Friday, March 28, 2014

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday March 30, 2014

Over 58,000 readers worldwide

(Recognizing JESUS for who HE really is)
Matthew 21:1-11 & Zechariah 9:9

Matthew chapter 21 marks the beginning of the last week of JESUS’ physical life here on earth. Here the Apostle Matthew gives his own detailed account of the occasion when JESUS made HIS final triumphant entry into Jerusalem. It was the last leg of our LORD and SAVIOR’s incredible journey in route to HIS OWN crucifixion, by Roman method, on the cross at Golgotha.
With this well-planned entry, JESUS was, for the first time, clearly showing the world that HE was a king. However, by riding in on a donkey’s colt, HE was also clearly claiming to be a “King of Peace”. In those days when a king rode into town on a steed, he would be signaling that he came for war, and was clearly prepared to do physical battle with his enemy. However, when a king rode into town on a donkey, it was a clear signal that he was coming for peace.
This action by JESUS was in sharp contrast to what HIS followers were expecting, and was certainly not the climax to HIS ministry that they had hoped for. Here we see them greeting JESUS as “the SON of David”, the great warrior of old, who often came with fierce fighting, and perpetrated much physical damage upon his adversaries. In fact, this whole scenario that is presented by Matthew, suggests that this is a crowd who totally misunderstood the whole purpose of JESUS’ coming, and what HIS whole ministry was about.
The people of Jerusalem had long ago formed their opinion of what true “Kingship” should entail. Here in Matthew 21 the Jews are obviously thinking of kingship in terms of a much-anticipated “conquest” that had been spoken about since the days of the ancient prophets of Israel, even though neither Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9), nor Isaiah (Isaiah 62:11), is suggesting anything of that sort in their prophecies of JESUS’ final entry into Jerusalem. In fact, here in this passage, we can clearly see what their true expectations are, as it is something that is even suggested in their shouts of “Hosanna!” in verse 9.
Hosanna is the Hebrew word that translates into the phrase, “save us now!”. And so, here in this passage, the people’s welcome of JESUS was one not befitting a “king of love”, but rather, it is one befitting a “king of war”, or a conqueror, which had come to slay all of their enemies, and render them free of their physical oppression. However, much to the people’s dismay, JESUS was to once again, overturn their misguided expectations, and human thinking.
Zechariah prophesied circa 520 B.C., about 60 years after the end of the Babylonian’s destruction of Jerusalem. He prophesied to the Jews who had just returned from captivity in Babylon to rebuild the great temple which Solomon had built and dedicated before GOD in his glorious day.
At that time the prophet spoke about a future RULER and those times that would surround HIS first advent. This future KING would ride into Jerusalem meekly and gently upon a donkey’s colt, and HIS character and righteousness would be cause for great rejoicing, and would usher in an opportunity for salvation to all mankind.  
Whenever we begin to try and dictate how GOD will move to bless us, we are almost always setting ourselves up to be, either pleasantly surprised, or bitterly disappointed, and it is a virtual certainty that, we will, at the very least, have our expectations overturned. This is largely because our thoughts are not GOD’s thoughts, but rather, they are thoughts that are dictated by our physical, rather than spiritual experiences.
GOD is Spirit, and we, on the other hand, because of our accepted “sin nature” have long become accustomed to trying to satisfy our “fleshly” needs and desires, and therefore our thinking is often geared to whatever is the opposite of GOD (that which is physical). That is why it is so important, if we are to worship in spirit, and in truth, that we transform our hearts, or thoughts, into a condition that is more into conformance with GOD, and less in conformance with the world.
Kings who rule righteously follow GOD’s idea of what kingship should be. Although the king foreseen by Zechariah would truly be a conquering KING, this KING, WHO is JESUS, would, in HIS first advent, only offer peace and salvation to the nations of the world, and HIS kingdom would indeed encompass the whole world.
However, the book of Revelation warns us, that, all those who do not submit and conform themselves to the idea of this first coming, where JESUS shows up riding on a donkey, will ultimately be destroyed when HE returns riding on the great white steed, ready to pronounce judgment, and put an end to the evil forces that now spiritually govern this world.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander  

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website


Friday, March 21, 2014

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

Over 58,000 readers worldwide

(Praise the LAMB WHO brings us into the Kingdom)
Revelation 5

It is the strong conviction of every New Testament writer that all of human history will continue to hold as its meaning, the life, death, and resurrection of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST. JESUS is the axis around which all of human history hinges, and indeed, all that we see now began in HIM, and through HIM. All things find their origin and meaning in JESUS, and without HIS work of redemption, history would remain an enigma at best, and we would have a future without hope, at worst.
The “second coming” of CHRIST, and those years immediately preceding the event, are described more vividly in the book of Revelation than in any other book of the Bible. The Apostle John describes the great “end time” events in much more elaborate detail than does the book of Daniel, where the young Prophet writes of that period from the days of King Cyrus of Persia, to the time of the first advent of CHRIST. He speaks only briefly, of the tribulation, and CHRIST’s rule on Earth.
The book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John, after he received a vision from GOD, while still imprisoned on the Greek island of Patmos, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian, around A.D. 95-96. After very few challenges from the early church leaders, the book of Revelation was widely accepted as being divinely inspired, and by the end of the third century, it was being widely quoted as Scripture. The purpose of the book of Revelation is to reveal those eschatological events, which will take place before, during, and after the “second coming” of CHRIST.
In Revelation 5:1-10, through his vividly detailed writings, the Apostle John allows us to look in on his vision, just as CHRIST is about to prove HIMSELF as being the only one worthy to take the scroll from the hand of GOD and unseal it’s secret contents. John tells us that the scroll had writings on both, the inner and outer sides, and was sealed with seven seals. The scroll must have been rolled in such a way that the seals would have to be broken one seal at a time.
In the Greek, the word used here for “scroll” is “biblion” (bib-lee-on), and it is from that word that we derive our English word “bible”. A scroll, that was sealed, could only be read when all of the seals were opened. The symbolism here, in Revelation 5:1, is that, only when judgment has been fully executed, will the ultimate intent of GOD be revealed.
In Revelation 5:5-6, John’s vision serves to remind us that JESUS conquered all by giving HIS life for us. Here we see the Apostle John raising his tear-filled eyes, expecting to see what the Elder had described as a lion, opening the seals, and instead, seeing a bloodstained LAMB, WHO is still bearing the marks of HIS execution, about to be revealed as the executor of GOD’s final judgment. Soon there will be a new song, never heard before, and all will be forced to acknowledge that JESUS truly is worthy to rule, and, to be praised.
Ultimately, the idea here is that GOD has a book in which the history of time to come is already written. When we are seeking to interpret this idea, it will serve us well to remember that this is a vision, full of symbolisms, shown to John, by GOD. It would not be wise to take this great vision too literally, and to think it means that everything was settled long ago, or, that we are in the inescapable grip of fate. What it is saying is that, GOD has a plan for the world, and that, the purpose of GOD, will, in the end, come to pass, or, be worked out.
Before JESUS came along, we had been living in a world, so far from GOD, that, there was no one worthy enough to receive HIS message. JESUS solved this problem by way of HIS earthly ministry and subsequent vicarious sacrifice. HE revealed to us, the great and challenging truth that GOD cannot deliver a message to men, unless there be a man fit and ready to receive it, and deliver it.
And so, we see in our world, the very essence of a communication problem, as we have alienated ourselves from the Word of GOD. There is a definite need in this world for us to keep ourselves sensitive to GOD, so that we will be able to receive HIS communications. He has a message for the world in each and every generation, but it cannot be delivered until there is someone found, who is able and willing to receive it, and deliver it to others.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, March 14, 2014

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

Over 58,000 readers worldwide

(It is GOD WHO exalts JESUS as king over us)
(Psalm 110:1-4 & Acts 2:14-42)

The Book of Acts has been called the “Gospel of the HOLY SPIRIT”. It is The HOLY SPIRIT that makes it possible for a person to be able to look forward to a future of obedience to GOD after receiving salvation. HE is also that “common ground”, or source of power, that every Christian shares once we invite CHRIST into our lives as our LORD and SAVIOR.
In the Greek, there is a wonderful sounding word that New Testament writers use for “promise”. It is “epaggelia” (ep-ang-el-ee-ah), and it is “an announcement of divine assurance of good”. In Matthew 11:28, JESUS promises us goodness, when HE says “Come unto ME, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (KJV).
Here in Acts chapter 2, Luke chronicles events that took place during the first “Pentecost” observance in the newly formed Christian Church. It was celebrated fifty days following the resurrection of CHRIST JESUS, and traditionally, it is observed seven weeks after the final day of “Passover” (Leviticus 23:15-22). Pentecost, which means, “fiftieth”, is also known as the “Festival of Harvest”, or the “Feast of Weeks”. In New Testament times, Pentecost also commemorated Moses’ giving of GOD’s Ten Commandments to the Israelites at the foot of Mount Sinai.
In Acts 2:1-4, as Christians met in a house somewhere in the midst of Jerusalem, we see three great phenomena occurring, which serve to make the coming of the HOLY SPIRIT on that Pentecost day, an unmistakable and unique event:

·         First we see the “roaring of a mighty windstorm” from the skies above, come down and fill the house that the Apostles and others occupying (v.2).
·         Then, we see the “flames of fire” appear and settle on each person in the house (v.3).
·         And finally, we see that they began speaking in foreign languages, as the HOLY SPIRIT gave them these abilities (v.4).

These “visible signs” are unique in recorded scripture in that, this occasion is the only time when these three things occur together during a distinctive act of GOD. Since that day, the HOLY SPIRIT has come to dwell in every Christian (1 Corinthians 6:19), and we as a result, belong to GOD, because HE bought us at a high price, sacrificing HIS only begotten SON, JESUS CHRIST.
As we live in fellowship with GOD, HE will fill us and keep us filled, and when HE does, we become able to serve and grow and conform more fully to HIS Word, and HIS Will. The HOLY SPIRIT enables us to win battles within ourselves, between our “reason” and “passion”, that, without HIM, we would never be able to win. HE enables us to resist the temptations of life, that, without HIM, we would never be able to resist.
The HOLY SPIRIT is the “spiritual conscience” that becomes infused in those of us who experience a “new birth” and choose to live in CHRIST. HE make us more aware of those times when we are about to move out of the will of GOD, and will prevent us from doing so, if we listen and heed to HIS prompting. HIS job is to provide us with the power to fight against the evil forces of satan, and to help us to avoid sin by attacking it in the “thinking stages”, and thereby, contrary to popular belief, the HOLY SPIRIT’s primary job is not to make us feel remorse, after we sin, but rather, it is GOD’s “shared nature” that we receive, within us from birth, that gives us our “moral conscience”.
True repent, by definition, and, in all actuality, is a “change of mind”, before we sin, not after, and it requires us to actually reject our sinful thoughts before we can act out on them. Over time, we must grow to hate sin itself. If our hearts are truly broken by sin, and we long to return to GOD, then a change in our lives will, inevitably, soon follow.
In verses 14-36 the Apostle Peter steps forward to explain just what was happening to the people who were present in the room during that Pentecost observance in Jerusalem. It had been thought by onlookers that the people affected by the power of the HOLY SPIRIT in that gathering were drunk. However, Peter points out that no one is likely to be already drunk at nine o’clock in the morning. He then begin to explain several prophecies including one from Joel (Joel 2:28-32), and two from King David (Psalm 16:8-11 & 110:1).
First Peter cites the prophecy of Joel which was partially being fulfilled on that day. The people could very easily relate to Old Testament prophecies that were often fulfilled, only in part, as they were accustomed to such occurrences, throughout their history.
In Acts 2, verses 17-21, Peter emphasizes two elements of Joel’s prophecy;

·         The pouring out of the HOLY SPIRIT, which was always expected to take place sometime before the “Day of the LORD” comes.
·         He also points out that during that time, everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.

In verses 22-36, Peter uses two Psalms from David to highlight several themes that remain basic elements in the proclamation of the Gospel, even to this day. They are:

·         That JESUS is an historic person
·         JESUS was crucified and is risen
·         All aspects of JESUS’s life was first prophesied
·         JESUS is the MESSIAH sent by GOD
·         All who believe and call on CHRIST JESUS will be forgiven and given the HOLY SPIRIT
In verse 37, we see the HOLY SPIRIT convicting those members of the “first Christian Church” through Peter’s words to them, regarding the wrong that was perpetrated on JESUS, by way of their role in HIS death on the cross. Peter goes on to tell them that, the promise of the HOLY SPIRIT is not only for those present in that room that day, but it is a promise that extends to all who come to know CHRIST, and answer the call of GOD, and, it extends to all generations.
In verses 41-47, on the heels and momentum of Peter’s “Pentecost Sermon”, which was the first sermon ever preached in the Christian Church, the believers began meeting together on a daily basis. A deep sense of awe and reverence for CHRIST had come over them after their receiving of the HOLY SPIRIT, and we now see them begin to display many characteristics that would come to be prominently identified with the early Church.     Here in this particular passage is a summary of those characteristics as they were manifested in the believers in the early Christian Community. Here we can clearly see that;

·         The early church had “teaching and learning” (verse 42)
·         The early church had “prayer and fellowship” (verse 42).
·         The early church had gained a “fear and reverence for GOD” (verse 43).
·         They were a “sharing church” (verse 44-45).
·         They were a church that “worshipped GOD together daily” (verse 46-47).
·         They were a church “filled with joy” because of their fellowship with each other, and, their generosity toward each other (verse 46).
·         They were a church where “good things were happening constantly” and “many new people were receiving Salvation daily” (verse 47).

What a wonderful example for modern-day churches to emulate. We see here in this passage, that, it is an example that has been placed before us, and available to us, since the very birth of the Christian Church in Jerusalem.
And one other thing can also be noted; the miraculous signs and wonders that were performed by the Apostles (v.43), served as a verification of a “divine truth” that would authenticate their calling by CHRIST to others. The use of these miracles would help to convince and encourage others to work in the establishment and development of the Christian Church in its infancy. And, after all, many of the believers had themselves, also seen JESUS perform these same signs and wonders, during HIS powerful three-year ministry.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, March 7, 2014

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

Over 57,000 readers worldwide

(GOD’s unbroken chain of promise)
(Psalm 89:19-37, Isaiah 9:6-7, & Matthew 1:18-21)

Hebrew genealogies typically skip generations and are often arranged in groups so that they can be memorized more easily. In the Apostle Matthew’s account of JESUS’ genealogy, he uses groups of 14. This may be symbolic of the numeric value of the name “David”. In Hebrew numerology the letters in the name “David” adds up to “14”. It is believed by some scholars that this is why Matthew chose to use only 14 generations in each of the three periods listed. To, list JESUS in the last series of 14, would probably be something that is significant to the Jewish readers, whom, Matthew sought to convince of JESUS’ fulfillment of the promises of the “Davidic Covenant”.
In Matthew 1:18-25, Matthew gives us his account of the birth of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST. In the Greek, the word used for “espouse” or “engagement” is “mnesteuo” (mnace-tyoo-o) and it is an engagement that is far more serious than what we have today. In fact it is “a formal stage of a marriage contract” that, if broken, by engaging in sexual intercourse with anyone, including the contracted parties, even at this stage, would be considered adultery and grounds for divorce, or annulment.
During this espousal period, usually one year, the contracted parties could not live or sleep together. They would remain separate in their parent’s homes as a demonstration of the faithfulness to their pledge of purity to one another. Mary and Joseph were in this one-year waiting period when Mary became impregnated by the HOLY SPIRIT.
Joseph was upset at first, because, he himself, had not yet received a word from GOD, concerning his important role in the annals of human history. However, he would soon find out, through a dream, that he would play a major role in the “distinctive act of GOD” that would serve to save all mankind. He would be charged with raising “the CHILD” that would “free mankind” from under the dominion of his own “sin nature”. It is considered by believers to be the greatest miracle ever performed in the history of mankind. And ironically, it is a miracle that went virtually unnoticed by all but a few chosen servants, who were careful enough to keep their minds and hearts focused on GOD.
If JESUS had been conceived and born just like any other child, then, HE wouldn’t be GOD. It was necessary that HE be born of woman and have an earthly mother, but not appropriate that HE be born of an earthly father. HIS earthly mother is what makes HIM human, and HIS FATHER in Heaven is what makes HIM GOD. HE is both 100% man, and 100% GOD, and is thus, the “Hypostatic Union”.
Few Christians today look at Bethlehem as a burial place, but rather, they look at it as the “birthplace of life”, the true life, that is found only in JESUS CHRIST. Because of JESUS’ humble birth into humanity over 2000 years ago, and because HE died for us and then rose again, we now can look forward to a bright future in the glorious presence of the ALMIGHTY FATHER in Heaven, if we choose to. There, we can live forever in a place where death doesn’t exist, and, where tears never fall.
In the book of Isaiah in chapter 9, verses 6-7, the prophet describes, more or less, the universal reign of the MESSIAH. There Isaiah tells us that all the governments of the earth will rest on the shoulders of JESUS, and HE will be called “WONDERFUL COUNSELOR”, “MIGHTY GOD”, “EVERLASTING FATHER”, and “PRINCE OF PEACE”. HIS ever-expanding peaceful regime will never end. HE will rule forever with fairness and justice from David’s throne, and the passionate, faithful commitment of the Almighty GOD will guarantee this.
The contrast that presents itself in the latter part of Isaiah Chapter 9 (Vs. 8-21) shows the ruination and destruction we face when we continue to disobey and rebel against GOD. Israel’s tragic history is marred by such rebellion against the LORD, from the beginning. However, the remnant of the obedient has always been afforded the protection, grace, and mercy from GOD that was necessary to overcome those periods of HIS judgment on those who refused to submit to HIS authority.
In Psalm 89:19-37, which is a psalm by Ethan the Ezrahite, we see even further confirmation of GOD’s promise to David that originated in 2 Samuel 7. There the promises are celebrated and given a fresh, new poetic expression. There the psalmist tells us that;
·         David will be strengthened and sustained by GOD, and his kingdom will be firmly established (Vs.19-25).
·         GOD will maintain a father/son relationship with David, and appoint him heir to the throne as the mightiest king on earth (Vs.26-27).
·         GOD would establish the “Davidic Line of Kings” forever, and maintain his covenant forever (Vs.28-29).
·         GOD promised that even when the kings of the “Davidic Line” fall away from HIM, they will be disciplined, but HIS covenant promise will never be withdrawn from David (Vs.30-37).
GOD has always intervened upon the lives of men, even though it has most often been wittingly, or unwittingly ignored. GOD reveals HIS glory to us, from the inside out, as HE works from the hearts of men, through the lives of men. A man of GOD proves that he is such, with his own life, and not just, with words. A person of the world has eyes, but cannot see the things of GOD. He also has ears, but he cannot hear GOD’s message. He has a heart, but it is a heart for the world. And until a man can come to the end of himself, he cannot possibly perceive, nor understand the things of GOD. He has no hope, and thereby, must continue to dwell in the darkness that he has become accustomed to living in. In order to receive and experience the full and eternal benefits of GOD’s plan for us, we must remain attached to the LIVING VINE, that is, CHRIST JESUS, while living in the world.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander