Friday, May 30, 2014

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 1, 2014

Over 60,000 readers worldwide
(First things first)
(Haggai 1:1-11)

The prophet Haggai was the first of three post-exilic prophets and a contemporary of the prophet Zechariah. He was sent by GOD to preach to the restored Israelite community that was established after the Jews were allowed to return to their homeland. He delivers a total of five prophesies during the first two years of the reign of the Persian king, Darius. His carefully dated sermons are focused on a four-month period in the year 520 B.C.
Haggai’s brief messages have nothing in common with the pre-exilic prophets who GOD used to warn Israel prior to the Babylonian invasions that culminated in the destruction of Judah in 586 B.C., in fact, he says nothing of injustice, idolatry, or violence at all. Instead, he is sent by GOD to simply encourage and urge the people to complete the work on the temple, and to put HIM first in their lives by celebrating and worshiping HIS holy name in that temple, which would be HIS house.
In Haggai chapter 1, the prophet delivers his first message from GOD to Zerubbabel, the appointed governor of Judah, and Jeshua, the high priest of Judah, saying;

“This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Why are you living in luxurious houses while MY house lies in ruin? Consider how things are going for you! You have planted much but harvested little. You have food to eat, but not enough to fill you up. You have wine to drink, but not enough to satisfy your thirst. You have clothing to wear, but not enough to keep you warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes!
This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Consider how things are going for you! Now go up to the hills, bring down timber, and rebuild MY house. Then I will take pleasure in it and be honored, says the LORD. You hoped for rich harvests, but they were poor. And when you brought your harvest home, I blew it all away. Why? Because MY house lies in ruins, says the LORD Almighty, while you are all busy building your own fine houses. That is why the heavens have withheld the dew and the earth has withheld its crops. I have called for a drought on your fields and hills, a drought to wither the grain and grapes and olives and all your other crops, a drought to starve both you and your cattle and to ruin everything you have worked so hard to get”.

When we become too pre-occupied with our own worldly desires and affairs, then, in the eyes of the LORD, we have indeed become too pre-occupied. It is significant in this passage that Judah’s two most influential leaders at that time, Zerubbabel and Jeshua, responded so quickly and positively to Haggai’s message. Whenever leaders respond quickly and positively to GOD, it becomes much easier for the Christian community to follow up, and thus, maximize the blessings that a faithful GOD holds for us for being obedient.
In the short time the people of Judah had been back in their homeland, they had already become too busy with their own personal agenda to consider the will of GOD, and the impact that GOD has on their everyday lives. Instead of investing a portion of their time, talents, and treasures into building up the kingdom of GOD here on earth (HIS temple), they were too busy investing in their own personal agendas.
When we have to borrow money from luciferic lenders in order to build our Christian Churches, we’ve already put ourselves at the mercy of satan. That is why today’s churches look so much like the world that they should be trying to convert. It is, in effect, because they are being built by satan himself, literally.
 We must begin to build our churches (the physical edifices) by first, considering and then following the advice of JESUS who says, in effect, that, “Only a fool would begin to build a building before he has enough money to totally finish the project” “(Luke 14:28-29). Don’t borrow money to build Christian churches, because the rule of GOD still applies, “The borrower is slave to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).
If GOD is not a part of our personal agenda, eventually, HE is going to show us what life without HIM is all about. The harder we try to work without GOD, the farther behind we get. We develop holes in our pockets and are unable to progress for any significant amount of time. GOD is the ONE WHO makes all of our efforts bear fruit, however, we must put HIM first and keep HIM first at all times.
GOD’s involvement in the life of HIS people and HIS desire that we take spiritual matters seriously is the basic motif of the book of Haggai. The people had stopped work on the temple for over twenty years, turning instead to their own personal agenda, much like we’ve done today. GOD wants us to put HIM first, and to realize and understand that a place for HIS worship must be provided for the good of the whole nation. Stay tuned.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, May 23, 2014

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday May 25, 2014

Over 60,000 readers worldwide
(Scripture teaches us how to love)
Mark 12:28-34, Leviticus 19:18, & Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

In Leviticus 19, in GOD’s instructions on “holiness in our personal behavior”, in verse 18, HE commands us to never seek personal revenge, or hold a grudge against anyone, but instead, we should “love our neighbor as we love our own selves”. And so when JESUS commanded us to do the same some 1500 years later (John 15:12-17), HE was not issuing us a new command. HE was just warning us to start obeying an old law of HIS FATHER GOD, WHO is in Heaven. However, HE was also giving us the “heads-up” on how HE HIMSELF would judge us upon HIS return, and by what criterion HE mainly would use to do so (Matthew 25:31-46).
In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, we find recorded, the first part of the Jewish “Shema”, which was recited twice daily by devout Jewish followers of GOD. This verbal ritual, if you will, stresses the unity of GOD, and the importance of loving GOD and living by HIS Laws. Parts two and three can be found in Deuteronomy 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37-41, respectively. And so when JESUS recited it in Mark 12 and in Matthew 22, He was reciting something that was very familiar to the Jewish hierarchy in Israel.
In Mark chapter 12, verses 28-34, one of the teachers of religious law, probably a Pharisee, was standing close by, listening to JESUS’ answer to the Sadducees, regarding the resurrection. The Sadducees were a group of wealthy Jewish men who prided themselves as being experts in the knowledge of religious law. They also did not believe there would be a resurrection of life after death.
After seeing JESUS handily defend the Word of GOD against these misguided scholars, this particular teacher, who apparently had more insight than the others, poses this question of his own to JESUS, when he asks, “Which is the first commandment of all? Here, the Greek word translated “which”, is “poios”, and it means “what kind of”. The Greek word translated “first”, “protos”, means “most important”. And so, here, JESUS is being asked, in effect, “Which is the most important commandment?” JESUS begins by reciting the opening line, of the first part of the three-part “Shema”. “Hear old Israel; the LORD our GOD is one LORD” (Deuteronomy 6:4).
To love the LORD THY GOD with all thy heart, soul, mind, and strength calls for a thorough and total commitment to GOD that is both personal, and, whole of heart. It speaks to the whole of humanity, personally, and here is a breakdown: We must commit with;

·         The whole Heart” (that which dominates our thought pattern), the center of human life,
·         The whole Soul”, which is the self-conscience life of all men,
·         The whole mind”, which is the entire thought process of man (our sanity, or mental capabilities)
·         The whole strength”, or, entire physical power of man.

In other words, we should love GOD with every fiber of our being.
The following is what is covered in the first four commandments (see Exodus 20:3-11), where GOD tells us, in effect, that our love for HIM must be;

·         totally loyal (verse 3),
·         totally faithful (verse 6),
·         totally trusting (verse 7),
·         show total reverence to GOD at all times (verse 8).

Next, JESUS states that we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This is the concept of the remaining six commandments (Exodus 20:12-17);

·         If we love each other, we can certainly begin with honoring our own parents.
·          If we love each other, we are not likely to intentionally, or maliciously take another’s life, which by the way, is made in the image of GOD.
·         If we love each other, we will not commit adultery against our spouse with another person.
·          If we love each other, we won’t steal from each other.
·         If we love each other, we won’t lie on each other, or falsely accuse each other.
·         And finally, if we love each other, we won’t jealously desire anything that belongs to someone else.

And so I guess, in summation, JESUS is saying that, everything, that GOD commands us to do, is of the utmost importance to HIM. And that the Ten Commandments can really be viewed as being only two. And both of them, or all ten of them, are of equal importance to GOD. When we come to love GOD, we then understand more clearly how we can love one another, because we are, after all is said and done, made in the image of GOD.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Thursday, May 15, 2014

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday May 18, 2014

Over 60,000 readers worldwide
(Learning GOD’s heart through HIS Word)
(Matthew 15:1-20)

In our Christian Churches today, just like in biblical times, man tends to put his laws and traditions ahead of the Word of GOD through their various so-called Christian denominations. Instead of training people to be Christians, we spend all of our time trying to teach our members how to be Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, etc. We all tend to look into Scripture and draw our own personal theology from them, instead of letting the bible interpret itself to us through long and careful study and assistance from the HOLY SPIRIT, WHOM JESUS says, will teach us all things and remind us of all things that JESUS taught about the Word of GOD HIMKSELF (John 14:26 &16:13-15).
GOD did not leave it to “sinful man” to interpret HIS Word to the world or to the Church. Why would HE do such a stupid thing? HE’s an all wise GOD WHO can’t help but show wisdom, and to do such a thing obviously would not be in keeping with HIS superior wisdom. Christianity is the only true religion because it is the only religion that is a product of GOD’s mind. All other denominations (including the aforementioned), so-called Christian, or otherwise, are only mere products of a man’s mind.  
In Matthew 15:1-11, a group of Pharisees and teachers of religious law came to Jerusalem to interview JESUS and question HIM about HIS teachings in general, and the first thing they wanted to know is why HE and HIS disciples were disobeying, or ignoring their laws and traditions (i.e., ceremonial hand-washing) which they obviously placed above GOD’s law.
In verse 3, in response to their ludicrous question, JESUS poses a question and lecture of HIS OWN. Here HE asks them, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of GOD?” For instance, GOD says, “Honor your father and mother”, and anyone who speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death”. But you say, “You don’t need to honor your parents by caring for their needs if you give the money to GOD instead” (They called it Corban for GOD). This is just one example JESUS says, for there are many, many more (Mark 7:13)
And so, by your own tradition, you nullify the direct commandment of GOD. You hypocrites! Isaiah was prophesying about you when he said, “These people honor ME with their lips, but their hearts are far from ME. Their worship is a farce, for they replace GOD’s commands with their own man-made teachings”. And even today we continue to “make stuff up” about GOD, because our Christian denominations are in many ways, a farce also.
In verse 10 JESUS continues HIS teachings as HE turns to the crowd and says, “Listen to what I say and try to understand. You are not defiled by what you eat; you are defiled by what you say and do”. These statements by JESUS began to concern HIS disciples who were also among the brainwashed parishioners of the Church of Israel in those days. They too had become victims of the “false teachings” of the religious hierarchy in the Church.
In verse 12 we see how the disciples’ concerns are very much misplaced, as they seem to be more worried about “offending the Church leaders” with the Word of GOD, than they are about the Church leaders accepting the truth of GOD’s words. In verse 13 JESUS admonishes HIS wayward students that “Every plant that is not planted by GOD the FATHER will be rooted up”. HE then advises HIS followers to “Ignore them. They are like blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into the ditch”.  Here JESUS is saying that all Church leaders who are not called by GOD will be eventually eliminated from HIS Church. A person who does not himself know the Word of GOD cannot possibly teach anyone else the Word of GOD. In such cases both individuals will fall down to the pits of hell (Vs. 13-14).
In the biblical Greek, the word used for “heart” is “kardia”, and it is “one’s thoughts”, motives, or way of thinking”. And so, in the biblical sense, “heart” is not just an organ in one’s chest. As Christians, we must come to understand that “sin begins in “the thinking stages”, and therefore, so must “repent”. This holy idealism goes to the heart of all of JESUS’ teaching.
In verse 15, the Apostle Peter asks JESUS to expound on one of the statements HE had made earlier, when HE said, “People are not defiled by what they eat, but rather, by what they say and do”. In verses 16-20 JESUS explains it to Peter this way, “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes out of the body. On the other hand, “evil thoughts” that produce such sins as murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying and slander are what defiles a person spiritually, morally, and physically in the sight of GOD. What one eats, or, whether or not one washes his or her hands before or after eating, can never make a person unacceptable to GOD.
If we are, in any sense, to become true followers of CHRIST, we must learn to, first, hear the Word spiritually, and then, do the Word physically. We also have to lay down our “human ingenuity” when it comes to doing the work of GOD. GOD does not need us to re-think HIS plan, and try to improve upon it. HIS plan is already perfect, and written out in HIS Word for all to see. HE just needs us to carry out that, “already perfect plan” sacrificially in and with our own bodies that HE gave us.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, May 9, 2014

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday May 11, 2014

Over 60,000 readers worldwide

(Our mission is to share JESUS’ Good News and not to hinder those who proclaim it)
(Luke 4:14-30)

After teaching in several synagogues in the region of Galilee, JESUS returned to HIS childhood hometown of Nazareth filled with the power of the HOLY SPIRIT. His ministry had begun to pick up stream, and HE had already gained some degree of notoriety throughout the surrounding countryside.
Upon arriving at the village of Nazareth, as had become HIS custom, HE entered into the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood and read from the scriptures. HE was handed the scroll that contained a prophetic message from Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1-2). HE unrolled the scroll to the place where it says; “The SPIRIT of the LORD is upon ME, for HE has appointed ME to preach Good News to the poor. HE has sent ME to proclaim that the captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come…”(NLT).
JESUS rolled up the scroll and handed it back to the attendant. HE then, went and sat down in the pews, as everyone stared at HIM intently. We may or may not notice that JESUS stopped reading this passage in the middle of a sentence, and did not read the last part concerning GOD’s judgment. That is because, on this particular occasion, which is HIS first advent, or, first coming, JESUS did not come to judge, but rather, this time, HE came only to “save”. Here JESUS was saying, in effect, that, HIS judgment would be reserved for HIS second coming.
When JESUS came back to Nazareth, HE put HIMSELF to a very severe test. There is never a more severe critic of anyone, than those who have known you all of your life, however, this was not meant to be a private visit. You see, this time, JESUS came as a Rabbi, and so we see HIM going into the Synagogue to preach and teach, just as a Rabbi should. Unfortunately, for the Nazarenes, they greeted JESUS’ teachings with contempt, and even seem to take offense to HIM even coming there.
It is often said that “familiarity breeds contempt”, and that certainly seemed to be the case here, in JESUS’ hometown of Nazareth. The people refused to listen to JESUS that day, perhaps, for two very human, or, ungodly reasons. First of all, in their minds, JESUS was just a carpenter, a working man, just like them. And secondly, JESUS had grown up right there in Nazareth, and they couldn’t make the leap that HE could be anybody, even remotely special, or important. Isn’t that, pretty much, the same way we treat those who have become familiar to us today?
There can be no teaching, or preaching in the wrong atmosphere, and on that day in Nazareth the atmosphere was clearly wrong. A person can never be healed, if they refuse to accept the treatment necessary to make it so. We must, first and foremost, be receptive to what is being offered, before it can help us to get where we need to be.
JESUS was actually hoping to prepare HIS Disciples for rejection when HE traveled to Nazareth that day, and HE told them just how they should handle it when HE sent them out on their first mission to preach and teach (Mark 6:11). HE instructed them that, if any place would not offer hospitality, or listen to their message, they were to leave that place, and shake, even the dust from that place, off of their feet.
JESUS also goes on, to tell them this, “Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment, than for that city” which rejects you. No doubt this statement provokes serious thought, and perhaps, can even lead to repentance by some who have rejected GOD’s word in the past.
This story serves to remind us, that, sometimes we can be too close to a person to see just how that person is being used by GOD for HIS purpose. When we look at people, we should remember first, that, no one is outside of the purpose of GOD. That is why we, as Christians, have to be concerned about everyone. One never knows, who, GOD may be using for HIS mighty purpose. We only need to be able to recognize the things of GOD in that person, when we hear, and see them, and then, make the decision to help, rather than hinder them from their work for the cause of CHRIST JESUS.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, May 2, 2014

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday May 4, 2014

Over 60,000 readers worldwide

(Knowing and abiding by the Word of GOD helps us resist temptation)
(Matthew 4:1-11 & Deuteronomy 6:13-16)

One of the great truths in life is, that, after every great moment of achievement, there comes a moment of human reaction to that achievement that makes us more vulnerable to the wiles of satan, than we ever were before. In Matthew chapter 4, verses 1-11, the apostle Mathew gives us his account of the immediacy of which the temptations of satan, followed the baptism of JESUS CHRIST, one of the greatest moments in human history. There satan tries in vain to tempt even JESUS, and move HIM away from the plan of GOD at the beginning of HIS ministry, by trying to stumble HIM with Scripture and magnificent offers. However, JESUS was able to hold fast to the Word and plan of HIS FATHER in Heaven, even while in a weakened state of hunger.
In Deuteronomy chapter 6, GOD calls on all of the people of Israel to wholeheartedly commit themselves to HIS Word and commands, and to also pass down HIS instructions to coming generations. Here the LORD presents the obedience to HIS laws and commands as the only defense we and our children have against the satanic attacks and temptations that are sure to come, as we strive to advance HIS plan of spreading the Gospel of CHRIST to the world.
Here in this passage, Moses is concerned about the Israelites being tempted in their new land as they were at Massah (Exodus 17:1-7), where they complained against the LORD in their time of testing, instead of holding fast to their belief in the only wise GOD. Moses hoped that in the future they would remember their embarrassing sinful behavior at Massah, and the next time, choose to do that which is good and right in the sight of the LORD. Then, no matter what hardship GOD allowed satan to tempt them with, they would be able to overcome if they remembered HIS laws, commands, and regulations. Through their obedience to GOD, just like with JESUS, all things would go well for them.
More than a few times in Biblical history, we see a great moment of achievement by men of GOD being quickly followed by a great temptation from satan. In fact, the Scriptures are indeed rift with such incidents as these. We see it in Genesis 13, for example, when a very wealthy Lot is able to separate himself from Abram, and, for the first time in his life, is on his own in the world, free to make his own decisions. Surely that must have been a great moment in this young man’s life. However, we see in chapter 14, that, no sooner than he had made his first big decision, which was to move into the area of Sodom and Gomorrah, after he was “tempted by what he saw in the world”, that, he is drawn into a conflict with rival kings, and is captured, and loses everything that he owns.
In 2 Samuel 11, we see it again with King David, fresh off his big victory over the Ammonites, and deciding to skip the next battle and stay at home and bask in his own glory for a while. Here we see this glorious, victorious, legendary king waking up from his nap, and deciding to take a stroll on the rooftop of his palace. Then, all of sudden satan shows him this woman of unusual beauty, named Bathsheba, taking a bath, in the home of her husband Uriah, who was a member of David’s army.
Giving way to “the temptations of the flesh”, David has her brought to him in his palace, where he has sex with her, and she, as a result, becomes pregnant with his child. David then tries to cover up his sin of adultery by murdering her husband, Uriah, by ordering him to be put on the front line in the heat of battle.
Then in Matthew 16:13-19, Matthew writes of JESUS and HIS Disciple’s visit to the area of Caesarea Philippi where HE poses the question to them, “Who do you say that I am?” When Simon Peter answers, “YOU are the MESSIAH, the SON of the LIVING GOD”, JESUS replies, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my FATHER in Heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human. Now I say to you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven”.
Now surely this must have been a great moment in Peter’s life. But in verses 22-23, we see satan immediately “tempting Peter spiritually”, by using him to try and convince JESUS against GOD’s plan for HIS crucifixion and subsequent resurrection, by telling HIM “ Heaven forbid, LORD, this will never happen to YOU! JESUS turns to Peter and speaks to the spirit of satan who had entered into him, and says, “Get away from me satan”.
And so yet another great moment is foiled by the ensuing temptation of satan. Man must forever be on guard against the temptations of evil, especially in areas where we are most sure of ourselves, and especially following moments of great achievements and gains in our personal life and works for the LORD. With all great achievements, comes an equally great measure of human pride, and satan will often use that reactionary moment of pride, to enter into, and try to destroy our lives.
GOD has given everyone a gift of some sort, and everyone has to decide whether they’re going to be good stewards with those gifts, by using them to advance GOD’s work here on earth, particularly, by building on to the kingdom of GOD through our positive reaction to the needs of our fellowman. And we will be tempted all along the way, by satan, to try to get us to use our gifts and talents in selfish ways, apart from GOD.
And, even though we may not be able to escape such temptations 100% of the time, the more we abide in CHRIST JESUS by keeping our focus, the more we will be able to summon up the strength given to us, through HIM, by GOD. In other words, we can battle temptations more successfully when we understand and act upon the Word of GOD. And we can be encouraged by the fact, that, JESUS met and overcame temptation, not as a GOD, but rather, as a 100% human being, living here on earth.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website