Friday, March 25, 2016

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday March 27, 2016

Over 100,000 readers worldwide

(Our faith hinges on the risen CHRIST)
(Mark 16:1-8)

   The sins of Adam and Eve brought physical death. The Resurrection of CHRIST JESUS brought spiritual life. The Resurrection of CHRIST is the essence of the Christian Faith, and, it is the core of all the Apostle’s teachings. In the Greek, the word used for “resurrection” is “anastasis”, and in the spiritual sense, it is “a moral recovery of spiritual truth”. In the physical sense, it means, quite literally, “to stand up again”.
     JESUS’ death and resurrection are a symbol of how the giving of HIS life regenerated us, and made it possible for us, to be reconnected into a personal relationship of friendship with GOD the FATHER in Heaven. HE is the bridge that gave us direct access to GOD, for the first time since the days of Adam and Eve, and HE continues to act as that bridge even today.
    In Mark 16:1-8, Matthew 28:1-8, Luke 24:1-12, and John 20:1-20, the respective authors of GOD, give their accounts of the Resurrection story of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST. They collectively tell us that at dawn, on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene, Salome, Mary, (the mother of James and Joseph), Zebedee’s wife (the mother of James and John), and Joanna went to the tomb of JESUS.
    They knew where the body of JESUS had been laid, because they had seen Joseph of Arimathea, who’s tomb was being used to bury JESUS, and Nicodemus, together, roll the stone over the door of the tomb a day earlier (Matthew 27:61, Luke 23:55, John 19:39-42). The women had returned, on this Sunday after the Sabbath was over, to anoint JESUS’ body for burial (Mark 16:1-2).
    Matthew records that there was a great earthquake associated with an angel of the LORD, who came down from Heaven and rolled away the stone from the entrance of the Sepulcher. The Roman soldiers, who were guarding the tomb, became so frightened that they fainted.
    The angel, who appeared like lightning, was garbed in clothing that was as white as snow. He proceeded to issue a proclamation to the women, that, JESUS had risen as HE had said HE would. He invited them to come into the tomb and see for themselves, and then, instructed them to go and tell HIS Disciples the good news, and to meet HIM in Galilee as pre-planned.
    As the women were hurrying along to tell the Disciples what had happened, JESUS suddenly appears before them. Upon hearing HIS greeting, the women recognized JESUS and immediately fell at HIS feet and begin to worship HIM. It is all together fitting that these women should be the first to receive the news of the risen LORD, and then, actually see HIM. They had been faithfully there, at the cross, and they had also been there when HE was laid in the tomb. Now, they were receiving their reward, by becoming the first people on earth to witness, and experience the joy, of the Resurrected CHRIST.
    In the Greek, the word used for “greetings”, or “hail” is “chairo” (khah-ee-ro), and it means to “be cheerful; be glad and rejoice”. In Matthew 28:6-9, we see “the three great imperatives that govern the Christian Faith”. First we see the women being urged to “BELIEVE”, because in verse 6, we see the angel invites them to “see the empty tomb”.
    Secondly, they are instructed by the angel to “SHARE” the good news. In verse 7, the angel tells them to “go quickly and tell”. And thirdly, in verse 9, the first words, JESUS says to them is, “All Hail”, in the Greek “chairo”, which means, “REJOICE”.
    Any person, who has met and accepted CHRIST JESUS, will be able to live forever in the joy of HIS presence. They will be able to come to rest in the knowledge that, if they choose to believe on HIM, nothing can separate them from HIS saving Grace, and, eternal life in Heaven.
    No man can give you that kind of religion. For, it is something that only GOD can do. Christianity is the only true religion, because it is the only religion that is a product of GOD’s mind. Through the Birth, Ministry, Passion, Death, and Resurrection of JESUS CHRIST, GOD is saying to us, that HE loves us, with an everlasting love that can withstand all the suffering that this world has to offer. Amen.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

Friday, March 18, 2016

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday March 20, 2016

Over 100,000 readers worldwide

(Struggling with faith)
(Mark 14:27-31 & 66-72)

   H.G. Welles once wrote, “A man can be a bad musician, and yet, be passionately in love with music”. In Mark chapter 14, verses 26-31, JESUS foretells of an event that was, quite literally, hours away from realization. There HE tells of a time, very shortly, when all of HIS closest disciples would desert HIM and run away in fear of man. Indeed the Scripture was about to be fulfilled that said, “GOD will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered”.
    Here in this passage JESUS discloses to HIS closest followers, that they will all desert HIM and flee, after HIS betrayal by Judas Iscariot, and HIS arrest by the Jewish hierarchy in Jerusalem. However, JESUS offers them hope as HE also tells them that HE will be raised from the dead by GOD the FATHER three days later, and that, HE would then go ahead of them, and meet them in Galilee. The Apostle Peter strongly rebuked JESUS’ statements to them and insisted quite vehemently that, “Not even if I have to die with you! I will never deny you!”  
    However, sometimes when a man says, “That’s the one thing that I will never do”, that’s the very thing he needs to constantly guard against doing. Satan often attacks a person at a point where they are most sure of themselves, because he knows that it is there, where they are most likely to be unprepared.
    The shame of failure and disloyalty to a friend or loved one is not all together a loss in that, it can give one a sense of sympathy and understanding that, otherwise, they may have never attained. “Do you love ME?” is what JESUS said to Peter, three times in John 21, and I guess, the only way that any of us can ever really prove our love for JESUS is by loving others. History now tells us that eventually, eleven of JESUS’ disciples really did die a horrible death for HIS sake. Only the Apostle John lived to a ripe old age and died a natural death. However, he was a man who spent his entire life showing the world how to live the examples of CHRIST.
     In John’s Gospel account he writes, that, after JESUS allowed the soldiers to arrest HIM, Peter and one of the other disciples followed them back into the city. John was the disciple who was known by the high priest, and thereby, he had access to the high priest’s courtyard. He was also able to gain permission for Peter’s entrance into the courtyard, from the lady who kept the door. However, the lady recognized Peter also as one of JESUS’ disciples, and when she inquired this of him, for the first time, he denied that he even knew JESUS.
   In mark 14:66-72 it is written that Peter was standing below the courtyard when this lady recognized him while he was warming himself at the fire. When she asked him if he was one of those who followed JESUS he told her, “I don’t know what you are talking about”, and as he spoke, he heard the rooster crow the first time. When the servant girl began telling the others, who were standing around the fire with Peter, that, he was definitely one of them with JESUS, Peter denied her allegations once again.
    Later on some of the other bystanders said to Peter, “Surely you must be one of them because you’re also from Galilee”. And then, for the third and final time, Peter denied knowing JESUS, by stating vehemently, “I swear by GOD, I don’t know this man you’re talking about”, and immediately after he spoke, he heard the sound of the rooster’s crow for a second time. Suddenly JESUS’ words flashed through his mind, and he broke down and cried like a baby.
    Here we see a very human, but somewhat complicated side of Peter. Only moments earlier he had been this brave, defiant defender of JESUS’, while in the garden of Gethsemane. Now, we see him cowering down under the pressure of the reality of what courage a man has to have in order to follow in the footsteps of CHRIST.
    Throughout the history of the Church, Christians have often faced martyrdom bravely, but there are perhaps even more times when they’ve buckled down under at the threat of death. Ironically, John, the other disciple didn’t seem to have a problem with being known as a follower of CHRIST. He was well known by the lady at the door, and the high priest, yet, he did not try to hide, or play the role of a secret Christian, but rather, he entered boldly into the temple to be near JESUS.
    It is said that “love” is the greatest privilege in the world, and yet, it brings with it, the greatest responsibility. For Peter, “love” brought a cross, and he truly did die for the LORD. In fact, Jewish tradition tells us that he requested to be hung upside down, because he felt himself to be unworthy to even die in the exact same manner as CHRIST. 
     And so, whenever we are struggling with our faith, we must remember the comeback from failure that Peter made. His love for JESUS eventually overcame his fear of man, and, of satan, and he went on to personify the concept of “the Rock” upon which JESUS CHRIST said HE would build HIS Church, and as JESUS promised, “the gates of Hell will not prevail against it”.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

Friday, March 11, 2016

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday March 13, 2016

Over 99,000 readers worldwide

(How bad do we want Salvation?)
(Mark 10:17-31)

   No one ever recognized the perils of prosperity and the desire for material things as clearly as JESUS did. Material things are what attach a person’s heart to this world. The more material things we gain, the more interest we seem to have in the world, and because of that interest, we find it more and more difficult to ever, even momentarily contemplate leaving this material world behind. In fact, it is those things that people have to leave behind that makes it most difficult for them to accept the inevitability of death.
    It is said, that, out of a hundred people that can stand “adversity”, only one of that hundred can stand “prosperity”. A person is judged by two standards when it comes to prosperity; one, is how they came about it, and the other, is how they choose to use it. Will we use it as if they have undisputed possession of it? Or, will we remember that we hold it in stewardship to GOD?
    With that being said, the question of this life ultimately becomes, “How bad do we want Salvation?” Do we want it bad enough to relinquish the people and things of this world? The rich young ruler here in Mark chapter 10, verses 17-31, as well as many of us, answer that question, in effect, when we say through our behavior, that, “I want it, but I don’t think I want it as much as all that”.
    It’s all about “Salvation”, and here in this passage JESUS sums up the whole doctrine of Salvation in a nutshell, when he says in effect, that, “if a person is to depend upon their own efforts, to achieve salvation, then, it is impossible for anyone. Salvation is a gift from GOD, and with GOD, all things are possible. If a person relies upon their own efforts, possessions, or riches, they can never be “saved”. However, if they rely upon the life giving power, and redeeming, “agape love” of CHRIST JESUS, they can enter, “for free”, into the kingdom of Heaven.
    That’s the thought that JESUS sought to provoke here in this passage, and that’s the very same thought that Paul, John, and all the New Testament writers wrote about, in all of their biblical literary efforts. And that thought still lingers in the minds of mature Christians today, because it goes to the very core, of the ideology of the Christian Faith.
    JESUS states in this passage that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. The disciples were astounded when they heard JESUS’ statement. In those days, and even now, a lot of people associate riches as being a sign of how blessed a person is, and, that that person must be walking closer with GOD, especially those rich individuals who are also heavy church goers.
    However, JESUS sought to put an end to that kind of foolish thinking that day, as HE and HIS disciples had stopped briefly, just east of the Jordan River, while making the long trip back to Jerusalem for the final time. Here JESUS makes it crystal clear that Salvation is not ours to earn, but rather, it is GOD’s to give away, and we are more likely to accept that gift, if we don’t lose our hearts, to the things of this world.
    A person’s heart can only be given to GOD when they manage to tear it away from this world. And unless we give our hearts to GOD, we can never accept HIS gift of Salvation. For, we must come to the end of ourselves, where JESUS is standing and waiting, before we can accept anything that HE has to offer us.
    Isn’t it funny how that works? “We have to “give” to “receive”, and we must first surrender, in order to obtain the victorious life that the vicarious sacrifice of CHRIST JESUS earned for us, over the world. What a divine concept that is. And guess WHO thought of it first. GOD!

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

Friday, March 4, 2016

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday March 6, 2016

Over 98,000 readers worldwide

(JESUS can help us overcome our unbelief)
(Mark 9:14-29)

   It was A. Victor Murry who wrote, “It doesn’t matter how high a man’s profession may be, it is by his actions that people judge him, and in judging him, they also judge his mentor”. In Mark chapter 9, verses 14-18, John Mark gives us an account of an argument involving the Scribes and some of JESUS’ disciples, as the Scribes take advantage of the disciple’s inability to cast out a Demon from a little boy. The Scribes, no doubt, were seeking to use this incident to try and deflect the ineptitude of JESUS’ Disciples, onto JESUS HIMSELF, as their leader.
    Here we see that, no sooner than JESUS, Peter, James, and John had come down from Mt. Hermon following JESUS’, now famous, Transfiguration, that they encounter this embarrassing controversy brewing between the Disciples and the Scribes. Here we get an opportunity to see how JESUS is not only ready to face HIS OWN impending death on the cross, but HE also shows us how HE remained ready to tackle the everyday problems of the World, that lay all along HIS journey, before, HE even got to the cross. We see here also, that, JESUS possessed a characteristic that allowed HIM to be able to give 100% of HIMSELF to each individual that HE happened to come in contact with.
    In this passage of the book of Mark (Vs. 19-29), we see just how JESUS chose to handle this heated debate. First, HE tells them in verse 19 to “Bring the boy unto me”. Then, JESUS states to the boy’s father, the condition, upon which all miracles must hinge. HE tells him in verse 23 that, “To him that believes, all things, are possible”.   
    In the Greek, the word used for faith is “pistis”, and it means to “rely upon with an “inward certainty”, and to “assent” to evidence of authority”. We see here that these people, including the Disciples, had not yet began to rely upon JESUS, with an inward certainty, and had not yet assented to all the evidence they had seen of JESUS’ authority from Heaven.
    Nevertheless, they brought the boy to JESUS, and when the evil spirit saw HIM, it threw the boy into a violent convulsion and made him fall to the ground writhing and foaming at the mouth. When JESUS asked the boy’s father how long this had been happening, the father said that it had been going on since he was a very small child. The demon often made the boy fall into water and fire, trying to kill him.
      We see throughout New Testament Scripture that JESUS never healed or removed demons from anyone who didn’t show that wanted to be made whole, through their faith. And in the case of children who had not yet reached an “age of accountability”, their parents always provided the “saving faith” that was needed to cure them. In verse the father provided the small measure of faith in JESUS that was needed to cure his son, when he told JESUS, “I do believe, but help me not to doubt”.
    And so we see that, based on that small measure of faith that was exhibited by the father, JESUS chose to go ahead and deal with the situation of healing the child right away, and thereby, HE removed all doubt that the boy’s father may have had about HIM, probably because of the ineptitude of HIS disciples, who had failed him earlier. JESUS then commanded the “spirit of deafness and muteness” to come out of the child and never return, and the evil spirit obeyed, even though he left the lad kicking and screaming.
    The boy lay motionless for a moment and even appeared to be dead, and many in the crowd even expressed as much openly. But JESUS took the boy by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he then stood under his own power. Afterwards when JESUS was alone with HIS disciples they asked HIM why couldn’t they cast out the demon that possessed the boy most of his young life. JESUS replied, this kind of exorcism can only be accomplished through prayer.
    Sometimes, as in the case of the boy’s father, we tend to get less than we expect from professed Christians in the Church, or from pastors and other leaders in the Church. However, when we call on CHRIST JESUS, WHO is the MASTER of the True Church, HE will never disappoint us, and will always upgrade our position and condition under GOD.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website