Friday, January 23, 2015

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday January 25, 2015

Over 71,000 readers worldwide
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WE SHOULD PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER
(Pray in all situations)
(James 5:13-20)

Suffering (in the Greek, kakopathei) is allowed in our lives, because GOD wants to elicit, or evoke, our prayers in times of need. Sufficiency (in the Greek, hikanotes) is given to us, because GOD wants to elicit, or evoke, our praise in times of great blessings. Prayer can remove our affliction, or, it can obtain for us, the grace we need to endure in, and through, our suffering.
The experience of our suffering can give us the patient endurance we need in order to accomplish GOD’s will in this life for us, and, for those whom GOD wishes for our lives to touch. GOD balances our lives by giving us “times of suffering” that “brings us to prayer”, and, “times of blessings” which “should bring us to singing of praises”. Praying and singing are just as important to today’s church as it was to the church in the first century.
In James chapter 5, James concludes his letter of instructions to the early Christian church by emphasizing the power we can all obtain and share over our afflictions through a healthy prayer life. This passage, that strongly links prayer, sickness, church elders, anointing with oil, and confession of sin, has fascinated Christians for centuries. There are several things that come into focus in this passage, just as it does throughout this wonderful letter of church doctrine that goes a long ways toward helping us to mature as Christians.
In verse 15, the Greek word James uses in his original Greek writing for “sick” is “kamnonia”, and it is actually “weariness caused by a moral, and or, spiritual deficit in one’s life”. First of all James tells us that prayer is very much needed during sickness, both of a physical, and spiritual nature. And whenever such sicknesses come, it is the role of the elders in the church to pray for them. Prayer is primary, and anointing with oil is secondary, in dealing with human afflictions.
In the first century, oil was the most common ingredient used in medical treatments. In verse 14 the Greek verb used by James to describe the use of oil in this function is “aleipsantes” and it means “to smear on, or rub on with oil”. Thus this verse teaches us that we need application of both prayer and normal medical treatment to heal our sicknesses. We know this because, if James had meant anointing in a sacramental sense, he would have used the word “chrio”, which means “to anoint ceremonially”.
Then there is “confession”, which is important should sin be the cause of one’s own illness. In this case discipline would be the correct action to take. And since confession and prayer are associated with good spiritual health, it is important for Christians to be sensitive to those times when they sin, and develop a practice of confessing their sins, not just to GOD WHO already knows, but also to each other, who may or may not know, and then, we should all pray for each other.
The, prayers of a righteous person, or, a person who is in a right relationship with GOD, is truly a powerful weapon against human afflictions and sicknesses. Each of us can be a wonderful resource for the other, if we try and live our lives according to GOD’s directives. And each of us can help the other guard against going astray when our behavior reflects the ways of CHRIST.
When a person strays, we are expected, by GOD, to reach out and turn that person back to a life that is lived according to GOD and HIS Word. And historically, we can all be inspired by the likes of Job, and take comfort in his great example to us, of suffering, and being able to emerge into an experience of GOD’s mercy.
As we persevere through suffering, we must strive to stay focused on GOD, WHO can deliver us through it all. And steadfastly, we have to remain committed to living and telling the truth. That way, we can all be certain that the great and powerful JUDGE, CHRIST JESUS, WHO is standing at the door waiting, will encourage us, and comfort us, for all time and eternity. GOD does not promise that we won’t have nightmares, but, what HE does promise is that, when we do, HE will be there to hold us tightly and comfort us.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website




Friday, January 16, 2015

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday January 18, 2015

Over 71,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

JESUS INTERCEDES FOR US
(JESUS understands and intercedes for us)
(Hebrews 4:14-5:10)

In Hebrews chapters 4:14-5:10, the author seeks to show us how JESUS easily qualifies to fulfill the essentials of the priesthood, as they are defined by GOD. He thinks of the compassion of CHRIST as being far richer than the gentleness he ascribes to other high priests.
GOD declared and called CHRIST to be a Priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. Earthly Priests were from the Levite line of Aaron, the line that was appointed by GOD to serve in the priesthood here on earth. Melchizedek, an obscure figure in Scriptures, was both a king and a Priest (Genesis 14:18-20), who ruled in Salem (now Jerusalem), during the time of Abraham.
Old Testament accounts make no mention of Melchizedek’s father or mother. He seems to be without genealogy and, where his life begins, or ends, is unknown. However, there is one thing that is certain, and that is that, GOD knew him, and he knew GOD, and Abraham, knew them both. He was qualified to bless Abraham as a Priest, and to receive a tithe from Abraham as a king, who also, evidently, ranked higher spiritually, than did Abraham, and, Melchizedek remains a priest forever also (Hebrews 7:1-3).
In Psalms 110, “a messianic psalm” by David, Melchizedek is seen as a type of Christ. This theme is repeated here in this book of Hebrews, where both CHRIST and Melchizedek are considered as kings of righteousness and peace. In citing Melchizedek’s unique priesthood as a prototype for CHRIST HIMSELF, the author is showing that CHRIST’s priesthood is superior to the old levitical order of Aaron also. And so, we see that a different kind of Priest has come, who became a Priest, not by meeting the old requirements of belonging to the tribe of Levi, but by the power of a life that cannot, and will not be destroyed, “a Priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek”.
In Hebrews chapter 5, verse 2, as it is expressed in the original Greek, the word that the author of GOD uses for “compassion” is “metriopatheo” (met-ree-op-ath-eh-o), and it means “to be moderate in passion”. It is the only time in scripture that this particular word is used for “compassion”. We most often translate this word to mean, “To feel gently for”. It is said that, somewhere in the midst of any two extremes, there can be found, “the right way”. According to the Greeks, this is also where “virtue” can be discovered. They saw “virtue” as being the “midpoint” between two extremes.

Here in this passage the writer of Hebrews lists three important qualifications that any priest must satisfy;

·         Compassion is one of those three essential qualifications. A Priest must be in full sympathy with others at all times, and ideally, should have gone through some of the same experiences as the people he seeks to council. If a person is not bound together with others in the trials that life brings, he will not be able to correctly sympathize with their plight, and therefore will not be able to grant sound advice.

·         Secondly, Priests are appointed on behalf of others in order to deal with things concerning GOD. For instance, the earthly Priest was originally intended to be the link between the world and GOD. In the beginning, their primary function was to offer sacrifices to GOD for the sins of, first, himself, and then other people. The sacrifice was meant to restore a relationship with GOD that had been interrupted by sin.

·         The third and most important qualification is that the Priest must be, “called by GOD”, and not just show up, and appoint himself. The priesthood is a call to glory by GOD HIMSELF, and is not an office that is appointed by men.

GOD speaks to us, through our many experiences in life. These experiences always, in some way, try our hearts and souls. We can only hear HIS voice when we tune our minds to HIM, with complete “reverence”. If we rebel against GOD, through our resentments, or “continuous sins”, our hearts will build up a resistance that will make us deaf, or, unable to hear HIS voice.
JESUS, among HIS many roles, also serves as our “Eternal High Priest”. HE has been exalted above the Heavens, and has no need to make sacrifices for us from day to day, like the old line of levitical Priests had to do. Because of HIS vicarious sacrifice on the cross, HE, through GOD’s grace, was able to cover the sins of every human being, past, present, and future, with HIS “Eternal Life-giving Blood”.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website





Friday, January 9, 2015

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday January 11, 2015

Over 71,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

JESUS PRAYS FOR HIMSELF, HIS DISCIPLES, AND ALL BELIEVERS
(HE prays for GOD’s protection, holiness, and unity)
(John 17)

After JESUS had ended HIS private teachings to HIS disciples in the Upper Room, HE left them with the profound statement, that, “HE had overcome the world”. HE then looked up toward Heaven and began to pray, perhaps, the greatest prayer that has ever been prayed here on earth. It is the prayer of an over-comer, and JESUS is certainly the greatest over-comer of all times.
Here in John 17, verses 1-5, JESUS begins this prayer by praying for HIMSELF, but in doing so, HE is also praying for us. As GOD’s greatest servant, JESUS has every right to pray for the help HE needed in order to glorify HIS name. HIS request for glorification includes sustaining HIMSELF in HIS upcoming suffering, acceptance of HIS vicarious sacrifice, and raising HIM up again, and then, restoring HIM to HIS pre-incarnate glory. HE had finished all of HIS other divine work, and now, HE was ready to take on HIS final assignment so that HE could return back home to HIS FATHER in Heaven, WHO sent HIM.
We, as Christians, now know and understand that, for JESUS, the only way back to glory was through the cross, and so it must be for those of us, who follow HIM. With open eyes, JESUS accepted the circumstances of the cross, so that whosoever believes in HIM, from that day forward, would not perish, but rather, would have everlasting life with our FATHER in Heaven.
When JESUS speaks of HIS actions bringing glory to GOD, HE is referring to the majesty and loveliness of GOD the FATHER that has been manifested through what HE HIMSELF has done, and will do, in obedience to the FATHER. And after the FATHER has resurrected HIM from the dead, that act will also reflect the true majesty of HE HIMSELF, as the GOD-appointed SAVIOR of all of mankind. This also lets man know that, when we obediently perform GOD’s will, GOD will joyfully express HIMSELF through us also. And so we see here, that, even we, can display the same beauty and majesty that CHRIST JESUS displayed for the FATHER, when we pray for the strength to be able to perform our appointed duties for the LORD.
JESUS’ disciples obeyed the word of GOD and HE praises them for it here in HIS prayer to the FATHER. JESUS loved them all the more, for their avid, positive response to GOD’s Word. HE had prayed for them, even before HE chose them, and now, this final prayer of intercession clearly reveals HIS loving concern for their continued well-being after HIS departure. They were HIS original flock, given to HIM by GOD the FATHER, and HE had taken good care of them during their three years together. HE had also been successful in taking them out of the world, and into a spiritual place, where HE HIMSELF had always dwelled. And while they were not perfect, they were all committed, (except Judas Iscariot) and passionately devoted to JESUS. They now, all believed in JESUS’ oneness with the FATHER, and their faith was clearly manifested in their obedience to HIS teachings.
This section (verses 6-19) of the prayer focuses not only on the safety of the disciples, but also on the safety of all believers, who have chosen to come out of the world and into the realm where JESUS lives. Our safety has always, and, will forever depend on the nature of GOD, and not on our own conduct, or character. When JESUS was with HIS disciples physically, HE always kept them safe, and, they could always depend on HIS presence in their time of need. HE guided them then, the way the HOLY SPIRIT now guides us, and we, in addition, can still rest assure that JESUS is, even now, still praying for us from HIS Heavenly vantage point.
We don’t ever need to walk around feeling sad and beaten down by the rigors of this world. We can, instead, be filled with joy, because our LORD and SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST has overcome the world, and HE is taking everyone with HIM, in victory, who chooses to come and share in HIS Kingdom.
This final segment of JESUS’ prayer, verses 20-26, is for future believers who will choose to come to HIM through the teaching of HIS Word. In this, the “Church Age”, every converted Christian came to be that way, either directly, or indirectly, because of the work and witness of JESUS’ original disciples.
We see, all through this prayer, JESUS going out to the ends of the earth. First HE started with HIMSELF (Vs.1-5). Then HE moved on with HIS petition for HIS disciple’s safety (Vs.6-19). And now in the final section of this great petition, we see JESUS praying for the unity of all Christians, for all times, regardless of their chosen Christian denomination. And just as each high priest of Israel bore the names of the twelve tribes in GOD’s presence in the tabernacle, so now does JESUS, in the Church Age, as the GREAT HIGH PRIEST, carry the names of all present and future believers into the glorious presence of the ALMIGHTY GOD in Heaven.
JESUS’ request is a request for a “Christian unity” that will transcend all the differences that can be found among the Christian Church, as a whole. For, no Christian denomination obeys GOD completely because each of their teachings about GOD is based on their particular chosen lifestyle. And even though we may never organize our Christian Churches in the same way, and we may never worship GOD in the same way, JESUS prays here that “Christian Unity” would forever transcend all these differences, and bring men together in fellowship and love, just simply in the name of “Christianity”, the only doctrine that is “a product of GOD’s mind”.
That’s the kind of unity that JESUS is praying for here in John 17, and it is also the kind of unity that the Apostle Paul would later write about to the Churches, in all of his doctrinal letters. It is a unity, not born of bricks and mortar, but rather, it is a unity of “personal relationships”, not unlike the one that we’ve already seen, between the FATHER and the SON, as an example to us to follow, for all time.
All believers belong to one body in CHRIST, and our spiritual unity is to be clearly shown through our behavior, or the way we live. The spiritual unity of the FATHER and the SON is to be patterned in the Church, regardless of our chosen Christian denomination. Without union with CHRIST JESUS, the Christian Church can do nothing in itself. “Christianity” is the only true religion, because, “Christianity” is the only religion that is a product of GOD’s mind. All denominations, Christian, or otherwise, are only “products of men’s minds”.
Through GOD’s “permissive will”, HE allows us to organize Christian denominations differently, as long as we all have CHRIST in common. The disciples’ union with CHRIST resulted in the whole Christian community’s belief in GOD the FATHER. The glory of the Church was born at the cross, but the unity in the Church was born before that, and it is personified in the spirit of JESUS and HIS original disciples.
In all, we see four petitions for believers included in this magnificent prayer; we see “Preservation” (John 17:11), “Sanctification” (John 17:17), “Unity” (John 17:11, 21-22), and “Participation” (John 17:24). After JESUS prayed this prayer, HE would speak no more to HIS disciple, until after HIS “Passion” and “Resurrection”. And so we see HIS last words to HIS faithful, were not words of HIS despair, but rather, they were words of HIS “Glory”.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website



Friday, January 2, 2015

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday January 4, 2015

Over 70,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

A MODEL FOR PRAYER
(Understanding how JESUS prayed)
(Luke 11:1-13)

In Luke chapter 11, taking up at verse 1, one of JESUS’ disciples, who had been impressed with JESUS’ prayer life, asked HIM to teach them how to pray, just as John the Baptist had taught his disciples how to pray. Before we get into specifics there are certain general facts that we should note. First of all, we have to understand that this is a prayer that teaches us “how” we should pray, and is therefore a “blueprint” by which we should “pattern” our daily prayers.
Ironically this “LORD’s Prayer” is a prayer that only a disciple can pray. By that I mean, only a person who is committed to JESUS CHRIST can pray this prayer with any meaning, or effectiveness. It is not a “child’s prayer” as it has often been stated, and is indeed not even meaningful for a child at all. It is a prayer for those who have reached an age of accountability and responsibility to commit to GOD in an experiential relationship, having a desire to become a disciple.
Now let us analyze this terse, but brilliant “petition blueprint” that was handed down to us that day by JESUS from the slopes of the Mount of Beatitudes, during HIS, now famous, “Sermon on the Mount”. The first line of this model prayer identifies just WHOM it is addressed to, “Our FATHER which art in Heaven”.
Next, the first three petitions deals with GOD the FATHER and HIS glory, and they are, “Hallowed be THY name”, “THY kingdom comes”, “THY will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven”. And so we see, first, that GOD is given HIS supreme place before we can turn to ourselves, our needs, or our desires. Only after GOD is given HIS proper reverence and place in our lives can everything else fall into place.
The next three petitions can deal with the needs and concerns of “the petitioner”. In fact, in this model prayer, they deal with the three most essential needs of man, “maintenance of life”, “forgiveness”, and “help with temptation”. They also deal with “the three spheres of time” through which every human being must travel, “the past”, “the present”, and “the future”.

·         Give us this day our daily bread” turns our thoughts to “GOD the Father”, the CREATOR and sustainer of all of life, WHO thereby personally brings the needs of “our present” to HIS throne.
·         Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” turns our thoughts to “GOD the SON”, our LORD and SAVIOR and GOD-appointed ultimate judge. This brings “our past” before the throne of GOD.
·         Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” turns our thoughts to “GOD the HOLY SPIRIT”, our GOD-appointed comforter, strengthener, and guide, thereby committing “our future” into the hands of GOD.

And so we can see quite clearly in these three petitions how JESUS is teaching us to lay “the present”, “the past”, and “the future” at the mercy of the grace of the GODHEAD. In other words, this blueprint, quite literally, teaches us how to bring “the whole of life”, past, present, and future, to “the whole of GOD”, GOD the FATHER, GOD the SON, and GOD the HOLY SPIRIT, and “the whole of GOD” to “the whole of life”. Prayer should never be an attempt to bend the will of GOD, but rather, it should always be aimed toward “submitting our wills to the will of GOD”.
In verses 5-13 JESUS gives us two parables that teach us that prayer grows out of a persistent, experiential relationship with GOD. In verses 5-8 HE teaches us a “good lesson” by using the “bad example” of a man who does not want to be bothered, and who refuses the petition of a neighbor because he felt that it was too late at night for someone to come calling for a favor. JESUS then shows the contrast of a loving GOD WHO wants us to pray to HIM, no matter what time it is, or how many times we need to ask. Here JESUS is encouraging us to be persistent, not in order to change GOD’s mind, but rather, as a way of being steadfast in praying, so that we might receive our every need.
In verses 9-13 JESUS gives us a second parable which teaches us that GOD gives HIS children “what they need”, and not necessarily “what they want”. We can always rest assure that GOD will grant, through prayer, all of our needs simply because HE knows what they are, and HE knows that our needs can never harm us. However, on the other hand, GOD often does not grant some of the things we want, simply because, oftentimes, those very same things will harm us, even though we may not think so at the time.
On those occasions when our “wants” and “needs” are one and the same, GOD is more than happy to grant our petitions. HE will always grant that which is good for HIS children, and always decline to grant those things that are not. However, in verse 13b JESUS reminds us that the greatest gifts that GOD can bestow upon anyone is the gift of “salvation” and “the HOLY SPIRIT” through CHRIST JESUS our LORD. And with that in mind, let us, at all times be inspired to continue to go to the LORD in prayer, and quite literally, we must do so, without ceasing.  

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website





Friday, December 26, 2014

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday December 28, 2014

Over 70,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

IN AWE OF CHRIST’S POWER
(Courageous worship gets us out of the boat)
(Matthew 14:22-36)

John’s Gospel records that on the evening following the miraculous feeding of the five thousand men, and their women and children, JESUS instructed HIS disciples to go down to the shore of the Sea of Galilee and wait there until HE disbursed the crowd. However, as darkness fell, and JESUS still had not come, they grew weary of waiting and decided to get into the boat and head on across the water to Capernaum without HIM (John 6:16-17).
However, here in Matthew’s Gospel account, he recalls that JESUS instructed them not to wait, but rather, to get into the boat and cross over to the other side of the lake, while HE dispersed the crowd. Matthew also tells us that after JESUS sent the people home, HE decided to, first, go up on the mountain to pray before joining HIS disciples, and there, HE lingered until nightfall. Both Gospel writers agree that ultimately they did embark upon their short seven-mile journey to the other side without JESUS being on board.
After the men had gone three or four miles, which is about half way across the lake, they were besieged by a storm and high winds. The Sea of Galilee was always noted for its sudden and severe storms, and so, caught in the open sea, the disciples found themselves straining with their oars trying to keep control of their boat.
Suddenly, about three o’clock in the morning, the frightened men see a shadowy figure coming towards them through the wind and the rain, walking upon the water. At first they thought it was a ghost, but when JESUS spoke, they recognized HIS voice. JESUS said to them “It is I, don’t be afraid”.
At this point the disciple, Peter, called to JESUS and said, “LORD, is it really YOU, tell me to come to YOU by walking on the water”. JESUS beckoned for him to come, and Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward JESUS. However, when his fear overcame him, and caused him to focus more on the effects of the storm around him, instead of keeping his focus on JESUS, he quickly began to sink.
As the frightened disciple sank into the sea, he shouted, “LORD save me!”, and instantly JESUS reached out HIS hand and grabbed him, and said, “You don’t have much faith, why did you doubt ME”? And when they both had gotten back into the boat, suddenly the storm ceased, and the men worshipped JESUS, because they were awed by HIS miraculous power over nature.
Over the generations since that day on the Sea of Galilee, many have criticized Peter because he wasn’t able to keep his focus on the LORD in the midst of his problems, and the state of his condition, which is something most of us can’t seem to do either. However, we all have to admire the apostle for his readiness to step out on the sea in the first place, which is something that none of the other disciples were willing to do that day. When we step out in faith, we always, in essence, risk failure. However, it is only by stepping out in faith, that we can ever truly experience personally, the power of CHRIST JESUS in our lives.   
This fifth sign of the MESSIAH serves to show us how JESUS, quite literally, comes to us from across the storms of life, with HIS hands stretched out to save, and HE speaks to us in a calm, clear voice, and HE bids us to “Have no fear”. “Be of good cheer” and “Be not afraid” is what JESUS often said to HIS disciples, however, it is also a statement that is directed to all mankind, from across the spans of time, whenever we choose to put our faith in HIS saving hand, even in this day and age.
We must trust JESUS, that, HE will save us from our troubles, and deliver us into the safety of HIS eternal peace. And we must never leave home without HIM, as the disciples did on that day, but rather, we must always carry HIM deeply within our hearts, whenever and wherever we go in life. And every time we experience the miracles of HIS presence, we must pause in awe to worship HIM and be thankful for HIS wonderful, saving power in the lives of those who have “saving faith”, and believe to a point of knowing.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website