Friday, December 15, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday December 17, 2017

Over 145,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

FAITH TO PERSERVERE
(The power of the Gospel overcomes all opposition)
(Acts 14:8-28)

   After arriving in Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came across a lifelong cripple who had been born with his disability being in his feet. The cripple man was listening as Paul preached JESUS to the crowd who had gathered to hear them.
    Here in this passage we see Paul and Barnabas, preaching JESUS to a crowd of pagans, who lacked any Jewish background whatsoever, that they could appeal to, and yet, even in this atmosphere, Paul was able to take notice of this cripple man and realize he already had enough faith to be healed. And so Paul called out to the cripple man and commanded him to stand up. And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.
    When the crowd saw what Paul had done for the cripple man, they shouted aloud in their own local dialect, (a language that he and Barnabas could not understand), “These men are gods in human bodies!” they said. And so they had foolishly demised that Paul was the Greek god Hermes, because he was the chief speaker, and Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus.
    There was a temple that was already built for Zeus worship, located just outside the city of Lystra, and the priests of that temple, and the people of Lystra  began bringing oxen and wreaths of flowers, and prepared themselves to give sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas at the city gates.
    The worship of the idol gods Zeus and Hermes in that area can be traced back to an age-old legend about the two gods coming to earth in disguise, and none of the residents of Lycaonia were willing to show them any hospitality. Finally, an old peasant couple by the names of Philemon and Baucis took them in. As a result, this couple was made the guardians of the temple of Zeus, and when they died, they were turned into two great trees by the idol god. The rest of the people of Lycaonia were killed for refusing to lend hospitality to the two gods. This time the highly religiously superstitious people were determined not to make the same mistake as their predecessors had.
    When Paul and Barnabas heard about what the people were planning to do, they tore their clothes in dismay, and rushed down to stop them. They explained to the crowd that they were only human, just like them, and that they only came to preach the Gospel of CHRIST so that they might refrain from just such idol worship and worthless things. Even after the pair explained certain facts about GOD to them, they could scarcely restrain the people from trying to sacrifice to them.  
    About that time some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and turned the worshipful crowd into a murderous mob, and they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city and left him for dead. The next day Paul and Barnabas left Lystra for Derbe where they hoped that they could, perhaps, preach to a more rational, less hostile audience.

PAUL AND BARNABAS RETURN TO ANTIOCH OF SYRIA
Acts 14:21-28
   In Acts 14:21-28, we see that, after preaching the Good News about CHRIST to the people of Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch of Syria, the missionary branch of the early Christian Movement. It had been a mission that was very successful, despite the severe persecutions and rigors of their travels by land and by sea. And even though Paul had been nearly stoned to death in their initial visit to Lystra, near the end of their journey, they persisted in their charge from the HOLY SPIRIT, and he actually got up and went right back into Lystra, before returning back to their base at Antioch of Syria.
    Barnabas and Paul (Saul) were sent out by the HOLY SPIRIT to serve and to grow the Church of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, and it is in that same SPIRIT that we Christians operate today when we commit ourselves to the work of CHRIST. The early church had many struggles and persecutions, and Barnabas and Paul warn of that fact to the Church, at the end of this maiden journey. They also encouraged the believers to continue on in the faith, and reminded them that, in order to enter into the kingdom of GOD, we, like JESUS, must go through many trials tribulations along the way.
    During their maiden missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas appointed many elders, and planted and established many branches of the Christian Church along the way. There was also much praying and fasting done, before turning those men over to GOD, WHO was faithful to empower them in every area of their ministry.
    When Paul and Barnabas had arrived back at Antioch, they called the Church together and told the congregation about all of the things that GOD had done for, and with them on their trip, including how HE had opened the doors of faith also to the Gentiles in every city and town that they visited.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website






Friday, December 8, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday December 10, 2017

Over 144,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

FAITH IN THE HOLY SPIRIT TO PROVIDE US WITH DISCERNMENT
(Barnabas and Saul (Paul) are sent out by the HOLY SPIRIT)
(Acts 13:1-12)

   In Acts 13:1-3 we see that the Church at Antioch of Syria had become the base of operations for Barnabas, Saul (the Apostle Paul), and other missionaries. And, even though the Church at Jerusalem was still the mother Church of the Christian movement, the missionary branch of the Church became the Church at Antioch.
    Here in the opening lines of this chapter, Luke gives us a vivid description of the background diversity of the leading men in the Church at Antioch. First of all, we see Barnabas, a Jew from the island of Cyprus, who had become known as “the enabling encourager” by those in the early Christian Church. He played a major role in persuading the Mother Church at Jerusalem to accept the Apostle Paul into their confidence after his conversion on the road to Damascus.
    Then we see Simeon, who was also a Jew, but was called by his Latin nickname “Niger”, because of his dark complexion. This Latin name may also indicate to us, as to how he moved in Roman circles. He was most likely very well known to the local Gentile converts around Palestine.
    Then there is Lucius, who was from Cyrene, a country in northern Africa. And there was also Manaen, a man with royal clout, who had been raised with Herod Antipas, the king who had John the Baptist beheaded during the time of CHRIST’s earthly ministry. Manaen had become a disciple of JESUS’ after Herod’s shameful treatment of CHRIST during HIS trials at Jerusalem.
    And finally, there is Saul, a Jew who had been trained for Rabbinical work by the institutions of men, and then, was converted by CHRIST that faithful day on the road to Damascus (Acts chapter 9). He would later become the face of the Christian movement in its infancy, and the author of 13 books in the New Testament.
    As these faithful men were praying and fasting one day, the HOLY SPIRIT, as HE often gave directives to GOD’s leaders in those days, came to them, and instructed that they separate Barnabas and Saul for a special task that GOD had called them to do. It was to be the first of Paul’s, now famous, “Missionary Journeys”, and it would include a circuit through the province of Asia Minor, and a voyage to Barnabas’ homeland, of the island of Cyprus. Cyprus was a Roman province, famous for its copper mines, and shipbuilding industry, and it was only fitting that Barnabas might first want to preach JESUS to his own people in his own hometown.
    And so, taking up at verse 4, we see Barnabas and Saul, under the influence of the HOLY SPIRIT, set sail and go down, first, to the seaport known as Seleucia, and from there, they sailed to Barnabas’ home country, the island of Cyprus. Upon their arrival in Cyprus, they first visit the town of Salamis where they went into the Jewish synagogues to preach JESUS, taking young John Mark with them to assist them.
    From there the men worked their way across the island preaching from town to town until they reached Paphos where they met a Jewish sorcerer who called himself, Bar-Jesus, which means “son of Jesus” in the Hebrew (“Elymas” in the Greek). Elymas had endeared himself to Sergius Paulus, the governor of the island, and had obtained considerable influence over him at that time.
    The governor invited Barnabas and Saul to meet with him because he wanted to hear the new Gospel that they were teaching on the island. However, Elymas interfered, in an effort to turn away the governor’s interest in the Christian Faith, and urged him to pay no heed to what Barnabas and Saul were teaching.
    Then Saul, who was coming to be known as “Paul” at this time, became filled with the HOLY SPIRIT and looked Elymas in the eyes and said, “You “son of the devil”, full of every sort of trickery and villainy, enemy of all that is good, will you never stop perverting the true ways of the LORD? And now the LORD has laid HIS hand of punishment upon you, and you will be stricken awhile with blindness” (Vs.10-11) (NLT).
    Instantly a mist and darkness fell upon Elymas, and he began wandering around begging someone to take his hand and lead him. The governor was very impressed when he saw what had happened to Elymas, and he was even more impressed about what he had learned that day from Barnabas and Paul, about the LORD JESUS CHRIST.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website






Friday, December 1, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday December 3, 2017

Over 144,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

FAITH IN JESUS
(Peter preaches in the Temple)
(Acts 3:11-26)

   In Acts chapter 2, after the HOLY SPIRIT came down from Heaven on Pentecost Day, we saw Peter step forward and deliver the first sermon ever preached in a Christian Church. And now, here in Acts chapter three, verses 1-8, we see Peter healing a man who had been crippled for forty years. The man had come to the temple every day, apparently, having “low expectations from GOD”, because he only sought after alms that would merely allow him to exist in his present condition for one more day.
    Here we see Peter, along with John, in the name of JESUS, giving the man much more than he thought he could ever receive from GOD. Peter tells the man, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of JESUS CHRIST of Nazareth, rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6) (KJV).
    Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. As he did this, the man’s feet and anklebones were healed and strengthened. The man got up and began to walk, and not only did he walk, he even began to leap and praise GOD, as he entered into the Temple with Peter and John.
    This miracle fulfilled the prophesy of Isaiah, as it is recorded in Isaiah 35:6, where it says, “Then shall the lame man leap as an hart” (KJV). It was an undeniable miracle, because everyone, including the leading priests and Pharisees, had seen this cripple man sit at the gate called “Beautiful” and beg for alms for many years.
    When all the people saw the once-lamed man walking and praising GOD, they were absolutely astounded. They all rushed over to “Solomon’s Colonnade” to take a closer look, where he was tightly clinging to Peter and John, who had given him the power and authority of JESUS to walk again into the Temple. 
    Now, as the crowd began to grow, Peter sees an opportunity to address those in the Temple who had just witnessed the miracle that was performed on the lame man. They too, like that man, had probably came to the church daily, having low expectations concerning what GOD could do for them. Peter asks them in verse 12, “Why marvel ye at this? Or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? (KJV)
    Peter goes on to tell the crowd of people that it was “The GOD of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and, the GOD of our fathers, WHO hath glorified HIS SON JESUS”, by allowing us to perform this miracle (Vs. 12-16). In other words, the very name of JESUS had, quite literally, healed this man. It was nothing more than faith in JESUS’ name that had caused this man’s healing right before their very eyes. We, as Christians, can all do a lot better in life if we will raise our expectations of what GOD can do for us, whenever we have faith, and trust in HIM.
    As Peter began to “sermonize” his thoughts, he first tells them how he could relate to their rueful feelings about the things that they had said and done to JESUS out of ignorance, while HE lived and taught before them. He reminded them that even their leaders reacted in the same harsh and deadly way toward our LORD and SAVIOR. They all participated fully in rejecting JESUS, and turning HIM over to Pontius Pilate, who, wanted badly to release HIM. Peter tells them that they all chose instead to release a legitimate criminal (Barrabas), and kill “THE AUTHOR OF LIFE” (JESUS). 
    However, through it all, it was really GOD’s Will being played out, as HE was merely fulfilling what HE had told HIS prophets to declare centuries ago, concerning the sufferings of the MESSIAH, HIS SON. Even Moses had spoken of JESUS when he declared in Deuteronomy 18:18, that, “The LORD your GOD will raise up a PROPHET like me from among your own people. Listen carefully to everything HE tells you” (NLT). Moses went on to say that, “Anyone who will not listen to that PROPHET will be cut off from GOD’s people and utterly destroyed” (Deuteronomy 18:19 - NLT).
    From the time of Samuel, every prophet spoke about the things that were happening in the days surrounding the birth, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and post-ascension of CHRIST JESUS. And Peter reminded them that they were the children of those prophets, and were included in the covenant promise of GOD that was delivered by JESUS personally, and then, signed in HIS OWN blood. When GOD sent CHRIST JESUS to earth, HE sent HIM, first, to the children of Israel (the Jews), and they failed to listen.
    Peter then urges the crowd, that, with all being said and done, it was now time for them to repent and turn from their sins, and turn to GOD for spiritual healing. Then, and only then, will their souls be made fresh again, so that they can receive the MESSIAH upon HIS return. But until then, JESUS will remain in Heaven, sitting at the right hand of the FATHER, waiting on HIS new orders to return and “restore all things” (“apocatastasis”) back to perfection under GOD (v.21).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website


Friday, November 24, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday November 26, 2017

Over 143,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

PROMISES TO REMEMBER
(Focus on JESUS and remember HIS sacrifice)
(1 Corinthians 11:23-34)

   The words “in remembrance”, that JESUS uses in HIS instituting of the LORD’s Supper, dates back to the Old Testament concept of “Zikkaron” (Zik-ka-rone). Zikkaron is a Festival, Practice, or an Object, that is used to symbolically link future generations to “a distinctive act of GOD” from the past. The name derives from the Hebrew word “zikrown” (zik-rone), which means “a memento, or memorable thing, day, or writing”.
    Through the Zikkaron, GOD’s people could sense their personal participation along with their ancestors, the original generation, in a special act that GOD had performed for them. Thus the LORD’s Supper is a unique institution of sacrament that is intended by GOD to link all generations to the memory of CHRIST JESUS’ vicarious sacrifice.
    Some of those in the Corinthian Church were totally missing the significance of the LORD’S Supper. Instead of making it a shared time in holy sacrament in CHRIST, they were treating it as if it were a dinner party that was dedicated to one of the pagan deities that they used to worship in former times. 
    The New Covenant is mentioned many times in the Old Testament, and it is spelled out quite clearly by GOD, in Jeremiah 31:31-34. JESUS came to usher in that new Covenant from GOD. It is a Covenant that is far superior to any before, or since, that time. This New Covenant provides for the regeneration of mankind spiritually, and allows for us to be indwelt by the HOLY SPIRIT, when we come to believe in JESUS CHRIST. The bread, which we eat at the sacrament, is common bread, but for those who have the heart to feel and understand the purpose and work of GOD, it is the very body of CHRIST JESUS.
    In the Gospel according to Luke, as expressed in chapter 22, in verse 22, in his original Greek writings, the word Luke uses in JESUS’ statement, that translates “determined”, is “horizo” (hor-id-zo). Luke is the only author in Scripture who uses this particular word for “determined”, and he uses it only here, and in Acts 17:26. In both places it means “decreed by GOD”, and is meant to remind us, from a “time-bound perspective”, that JESUS’ death represented a miscarriage of justice, and that, from GOD’s point of view, it was the keystone of HIS plan to, not only provide salvation, but to also, set all things right before HIM.
    In Exodus 24:1-8, the Israelites accepted GOD’s Covenant, as it had been given to Moses on Mount Sinai. The continuance of that Covenant depended on man keeping his pledge and obeying the laws of GOD. But man would not then, and quite frankly, will not now, abide by such a Covenant, because our sin continuously interrupts our relationship with GOD. It took the life of CHRIST to restore that lost relationship of friendship with GOD.
    “This do in remembrance of me”, is what JESUS said to HIS Disciples. However, it is also a statement that comes to us, from across the spans of time, in hopes that we too, can share in HIS new Covenant. JESUS knew how quickly the human mind would forget. HE knew that we would become so pre-occupied with our own worldly affairs and agenda, that, eventually, we would fail to recall HIS vicarious sacrifice. And so, HE invites us to, come in sometimes, into the peace and tranquility, of HIS FATHER’s House, and to “Do this in remembrance of HIM”.
    It stands as all the more tragic that, at that very table on that Passover night, in a dimly lit upper room, somewhere in the midst, of the festive atmosphere of Jerusalem, that there sat one, who was a traitor (Judas), who would sell JESUS out for the price of a common slave, which was thirty pieces of silver at that time.
    Since the birth of the New Covenant, at every Communion table, there are those who will betray JESUS. If, in HIS House, we pledge ourselves to HIM, and then, go out and fail to reflect HIS image to others through our own behavior, then we too, like Judas Iscariot, have become traitors to HIS cause.
    Unlike JESUS, we don’t know when our “last supper” will be. It is the “Will of GOD” that man not know, what his time, place, or method of demise will be. However, like JESUS, we can all become great preparers, and begin to store up our treasures in a place that JESUS says, “has been prepared for us, from the foundation of this World”. That place that Luke, Paul, and other New Testament writers call, in the Greek, “Paradeisos” (Par-ad-i-sos), but we call, “the Kingdom of Heaven”.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander






Friday, November 17, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday November 19, 2017

Over 143,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

JESUS, THE MEDIATOR OF THE NEW COVENANT
(A call to listen to GOD)
(Hebrews 12)

   In Hebrews chapter 12, the author of GOD gives us a remarkably vivid description and summary of the Christian life, and, shows us the attitude we should have, as we aspire to obtain our goal of becoming more like CHRIST. In the Greek, the word used for “discipline” is “paideia” (pahee-di-ah), and it is “education or training”. It also means “to nurture, instruct, or chasten”.
    The Christian life can be likened to a relay race. The people of faith, like the ones mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11, who have run before us, have passed on the baton, and now, they anxiously wait to see how we will carry on in the discipline that Christianity demands. As we run, we can look back and see how JESUS ran HIS race, and, at one and the same time, we can also look ahead, and see HIS exaltation at the finish line.
    JESUS, is our supreme example, and, HE is the “Author and Finisher” of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). A life that is void of testing from GOD is most likely going to be a life void of prayer, humility, holiness, and appreciation of what GOD has done for us. Tests from GOD are not made to make us fail, but rather, are made to make us better representatives of CHRIST, and Christianity, here on earth.
    Trials are what GOD uses to refine us, and prepare us for a life of eternity with HIM, in HIS kingdom. It takes a certain amount of discipline to become, and remain successful in the Christian race. When we take into account how much JESUS endured, we can realize that suffering and hardship are no excuse for us to give up and drop out of contention (Hebrews 12:3-15).
    If we fail to understand the love and purpose of GOD’s discipline, we are likely to become bitter, and miss out on GOD’s graceful intent. If we see our trials and difficulties in the perspective provided by GOD’s grace, we will be better able to understand and accept HIS discipline in our lives. Remember, Esau, who saw no value in spiritual things, ended up selling his birthright to GOD’s covenant promise, for a mere a bowl of stew. If we value only material things as he did, we too, are in danger of missing our blessings in the end (Hebrews 12:16-17).
    We, as Christians, are not people who meander along the paths of life in a totally oblivious manner. We are not like tourist, who, each night, return to the point where we started that previous morning. The Christian life is about going somewhere, and at the end of each day, we’ll do good to ask ourselves, “Have we gotten any closer to our goal of being more like CHRIST?” That should be the aspiration of every Christian, to, each day, become more and more like CHRIST.
    However, the Christian also has another inspiration. It is the inspiration of the “cloud of witnesses”, who have gone before us, and witnessed their confession to CHRIST, and now witness our performance from way on high. They are those people mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11, who personified faith during their Christian walk here on earth. They are those people like Moses, Abraham, and Noah, who have already claimed their crowns of victory.
    But, unfortunately, we Christians also have “a handicap”, and it is “the handicap and weight of our own sins”. It is very difficult to run a race, when you are carrying excess baggage. If we wish to travel far, it is much better to travel light. The burden of sin can weigh heavily on a person, who is trying to run the Christian race, or walk the Christian walk. It is paramount that we first discard the unnecessary things that hold us back, and what holds man back is sin. If we are to endure the Christian race to the finish, we must first learn to lighten our load of “sinful cargo” (behavior), and move away from our carnal desires (sin nature) (Hebrews 12:1).
    Our supreme example of faith and discipline is CHRIST JESUS HIMSELF. HE is also our companion along the way, and, HE is our goal at the end of the race. Remember, GOD’s kingdom will remain when the universe itself is shaken, and this old world itself will ultimately disappear. That is when one will truly appreciate how good it will be to be a citizen in the kingdom of Heaven.
    We should also remember that our trials, can and will, both refine us, and, help prepare us to dwell in eternity in the presence of THE ALMIGHTY GOD in Heaven, at the end of our Christian race. The motivation for pursuing holiness here and now, is the realization that, without it, no one can see GOD, or stand in the presence of GOD in the spiritual life that follows our stay here on earth. In other words, Christians must be, and will be, sinless when they see the LORD in Heaven.
    A person’s perception of GOD in this present life is the true measure of his or her holiness. In order to help us reach the state of holiness we need to achieve, GOD whips us into condition with his Holy discipline, and testing. When we fail to understand the love and purpose of GOD’s discipline, we are likely to become bitter towards HIM, and thereby, miss HIS unfailing grace. However, when we are able to see our trials and difficulties in the perspective of GOD’s grace, we are better able to accept HIS chastening.
    In Hebrews 12:14-29, the author calls for a renewed spiritual vitality among GOD’s people. It is a call to listen to GOD with a renewed interest in how HE wants us to live our lives here on earth. He also urges us to begin by trying to live in peace with one another, being a good example for those who have not yet reached your own stage of spiritual awareness, so that not even one of us will miss out on GOD’s special favor.
    We can also help others guard against going astray by being accountable to one another, making sure that the bitter root of immorality does not infiltrate the lives of ourselves, and, of those whom we are close to. Beginning in verse 18, the author of Hebrews gives us a final warning, as he vividly depicts with his writing, a clear picture of the situation on Mount Sinai, where the Old Covenant was given to the people in an awesome way that only GOD could stage.
    Here he describes the scene of that event as a place of flaming fire, darkness and gloom, and a whirlwind, as GOD delivered HIS laws to the Israelites. And they could hear an awesome trumpet blast accompanied by a voice with a message so terrible that they begged GOD to stop speaking. Even Moses was admittedly terrified by this awesome display of GOD’s power.
    However, in verse 22, the writer reminds the people that, that was then, and this is now. Now we fall under the protection of the New Covenant, which was ushered in by CHRIST JESUS, and the realities pertained to in it are even more impressive because they are Heavenly, and not only is there a Heavenly city, but there is also, both, angels, and, the spirits of those who have been redeemed and made perfect by the LORD.
    Ultimately, all created things will be removed by GOD. When Moses gave the law at the foot of Mount Sinai, the mountain itself burned with fire, and the surrounding plains shook uncontrollably. The fear that was felt by those who were present at that event will be nothing compared to what will be felt by those who cannot see spiritual realities through faith, and as a result, fail to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
    The Kingdom of Heaven is all that will remain after the universe itself is shaken apart, and all of creation disappears. We must see to it that we obey GOD, the ONE WHO is speaking to us. If the people of Israel didn’t escape the wrath of GOD when they refused to listen to Moses, GOD’s earthly messenger, then, how much more terrible it will be for those of us, in this day, who refuse to listen to CHRIST JESUS, WHO came directly from Heaven to warn us.
    And since GOD, through HIS tender mercies, has given us a choice to be redeemed, and spend eternity with HIM in Heaven, let us be thankful and begin worshipping HIM in spirit, and, in truth, with holy fear and reverence, because our GOD is truly a consuming fire.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website