Friday, January 31, 2014

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

Over 56,000 readers worldwide

(Living out the truth of GOD’s Word)
(James 1)

The epistle of James was written to the Jewish Christian Diaspora, for the purpose of providing them with practical instructions to live by concerning “the Christian way”. It contains many short, proverbial sayings, and reflects in a remarkable way, JESUS’ teachings from HIS famous “Sermon on the Mount”.
Here, James, the brother of JESUS, addresses the issues of;

·         Pride,
·         Greed,
·         Discrimination,
·         Lust,
·         Hypocrisy,
·         Mean-spiritedness, and
·         Conformity to the world ways of behaving.

He also stresses the need for Christians to “not just hear the word of GOD”, but also “to actually practice doing and living the word of GOD on a daily basis”.
James believed that “professed Christians” should be able to “show the world “an outer expression” of “the inner transformation” of their heart”. The world needs to see how the gospel of CHRIST really does change the lives of those who choose to follow JESUS, and continue to walk in the newness of HIS light. Christians are to adhere to the ways of an unchanging GOD, and to stand with confidence in GOD continuously. We need to show the world through our behavior, on a daily basis, that Christianity really does produce the best men and women.
In this doctrinal letter, chapter 1, verses 13-18, James offers us his analysis of, and solution to, “temptation”. He tells us that the gravitational pull towards evils such as anger, striking out against one another, or surrender to physical and emotional passions that we feel, does not come from GOD. GOD cannot be tempted to do wrong, nor, does HE tempt anyone to do wrong. Temptations come from one source, satan, who manipulates our own “sin nature”, or, “evil desires”, and leads us to evil actions, which leads us to death, or temporary or permanent separation from GOD.
GOD, through HIS infinite wisdom, has put in place, two “temptation barriers” that help keep us on the straight and narrow, HIS judgment, and, HIS goodness. These two actions represent GOD’s way of balancing our fear with HIS love. GOD motivates us to obedience either by fear of HIS judgment (like David), or, by our respect for HIS goodness (like Joseph).
Only that which is good and perfect comes from GOD, and we should never be led to think otherwise. When we doubt GOD’s goodness, we automatically become attracted to satan’s offers. The GOD WHO created all things does not change or cast shifting shadows, as some of HIS creation (man) tends to do. Through HIS goodness, HE chose to make us HIS children, by giving us “HIS nature” and “HIS Word of Truth”.
We, out of all creation are GOD’s prize possession, and we are expected, by GOD, because we share HIS nature and HIS Truth, to live out our lives in the truth of HIS SPIRIT and HIS Word. And so, ultimately, the key to responding to trials and resisting temptation can only be found in a person’s use of GOD’s nature, and reaction to GOD’s Word (Vs.17-18). And always remember;

·         GOD gives only good gifts
·         The way GOD gives is good
·         GOD gives continually
·         GOD does not change

In verses 19-27, James borrows a thought from JESUS’ “Sermon on the Mount”. It is the same strong, positive, divine advice, that, JESUS HIMSELF imparted to us that day, as HE ended HIS most famous sermon, on the slopes of the Mount of Beatitudes. It was a demand from our LORD and SAVIOR that we first “hear”, and then “do”, exactly what GOD created us to do (Matthew 7:24-29).
We can begin to build our foundations on the “Most High Faith” (Christianity) by;

·         Being quick to listen to the word of GOD,
·         Thinking before we speak, and
·         Being slow to anger

Our anger can never make things right in GOD’s sight. We, as GOD’s greatest creation, need to face ourselves spiritually, and then, strive to improve our spiritual appearance under GOD. We also need to get rid of the filth and evil in our lives, and humbly accept the message that GOD is seeking to implant in our hearts. This will, in turn, save our souls from eternal destruction.
Finally, there is only one word that sums up the process of “hearing and doing”, in both the English, and, the original biblical Greek. In the biblical Greek, that word is “hupakoe” (hoop-ak-o-ay), and it means, “to listen attentively”, and, “to heed or conform to command or authority”. And in the English language, that word is “obedience”.
It is JESUS’ claim that obedience to HIM is the only true foundation. “I AM the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE”, is what HE said to a “doubting Thomas” in John 14:6. And in the final analysis, the one thing that, we as humans all seek, is a better life. For we never seek knowledge just for knowledge sake, but rather, for how that knowledge can be used to make our lives more worth living. Primarily, the professed Christian has to come to understand that the only way to that “better life” has always been, and, will forever be, through CHRIST JESUS, WHO is the LIVING WORD of GOD. If we keep looking steadily into GOD’s WORD, the truth of HIS WORD will ultimately set us free. And, if we “do” what it says, and don’t forget what we heard, GOD will bless us for doing so, eternally.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, January 24, 2014

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday January 26, 2014

Over 55,000 readers worldwide

(Being shrewd managers while having compassion for those in need)
(Luke 16)

Our Christianity will only become real and effective for us when and if, we begin to put as much time, effort, and money into it, as we put into achieving pleasure from our own worldly activities and desires. Time and time again we tend to expend, perhaps, forty to fifty times more energy, time, and money on our fleshly desires and leisure, than we do on the things of GOD, and on learning about the things of GOD.
In the biblical Greek, the word used for “steward”, or, “manager” is “oikonomos” (oy-kon-om-os), and it is “an employee who works in the capacity of an overseer”. In Luke chapter 16, taking up at verse 1, we find a very difficult parable to interpret and understand. It is the story of “a bad man’s good example”, that JESUS is relating to HIS disciples.
Here in this passage, JESUS tells the story of a rich landowner who hired a manager to oversee his financial affairs, as was the case with many “absentee landlords” in biblical times. They would often be away transacting or drumming up other business, vacationing, or may even actually reside in another place altogether. No doubt, in this parable, the debtors paid rent on the land that they used to grow various crops, to the landlord in the form of a percentage of their harvest.
Over time the landowner started receiving rumors that his manager had gained a reputation of being a thoroughly dishonest character. He decided to call the manager in to see if he had been stealing from him, and apparently, he had been (Vs.1-2). The guilty man began to contemplate to himself, what he should do. “I’m certainly finished here”, he reasoned, “and I don’t have the strength to do manual labor, and, I’m too proud to beg”. “I know what I can do”, he decided, “and maybe this will also bring me plenty of friends to take care of me when I leave this job”.
And so the man invited everyone who owed his employer to come and discuss their debt with him. He asked the first man, “How much do you owe my employer?” And the man answered, “I owe him 800 gallons of olive oil”. The manager told him to tear up that bill and make another for half that amount, and so he gladly did as the manager suggested. He did likewise to the second man in this parable, cutting his wheat bill down from 1000 bushels, to 800 bushels instead.
This dastardly move achieved two things for this dishonest manager, who was about to lose his job;
·         First, it made the debtors feel very grateful and owing to him.
·         Secondly, if worse came to worse, it would put him in a position to blackmail the debtors later on, if he had to, which was something I’m sure he was not above doing.
As it turned out, however, even the business manager’s boss, apparently a crooked dealer himself, was impressed. Instead of being angry at him, the rich landowner admired his manager for his savvy and shrewdness, rather than just firing him for his further dishonesty.
There are several lessons that JESUS is trying to teach here in this passage. The first of which is this;
·         If a Christian was as eager to attain goodness, as a worldly person is in his attempt to attain money and security, he would be a much better person, and would be even more valuable to the Kingdom of GOD (v.8).
·         Secondly, JESUS is also saying here that “material things” can best be used for cementing friendships and relations. A person’s true wealth consists, not of what they keep for themselves, but rather, it consists of what he or she is willing to give to others. A person can use their wealth selfishly to make only their life easier and better, or, they can use some of it to make someone else’s life better (v.9).
·         The third lesson is that, a person’s way of handling a small task, is the best way to determine how they might handle a greater task. Not many people are elevated to a higher position of service, until they have first, proved their honesty and ability to perform smaller duties (Vs.10-11).
·         The final lesson is that, no one can serve two masters. A servant of GOD must be a servant of GOD, full-time. GOD’s servant must be available to HIM every minute of every day. No one who wishes to serve GOD can ever be just a part-time worker. Once we choose to serve GOD, every moment of our time, and every ounce of our energy has been dedicated to doing HIS will. GOD is an “exclusive master”, we either belong to HIM totally, or not belong to HIM at all (v.13).


In verses 19-31 JESUS relates the parable of an unnamed rich man, and a poor man named Lazarus. Because JESUS does not normally use personal names in HIS parables, many scholars tend to believe that this story relates to an actual event. The New Testament tells us of many people who were forced to result to begging due to being indigent because of a debilitating sickness or physical condition.
Most Christians wholeheartedly agree that giving of their time, money, and skills to those who are destitute and in need is a good and meritorious thing to do, in the eyes of GOD, and man. The rich man in this parable refuses to render help to the needy Lazarus, and as a result of his treatment of those in need, he died and woke up and found himself in Hell.
Here, the rich man is portrayed as being fully conscious and aware of his surroundings. We see that he is able to see, hear, feel, and remember. However, there is no biblical basis to support the notion that death is an unconscious state anyway. In fact, this parable clearly suggests that human personally, fully conscious and aware, does persist, even after physical death has occurred.  
JESUS tells us that the rich man, who was in much torment, could see Lazarus, the man he denied help to in life, at a distance in Heaven, in the company of Abraham, the great Jewish patriarch. The rich man, who was now anguishing in the flames of Hell, shouted to Abraham, begging him for mercy. He asks Abraham to send Lazarus over with just a drop of water so that he could cool his tongue.
Abraham said to the man, “Son, remember that during your lifetime, you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. Anyone who wanted to cross over to you from here is stopped at its edge, and no one there can cross over to us”.
Then the man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to his father’s home to warn his five brothers about Hell so that they won’t have to go there when they die. However, Abraham responded, “Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read their writings anytime they want to”. The man then said, “No father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will turn from their sins”. Abraham replied, “If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead”.
Just think of how many people, who could have gone to Heaven, who have actually read or heard the word of GOD, since the time when JESUS was raised from the dead that have chosen instead, to go to Hell. In the Gospels of Matthew (7:24-29) and Luke (6:46-49) JESUS concludes HIS, now famous, “Sermon on the Mount” with this warning for us to build our foundations on the “Most High Faith” (Christianity). There we see JESUS demanding two things. First HE demands that we “listen”, and then HE demands that we “do”. Knowledge does not become relevant until it is put into action.
In Matthew 25, verses 31-46, JESUS gives us the answers to how we as human beings can be “successful” under GOD. There we see that it is very different from the world’s view of what “success” is. There JESUS tells us that when HE returns to judge us, HE will base HIS decision upon “how we reacted to human need in our lifetime”. So remember, while we do need to be shrewd managers of what GOD has blessed us with, we must also strive to balance that shrewdness, with the compassion demonstrated to us by CHRIST, when it comes to “how we react to human need” all around us.

A Sunday school by,
Larry D. Alexander   

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, January 17, 2014

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday January 19, 2014

Over 55,000 readers worldwide

(GOD honors humbleness)
(Luke 14:1-24)

In the Gospel accounts (namely Mark, Luke, and John) there are seven incidences in which JESUS heals on the Sabbath day. Here in Luke 14, verse 4, we see one of those miraculous healings take place in the home of an unnamed leading Pharisee. On that occasion there was a man present, who suffered from a disease known as “The Dropsy”. It is an ailment that is caused by a fluid build-up in the body, due to malfunctions of organs such as the kidney, heart, or liver.
Ordinarily, the Pharisees would never have invited such a person to be a dinner quest at their home on any occasion. However, on this occasion, he was invited there to be “used by the Pharisees” to set JESUS up with another Sabbath day healing opportunity. They knew that JESUS would not be able to resist showing compassion for a sick person who might be in HIS presence.
JESUS, however, being aware of the evil motives of the religious leaders, used this opportunity to show how their cruel treatment of this man, by using him for bait, was much worse than HIS so-called violation of the Sabbath law. First, JESUS turns the tables on the Pharisees by asking them a theological question. “Is it permitted in the Law of Moses to heal people on the Sabbath day, or not? When the Pharisees refused to answer, JESUS touched the sick man and healed him, and then, sent him away.
Then JESUS turned and posed two more questions to the religious leaders. HE first asks, “Which of you doesn’t work on the Sabbath? Then, not expecting a response, HE quickly followed up with another question, when HE asks, “If your son, or your cow falls into a pit on the Sabbath, would you not hesitate to try and get them out right away? Again, being caught up, in their own web of deceit, the Pharisees, would not answer (Luke 14:3-6). The lesson here in this passage is that, for the true Christian, helping people can never be considered a “chore”, but rather, it should always be considered a “responsibility” and a “pleasure”.
JESUS will never refuse the hospitality of anyone who invites HIM, and by adhering to that principal, HE never abandoned the hope of converting or appealing to a lost soul. In this particular instance we see JESUS even accepting the invitation of a known enemy, a Pharisee, because HE wanted HIS followers to see such occasions, as an opportunity to possibly convert, and even turn an enemy into a friend.
We must remember that almost every time JESUS met with members of the religious hierarchy in Jerusalem and other places, HE would leave one or more of them feeling convicted, or, in some cases, with a converted heart. JESUS is always, in a divine sort of way, luring the hearts of men from a state of arrogance and pride, and into a state of humility and dependence on GOD.
In Luke 14:7-14, after JESUS had noticed how all the quests were jockeying to be seated in a place of honor at the head of the table, HE began to advise them with a parable aimed at teaching people some of the advantages of being humble. Here HE gives them an illustration of how pride can set a person up to be humiliated, or knocked down.
JESUS tells the dinner quests in verses 8-9, not to always head for the best seat in the house. What if someone, more respected than you, has also been invited, HE says. Then, the host will have to come and tell you to let that person sit there instead, and you might be embarrassed and have to move to whatever seat is left at the foot of the table. Instead, find you a place at the foot of the table, and that way, you put yourself in a position where you can only be moved up to a more honored seat, closer to the head of the table. The lesson here is that, “the proud person sets himself up to be humbled, but the humble person sets himself up to be honored”.
And finally, in Luke 14:15-24, we see JESUS presenting the invited guest with yet another parable. This time HE turns our attention to the most important of all invitations. It is “the invitation to salvation” that HE HIMSELF had come to deliver. Here JESUS gives the illustration of a man who prepared a great feast for which he sent out many invitations. When the time of the feast came, he sent his servants out to notify his people that the time had come. One by one they all begin to make lame excuses as to why they could not attend. When the servants returned and told their master what had happened, in his anger, he sent them back out instructing them to go into the streets and alleys of the city and invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. After this, he sent them back out, this time into the country places to ask everyone that they might see, to come to the feast, so that his house would be filled.
This parable serves to show us that GOD invites all people to enter into the salvation feast. However, only those who accept HIS invitation, through CHRIST, HIS SERVANT, will be able to attend. Salvation is for all who are willing to first humble themselves enough to repent, and then, accept the invitation and come by faith, to CHRIST.
Ironically, this passage, Luke 14:15-24, was the text of the last sermon preached by the highly respected minister, D.L. Moody in Kansas City, Missouri, way back in 1899, only one month prior to his death. But it is a message of salvation that was first delivered by CHRIST JESUS from the house of an unbeliever, somewhere in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. And JESUS had no doubt, through HIS teachings that day in Jerusalem, inspired a hope in Moody similar to hope that HE had previously inspired in HIS original disciples. It is a hope that each generation would take advantage of the opportunity to share in the coming Kingdom feast that can only be attended by those who are humble enough to accept the invitation.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, January 10, 2014

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday January 12, 2014

Over 55,000 readers worldwide

(JESUS calls us to love)
(Luke 6:17-49)

The passage of Luke chapter six, verses 17-49, is the short version of JESUS’ famous “Sermon on the Mount” that is also recorded by the Apostle Matthew in chapters 5-7 of his Gospel account.  Both accounts begin with the “Beatitudes” and end with the parable of “how we can build our spiritual foundation on the Most High Faith”. In Luke’s account, however, he omits the “Jewish parts” concerning the interpretation of the Law that Matthew’s account so thoroughly includes. Nevertheless, this approach works well with Luke’s purpose and intent, as his Gospel account is aimed mostly at converting the Gentiles to CHRIST.
JESUS begins HIS famous sermon with a series of blessings that have come to be known, the world over, as “The Beatitudes”. Here in Luke’s account, these beatitudes are followed by a series of “woes”, and he only includes a partial list (four) of the total number of beatitudes that appear in Matthew’s account, where there are eight. The four woes that follow, parallel in contrast, to the four Beatitudes, that, precede them.
In the New Testament Greek, the word used for “blessed” in makarios (mak-ar-ee-os), and it means “to be indwelt by GOD, and thereby, fully satisfied”. It is a word that occurs in the four Gospels a total of 30 times, and all but two of those instances occur in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
A, beatitude, is an acknowledgement of a fortunate state before man and GOD. In the New Testament, beatitudes have more of an emotional force than in the Old Testament, as they often contrast a “false earthly estimation” with a “true heavenly estimation” of a person who is truly “indwelt” with GOD’s SPIRIT.
In Luke 6:20-23, JESUS speaks of four conditions in which people who follow HIM are blessed:
·        Blessed are those who are poor,
·        Blessed are those who hunger now,
·        Blessed are those who weep now,
·        Blessed are those who are hated, because of HIM.

Here, each instance is amended with a clause that explains why such a person is blessed. And all that the person who is “poor”, “hungry”, “weeping”, or “hated” has to do, is stake their beliefs in CHRIST JESUS.
In verses 24-26 we find four contrasting woes that await those who refuse to give up any and everything to follow JESUS. Those groups can and will likely include;

·        The rich,
·        The well-fed,
·        Those who laugh carelessly,
·        Those who are popular with the world because they do things to please the world, instead of trying to please GOD.

Those people, who refuse to accept JESUS, can expect to receive the exact opposite of what awaits those who follow HIM.
In verses 27-38 JESUS talks about seven aspects of “agape”, or, “unconditional love”. Because of our accepted “sin nature”, or our “desire to want to sin”, these seven things will not automatically be done by man, even though we are all born with GOD’s nature in us. It still requires a “supernatural” interceding by GOD, through the HOLY SPIRIT, to enable us to achieve such a state of righteousness. These seven aspects include;

·        Loving our enemies,
·        Doing good to those who hate us,
·        Blessing those who curse us,
·        Praying for those who mistreat us,
·        Resisting the urge for revenge against those who we feel wronged us,
·        Giving freely without expectation of being paid back,
·        Always treating others the way we ourselves want to be treated (otherwise known as “The Golden Rule”).

In order for us to successfully, and consistently do these things, especially to people that we don’t know or like, one has to be “inspired to love”, by the power of the HOLY SPIRIT of GOD. JESUS wants us to show the same attitude towards each other that GOD HIMSELF displays towards us. This kind of love will set us apart from the world, and allow us to emulate the ways of GOD in Heaven, while living here on earth.
In verses 37-38, JESUS outlines five areas that stand as proof of the “sowing and reaping” theme that so prominently permeates the pages of the Holy Scriptures. Here HE tells us that;

·        Mercy leads to mercy,
·        Judgment leads to judgment,
·        Condemnation leads to condemnation,
·        Pardon will lead to pardon,
·        Giving will lead to giving.

Our actions and attitudes always reflect back on us, and true righteousness is always revealed in our actions and attitudes towards each other. And just as a blind person can’t lead another blind person to safety, and indeed, can’t even hide the fact that they themselves are blind, so it is with the unrighteous.
Our unrighteousness is also revealed in our actions and attitudes. The “unrighteous” can only lead a person into “the dangers and pitfalls of unrighteousness”. We must first, rid ourselves of our own sin before we can help someone else rid themselves of theirs. JESUS points out that, the person who criticizes another person, often has a greater sin than the person that they criticize (Vs. 41-42). The greatest reason why a person can’t (krino) judge another person, is because, we are all, people under the (krino) judgment of GOD. We don’t qualify to condemn another person, because we are all equal in sin, with each other.
And finally, in verses 46-49, JESUS concludes HIS sermon with this warning for us to build our “spiritual foundations” on “The Most High Faith” (Christianity). Here we see JESUS demanding two things. First, HE demands that we “listen”, because the first step towards living a Christian life calls for us to give JESUS a chance to be heard. Secondly, HE demands that we “do”. Knowledge obtained from listening can only become relevant when it is put into action. Knowledge must become action, while theory must become practice, and then, theology can become life.
There is very little point in going to see an expert if you’re not prepared to act upon that expert’s advice. Literally millions of “professed Christians” go to church every weekend, to listen to the teachings of JESUS, and some, as a result, have very good knowledge of what HE says. And yet, time and time again, they walk out of the doors of the church, and fail to put what they have learned, into action. If we are, in any sense, to become followers of CHRIST, we must learn to, first hear, and then, do.
Here in this passage, it is clearly JESUS’s claim, that, obedience to HIM is the only “true foundation”. No one goes to the FATHER, except by JESUS. HE alone, is the way to GOD. In HIM, we see exactly what GOD is like, and only HE, can usher us into GOD’s OWN glorious presence, without fear, without guilt, and, without shame.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander     

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website