Tuesday, September 27, 2016

“The Imprint of God” Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday October 2, 2016

Purpose: To discern how God speaks to us through Jesus Christ

Bible Lesson:
Hebrews 1:1-9

Background Scripture: Hebrews 1

Key Verse: The Son is the light of God’s glory and the imprint of God’s being. He maintains everything with his powerful message. (Hebrews 1:3)

Hebrews 1:1-9 (CEB)
(1) In the past, God spoke through the prophets to our ancestors in many times and many ways. (2) In these final days, though, he spoke to us through a Son. God made his Son the heir of everything and created the world through him. (3) The Son is the light of God’s glory and the imprint of God’s being. He maintains everything with his powerful message. After he carried out the cleansing of people from their sins, he sat down at the right side of the highest majesty. (4) And the Son became so much greater than the other messengers, such as angels, that he received a more important title than theirs. (5) After all, when did God ever say to any of the angels: You are my Son. Today I have become your Father? Or, even, I will be his Father, and he will be my Son? (6) But then, when he brought his firstborn into the world, he said, All of God’s angels must worship him. (7) He talks about the angels: He’s the one who uses the spirits for his messengers and who uses flames of fire as ministers. (8) But he says to his Son, God, your throne is forever and your kingdom’s scepter is a rod of justice. (9) You loved righteousness and hated lawless behavior. That is why God, your God, has anointed you with oil instead of your companions.

Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This week we begin a new unit titled “The Sovereignty of Jesus,” based on passages from the Letter to the Hebrews. This book is one of the lesser-known books in the New Testament, although it contains well-known passages such as the definition of faith in 11:1 and the “roll call of the faithful” that follows in the rest of Chapter 11.

The Letter to the Hebrews is not a letter in the same sense as other New Testament letters. Rather, it is a sermon based primarily on Psalm 110, which lifts up the eternal priesthood of Melchizedek (mel-KIZ-a-deck). The reason it was originally called a letter is that Paul was thought to be its author by some early Christians. However, early church leaders such as Clement, Tertullian, and Origin noted the difference in style, vocabulary, and theology when compared to Paul’s letters. While there is scholarly speculation about the identity of the author, there is no consensus.

We can assume that it was in fact written as dictated by the Holy Spirit.  Most scholars think it was probably written to a church that was made up of both Jewish and Gentile Christians. David Jeremiah, famous bible scholar, thinks it was likely written to the Church in Rome that was considering giving up their Christian faith due to extensive persecution. The Book of Hebrews certainly makes Christ the cornerstone of God’s redemptive plan. The book offers the best examples of how to bridge the gap between the Jewish beliefs of the Old Testament and Christianity.

The first few verses are similar to the first few verses in John’s Gospel, in that it places Jesus at the forefront, both in the past and in this time we are in. Jesus, The Messiah, is the final word from God.

While in the past God had used angels and prophets, now He has sent His Son, who is an exact replica of God, he is the perfect imprint of God. Angels and prophets were messengers of God. Jesus was not a messenger, He was God. Angels and prophets were limited, Jesus was not limited, His power was without end and limit.

Jesus is both the climax and the final word. For four weeks we have talked about God’s sovereignty, now we are looking at the sovereignty of Jesus. Jesus is greater than any that preceded Him, whether Prophet, Priest or King.

My hymn for this week is an old traditional hymn, “Rejoice The Lord Is King.”


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

“Everlasting Covenant” Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday September 25, 2016

Purpose: To see how we can engage with God and one another to keep God’s everlasting covenant

Bible Lesson: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

Background Scripture: Isaiah 61

Key Verse: I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and dishonesty. I will faithfully give them their wage, and make with them an enduring covenant. (Isaiah 61:8)

Isaiah 61:1-4 (CEB)
(1) The Lord God’s spirit is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release for captives, and liberation for prisoners, (2) to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and a day of vindication for our God, to comfort all who mourn, (3) to provide for Zion’s mourners, to give them a crown in place of ashes, oil of joy in place of mourning, a mantle of praise in place of discouragement. They will be called Oaks of Righteousness, planted by the Lord to glorify himself. (4) They will rebuild the ancient ruins; they will restore formerly deserted places; they will renew ruined cities, places deserted in generations past.

Isaiah 61: 8-11 (CEB)
(8) I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and dishonesty. I will faithfully give them their wage, and make with them an enduring covenant. (9) Their offspring will be known among the nations, and their descendants among the peoples. All who see them will recognize that they are a people blessed by the Lord. (10) I surely rejoice in the Lord; my heart is joyful because of my God, because he has clothed me with clothes of victory, wrapped me in a robe of righteousness like a bridegroom in a priestly crown, and like a bride adorned in jewelry. (11) As the earth puts out its growth, and as a garden grows its seeds, so the Lord God will grow righteousness and praise before all the nations.

Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

As I write this my wife and I along with our entire family are facing one of the most difficult moments anyone can face. Yesterday, we lost, but heaven gained, our 39-year-old grandson. Within a very short period of time, because of severe complications from a diabetic episode, Scotty was called home. It reminds us of how fragile life is, we consistently take life too lightly. In the twinkling of an eye everything changes.

We have great comfort from knowing, we did not lose Scott, we know exactly where he is.  I can assure you that in this deepest darkest hour God provides us with a comforter and His grace.

Today’s lesson is about being able to trust God and His covenants in our deepest darkest hours. I can assure you God is faithful and trustworthy.  I marvel at those that face these terrible times without hope and a peace that only He can provide. That would be hell for me, and I think it gives us an understanding that God’s goodness doesn’t wait till we get to heaven.  Glory for us is now as we walk and trust in a God that does not fail.

There is little more to say, I have experienced it. My hymn is simply “Jesus Never Fails”

Monday, September 12, 2016

Foundations of the Earth Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday September 18, 2016

Purpose: To explore the nature of God’s sovereign power

Bible Lesson: Isaiah 40:21-31

Background Scripture: Isaiah 40

Key Verse: Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He doesn’t grow tired or weary. (Isaiah 40:28)

Isaiah 40:21-31 (CEB)
(21) Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? Wasn’t it announced to you from the beginning? Haven’t you understood since the earth was founded? (22) God inhabits the earth’s horizon— its inhabitants are like locusts— stretches out the skies like a curtain and spreads it out like a tent for dwelling. (23) God makes dignitaries useless and the earth’s judges into nothing. (24) Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely is their shoot rooted in the earth when God breathes on them, and they dry up; the windstorm carries them off like straw. (25) So to whom will you compare me, and who is my equal? says the holy one. (26) Look up at the sky and consider: Who created these? The one who brings out their attendants one by one, summoning each of them by name. Because of God’s great strength and mighty power, not one is missing. (27) Why do you say, Jacob, and declare, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord my God ignores my predicament”? (28) Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He doesn’t grow tired or weary. His understanding is beyond human reach, (29) giving power to the tired and reviving the exhausted. (30) Youths will become tired and weary, young men will certainly stumble; (31) but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will fly up on wings like eagles; they will run and not be tired; they will walk and not be weary.

Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This is our third lesson in this quarter from the Book of Isaiah. Modern bible scholars, think the Book of Isaiah was written by three different authors, crediting Isaiah ben Amoz with the first 39 chapters. Chapters 40-55 were supposedly written 200 years later by another Isaiah, and then chapters 55-66 were written even later by a third Isaiah.

I don’t know if there is any truth to that theory, but I know God is responsible for it all. I guess modern theologians have a problem with such an accurate prophecy, their faith does not allow for someone writing something that becomes fact 200 years later.

Our story this week takes place about 40 years into a 70-year exile of the Southern Kingdom (Judah) by Babylon. An entire generation has no knowledge of Jerusalem or the Temple.

The writer, or God, wants to remind those in exile of His power and His sovereignty. So he asks some rhetorical questions. God also reminds those that have not seen His power, that God is so much superior to man and not just plain old men, but men of power and position.  We should be slow to condemn those that were living without hope, because that had not been witnesses to previous interventions of God.

It is easy to feel victorious, and full of hope when you are succeeding in life, but living in exile in a strange culture, it was surely more difficult to have any. Within the scriptures and teachings God offers a solution, “look up.”   While you may feel hopeless, because you think God has lost his power, nothing could be further from the truth. The vastness of God’s creation is all the witness we need to regain hope.

Isaiah says God gives power to the tired and revives those who are exhausted (verse 29). That sounds good, but we want to know how. How is God’s power given to us, and how can we put it to use?

Isaiah gives us a major clue in verse 31. He writes, “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength,” but it is not as if hope comes in a pill or a bottle and we simply take a dose of it and are empowered. Wouldn’t life be so much easier if hope could be dispensed whenever we need it!

Yet all of us have experienced the transformative power of hope. Hope can make a distressing situation seem endurable. Hope can lift us up out of despair and depression. According to Isaiah, hope gives us wings to fly and energy to run!

My hymn for this week is a rather new hymn called “The Hymn of Promise.” If it is new to you I hope you enjoy it. It is the message of Isaiah given to him by the God of creation.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Mountain of God Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday September 11, 2016

Purpose: To understand what it means to trust in God’s promise to end oppression

Bible Lesson: The Scripture for this lesson is printed below. The background text is Isaiah 25.

Key Verse: He will swallow up death forever. The Lord God will wipe tears from every face; he will remove his people’s disgrace from off the whole earth, for the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 25:8)

Isaiah 25:6-10a (CEB)
(6) On this mountain, the Lord of heavenly forces will prepare for all peoples a rich feast, a feast of choice wines, of select foods rich in flavor, of choice wines well refined. (7) He will swallow up on this mountain the veil that is veiling all peoples, the shroud enshrouding all nations. (8) He will swallow up death forever. The Lord God will wipe tears from every face; he will remove his people’s disgrace from off the whole earth, for the Lord has spoken. (9) They will say on that day, “Look! This is our God, for whom we have waited–– and he has saved us! This is the Lord, for whom we have waited; let’s be glad and rejoice in his salvation!” (10) The Lord’s hand will indeed rest on this mountain.

Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This is our second of four passages from Isaiah, that helps us to explore the sovereignty of God. Isaiah wrote this at a time when the Northern Kingdom of Israel was being conquered by the Assyrians.

It is a message of hope for the future, regardless of what was going on in their lives, God was still in control.

In his book “The World’s Religions”, author Huston Smith asks the question, “What produced this love and joy in early Christianity?” His answer is that as a result of the faith, three oppressive burdens were lifted. First, fear (especially the fear of death) no longer weighed on God’s people. The good news had freed them from their fears. Second, the burden of guilt had been lifted by the news that they were forgiven. Third, the burden of ego was lifted by a way of life that demanded unselfishness and self-denial.

When those things that oppress us, whether external or internal burdens, are lifted, we cannot help but to experience freedom and joy!

When we are being oppressed by external or internal forces like: death, mourning, fear, guilt, ego, we look forward to their end. For example, consider the oppression of an illness. When we are suffering from an illness, we long for a quick end to the illness and a return to health. When the illness is long and we do not know when it will end, we have to wait. Waiting is not easy for most of us. While waiting, we can become impatient or even discouraged when the wait is long. Yet waiting is so much a part of daily life. We wait in heavy traffic, in lines at stores, for someone to return a call or an e-mail, and for countless other things. The question is, How do we wait? Do we wait with faith or with fear? To wait fearfully is to become impatient and discouraged. We might even give up and lose hope.

To wait with faith and trust is a different matter. Trust is a form of faith. To trust in a promise is to have faith in it. In Isaiah, we encounter God’s promises to save not only Israel but all peoples.

To wait with trust is to be patient for the fulfillment of a promise. To wait with trust is to refuse to give in to discouragement or anger when the time frame for fulfillment is lengthened. Note that the destruction of death and mourning, as well as other forms of oppression, has not yet occurred. It is a promise we are still awaiting. In fact, the promises we have encountered in these first two lessons are still in the future. However, as those who wait faithfully, we can still live toward those promises. Even though we still face death, we can do so knowing that God’s love embraces us. Even though we still mourn, we can find comfort from our faith that proclaims new life and resurrection come out of death. When it comes to God’s promises, we are always living between the “already” made and the “not yet” fulfilled. Even though the forms of oppression we have seen in this lesson are still with us, we can live with trust and hope toward the promise that, ultimately, God will help us overcome oppression.

My hymn for this week is one I have used often but it tells the story the best, My Hope is Built On Nothing Less, Than Jesus Blood and Righteousness.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Peaceful Kingdom Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday September 4, 2016

Purpose: To explore how we can actively participate in God’s peaceful kingdom.

Bible Lesson: Isaiah 11:1-9

Key Verse: They won’t harm or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain. / The earth will surely be filled with the knowledge of the Lord,  just as the water covers the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)

Isaiah 11:1-9 (CEB)
(1) A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse; a branch will sprout from his roots. (2) The Lord’s spirit will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of planning and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord. (3) He will delight in fearing the Lord. He won’t judge by appearances, nor decide by hearsay. (4) He will judge the needy with righteousness, and decide with equity for those who suffer in the land. He will strike the violent with the rod of his mouth; by the breath of his lips he will kill the wicked. (5) Righteousness will be the belt around his hips, and faithfulness the belt around his waist. (6) The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat; the calf and the young lion will feed together, and a little child will lead them. (7) The cow and the bear will graze. Their young will lie down together, and a lion will eat straw like an ox. (8) A nursing child will play over the snake’s hole; toddlers will reach right over the serpent’s den. (9) They won’t harm or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain. The earth will surely be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, just as the water covers the sea.

Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

For the next 13 weeks, we will be studying about “The Sovereignty of God.” The first four lessons of this series will be from the Book of Isaiah. Isaiah (Isaiah ben Amoz) was a prophet to Israel, the Northern Kingdom, although Isaiah ben Amoz lived in the Southern Kingdom of Judah.   As near as experts can tell, Isaiah wrote around 722 B.C.

Historically our text for this week is seen as Messianic prophecy, however some modern day theologians may not see it that way.  The reference to Jesse, the father of David, seems to establish a link between the coming of a new ruler and linage of David.

The qualities of this new ruler are interesting, and might be the qualities we would hope for in this election year. They include wisdom; understanding; “planning,” or counsel; “strength,” or might; knowledge; and fear of the Lord. 

The “fear of the Lord” as used here does not mean to be afraid of God but rather to live with deep and profound respect toward God. The words reverence and awe are good synonyms for “fear of the Lord.”

This new ruler will use a different measuring stick; he will not judge by appearance or hearsay. His judgement will be more like the Beatitudes we find in Matthew 5:1-12. The poor and meek will be judged on their relationship to God, rather than social ranking. While the rich and powerful will be dealt with, using strong language.

Starting with verse six, Isaiah begins describing what some have called “the peaceable kingdom” where traditional enemies dwell in harmony. These verses read like a description of the restoration of God’s divine purpose for creation. The description continues through verse 8.

In these final verses we see a kingdom that we can only hope for. This is the Kingdom that can only exist when Christ comes and establishes His Kingdom here on earth.  In addition, when this comes about the knowledge of God will be spread over the earth like the waters over the ocean.

This is the Kingdom we pray for every time we say The Lord’s Prayer. “Thy Kingdom come thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.”  We join the angels and saints with the shout “even so come quickly.

My hymn for this week is an oldie but goodie, “Beulah Land” by Edgar P Stites.


Monday, August 22, 2016

“Love Fulfills the Law” Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday August 28, 2016

Purpose: To discern what it means to fulfill God’s Law through love

Bible Lesson: Romans 12:1-2, Romans 13:8-10

Background Scripture: Romans 12:1-2; 13:8-14

Key Verse: Don’t be in debt to anyone, except for the obligation to love each other. Whoever loves another person has fulfilled the Law. (Romans 13:8)

Romans 12:1-2 (CEB)
(1) So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. (2) Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature

Romans 13:8-10 (CEB)
(8) Don’t be in debt to anyone, except for the obligation to love each other. Whoever loves another person has fulfilled the Law. (9) The commandments, Don’t commit adultery, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t desire what others have, and any other commandments, are all summed up in one word: You must love your neighbor as yourself. (10) Love doesn’t do anything wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is what fulfills the Law.

Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

Today’s lesson begins with one of the most ignored verses in the Bible. Today it is more popular to be part of the world, regardless if we are talking about our lives or our churches lives. Mainline Christianity is racing to be like the world.

It seems the last thing our churches want to preach is “a transformed life” or living a “sacrificial life.” I understand this would be a hard sell in today’s mega churches, or even in mainline Christianity. But it is Paul’s answer to how we should be living.

Living a holy life is no longer fashionable, we prefer to live as much like the world as we can get away with. We somehow think attending a church that preaches a social gospel lets us off the hook. 
Paul implores us to seek the mind of God, see what God wants us to do, Paul determines that to be reasonable. As some have said, “if it was a crime to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

I personally think the renewing of our minds start with Sunday School. A well taught Sunday School class will teach us adults more about God’s word than sitting in church.  Years ago more was taught in Sunday School for our youth than what we seem to teach today. Today it is hard to find dedicated teachers, and dedicated parents that bring or send their children to Sunday School. That is a challenge for each of us, showing we are transformed, will end up in us being involved in Sunday School and other aspects of our local church ministry.

Living a holy life is more than “being so holy we are no earthly good.”  It means being intentional in our service and dedicating ourselves to sharing God’s goodness with others.  If we are to show love, there is no better way than sharing the good news of the gospel. It we truly love our neighbor we should want to share, and make certain they are aware of God’s plan for their life. Share that simple faith is the key, believe that Jesus was who He said He was.  That would be the reasonable, loving, good and mature thing to do.

I think Paul’s remarks about debt, could mean have no regrets about your friends and neighbors. Be sure you have given them an opportunity to hear and see the love of Christ carried out in your life. Don’t owe them, as far as sharing with them, the love of God. That is how the law of love is fulfilled.

My hymn for this week is “The Love of God.” is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell. Show God’s love to others this week, be transformed and live a holy life.

Monday, August 15, 2016

“God Prunes and Grafts” Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson 
For Sunday August 21, 2016 

Purpose: To find our place on God’s family tree

Bible Lesson: Romans 11:11-24

Background Scripture: Romans 11:11-36

Key Verse: So look at God’s kindness and harshness. It’s harshness toward those who fell, but it’s God’s kindness for you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise, you could be cut off too. (Romans 11:22)

Romans 11:11-24 (CEB)
(11) So I’m asking you: They haven’t stumbled so that they’ve fallen permanently, have they? Absolutely not! But salvation has come to the Gentiles by their failure, in order to make Israel jealous. (12) But if their failure brings riches to the world, and their defeat brings riches to the Gentiles, how much more will come from the completion of their number! (13) I’m speaking to you Gentiles. Considering that I’m an apostle to the Gentiles, I publicize my own ministry (14) in the hope that somehow I might make my own people jealous and save some of them. (15) If their rejection has brought about a close relationship between God and the world, how can their acceptance mean anything less than life from the dead? (16) But if part of a batch of dough is offered to God as holy, the whole batch of dough is holy too. If a root is holy, the branches will be holy too. (17) If some of the branches were broken off, and you were a wild olive branch, and you were grafted in among the other branches and shared the root that produces the rich oil of the olive tree, (18) then don’t brag like you’re better than the other branches. If you do brag, be careful: it’s not you that sustains the root, but it’s the root that sustains you. (19) You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” (20) Fine. They were broken off because they weren’t faithful, but you stand only by your faithfulness. So don’t think in a proud way; instead be afraid. (21) If God didn’t spare the natural branches, he won’t spare you either. (22) So look at God’s kindness and harshness. It’s harshness toward those who fell, but it’s God’s kindness for you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise, you could be cut off too. (23) And even those who were cut off will be grafted back in if they don’t continue to be unfaithful, because God is able to graft them in again. (24) If you were naturally part of a wild olive tree and you were cut off from it, and then, contrary to nature, you were grafted into the cultivated olive tree, won’t these natural branches stand an even better chance of being grafted back onto their own olive tree?

Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter 

In the eleventh chapter of Romans, Paul is making a case for both the Jew and the Gentile to be recipients of God’s grace and salvation.

In the previous chapter (10) he speaks of Israel’s rejection of Christ as the Messiah, because of the lack of “faith.” In today’s lesson he says while they (the Jews) have stumbled or tripped, they can still have hope. Paul speaks as a Jew, and knows that all hope is not lost. While the original covenant made with the Jews coming out of Egypt was based on works, (acts of worship) and their willingness to follow Moses and Aarons teachings, a new covenant has now been made with the whole world that involves faith. Paul who was an early recipient, when he encountered Jesus (The Christ) on the road to Damascus. Paul has accepted his call to witness and proclaim Christ to the Gentiles. However, he is also willing to proclaim the Gospel to the Jews as well.

Paul goes to great lengths to use the example of grafting both the natural branch and the wild or voluntary branch into the root or trunk of a tree. God’s original promise to Abraham was that the whole world would be blessed by Abraham's seed (Gen. 12:3 "I will bless those who bless you, those who curse you I will curse; all the families of the earth will be blessed because of you.”

Paul wants both Jew and Gentile to know that God grafts whom he wants, into the root of the tree. God can be considered both kind and harsh, His kindness comes because no one deserves it and His harshness comes because, just as He was willing to destroy, the ungrateful and disobedient Jew, He will also make the same choice for the disobedient and unfaithful Gentile.

All salvation now depends on man’s faith and God’s grace or goodness. Labels of Jew or Gentile no longer matter. All humankind now depends on faith and faithfulness to receive the promise of God. God has provided the seed promised, how we react to that seed determines our blessing or curse. Paul closes this chapter with this quote from Isaiah 40:13 Who directed the Lord’s spirit and acted as God’s advisor? And Jerimah 23”18 “But who has stood in the Lord’s counsel to listen to God’s word? Who has paid attention to his word and announced it?” And then Paul concludes with these words “All things are from him and through him and for him. May the glory be to him forever. Amen.”

 My hymn for this week is “To God be the Glory.”


Monday, August 8, 2016

“Living Under God’s Mercy” Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday August 14, 2016

Purpose: To embrace our identity as children of God

Bible Lesson: Romans 9:6-18

Background Scripture: Romans 9:6-29

Key Verse: That means it isn’t the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children from the promise who are counted as descendants. (Romans 9:8)

Romans 9:6-18 (CEB)
(6) But it’s not as though God’s word has failed. Not all who are descended from Israel are part of Israel. (7) Not all of Abraham’s children are called Abraham’s descendants, but instead your descendants will be named through Isaac. (8) That means it isn’t the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children from the promise who are counted as descendants. (9) The words in the promise were: A year from now I will return, and Sarah will have a son. (10) Not only that, but also Rebecca conceived children with one man, our ancestor Isaac. (11) When they hadn’t been born yet and when they hadn’t yet done anything good or bad, it was shown that God’s purpose would continue because it was based on his choice. (12) It wasn’t because of what was done but because of God’s call. This was said to her: The older child will be a slave to the younger one. (13) As it is written, I loved Jacob, but I hated Esau. (14) So what are we going to say? Isn’t this unfair on God’s part? Absolutely not! (15) He says to Moses, I’ll have mercy on whomever I choose to have mercy, and I’ll show compassion to whomever I choose to show compassion. (16) So then, it doesn’t depend on a person’s desire or effort. It depends entirely on God, who shows mercy. (17) Scripture says to Pharaoh, I have put you in this position for this very thing: so I can show my power in you and so that my name can be spread through the entire earth. (18) So then, God has mercy on whomever he wants to, but he makes resistant whomever he wants to.

Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This week’s lesson is a continuation of God’s grace and goodness that was discussed in last week’s text.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he is appealing both to the Jewish Christians, and Gentile Christians. He tells of the difference between descendants of Abraham and the descendants of the Promise of God. Not all descendants of Abraham were automatically included in God’s overall plan of redemption. Paul points out that only those that come from the female that God chose, namely Sarah and Rebecca. He goes even further and separates the twins Jacob and Esau. God, because He can, chooses whom he will to carry out His plan.

So, initially, God set aside those descendants of Abraham and Isaac that did not fit his plan, namely Ishmael and Esau. If you understand the world as we know it today, that would be the Islamic and Arab followers, the direct descendants of these two people.

The good news of today is that Christ changed all of that, and as a fulfillment of God’s plan, redemption is now available to all; Jew, Gentile, Arab, and Muslim alike. God as the creator, is also the one that determines who are redeemed, and those that believe in Christ are now set apart.

It is because of God’s goodness and mercy that any are saved, since none of us deserve it. God, is not only the creator, but also the judge of what or who is worthy to receive God’s gift of eternal life with Him.

You cannot separate this week’s lesson from last week’s lesson. Romans 8:28 towers over this passage. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

We must never lose sight of the fact that God is sovereign and His purpose is his design. We are but the clay he uses to achieve that plan.

My hymn for this week is “Have Thine Own Way Lord.”

Monday, August 1, 2016

"Safe in God’s Love” Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday August 7, 2016

Purpose: To believe that God is on our side through all the situations we face

Bible Lesson: Romans 8:28-39

Key Verse: If God is for us, who is against us? (Romans 8:31)

Romans 8:28-39 (CEB)
(28) We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. (29) We know this because God knew them in advance, and he decided in advance that they would be conformed to the image of his Son. That way his Son would be the first of many brothers and sisters. (30) Those who God decided in advance would be conformed to his Son, he also called. Those whom he called, he also made righteous. Those whom he made righteous, he also glorified. (31) So what are we going to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? (32) He didn’t spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also freely give us all things with him? (33) Who will bring a charge against God’s elect people? It is God who acquits them. (34) Who is going to convict them? It is Christ Jesus who died, even more, who was raised, and who also is at God’s right side. It is Christ Jesus who also pleads our case for us. (35) Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (36) As it is written, we are being put to death all day long for your sake. We are treated like sheep for slaughter. (37) But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. (38) I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers (39) or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.

Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

Our text for this week begins with one of the most quoted verses in all of the Book of Romans. But what does it really mean? Most of us probably memorized it from the KJV or NKJV “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

My approach to this lesson will be somewhat different than most commentaries. As I look at this verse and the rest of the verses in our text, I see God’s love for us displayed through his grace. So I will just go through the four graces that is taught throughout the New Testament.

The first grace that we experience is called Prevenient Grace, it is the grace that God uses to draw us to Him, prior to our even recognizing God. It is that part of verse 28 that speaks of being “called according to His purpose.” Prevenient Grace is for everyone, but not everyone heeds that tug and call on their life.

But Prevenient Grace can lead to Justifying Grace. Justifying Grace, is God’s love revealed through forgiveness of our sins. Justifying (“just as if we never sinned”) When we accept God’s prevenient grace and accept his forgiveness of our sins, God accepts us as being blameless for our past sins and welcomes us into a new relationship with him, we are born anew, our spirit now aligns with His spirit. Some call this “being saved” or “born again.”

Justifying Grace can then lead to Sanctifying Grace. Sanctifying Grace takes us closer to Christ. It is a nurturing and seeking grace or love that draws us closer to Christ in our daily walk, and creates within us a desire to know more and more about Christ and of His love for us. It is the grace that enables us to live and love for Christ, in the same way that His love has been showed to us. It is the grace that enables us to love our neighbor and our enemies alike. It is the grace that causes us to seek righteousness and holiness rather than sin. Some might call this the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or being filled with the Spirit.

The final grace is called “Glorifying Grace.” It is the grace or love that God shows to us at the time of our departing. This grace is sometimes referred to as “Dying Grace.” It is the grace that takes us from a mortal body to a glorified body. The grace that takes us from a sinful world to a glorified place where Jesus lives and dwells at the right hand of God. It is our ultimate goal, and it is the reward we receive for accepting Christ as God’s son and as the sacrifice that was made at Calvary on our behalf.

I think all of this is a good explanation for what Paul is saying in these verses. Our faith will guarantee the outcome we desire in the end. But it is God’s graces or love that helps us through all of the trials and tribulations of this life, so that we can achieve, with confidence, the next.

My hymn for this week is an oldie but goodie, “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go” I think the words of this hymn speak better than “Amazing Grace” an obvious choice.

Monday, July 25, 2016

“Death Becomes Life” Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday July 31, 2016

Purpose: To experience the freedom of new life in Christ

Bible Lesson: Romans 6:1-4, 12-14, 17-23

Background Scripture: Romans 6:1-23

Key Verse: Therefore, we were buried together with him through baptism into his death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too can walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)

Romans 6:1-4 (CEB)
(1) So what are we going to say? Should we continue sinning so grace will multiply? (2) Absolutely not! All of us died to sin. How can we still live in it? (3) Or don’t you know that all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (4) Therefore, we were buried together with him through baptism into his death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too can walk in newness of life.

Romans 6: 12-14 (CEB)
(12) So then, don’t let sin rule your body, so that you do what it wants. (13) Don’t offer parts of your body to sin, to be used as weapons to do wrong. Instead, present yourselves to God as people who have been brought back to life from the dead, and offer all the parts of your body to God to be used as weapons to do right. (14) Sin will have no power over you, because you aren’t under Law but under grace.

Romans 6: 17-23 (CEB)
(17) But thank God that although you used to be slaves of sin, you gave wholehearted obedience to the teaching that was handed down to you, which provides a pattern. (18) Now that you have been set free from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness. (19) (I’m speaking with ordinary metaphors because of your limitations.) Once, you offered the parts of your body to be used as slaves to impurity and to lawless behavior that leads to still more lawless behavior. Now, you should present the parts of your body as slaves to righteousness, which makes your lives holy. (20) When you were slaves of sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. (21) What consequences did you get from doing things that you are now ashamed of? The outcome of those things is death. (22) But now that you have been set free from sin and become slaves to God, you have the consequence of a holy life, and the outcome is eternal life. (23)The wages that sin pays are death, but God’s gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

Chapter 6 of Romans is one of the most exciting and important chapters in the New Testament. Paul begins chapter 6 by answering a statement he made in chapter 5 verse 20 …...but where sin increased, grace multiplied even more.” Paul quickly explains that being a Christian, we have died to sin, that is, we are no longer bound or entrapped in a life ruled by sin.

Paul uses the sacrament of baptism, to explain his and Jesus teaching. Christians are baptized as a symbol of what Jesus accomplished by his death and resurrection. Baptism signifies not only the death of Christ, as we are put under the water, but also the resurrection, when we are raised up.

Just as Jesus was transformed to a new realm, the realm of God the father, when he was resurrected into a new life. So also we are transformed into a new realm. A realm where sin is no longer in control of us, and we take on a new life, just as Jesus did, where grace abounds, and we can have victory over sin.

Paul goes on to explain it in a way the Romans could comprehend, be equating it to slavery. The Romans understood what slavery meant, and they understood what it meant to be free from someone or something having dominion over you.

Having faith in Jesus the Christ, enables us as Christians to be set free from the slavery of sin. Sin is the realm we are all born into, and it is the realm that Jesus entered when He became one of us. The good news is there is another realm, which is the realm of God, it is where Jesus went after his death and resurrection, sin has no power in God’s realm.

Paul now challenges the Romans to live differently, because they have put on Christ through the sacrament of baptism. They used to use their body and all of its parts in chasing the pleasures fleeting rewards of sin. Now, Paul expects them to change, what they use to use for personal pleasure and lust they should now use to live a righteous life dedicated to pleasing and serving God wherever and whenever they can. The new realm of a Christian is holiness, until they too, join Jesus in the Realm of God.

Until we receive “glory” through our own death, we can experience a life free from the dominion of sin until then. But it requires us to fight for righteousness with the same fervor that we chased after sin. We cannot do it in our own strength, but with Christ “all things are possible.”

There is a great old hymn that says it best, “Until Then.”

Monday, July 18, 2016

“Not Without Hope” Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday July 24, 2016

Purpose: To claim God’s promise of hope

Bible Lesson: Romans 5:1-11

Key Verse: This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)

Romans 5:1-11 (CEB)
(1) Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (2) We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. (3) But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, (4) endurance produces character, and character produces hope. (5) This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (6) While we were still weak, at the right moment, Christ died for ungodly people. (7) It isn’t often that someone will die for a righteous person, though maybe someone might dare to die for a good person. (8) But God shows his love for us, because while we were still sinners Christ died for us. (9) So, now that we have been made righteous by his blood, we can be even more certain that we will be saved from God’s wrath through him. (10) If we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son while we were still enemies, now that we have been reconciled, how much more certain is it that we will be saved by his life? (11) And not only that: we even take pride in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, the one through whom we now have a restored relationship with God.

Some Comments by Burgess Walter

There are some things about the text as translated in the Common English Bible that I find disturbing. I am also at a loss for words, when verse 8, is not the “key verse” of this passage. In fact, I am going to print the NKJV, so you can compare the two translations.

(1) Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have[a]peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (2) through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (3) And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; (4) and perseverance, character; and character, hope. (5) Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
(6) For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. (8) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (10) For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (11) And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation

I have highlighted some of the passages I find most disturbing, for your comparison. I will not spend a lot of time on these comparisons, but I think you can see a different doctrine between the two. The CEB certainly takes a more universal approach, making it about the faithfulness of Christ as opposed to our faith in Christ. Many think that redemption comes because of the life Christ lived and not his death on the cross.

When Paul begins this chapter with therefore, we know he is about to make an important proclamation which ties together the first four chapters of this book. While Paul proclaims us all lost because of sin, he now reconciles our sin and God’s love toward us.

Only a very righteous and loving God would make provision for our rescue from sin and death. Paul offers us hope and peace, but that may not be the hope and peace you are thinking of. The peace that Christ offers is an assurance that whatever we are going through there is something better coming. The hope is not for a better life but for a life everlasting. Humankind looks for short term answers, but God is interested in the eternal. Because we are human and sinners we will go through trials and tribulations just like all of the great martyrs. No one has been spared that, not even Christ, God’s own son. For us to expect it, is not realistic. But we can boast that is does not matter, there is a day coming when all will be made right, not because we did anything, we just believed.

My hymn for this week is “Victory in Jesus” because I think it proclaims the message the way our forefathers understood it.

Monday, July 11, 2016

“God Set Things Right” Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday July 17, 2016

Purpose: To affirm that we are made righteous and redeemed by faith

Bible Lesson: Romans 3:21-31

Background Scripture: Psalm 148; Romans 3:21-31

Key Verses: There’s no distinction. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, but all are treated as righteous freely by his grace because of a ransom that was paid by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24)

Romans 3:21-31 (CEB)
(21) But now God’s righteousness has been revealed apart from the Law, which is confirmed by the Law and the Prophets. (22) God’s righteousness comes through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who have faith in him. There’s no distinction. (23) All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, (24) but all are treated as righteous freely by his grace because of a ransom that was paid by Christ Jesus. (25) Through his faithfulness, God displayed Jesus as the place of sacrifice where mercy is found by means of his blood. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness in passing over sins that happened before, (26) during the time of God’s patient tolerance. He also did this to demonstrate that he is righteous in the present time, and to treat the one who has faith in Jesus as righteous. (27) What happens to our bragging? It’s thrown out. With which law? With what we have accomplished under the Law? (28) No, not at all, but through the law of faith. We consider that a person is treated as righteous by faith, apart from what is accomplished under the Law. (29) Or is God the God of Jews only? Isn’t God the God of Gentiles also? Yes, God is also the God of Gentiles. (30) Since God is one, then the one who makes the circumcised righteous by faith will also make the one who isn’t circumcised righteous through faith. (31) Do we then cancel the Law through this faith? Absolutely not! Instead, we confirm the Law

Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

Last week we studied about the power of sin, this week we will look at the righteousness of God. Paul presents in this text, that Jesus Christ is the solution to our sinful nature. Paul further states that Jesus Christ is a revelation of God’s righteousness.

In order to understand what Paul is saying, we should read Leviticus 16:11-28. (11) Aaron will offer the bull for his purification offering to make reconciliation for himself and his household. He will slaughter the bull for his purification offering. (12) Then he will take an incense pan full of burning coals from the altar, from before the LORD, and two handfuls of finely ground perfumed incense and bring them inside the inner curtain. (13) He will put the incense on the fire before the LORD so that the cloud of incense conceals the cover that is on top of the covenant document, or else he will die. (14) He will take some of the bull’s blood and sprinkle it with his finger on the cover from the east side. He will then sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times in front of the cover. (15) Then he will slaughter the goat for the people’s purification offering, bring the blood inside the inner curtain, and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: he will sprinkle it on the cover and in front of the cover. (16) In this way, he will make reconciliation for the inner holy area because of the pollution of the Israelites and because of their rebellious sins, as well as for all their other sins.

Aaron must do the same for the meeting tent, which is with them among their pollution. (17) No one can be in the meeting tent from the time Aaron enters to make reconciliation in the inner holy area until the time he comes out. He will make reconciliation for himself, for his household, and for the whole assembly of Israel.

(18) Aaron will then go to the altar that is before the LORD and make reconciliation for it: He will take some of the bull’s blood and some of the goat’s blood and put it on each of the altar’s horns. (19) He will sprinkle some of the blood on the altar with his finger seven times. In this way, he will purify it and make it holy again from the Israelites’ pollution.

(20) When Aaron has finished reconciling the inner holy area, the rest of the meeting tent, and the altar, he will bring forward the live goat. (21) Aaron will press both his hands on its head and confess over it all the Israelites’ offenses and all their rebellious sins, as well as all their other sins, putting all these on the goat’s head. Then he will send it away into the wilderness with someone designated for the job (22) The goat will carry on itself all their offenses to a desolate region, then the goat will be released into the wild.

(23) After this, Aaron will enter the meeting tent, take off the linen clothes he was wearing when he entered the inner holy area, and will leave them there. (24) He will bathe his body in water in a holy place and dress in his priestly clothing. Then he will go out and perform the entirely burned offerings for himself and for the people. In this way, he will make reconciliation for himself and for the people. (25) He will completely burn the fat of the purification offering on the altar. (26) The one who set the goat free for Azazel must wash their clothes and bathe their body in water; after that they can return to the camp. (27) The bull and the goat for the purification offerings, whose blood was brought in to make reconciliation in the inner holy area, will be taken outside the camp. Their hides, flesh, and dung will be burned with fire. (28) The person who burns them must wash their clothes and bathe their body in water; after that, they can return to the camp.)

This describes the service that is required to remove the sins of God’s people for a year. For Paul, Jesus Christ fulfills all of this at Calvary. Including showing how God’s righteousness is fulfilled in Christ, perfectly giving of himself as a, willing, obedient sacrificial lamb. God’s plan becomes complete and His righteousness is demonstrated, because He does exactly what He said He would do.

If you want to discuss doctrine you can look at verse 22, some translate this as “The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ.” While the CEB translates this as, “God’s righteousness comes through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.” Most older scholars would use in, while the newer thought is more universal in nature and makes it all about Christ faithfulness and not ours, because they are convinced there is nothing we can do to obtain salvation, it is God’s gift to humankind. I will point out that in the latter part of verse 26 in the CEB it says, “and to treat the one who has faith in Jesus as righteous.”

My hymn for this week is simply “Faith is the Victory.”