-9).
On one occasion however, when Joseph was working alone inside the house, she saw him, and grabbed him and demanded that he sleep with her. Joseph, however, tore himself away from her and fled from the house as quickly as he could, leaving a piece of his garment clutched in her hands. Infuriated by Joseph’s continued rejections, she screamed for the guards and when they arrived, she told them that Joseph had tried to rape her, and she used his garment as proof that Joseph had been there. When she told Potiphar, he was furious at Joseph, and he had him thrown into prison (Vs. 11-19).
Now GOD continued to be with Joseph while he was in prison, just as HE was with him in Potiphar’s house. In both settings Joseph was a faithful servant to those who were in authority. The conviction and trust that he had, that GOD was with him in all circumstances, freed him up to do the very best he could do, no matter how great his setbacks were, or appeared to be.
Our faithfulness to a life of integrity can prepare us for whatever advancement we will receive from GOD, whenever things seem to be going downhill for us. Joseph’s faithfulness prepared him for those sudden advancements that GOD bestowed upon him every time it looked like things were getting worse.
When he was sold into the depths of slavery, GOD raised him to the heights of manager over his master’s estate. When he was thrown down into prison, GOD raised him up to be in charge of everything that went on inside the prison. Joseph was faithful with small things, and so GOD entrusted him with greater things, and HE will do the same with any who choose to live a life of integrity before HIM.
This story in the life of Joseph serves to remind us of the frequent advice of King Solomon where he warns us, time and time again, of the folly of yielding to the temptations of a flattering woman, or man, and thereby, destroying all chances of having a life of true service to GOD. Joseph did not yield to temptation because he was totally convinced that he would receive GOD’s goodness if he remained true to HIM. And he was not willing to throw away GOD’s blessings for a moment’s pleasure in sin, and it did not bother him if he had to suffer for righteousness sake. And that brings to mind, another great MAN of integrity, ONE whom we all know as, CHRIST JESUS.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


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Friday, December 23, 2011

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday December 25, 2011

CELEBRATING PROMISES FULFILLED
(GOD’s promises are fulfilled in JESUS)
(Luke 1:46-55)

Luke 1:46-55 is a passage that, over the years, has become one of the great hymns of the Christian Church as a whole. This passage is known world-wide as the “Magnificat”. Magnificat is a term taken from the “Latin Vulgate”, the first Latin translation of the bible, written by Jerome at the end of the fourth century A.D., and it means, “My soul doth magnify the LORD”.
This song, composed by Mary, mother of JESUS, praises GOD’s favor on her and her people (Vs. 51-55). Some scholars tend to doubt that a young uneducated country girl, such as Mary, could have composed such a wonderful and prophetic poem, however, common sense dictates that she, or anyone else, who was in a close personal relationship with GOD, and were fairly familiar with the Old Testament passages which are alluded to in this song, is capable of expressing these thoughts of praise that we find here.
Apparently, Mary saw herself as a part of the GODly remnant that had served her LORD with all diligence. We see in verse 47, for instance, where she calls GOD, “my Savior”, shows she had a deep intimate knowledge of HIM. She also speaks of GOD’s faithfulness, power, holiness, and mercy in verses 48-50, showing that her relationship with GOD was an experiential one.
This timeless stretch of biblical literature, has, contained within it, four distinct parts which should be noted by every reader. First, there is “great personal adoration and thanks to GOD” (Vs. 46-48). In the biblical Greek, the word “makarizo” (mak-ar-id-zo) is used in verse 46 for “blessed”, and it actually means “supremely blest”, or, “beatified”. It describes, in this passage, what it is like to be “indwelt by GOD, and thereby, fully satisfied”. Mary was completely satisfied and honored by the wonderful, and unexpected way, in which GOD chose to use her body for HIS purpose.
Then secondly, there is “a celebration of GOD’s attributes” (Vs. 49-50). Mary celebrated GOD’s goodness and she cherished all that HE had done for her, and she also appreciated the fact that HIS mercy extended throughout all generations, for all times.
Thirdly, we see her “acclaim GOD for correcting pride, social injustice, and economic disparities” (Vs. 51-53). In these three verses we see “GOD’s three great moral revolutions”. These moral rebellions can also be found in the make-up of Christianity. We see, first of all, “GOD’s revolution against pride (v.51), where Mary notes that, “GOD scatters the proud and haughty ones” (NLT). When Christianity is practiced properly, it automatically means death to pride. A person cannot possibly set their life beside the life of CHRIST without, first, tearing every ounce of pride from him, or herself.
Next we see “GOD’s revolution against social injustice” (v.52) “HE has taken the princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly” (NLT). When Christianity is practiced properly, it means death to social injustice. It puts an end to race, labels, and prestige, because what CHRIST did for one, HE intended for all. No man is favored in the eyes of GOD, but also, we can call no man worthless, or common, for whom JESUS CHRIST has died. HE died for all men in general, and all Christians, in particular.
And then, there is “GOD’s revolution against economic disparity” (v.53) “HE has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands” (NLT). When Christianity is practiced properly, it means death to economic disparity and greed. A Christian society is a community of believers who dares to have too much, while others don’t even have enough. The attitude of a believer in CHRIST JESUS, is one that desires to have more, in order that they may have more to give away.
In the fourth and final part (Vs. 54-55), we see “Mary giving GOD praise for the mercy shown to Israel”. There she cites that, “How GOD has helped HIS servant Israel! HE has not forgotten HIS promise to be merciful. HE promised our ancestors, Abraham and his children, to be merciful to them forever” (NLT).
Even at her young age we can clearly see that Mary knew for sure that her blessing and charge of giving birth to the SON of GOD was not all about her, but rather, it was about a covenant promise that was established with Abraham and her fore-fathers, long before she was ever thought about.
It was William Barclay who wrote, concerning this wonderful passage of scripture, that, “There is loveliness in the Magnificat, but within that loveliness, there is also, dynamite”. And he was right. And so Mary went on to birth our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, and JESUS CHRIST birthed Christianity into the world, and Christianity birthed a revolution in mankind against pride, social injustice, and economic disparity, and mankind must now take up that fight, and continue that revolution throughout the world.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


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Friday, December 16, 2011

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday December 18, 2011

PASSING THE TEST
(We must faithfully obey GOD through all of our trials)
(Genesis 22)

GOD chose Abraham’s family as a vehicle to bring salvation to the whole world. The Holy Bible traces Abraham’s steps from Ur to Haran, through the land of Palestine, into Egypt, and then, back into Palestine. However, the most significant trip of Abraham’s 175-year life was the 50-mile journey that he takes in Genesis 22, from Beer-sheba to Mount Moriah. Mount Moriah, which was later named, Mount Gerizim, became, and remained, the Jews key place of worship until King David moved the worship center to Jerusalem, early on in his reign.
In Genesis 22 GOD decides to test Abraham’s faith and obedience in a most profound way. HE commanded him to take his son, Isaac, to Mount Moriah and sacrifice him there as a burnt offering. Now actually, GOD never really intended for his beloved Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the only son he had left, after being told by HIM to send Ishmael away, a short time earlier. In fact, GOD did not even allow child sacrifices to be practiced among the Israelites at all, however, it was in common practice among the surrounding Canaanite nations, and Abraham must have been well aware of that. However, in order for it to be a real test from GOD, one that was designed to prove faith, it had to defy human logic, and it had to be something that Abraham wanted very badly to resist doing.
Surprisingly, in verse 3, Abraham, instead of protesting, rose up early the next morning, and seemingly, almost enthusiastically, prepares himself to set out on a three-day journey so that he could fully obey and carry out the command of GOD.
After arriving at Mount Moriah, we see two statements by Abraham that prophetically reveals his faith in what GOD had previously told him concerning HIS covenant with him, which included Isaac (Gen. 17:19). First of all, in verse 5, Abraham tells his servants to “Stay with the donkey, the boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there (on Mount Moriah), and then we will come right back”.
Then, in verse 8, in response to his son Isaac’s question of, “Where is the lamb for sacrifice?” Abraham tells him, GOD will provide a lamb my son”. These two statements by Abraham show that even in his sub-conscience, he had full trust and faith in the LORD, and he had come to trust HIM more completely as the years went by. He knew that GOD expected him to obey, and he was willing to go the distance, sacrificing the only son he had left, at an age that far exceeded 100 years old. And the writer of the Book of Hebrews (Heb. 11:19) says that he also reasoned that GOD could raise Isaac from the dead if need be, in order to keep HIS Covenant.
There is a three-step lesson in “faith” that is timeless, and it will benefit us all to learn it at as early an age as possible. Abraham had to learn it in his lifetime, and so do we as Christians living in the twenty-first century. The Apostle Paul lists “faith” as one of the three great enduring things, along with “hope” and “love” (1 Cor. 13:13). It has not changed since the beginning, and it will not change throughout the rest of eternity.
We must learn first that “faith always obeys completely, the Word of GOD”. Secondly, “faith surrenders the best to GOD, and holds nothing back”. And thirdly, “faith always waits on GOD to provide all that is needed in life”.
Throughout scripture, the lamb is presented as the primary, and most frequently requested sacrificial animal by GOD, and, in fact, over time has become the personification, or symbol of innocence and harmlessness. Here in Genesis 22, Abraham was fully willing to sacrifice his innocent, harmless son up to GOD on the fire, and there is no evidence in this passage, that even suggests to us, that Isaac went kicking and screaming as his father placed him there.
Symbolically, JESUS, the innocent, harmless LAMB of GOD, did willing go to the cross to sacrifice HIMSELF, in agreement with the Will of HIS FATHER GOD. HE did not go kicking and screaming, but rather, HE went willingly, and was non-resistant. HE took our place, just as the ram that was caught in the bush, took Isaac’s place on the fire. And now, as a result, today every man, woman, and child, that has faith enough to “pass the test” and “believe GOD”, has what it takes to overcome the gravitational pull of this world, and enter “for free”, on the sacrifice of CHRIST JESUS, into the Kingdom of Heaven.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


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Friday, December 9, 2011

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday December 11, 2011

BELIEVING THE IMPOSSIBLE
(Faith means seeing beyond what seems possible)
(Genesis 15)

In Genesis chapter 15, verses 1-6, we see one of the most defining passages on faith that can be found anywhere else in all of scripture. This passage underscores the argument by the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 4, where he debates that “Justification” and “Salvation” are imputed to us by GOD, because of our faith in HIM, and, that those gifts from GOD have never been given as a result of our so-called “good works”.
In the biblical Greek, the word “logizomai” (log-i-zom-ahee) is used to describe what takes place when GOD accredits us with righteousness that we could not otherwise earn, just as HE did with Abram in this passage. Logizomai is an accounting term that means “to reckon”, or, “to make an entry in the account book”. The doctrine of “imputation” is taught throughout the Old and New Testaments. To “impute” means “to accredit someone other than the one who is responsible”.
Scripture teaches us that, when we believe GOD, HE, WHO keeps all record books, looks into our accounts and clearly sees that we are not righteous. HE then, through HIS grace and mercy, chooses to accept our faith in HIM, in place of that lack of righteousness. In other words, for those who have faith in HIM (CHRIST JESUS), GOD will stamp the word “RIGHTEOUS” over their accounts, and announce that their debt is covered, or, is paid in full, through the blood of CHRIST JESUS.
Here we see Abram (Abraham), on faith, accepting GOD’s divine promise of a son, to be born of his own flesh, even though it seemed physically impossible for he and Sarai (Sarah) in their old age, which was, at that time, 100 years old, and 90 years old, respectively. Also in this passage, one should note that at that time, Abram had not yet been circumcised as a sign of his covenant with GOD, and, that the Law (The Ten Commandments), which was delivered by Moses was still some 400 years away. Therefore, neither circumcision, nor, Abram’s strict obedience to the Law factored in GOD’s decision to declare him “righteous” (Gen. 15:6). It was only through Abram’s “trusting faith” in GOD that GOD afforded him the distinction of being “righteous”, and, in addition, granted him the gift of eternal life (salvation).
In verses 7-8 of this chapter of Genesis, we find that, after Abram believed in GOD to deliver the seemingly impossible feat of presenting he and his wife Sarai with the birth of a child of their own flesh in their old age, he now, strangely wavers when GOD added the promise that he would also give the entire land of Canaan to his offspring. And actually, that’s not so surprising when we consider the fact that we too, after we’ve exercised great faith in GOD on one occasion, have on a later occasion, failed to show the same measure of faith.
Many of us struggle with maintaining a high level of faith, over a long period of time. Hopefully, through a closer, more personal, experiential relationship with GOD, we can overcome our pattern of inconsistency in trusting in the LORD for all things, just as Abram managed to do later on in his life.
In verses 9-10 GOD instructs Abram in a sacrificial ritual that was known as a “Covenant of Blood”. Abram is obedient to GOD’s instructions, as he gathers up, and cuts into halves, three animal sacrifices; a three-year old heifer, a three-year old female goat, and a three-year old ram. He also brought the LORD two bird sacrifices, a turtledove, and a young pigeon, the two of which, he did not sever in halves. This “Covenant of Blood” was considered to be the most binding of all covenants in Old Testament times, and it was always formalized by GOD’s “passing through” the divided halves of the sacrificial animals, an act which HE apparently used to consummate the deal (v. 17).
In verse 11 we see vultures (birds of prey), which, in this passage represent a “bad omen” for Israel’s near future, and would later turn out to be their enslavement in Egypt. Abram was eventually able to “shoo” these birds away, who were trying to devour GOD’s covenant sacrifices which he had prepared. Satan will always oppose, and try to destroy any of man’s dealings with GOD, however, in the ensuing verses, 12-16, GOD shows Abram in a dream, how Israel would be preyed upon and oppressed by Egypt, but would eventually be rescued, as GOD would “shoo” Egypt away in the end, and they would ultimately come away from Egypt with great wealth (Vs. 13-14).
In the Hebrew, the word used for “believed”, in verse 6 is “aman” (aw-mawn), and it simply means “to be certain”. It is a word that sets our mind on the absolute trust that Abram had in GOD. Abram’s story is perhaps, scripture’s greatest example of a man who possessed a “saving faith” that GOD would always deliver on HIS promises, no matter how impossible it may seem to the human thought process.
Abraham’s righteousness was won by strong faith in GOD, and he was fully persuaded, that GOD would do just what HE said HE would do. He came to know, just as we must all come to know, that GOD’s power is not bound by our understanding, and neither is it bound by our lack of understanding.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


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Friday, December 2, 2011

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday December 4, 2011

CHOOSING TO FOLLOW GOD
(GOD blesses and leads those who follow HIM)
(Genesis 12)

Genesis chapters 12-50 gives us details about the origins of the Hebrew race, starting with Abraham and Sarah. After relating the story of how sin was first introduced into the world, and, its catastrophic effect on mankind in chapters 1-11, Moses now informs us about the onset of GOD’s plan to bless all nations through HIS seed, which was ultimately CHRIST JESUS.
Abram, whose name GOD changed to “Abraham”, was born in the fabled city of Ur. At that time, about 4200 years ago, Ur was a rich Sumerian influenced city, which was located along the Euphrates River. Its people, culture, and language were heavily influenced by the ancient people of Sumer, who were Babylonians, probably of non-Semitic origin, and, who had established one of the earliest and greatest civilizations of the fourth millennium B.C.
The Sumerians were widely known for their monumental architecture, vast wealth, comfortable homes, music, and fine art. While Abram lived there in his father’s house, he worshiped many other gods, as he had become a product of his environment (Joshua 24:2). However, once GOD spoke to him, he left his father’s house and traveled to the land of Canaan, where, along his journey, he lived a nomadic lifestyle, in tents, for nearly 100 years.
Abraham is the towering figure to whom the Jews trace their origin as GOD’s chosen people. Today he is revered by the followers of three great world religions; Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. He is all-important to us today for two reasons. First of all, we cannot even begin to understand the Old Testament, until we can come to see it as an outworking of the promises that GOD first delivered to him as a man, personally. Secondly, as we meditate on his story, we are able to pick up many, many tidbits and principles that we can utilize today, to enhance our own personal lives and our own personal relationship with GOD.
Abraham was called out from a life of fraternizing and socializing with people who sought after many gods, and who had long ago, fallen in love with themselves, and the things that they could make or buy, by way of their creativity and financial power. At age 75, he left the bling bling and glamour of this ritzy society in order that he might have a personal relationship with the only wise living GOD of the universe, and GOD rewarded him with everlasting fame, honor, and glory from on high. And even though he quickly stumbled, (while feeling the pressure of a severe drought – Gen. 12:10) by moving to Egypt without the divine direction of GOD, putting himself and his family in certain danger, he was able to recover because he never once thought about permanently abandoning his instructions from GOD. He had found himself in his first situation where he had to trust GOD totally, and he obviously failed that test. In his mind, he was only trying to mitigate his own losses and circumstances by moving his family and property out of harm’s way, and into a more livable situation, which he saw in the land of Egypt (Gen. 12:11-16).
Abraham temporarily strayed from GOD’s plan to incorporate a human plan of his own, and he almost paid for it with his own life. However, GOD, WHO knows all hearts, intervened with HIS mercy, and delivered Abraham and his whole family, intact, from the anger of the scorned Pharaoh of Egypt.
There are very striking parallels between this move by Abraham, and the later move by Israel, through Joseph, to find refuge from famine by sojourning in Egypt. For instance, the famine in the land (Gen. 12:10 & 47:13), the descent into Egypt (Gen. 12:10 & 47:27), the attempt to kill the male and save the female (Gen. 12:12 & Ex. 1:22), the plagues on Egypt (Gen. 12:17 & Ex. 7:14-11:10), the spoiling of Egypt (Gen. 12:16 & Ex. 12:35-36), the deliverance (Gen. 12:19 & Ex. 15), and the ascent to the Negev (Gen. 13:1 & Num. 13:17, 22). And so we see, in essence, the great deliverance of Israel from Egypt had already been accomplished by GOD, through its ancestor Abraham many years earlier.
As we view the particulars of the “Abrahamic Covenant”, we can see seven “I will” promises (Genesis chapter 12, verses 1-7), that has either already been fulfilled, or, are being fulfilled right now. They are as follows;
(1). I will make you into a great nation (vs. 2a)
(2). I will bless you (vs. 2b)
(3). I will make you famous (vs. 2b)
(4). I will make you a blessing to others (vs. 2b)
(5). I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you (vs. 3a)
(6). I will bless all of the people of the earth through you (vs. 3b)
(7). I will give this land (Palestine) to your offspring (vs. 7a)
After choosing to follow GOD, Abraham set out upon a faith journey that grew stronger and stronger with each passing day. And out of reverence and respect for GOD, Abraham made it his custom to build commemorative altars of worship to GOD, almost everywhere he went, namely those in Shechem and Bethel. They helped him to remember GOD’s covenant promise with him, and also gave him strength and encouragement to continue on his 500 mile journey, on foot, from Ur to Canaan.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


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