Friday, June 29, 2018

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday July 1, 2018

Over 164,000 readers worldwide

(Forgive others as GOD forgives us)
(Matthew 18:21-35)

   In the first century it was Rabbinic teaching that a person should grant “forgiveness” up to “three times”, for offenses that have been perpetrated upon them by others. Here in Matthew 18:21, Peter thought himself to be very generous when he suggests to JESUS, “seven times”, as an answer to his own question of, “LORD, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me?
    One can imagine how shocked Peter was when JESUS, a Rabbi HIMSELF, suggests the unheard number of, “70 times 7”, as being the proper amount of times to forgive a person for a single offense, if necessary. He felt for sure that, in his answer to his own question, he was extending grace plenty enough by “doubling” the suggested Rabbinic amount of “three times”, and then “adding one more for good measure”.
    However, in this passage, JESUS buttresses HIS own answer with an astounding parable that I will now attempt to put into perspective. Here JESUS relates the story of a servant who owes his king, by today’s American equivalency, “12 million dollars”. The king calls his servant in and demands immediate full payment of his debt. Naturally the servant couldn’t pay back such a large amount of debt, and so the master suggested that he sell off all of his assets, including his wife and children, in order to satisfy the debt.
    The servant pleaded and begged with his king to give him more time and he will eventually get him paid in full. Incredibly, the king felt such deep pity for his servant, that he actually forgave his debt in full, leaving him owing nothing but “a debt of gratitude”. Now, for any person, rich or poor, this would be considered as the ultimate blessing, and should have inspired any normal person, Christian or not, to want to extend that same kind of grace to someone else.
    However, in perhaps one of the most astounding turnabouts in the pages of biblical literature, the servant who had just been forgiven millions of dollars in debt, leaves the presence of his merciful king, and tracks down a fellow-servant who owes him the equivalence of less than 3000 dollars by today’s American standard. He, quite literally, grabs his fellow-servant by the throat, and demands instant payment of what he owed him. The fellow-servant fell to his knees begging for more time to pay off his debt, but the once “forgiven servant” would not grant it. Instead, he had his fellow-servant arrested and thrown in jail until his debt was fully paid.
    Some of the several servants, who witnessed the man’s actions, and who knew of the king’s mercy towards him, immediately went to the king and reported to him what had happened. The king, who became very irate after hearing the report, called the forgiven servant back into his presence, and revoked the previous mercy that he had shown him. The king then threw the servant into jail, pending payment of his entire debt of 12 million of dollars to him.
    JESUS states that this kind of action will be exacted upon anyone who denies mercy and forgiveness to their fellowman. GOD renders mercy and forgiveness to all of us, and HE expects us to emulate HIS behavior toward our fellowman, while we are here on earth.
    Just like the debt that had been amassed by the poor unforgiving servant in this passage, the debt that we owe to GOD the FATHER, JESUS CHRIST, and the HOLY SPIRIT, is indeed, “an unpayable one”. However, when make the decision to follow CHRIST JESUS and get on, and stay on “the lighted path to salvation” that HE has already blazed through this dark world for us, we, like JESUS, and through the power, teaching, and guidance of the HOLY SPIRIT, can overcome this world, just as HE did.
    The “SPIRIT”, and the “Bride” (the true Christian Church members), say come. However, satan, through the lure of his “sin nature” says the same. The HOLY of GOD will always try to lead us toward CHRIST JESUS. However, the acquired sin nature in us will always try to tug us back towards the world. The battle that goes inside of each of us, between “the reason to do right” (the HOLY SPIRIT), and “the passion to want to do wrong” (sin nature), stays with us, long after we accept the “free gift” of salvation. However, through our new found strength in CHRIST JESUS, we can eventually overcome the “gravitational pull” of this world, and find ourselves in “the ultimate happy ending”, that has been prepared for us by GOD, since the foundation of this world.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY DALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, June 22, 2018

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 24, 2018

Over 164,000 readers worldwide

(Reaping GOD’s justice)
(Luke 16:19-31)

   In Luke chapter 16, 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 indigence caused mostly by 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. However, the rich man in this parable refuses to render any help whatsoever to the needy Lazarus, and as a result of his mistreatment of those in need, he died and woke up, and found himself on the wrong side of the “great chasm” (in Hell) (v.26).
    Here in this passage we see that the rich man is portrayed as being fully conscious and aware of his surroundings while he sat suffering in the fires of Hell. We see that he is able to “see”, “hear”, “feel”, and “remember” very clearly, and besides, 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 the physical 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” (Vs.25-26 - NLT).
    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” (v.29). The man then said, “No father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will turn from their sins” (v.30). Abraham replied, “If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead” (v.31).
    Perhaps JESUS relates this parable to us to help show us that “being rich” has nothing to do with “being righteous”, and in fact, “riches” and “righteousness”, much more often than not, manifests themselves as being polar opposites in the real world. One, like the rich man in this story, lives in complete luxury, perhaps desiring to interact only with his peers, while the other man, Lazarus, lives with abject poverty, hunger, and poor health as his daily challenge. Such a person is much more likely to turn to help from GOD, by way of the mercy and grace of their fellowman.
    None of us were put here, as “a man alone on an island”, who, can depend only on himself for survival. GOD put us here to survive by depending on each other, and interacting with other, and from the enlightment that we receive from closely associating with each other, we can readily react to each other’s needs in a positive way, sometimes without being asked, or told. When we show that we care for each other, we show that we love GOD, WHO made us in HIS OWN “spiritual image” (Genesis 1:26).
    In the biblical Greek, the name “Lazarus” means “GOD the Helper” and so maybe JESUS chose this name, not because of one of HIS best friends (Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, whom JESUS would later raise from the dead), but rather, because the character HE was trying to depict (who very well may have been a real person whom JESUS had met) was a poor man who had decided to depend on GOD for his daily provisions, even unto his death.
    Ultimately, and, ironically, the rich man’s “walls of his house” became the “great chasm” that helped prevent Lazarus from receiving “physical salvation”, and he himself, from receiving “spiritual salvation”. I say this because, here, Scripture says that Lazarus lay, quite literally, at the rich man’s front door (v.20), perhaps on his front porch even, and the rich man never tried shooing him away, asking him in, or sending him something out to eat. Instead, he just simply must have stepped over, or walked around him day by day, either just ignoring what his eyes had seen, or taking enjoyment, or mocking, at “Lazarus’ inferior position in life”, all the way up until the time he died and was carried away by angels of GOD.
    After the rich man met his physical demise, he found himself in a place called “Hell” (“Sheol” in the Hebrew, “Hades” in the Greek”), in “total conscience torment”, in “his spiritual life” after death. He was residing directly across “a great chasm” that “separated” himself from Lazarus, the man whom he had daily refused to give alms to on his own front porch.
    Lazarus, on the other hand, was now residing in the comforts of Heaven at Abraham’s side. He was enjoying a “spiritual life” after death that is prepared by GOD, only for those who are obedient to, and dependant on HIM, in their “physical” lifetimes. Just think of how many people, who could have gone to Heaven, who have actually “read” or “heard” the “Word of GOD” since JESUS was raised from the dead, but 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 “hear” (receive the Word of GOD into our heart spiritually), and then HE demands that we “do” (live the Word of GOD with our physical bodies). Knowledge does not become relevant until it is, first, “put into action”. In GOD, “knowledge must become action”, “theory must become practice”, and then “theology can become life”.
    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” that HE has also blessed us with. In addition, that compassion, which governs GOD’s OWN nature that is embodied in each of us, was demonstrated to us, quite vividly, and, quite thoroughly, by CHRIST JESUS in HIS lifetime, here on earth. And so, here in the so-called “Church Age”, all we need to do is, “follow HIM”.

A Sunday school by,
Larry D. Alexander   

                                           LARRY DALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, June 15, 2018

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 17, 2018

Over 164,000 readers worldwide

(Don’t let human traditions be a substitute for honoring GOD)
(Matthew 15:1-20)

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

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, June 8, 2018

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 10, 2018

Over 163,000 readers worldwide

(GOD’s Kingdom grows despite earthly obstacles)
(Matthew 13:24-43)

   One of the main differences between the “Church” and the “Kingdom of Heaven” is that the Church includes both “saved” and “unsaved” people alike, whereas the Kingdom of Heaven will only be populated with those who are saved, and so too will the earthly “Millennial Kingdom” of CHRIST be. Here in Matthew 13, JESUS provides us with several parables that witness of that fact, as now we see a very distinct turning point in HIS ministry here on earth.
    Up until this point JESUS had done much of HIS teaching in the synagogue, but now because of open opposition from the Pharisees, Sadduces, and Scribes, the doors to the Church were slowly being closed to HIM. And even though HE was still being welcomed by the common folks of the congregation, the hierarchy of Judaism was beginning to search for ways to discredit HIM, and were, more and more, dead set on trying to trap HIM in HIS words.
    Taking up at verse 24, JESUS relates the parable of the farmer who planted good seeds of wheat in his field. That night, however, while everyone slept, his enemy came and planted weeds all among the wheat that he had sowed.
    As the crop began to grow, the farmer came to the realization that he had a “weed problem” to contend with in his field, however, instead of disturbing and running the risk of destroying his wheat crop, he decided to let the wheat grow to maturity among the weeds, and then, just prior to the harvest, remove the weeds without doing any damage to the valuable wheat that was needed for food and nourishment.
    After the crop ripened and became ready for harvesting, the harvesters first removed the weeds from the wheat field and burned them. Then, they harvested all of the wheat from the field and stored it safely within a barn.
     This parable by JESUS paints a vivid picture to those who were familiar with Palestinian farm life. The weeds, or “tares” depicted in this story were one of the most hated problems that a farmer had to contend with in his labors. These particular weeds, called “bearded darnel”, in their early stages, very much resembled wheat, and in fact, it was extremely difficult to distinguish between the two at that point in their growth. However, once they matured, the task of distinguishing became very easy, and so a farmer would be wise to wait until then to separate the two.
    Sandwiched in between “the parable of the wheat and tares” and its explanation, we find two other short parables, one of the “Mustard seed”, not the smallest seed, but rather, it was the smallest of all the seeds for gardening in Palestine in those days, and was often used in the proverbial sense to describe something very tiny. And, there is also “the Illustration of the Yeast”, which explains how a very trace amount of something can become a very large influence in life, or have a huge affect on life as a whole.
    In the parable of the Mustard seed, JESUS imparts to us a fact that has been historically proven over all of time, and that is, “great things always begin small”. The Mustard seeds of Palestine were likened unto that, as they often grew into 10 to 12 feet plants. And so we can see here that this parable is not an exaggeration by JESUS, by any stretch of the imagination.
    The Kingdom of GOD had come into the world through the presence of JESUS. Christianity would start with one MAN, but would catapult into a major religion before the end of the first century. This was one of the most personal parables that JESUS ever spoke, however, HE wanted HIS small group of young men to realize the challenge they were up against, and HE also wanted them to know that with GOD, all things were possible.
    There would be no room for discouragement. Each man had to first serve as one witness in every place that they went. And from all those small beginnings in each place, the influence of CHRIST would grow, until all the kingdoms on earth, have become Kingdoms of GOD.
    The parable of the yeast can be likened to the illustration of the mustard seed, as only a very small amount of leaven is needed to make bread rise. The amount applied may be small, but its influence on the way things turn out is tremendous. Christianity had small beginnings, but in the end its influence, the transforming power of CHRIST, will overcome the world, just as HE did.
    In the end, man will not be judged by any “single act”, or even “stage”, of his life, but rather, we will be judged by the whole of our lives. For, that is why GOD reserves judgment until the end, and not at the beginning. The parable of the wheat and tares serves to teach us that lesson. The world is full of both good and bad people, and sometimes, because of hypocrisy (play acting) it is difficult to tell which is which. However, if we wait and observe for long enough, eventually they will both, through their actions, help us to identify, just who they really are.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


Friday, June 1, 2018

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 3, 2018

Over 162,000 readers worldwide

(Mercy is more important than human rules)
(Matthew 12:1-14)

   Human need must always take precedence over ritual law, and even the Pharisees, who vehemently opposed JESUS, had always taught that people should adhere to that principal. Strangely, however, when JESUS applied this same principal in their presence, over and over again they acted as if HE were violating GOD’s Will by attending to the needs of the people.  
    One Sabbath day when JESUS and HIS disciples were walking through some wheat fields, HIS disciples begin to  pick off some of the heads of the wheat, rub off the husk with their hands, and eat them. A group of Pharisees, who were spying on them, begin to rebuke them for their actions. “Your disciples shouldn’t be doing that! It’s against the law to work by harvesting grain on the Sabbath” they cried.
    Here in this passage the disciples were being scrutinized and rebuked by Israel’s religious hierarchy for several actions that they deemed to be contrary to the Word of GOD, and as forbidden work on the Sabbath. Here they actually cite these four, rather ridiculous, violations against JESUS’ disciples;

·          Reaping (by picking the wheat),
·         Threshing (by rubbing the husk from the wheat in their hands),
·          Winnowing (by tossing the husk in the air to let it blow away), and, believe it or not,
·         Preparing their food on the Sabbath (the very fact that they then ate the wheat that they picked).  

    In verses 3-5 JESUS reminds these teachers of religious law of what King David did when he and his companions were hungry (1 Samuel 21:1-6), and they went into the House of GOD and ate the special “showbread” (the Bread of Presence) that was reserved for the priests only. There they took the twelve loaves of special bread that was placed weekly on the Sabbath, on a table made of solid gold, three feet long, eighteen inches wide, and nine inches high, and he ate it, and gave some to his men. In that particular incident, David’s “human need” took precedence over “their religious rules and regulations”, HE cited, and then, JESUS exclaimed, “I, the SON OF MAN, am master even of the Sabbath”.
    I’ve often said, that, it is extremely important that man approach the Scriptures with an open mind, and time and time again, it was clearly demonstrated by the Pharisees that they did not come to GOD, with an open mind. Despite all of their deep studies, somehow, they regularly seemed to miss the moral and spiritual message that is comprised in GOD’s Word. It is something that has become the absolute downfall of leadership in the professed Christian Churches, even here in the twenty-first century. So often, man has come to Scriptures, not to learn of GOD’s Word, but rather, to find their own theology, within GOD’s Word.
    Man has long sought a god that is made in his own image, instead of desiring to serve and worship the GOD, WHO made us in HIS. When we come to GOD’s Word with no sense of need, we always miss the most profound importance of its meaning. Here in this passage of Scripture, once again, we see these leaders of religion in Israel, doing just that.
   Taking up at verse 9, on yet another Sabbath day when JESUS was teaching in the synagogue, we see a man with a deformed hand catch HIS attention. The teachers of religious law closely watched JESUS to see what HE would do, because they were eager to find some legal charge to bring against HIM.
    JESUS, knowing their thoughts, said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand here where everyone can see you”. After the man came up, JESUS said to HIS critics, “I have a question for you. Is it legal to do good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing harm? Is this a day to save a life, or to destroy it? (Luke 6:8-9)
    JESUS intently looked around at each of them, one by one, and then said to the man with the deformed hand, “Reach out your hand”. The man reached out his hand and it became normal again. The religious leaders became very angry, and they began to discuss among each other what they should do about JESUS.
    In these passages of Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospel accounts, conflict with the religious hierarchy in Israel over Sabbath-keeping heats to a boil. Their emphasis on ceremonial observances has clearly distorted what GOD’s intent was on giving man a Sabbath day of rest. They, perhaps unwittingly, had set aside the more important issue of caring for the needs of others.
    JESUS clearly understood that the man in question was not in a life-or-death situation, however, what JESUS is demonstrating and expressing here is that, anything that impairs the quality of human life, as GOD intended it to be, does, over time, destroy life altogether. When we fail to set right, those things that impair the quality of life, we, in effect, show disrespect to GOD’s greatest gift, which is life itself. And besides, JESUS tells us that, when HE returns, HE is going to judge us according to how we reacted to “human need”, in our lifetime (Matthew 25:31-46).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander