Friday, February 28, 2014

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday March 2, 2014

Over 57,000 readers worldwide

(GOD blesses those who serve HIM)
(2 Samuel 7)

In the Greek there are two words that are used for “covenant”. One of those words is “suntheke” (soon-tha-kay), and it is used only in the secular Greek. It is defined as “an agreement between two or more equal parties or entities, on equal terms” (e.g. marriage, bond, business agreement etc.).
However, in the New Testament Greek, the word that is always used for “covenant” is “diatheke” (dee-ath-ay-kay), and it is an agreement that is actually along the lines of a “devised will”. In other words, only one party can draw up the terms, and the other party can either accept or reject those terms, or “inheritance” that is offered. The other party cannot change any of the terms in that covenant, he or she only has the right or option to walk away if they do not agree. In fact, that is the way it is with the Holy Bible, GOD’s Will, or covenant with us, we can either accept it totally, or reject it totally, but we can’t change any of the terms within it to suit our own purposes.
The choice of this word by the authors of GOD is understandable, because we as human beings, cannot enter into an equal partnership, or be on equal terms with GOD. We are only able to make a voluntary decision to accept, or reject HIS offer, and cannot alter, or change HIS terms in any way. In the biblical application, the word “covenant” is always used in this sense, the spirit of “diatheke”, even in the Old Testament.
In 2 Samuel, chapter 7, verses 8-16, we see just such a covenant being offered by GOD, to David, through the prophet Nathan, as a bond between himself and GOD. With the exception of the covenant ushered in by CHRIST, that saved all mankind, through HIS vicarious sacrifice, this is undoubtedly the greatest covenant GOD ever made with a man. It is important however, to note that the Abrahamic Covenant, Davidic Covenant, and the Covenant ushered in by our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, are all spiritually connected, as they each, ultimately, manifest the “Prevailing Will of GOD” upon man’s destiny, step by step.
In 2 Samuel 7:1-2, after David had settled comfortably in his “palace of cedar” in Jerusalem, and there was peace throughout the land of Israel, his thoughts turned to the notion of building a permanent home for the “Ark of the Covenant of the LORD”. He was no doubt feeling very beholding to GOD for all the blessings HE had showered upon him for so many years. He desired to use those blessings to serve GOD in return for HIS divine goodness.
Here David summons the Prophet Nathan to consult with him on the matter and Nathan tells him that, “since the LORD is with you, go ahead and do what you have in mind”. However, that same night, the LORD spoke to Nathan, probably in a dream, and told him, in effect, that David was not to build HIM a house. Instead, GOD would build a house for David. It was to be a house that would be a royal house, one that consisted of a dynasty of kings that would culminate in the birth, and life on earth, of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, the ULTIMATE MESSENGER, ULTIMATE PRIEST, and ULTIMATE KING.
The LORD also promised that this dynasty would originate with David and would never end. This Kingdom, and its Throne, would be permanent, and the son of David, HIS SON, would reign forever upon it. Actually, this great promise had already been echoed by the ancient prophets over the years, and is actually fulfilled in JESUS CHRIST, and is only a prelude to the “Eternal Kingdom” yet to come.
In response to this unprecedented offer from GOD, all David could do is fall down to his knees and praise the ALMIGHTY GOD of creation. This story serves to show us that, the GOD WHO has been faithful in our yesterdays is, also, the same GOD WHO will be with us in our tomorrows.
The phrase “SOVEREIGN LORD” is used no less than 7 times in David’s “prayer of praise” (2 Samuel 7:18-29), and it means, quite literally, “YAHWEH ELOHIM”, or “YAHWEH GOD. Seven is GOD’s perfect number, and it represents “completeness”, or “perfection” in the Biblical sense. This prayer mirrors David’s “complete and perfect” reverence for GOD, which he had stored in his heart, from the time he was a child working in the field, as a shepherd to his father’s sheep. He had a long history of service to GOD, and GOD always remembers those who serve HIM long, and serve HIM well.
There is one other thing about this passage that I think is worth noting, because it seems to occur so frequently, throughout David’s life, and, once again it occurs here (2 Samuel 7:25-29). David seems to always ask for what he already knew GOD wanted to give him, and some might view this as an act of unbelief, or lack of faith in GOD’s promises, however, that is not so.
Remember, asking for what we know GOD already wants to give us cannot always be looked upon as an “act of unbelief”. It has to also be viewed as an “expression of dependence on GOD” and “confidence in GOD” to deliver our needs in all situations, and I promise you, GOD, WHO is kardiognostes (kar-di-o-nos-tace), “a heart knower”, really does know the difference.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

Friday, February 21, 2014

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday February 23, 2014

Over 57,000 readers worldwide

(Our words should honor GOD and others)
(James 3)

When JESUS becomes the LORD of our hearts, HE also automatically becomes the LORD of our thoughts, and our tongues. Not many people should become teachers in the Christian Church, because those who teach will be judged by GOD with greater strictness (James 3:1).
After explaining the Christian characteristics of “patience” in chapter 1, and of “truth”, in chapter 2, James, the brother of JESUS, now moves on to the subject of “Christian maturity” here in chapter 3. Here he endeavors to explain the all-important characteristic of a Christian being able to “control his or her thoughts and tongues”.
Here James begins by discouraging the efforts, or ideas of too many people seeking to be teachers in the Church. He reminds us that teachers are evaluated by GOD in a much stricter manner than everyone else. To teach GOD’s Word is the most serious of undertakings, and must by no means be taken lightly. And while it is a great privilege to teach, such a calling comes with an even greater responsibility and dedication. And perhaps the greatest responsibility of all is controlling the tongue with which we teach. In fact, James says that, if we are successful in doing so, we should also be able to control ourselves in every other area of our lives (v.2).
The mature Christian must “be patient in troubled times”, “practice the truth”, and, “exercise power over his or her own tongue” constantly. Our words must always reflect GOD’s wisdom, and not, the wisdom of the world. Thereby, James is saying that, “controlled talk”, and “cultivated thought” are both necessary at all times.
As Christians, we must not be prone to gossip, sarcasm, or trying to hurt or destroy one another with the words that we speak. The tongue is a small, but powerful instrument, and with it, we have the power to direct (Vs.1-4), destroy (Vs.5-8), or delight one another (Vs.9-12). We can use the tongue, to both, praise GOD, and, to curse, or cuss those who are made in the image of GOD.
In verses 3-5a, James uses the examples of “a horses bit”, which is used to control the horse’s direction, and “a rudder”, which is used to pilot, or steer a ship in any direction, even in a storm. As small as these two items are, they are very effective in controlling the powerful horse, and the massive ship in the storm. The human tongue can be likened to that in its size-to-power ratio. It can be a great director of GOD’s wisdom as it is taught to others, or, it can be a great destroyer, and do tremendous damage to mankind if its teachings are false.
In verses 5b-6, James likens the tongue to a tiny spark that can set off a great forest fire. He tells us that the tongue can be a flaming fire full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the course of a person’s life into a blazing flame of destruction that seems to have been set by hell itself.
Even a person who possesses a faith that produces many works, will still have to meet many challenges along their Christian walk. Among the first of those challenges is to learn to deal with the very tongue that has always been with them. The tongue can be uncontrollable, and it exerts a tremendous amount of influence into the lives of all people.
The term “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a statement that is a classic example of worldly wisdom, and is in fact, a lie. Words can sometimes cut to the bone, even more deeply than sticks and stones, and can indeed, be very painful, and can hurt for a lifetime.
The words of our tongue changes only when our thought process changes. As Christians our thought process must be more reflective of GOD, and more fixed on the will of GOD, and thereby, our goal is to be able to share the mind of CHRIST. Until our hearts, or, thought processes change, we won’t ever be able to tame our tongues, or replace worldly wisdom with the wisdom and knowledge of GOD.
Another problem that we as humans face in life, rather Christian or non-Christian, is that of our own “sin nature”, which causes us to harbor bitterness and ambition in our hearts. As a result of that, we become moved by a world wisdom that aids us in achieving worldly selfish ends that leave others in ruin in our wake. Wisdom from GOD, on the other hand, directs us into a pure, peace-loving, and submissive way of life under GOD, that, we will not, and cannot, find through our dealings in world wisdom.
We need to become accustomed to living by the GODly wisdom that will ultimately bring us a harvest of righteousness through CHRIST JESUS. We must learn to speak with thoughtful speech, and always let our words reflect the wisdom that comes from GOD HIMSELF. However, this does not mean that we won’t ever offend others while we are defending the Word of GOD (the Gospel), with our speech, in the world. And hopefully, we ourselves, as Christians won’t be offended when we are rebuked for going against the Word of the GOD we say we serve and represent, in this world.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander 

Friday, February 14, 2014

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday February 16, 2014

Over 56,000 readers worldwide

(GOD leads us to act on faith)
(James 2:14-26)

Faith that doesn’t manifest itself through good deeds is equivalent to “no faith at all”, and indeed, is dead and worthless in the eyes of GOD (James 2:17). GOD gauges our faith directly by our actions, and what we say means very little to GOD. Man continues to prove, over time, that he seldom does what he says he will do. On the contrary, man always, 100% of the time, does that which is in his heart. And so “man’s heart” remains the barometer by which GOD gauges the faith of HIS greatest creation, for HE seldom takes into account what a man might say.
It is the duty of the Christian to build his or her foundation on the Most High Faith. We have the charge from CHRIST to demonstrate our love by readily and willingly accepting others, and, by our volition to serve and aid our fellowman whenever, and wherever, the need exists. True faith always manifests itself through good deeds, and serves as evidence of who we really are on the inside.
This section of James’ letter to the Jewish Christians begins with two probing questions;

·         What’s the use of saying you have faith, if you don’t prove it by your actions? (v.14)
·         What good does it do to believe that there is only one GOD, if you don’t act accordingly, by obeying only HIS commandment to show love to one another, through our acts of good deeds towards one another? (Vs.19-20)

Both of these questions help us to focus squarely on the relationship between “Faith and Works”. In his first question James asks, “What good is it?”, or “Of what advantage can it be if our faith in GOD doesn’t manifest itself in our good deeds? Here James wants us to envision a man who says he is a Christian simply because he thinks he has faith. However, this same man hasn’t exhibited any good, or GODly works as a result of that said faith. The man, for instance, hasn’t endured any trials or temptations, doesn’t have the right attitude towards wealth, doesn’t eagerly receive GOD’s Word into his heart, and doesn’t care for orphans or widows. He often shows favoritism toward certain people, and exhibits all of the “bad fruit” that James had previously mentioned in this letter.
Intellectual acceptance of GOD is not, in itself, a “Saving Faith”, because, even demons know that GOD exists (v.19). A “Saving Faith” will always have a discernible positive impact on a person’s attitude and behavior. Faith that does not produce “good fruit” in our life, and, in the lives of others, is NOT a Saving Faith, and cannot save anyone from the penalty that GOD imposes on our sin.
In verses 20-26, James uses the examples of Abraham (Genesis 22:16-18) and Rahab (Joshua 2:1-7) to help us distinguish between “Professed Faith” and “Saving Faith”. In Genesis 22, Abraham, who was declared “righteous” by GOD, had to show his faith through his actions by offering up his own son as a living sacrifice to GOD, simply because GOD asked him too, and without understanding why.
In Joshua 2, Rahab, a Gentile woman, acted on her faith in GOD by risking her life, and the lives of her family to protect the men of GOD who had come to spy out her homeland. And so here, it becomes increasingly clear that, we are made right with GOD by our righteous deeds, and not just, by faith alone (James 2:21-25). And just as the body is dead without a spirit, so also, faith is dead without good deeds (v.26).
“Saving Faith” is a faith that is manifested through good works before and under GOD, even while under pressure and duress from our emotions. Any so-called faith that is not accompanied by good works is not a faith that can save a person from eternal damnation. People like Abraham and Rahab show a dynamic obedience to GOD under pressure and duress that can only be considered as “Saving Faith”.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander    

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, February 7, 2014

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday February 9, 2014

Over 56,000 readers worldwide
(Let mercy triumph over judgment)
(James 2:1-13)

To show partiality to the rich discriminates against the poor, and, is evil (James 2:1-9). Yet publicly, it is, more often than not, the poor, whom we see swooning over, and showing their envy and worship for, the rich and famous. Here in James 2, the brother of JESUS tells us that it is the rich who oftentimes slander the name of, or show little or no reverence for, CHRIST JESUS (James 2:5-7).
GOD has chosen the “poor in spirit” to be “rich in faith”, not the “financially poor”. In other words, those who realize their need for JESUS, no matter how rich or poor they are in “the material sense”, will be given the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:3). To be poor in spirit is “to humble one’s self before GOD”, and show a need for HIM, no matter how little, or how much wealth one may have accumulated in this life.
In James chapter 2, verses 1-13, the brother of JESUS issues a warning against, discrimination, prejudice, and even favoritism based on what a person may own. There is no special merit in being poor however, except that it is a proven fact that the poor are more likely to choose GOD, because of their more intense focus on their day to day needs. The wealthy tend to grow a dependence on their riches which covers their day to day needs and leaves them more time to focus on their wants. More often than not, riches can corrupt character in a person, which drives them to exploit the poor and despise the spiritual (James 2:6-7).
Warren W. Wiersbe once wrote, “The way we behave toward people indicates what we really believe about GOD”. Whether we realize it or not, we cannot separate “human relationships” from “divine fellowship”. If we say we love GOD and hate any human being, we are lying to ourselves about our love for GOD. If we can’t love our fellowman, whom we see every day, we can’t possibly love a GOD, WHOM we cannot see.
GOD’s law, which was presented to us by HIS servant Moses, is “a multi-faceted expression of HIS will”. Violating any aspect of GOD’s law makes us sinners. We have all violated GOD’s law at one time, or, the other, and, we all continue to do so, some perhaps on a daily basis. Violation of GOD’s law renders a person “a lawbreaker” no matter how petty we feel our violation may be. Even something as simple as “favoritism” is not considered “minor” in GOD’s sight. GOD considers it serious because it violates HIS command for us to “love one another the way HE HIMSELF loves us”, which is “unconditionally”.
GOD does not have a “favorite sin”, nor, does HE feel that one sin is lesser or greater than the other. If you blow up a balloon, and write on that balloon with a pen, every sin that you can think of, and then, stick a pen on any of those sins that you have written on the balloon, the whole balloon will burst. That is a picture of how GOD feels about sin. If a person commits any sin at all, he or she violates “the whole law of GOD” (Vs.10-11).
The same GOD WHO says, “Do not commit adultery”, or “Do not engage in homosexual behavior” also says, “Do not murder”, and “Do not steal”. If a person does either one, he or she has violated the whole law of GOD, and GOD is not pleased by their actions, one, any less, or any more, than the other. 
We, as Christians, rich or poor, must all learn to walk in faith and put more emphasis on the “eternal things” that await us, than we do on the “temporal things” that we feel will make us happy now. We know that if our “earthly house”, that was built by the hands of man is lost, we still have an eternal house, that is built by the hands of GOD in Heaven, that can never, ever, be lost.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website