Monday, February 20, 2017

Christ Creates Holy Living Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday February, 2017

Purpose: To manifest the fruit of the Spirit as our faithful response to God and our witness to others

Bible Lesson: Galatians 5:18–6:10

Key Verses: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. (Galatians 5:22-23

Galatians 5:18–26 (CEB)
(18) But if you are being led by the Spirit, you aren’t under the Law. (19) The actions that are produced by selfish motives are obvious, since they include sexual immorality, moral corruption, doing whatever feels good, (20) idolatry, drug use and casting spells, hate, fighting, obsession, losing your temper, competitive opposition, conflict, selfishness, group rivalry, (21) jealousy, drunkenness, partying, and other things like that. I warn you as I have already warned you, that those who do these kinds of things won’t inherit God’s kingdom. (22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. (24) Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the self with its passions and its desires. (25) If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit. (26) Let’s not become arrogant, make each other angry, or be jealous of each other.

Galatians 6:1-10 (CEB)
(1) Brothers and sisters, if a person is caught doing something wrong, you who are spiritual should restore someone like this with a spirit of gentleness. Watch out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted too. (2) Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. (3) If anyone thinks they are important when they aren’t, they’re fooling themselves. (4) Each person should test their own work and be happy with doing a good job and not compare themselves with others. (5) Each person will have to carry their own load. (6) Those who are taught the word should share all good things with their teacher. (7) Make no mistake, God is not mocked. A person will harvest what they plant. (8) Those who plant only for their own benefit will harvest devastation from their selfishness, but those who plant for the benefit of the Spirit will harvest eternal life from the Spirit. (9) Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up. (10) So then, let’s work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity, and especially for those in the household of faith.


Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This week’s lesson brings to a climax Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Paul makes an argument for living by faith, with the help that has been promised of the Holy Spirit rather than trying to live by the law of Moses. 

If we choose to accept Christ as the promised Messiah and if we believe that accepting Christ as the Lord of our life, we also receive the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus promised, in his statements in John; 14:16 “I will ask the Father, and he will send another Companion, who will be with you forever. (26) The Companion, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I told you.” And in 16:7 “I assure you that it is better for you that I go away. If I don’t go away, the Companion] won’t come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” Then Paul asserts we are free from following the Law of Moses when it comes to our being redeemed.

If we have chosen Christ, then Christ alone is responsible for our redemption not the blood of animals or obedience to dietary and Sabbath laws. Paul continues, in addition if we are followers of Christ, then our lives should show that the Holy Spirit now resides in us by producing the fruits of the Spirit.

Earlier in this letter Paul asserts that living as a Spirit filled Christians is renewed each day.  Galatians 2:19-20: “I died to the Law through the Law, so that I could live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in my body, I live by faith, indeed, by the faithfulness of God’s Son, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

In verses 25-26, Paul offers a few warnings to persons who desire to live by the Spirit. First, in verse 25, Paul reminds the Galatians that life by the Spirit involves choice. It is a moment-by-moment walk with God in which we consciously open ourselves to the guidance of the Spirit. It is not enough to say that we live by the Spirit; we must make the decision to surrender every day. Second, verse 26 reminds Christians that life in the Spirit must not turn negative. There is no place for arrogance, infighting, or jealousy. These are actions indicative of self rather than the Spirit.

The choice is whether we let our desires rule, or if we allow the Holy Spirit to rule our desires. Many years ago, I heard an old country preacher explain like this. Every morning when I wake up, it is like I have two dogs living in me. One dog I call Spirit, the other dog I call self. When asked which dog wins? The old preacher said, “The one I said siccum to.”

When we live a Spirit filled life, we will also always be ready to help those that have fallen or said siccum to the wrong dog. We cannot serve two masters as Jesus said, in Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

This week’s hymn is one by Jeremy Camp “Christ In Me.” enjoy.



 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Freedom in Christ Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday February 19, 2017

Purpose: To practice true freedom by serving others in love

Bible Lesson: Galatians 5:1-17

Key Verse: You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love. (Galatians 5:13)

Galatians 5:1-17 (CEB)
(1) Christ has set us free for freedom. Therefore, stand firm and don’t submit to the bondage of slavery again. (2) Look, I, Paul, am telling you that if you have yourselves circumcised, having Christ won’t help you. (3) Again, I swear to every man who has himself circumcised that he is required to do the whole Law. (4) You people who are trying to be made righteous by the Law have been estranged from Christ. You have fallen away from grace! (5) We eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness through the Spirit by faith. (6) Being circumcised or not being circumcised doesn’t matter in Christ Jesus, but faith working through love does matter. (7) You were running well—who stopped you from obeying the truth? (8) This line of reasoning doesn’t come from the one who calls you. (9) A little yeast works through the whole lump of dough. (10) I’m convinced about you in the Lord that you won’t think any other way. But the one who is confusing you will pay the penalty, whoever that may be. (11) Brothers and sisters, if I’m still preaching circumcision, why am I still being harassed? In that case, the offense of the cross would be canceled. (12) I wish that the ones who are upsetting you would castrate themselves! (13) You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love. (14) All the Law has been fulfilled in a single statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. (15) But if you bite and devour each other, be careful that you don’t get eaten up by each other! (16) I say be guided by the Spirit and you won’t carry out your selfish desires. (17) A person’s selfish desires are set against the Spirit, and the Spirit is set against one’s selfish desires. They are opposed to each other, so you shouldn’t do whatever you want to do.


Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

Today’s lesson is very challenging, I found that I was challenged by Paul’s words and what freedom in Christ really means.
The challenge I see from Paul’s words are; How can I take the freedom I have in Christ and make certain that my actions reflects Christ love for me and the freedom I have been given, is not wasted on selfish things?

The problem, as Paul saw it, was the Galatians had received the truth, but then became influenced by the Judaizes that used convincing language to sway them that the only avenue for a Christ follower was to come to Christ via the Jewish religion.

Paul reiterates his original message to them, that God has created a new covenant with all people, not just Jews. The new covenant is based on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God has created a way for everyone to receive the grace of salvation that does not require circumcision and following all the rules established by the law. 

Observing, holy days and dietary rules is no longer necessary for our salvation. Which I guess Paul counts as freedom. But Paul makes it clear that our freedom does not mean we are free from doing God’s work.

When we receive Christ through faith, we also receive the Holy Spirit, since we get all of God at that time. Unfortunately, God does not always get all of us. We often hold back, and are unwilling to give up our selfishness.

Paul’s assurance is that with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can become more Christ centered and less self-centered in our life. Paul assures the Galatians and us, that the law of love will become our goal and purpose, in a Christ centered and Spirit filled life.

For us, the lesson challenges us to ask, “How are we doing and sharing in God’s love?” Do we love our neighbor as ourselves? Or have we remained in our selfishness?

My hymn for this week shares God’s love, Love Divine all love excelling, and I love the line, “take away my love for sinning.”



Monday, February 6, 2017

New Birth Brings Freedom Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday February 12, 2017

Purpose: To resist the temptation to trust human traditions more than God’s gift of freedom through Christ

Bible Lesson: Galatians 4:8-20

Background Scripture: Galatians 4

Key Verse: But now, after knowing God (or rather, being known by God), how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless world system? Do you want to be slaves to it again? (Galatians 4:9)

Galatians 4:8-20 (CEB)
(8) At the time, when you didn’t know God, you were enslaved by things that aren’t gods by nature. (9) But now, after knowing God (or rather, being known by God), how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless world system? Do you want to be slaves to it again? (10) You observe religious days and months and seasons and years. (11) I’m afraid for you! Perhaps my hard work for you has been for nothing. (12) I beg you to be like me, brothers and sisters, because I have become like you! You haven’t wronged me. (13) You know that I first preached the gospel to you because of an illness. (14) Though my poor health burdened you, you didn’t look down on me or reject me, but you welcomed me as if I were an angel from God, or as if I were Christ Jesus! (15) Where then is the great attitude that you had? I swear that, if possible, you would have dug out your eyes and given them to me. (16) So then, have I become your enemy by telling you the truth? (17) They are so concerned about you, though not with good intentions. Rather, they want to shut you out so that you would run after them. (18) However, it’s always good to have people concerned about you with good intentions, and not just when I’m there with you. (19) My little children, I’m going through labor pains again until Christ is formed in you. (20) But I wish I could be with you now and change how I sound, because I’m at a loss about you.

Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This week’s lesson is a continuation of last week’s lesson, so you may want to review last weeks’ lesson first.
A review of the setting for this letter being written is; after Paul’s initial visit to the area on his first missionary journey, there were well meaning distractors that came and tried to persuade those originally taught by Paul that they and Paul were wrong in their thinking.

They were probably Jews from Jerusalem that thought the only way to worship the creator God was to first become a Jew. This was not only a burden for the male population, because of circumcision, it also meant observing all the Jewish Holy Days, and dietary restrictions.

Imagine the angst when these new Christians, who had been worshippers of unknown gods or Roman and Greek gods, go from the freedom taught by Paul, to the ridged teachings of these Judaizes.  Paul teachings were based on faith. But they were more accustomed to symbols, gods and practices, and whose images were readily available.
In Paul’s original visit he had obviously suffered from some sort of vision problem, pink eye, or sty or some unknown problem possibly caused by the Damascus road encounter with Christ.

Paul had not lived as a Jew among them, rather he lived as a man set free from the restrictions of diet and ceremony and lived as one saved and redeemed by God’s grace, through faith, as one whose burdens and sins had been forgiven and an assurance of eternal life was promised and received by Paul. Faith in Christ’s proclamation that He was the one and only Son of God and His life, death and resurrection was real.

Paul’s parenthetical statement in verse 9 (or rather, being known by God) is huge. It confirms what we call prevenient grace. God calls us long before we acknowledge Him, God knows us while we are still sinners and unbelievers.

As you contemplate your Christian life, how free are you? Are you burdened with rules in your Christian life?  How do you determine someone else's Christianity?  Our life should be lived in gratitude and purpose for what a loving Father has done for us. What is our basis for believing in an eternal life in the presence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit?

My hymn this week is one I use often, but it tells the story so well, “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less Than Jesus Blood and Righteousness.”





Monday, January 30, 2017

Re-Created to Live in Harmony Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday February 5, 2017

Purpose: To affirm that our new life in Christ transcends all other divisions

Bible Lesson: Galatians 3:26–4:7

Key Verse: There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Galatians 3:26–29 (CEB)
(26) You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. (27) All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (29) Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 4:1-7 (CEB)
(1) I’m saying that as long as the heirs are minors, they are no different from slaves, though they really are the owners of everything. (2) However, they are placed under trustees and guardians until the date set by the parents. (3) In the same way, when we were minors, we were also enslaved by this world’s system. (4) But when the fulfillment of the time came, God sent his Son, born through a woman, and born under the Law. (5) This was so he could redeem those under the Law so that we could be adopted. (6) Because you are sons and daughters, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” (7) Therefore, you are no longer a slave but a son or daughter, and if you are his child, then you are also an heir through God.


Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This is the first of four lessons from the Book of Galatians. The area was first visited by Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey, it included the cities of Iconium, Lystra, Derbe and others. (See Acts 13-14) The people of Galatia were from a branch of the Gaul’s, originally from north of the Black Sea. Gaul was best known for being part of the nation we now call France. During Julius Caesar's reign, it was an adversary of Rome.

After Paul and Barnabas left the area and having taught the Gospel of Christ, a group had moved into the area teaching a different form of Christianity. They taught that to be a follower of Christ first required that Jewish traditions and laws be observed. They also did not recognize Paul as a real Apostle, since he was not part of the original twelve.

In addition to the Judaizers there had also been an infiltration of some Eastern religions.  Paul probably writes this letter after the conclusion of the first Missionary Journey and his visit Jerusalem. Although others think it was later based on 4:11 “I’m afraid for you! Perhaps my hard work for you has been for nothing.” Which might indicate it was after several more visits. (Journeys 2 & 3) My thinking is since the council in Jerusalem wrote the letter saying circumcision was not necessary after the first visit, that should have settled the problem.

In this lesson, we will focus on the experience of salvation in Christ as the means to unity and deep community as God’s people.

Verses 26 & 27 focus on our new identity in Christ. In Galatians, Paul is writing to a mixed group of believers. Both Jews and Gentiles were in the church Paul established in the region of Galatia. A lot of the early believers of Christ were Jews, but as the word spread more and more Gentiles/Greeks became believers also. The Jews always traced their heritage back to Abraham, but of course the Gentiles/Greeks could not.

Hence the opening by Paul, and in verse 29 he makes a valid statement, reminding them Abraham was from a family of idol worshippers, and it was Abraham's faith just as it is our faith that sets us apart. In verse 29, Paul reminds his readers that this new reality in Christ is by faith. He points back to Abraham as the model (Galatians 3:6-9). Relationship with God in Christ is by faith. Abraham modeled the life of faith, and Abraham serves as the link to God’s blessing of all the nations (Genesis 12:3).

In chapter 4, Paul moves to illustrate his argument with a family metaphor. Paul’s argument is that in Christ all people (Jew/Gentile, slave/free, and male/female) are God’s children and part of one body.  He now moves to clarify what heirs means. Paul means that all people in Christ are fully heirs and enjoy all of the rights and privileges of being sons and daughters of God through Christ. There are no second-class citizens or family members in the church. Now it is important that you understand this applies to the Church, (body of believers) and not to the world. The world remains slaves to sin and has no rights as heirs.

In Paul’s thinking those in the world that do not believe in Christ are as minor children that have an inheritance that can only be granted by a trustee. The inheritance is completed when we by faith accept the truth that Jesus was God and through His life, death and resurrection we can inherit the promises He made.  Our salvation is not through our birth, our economic status, our religious affiliation, our family, our ethnicity, our educational level, or our culture. 

For Paul, the only object worthy of our trust is a person––the Son of God and Messiah, Jesus. Jesus faithfully lived and then died on the cross for the sins, injustices, and hurts of the world. Therefore, salvation does not depend on anything other than embracing a new identity with God through trust in Jesus.

Paul brings his argument to a climax in verses 6-7. In Christ, all who believe are no longer slaves nor are they minor children with limited rights. They are fully mature sons and daughters who through the Holy Spirit can address God directly as “Abba, Father.” Abba in Aramaic is like saying “daddy” or “papa” a term of endearment by a child.

For my hymn this week I will choose one of the great oldies, “Trust and Obey” because that is all we need to become an heir, son or daughter.


 

Monday, January 23, 2017

All Creation Praises God Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday January 29, 2017

Purpose: To join the chorus of creation in hallelujah to the Lord

Bible Lesson: Psalm 148

Key Verse: Let all of these praise the Lord’s name because God gave the command and they were created! (Psalm 148:5)

Psalm 148 (CEB)
(1) Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from heaven! Praise God on the heights! (2) Praise God, all of you who are his messengers! Praise God, all of you who comprise his heavenly forces (3) Sun and moon, praise God! All of you bright stars, praise God! (4) You highest heaven, praise God! Do the same, you waters that are above the sky! (5) Let all of these praise the Lord’s name because God gave the command and they were created! (6) God set them in place always and forever. God made a law that will not be broken. (7) Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all you ocean depths! (8) Do the same, fire and hail, snow and smoke, stormy wind that does what God says! (9) Do the same, you mountains, every single hill, fruit trees, and every single cedar! (10) Do the same, you animals—wild or tame— you creatures that creep along and you birds that fly! (11) Do the same, you kings of the earth and every single person, you princes and every single ruler on earth! (12) Do the same, you young men—young women too!— you who are old together with you who are young! (13) Let all of these praise the Lord’s name because only God’s name is high over all. Only God’s majesty is over earth and heaven. (14) God raised the strength of his people, the praise of all his faithful ones— that’s the Israelites, the people who are close to him. Praise the Lord!


Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This is the fifth and final lesson from Psalms. At the end of the Book of Psalms (146-150) there is a series of Psalms called the “Hallelujah Psalms” because each one begins and ends with “Hallelujah” or “Praise the Lord.”

The Psalm is remarkable because it lists every part of creation that praises the Creator God. It also makes clear that only the Creator is worthy of praise and none of His Creation.  No moon, sun, stars or world leaders no ocean or land mass. This eliminates a lot of worldwide religions both now and then. Nothing created by The Creator God should be worshipped, and more importantly they should be a part of this chorus of praise.

How many times have you thought about the sound grass makes as it grows as a praise hymn?  The sound that the wind makes as it rustles the leaves or is funneled through a small opening as a hymn of praise? The Psalmist sees all of this, and more.

From Hump Back Whales to the tiniest insect to the largest of boulders cracking and the earth groaning, to explosions on the sun.  Everything created, from angelic beings to unknown beings residing in unknown realms.

We fall far short in our appreciation of the Creator God. We tend to trivialize God to some sort of Santa Claus rather than worship Him. By comparison it too much for us to understand when we compare our power to His.  We are called to worship Him and sing our Hallelujahs and Praise the LORD.

The Creator God exists outside of and above creation, maybe the 13th-century medieval monk St. Francis of Assisi said it best in the words to the hymn “All Creatures of Our God and King” based on his reading of Psalm 148.

So, that is my hymn for this week “All Creatures of Our God and King” enjoy.


 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Praise God the Creator Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday January 22, 2017

Purpose: To celebrate God’s goodness as Creator and Lord of all

Bible Lesson: Psalm 104:1-4, 24-30

Background scripture: Psalm 104

Key Verse: Lord, you have done so many things!  You made them all so wisely! The earth is full of your creations (Psalm 104:24)

Psalm 104:1-4 (CEB)
(1) Let my whole being bless the Lord! Lord my God, how fantastic you are! You are clothed in glory and grandeur! (2) You wear light like a robe; you open the skies like a curtain. (3) You build your lofty house on the waters; you make the clouds your chariot, going around on the wings of the wind. (4) You make the winds your messengers; you make fire and flame your ministers.

Psalm 104: 24-30 (CEB)
(24) Lord, you have done so many things! You made them all so wisely! The earth is full of your creations! (25) And then there’s the sea, wide and deep, with its countless creatures— living things both small and large. (26) There go the ships on it, and Leviathan, which you made, plays in it! (27) All your creations wait for you to give them their food on time. (28) When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled completely full! (29) But when you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to dust. (30) When you let loose your breath, they are created and you make the surface of the ground brand new again.

Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

Psalm 104 is a hymn of praise. It calls for the worship and adoration of the Lord because of God’s goodness as Creator and Lord of all.

The psalmist begins in verse 1a declaring, “Let my whole being bless the Lord!” In Psalm 96:2, we encounter the language of blessing the Lord. To bless the Lord is to give God praise. When we bless God, we tell others about the Lord. The goal is to increase the number of people who are praising and worshiping the Lord. Traditional English translations typically render this verse, “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” Our CEB translation captures the meaning of the Hebrew better by using “whole being” instead of the traditional “soul.”

What does it mean to praise/worship/bless the Lord with our souls? It is to offer God praise with all that we are. Too often we diminish our understanding of the word soul by limiting it to some spiritual part of ourselves. In fact, for the Hebrews, soul means all that we are as living, breathing people, including our bodies. In truth, our bodies, mind and spirit are all housed within our soul as defined by the Hebrews.

By increasing the number of people praising and worshiping God we continue to bless the LORD. In a book I am trying to read and understand “The Improbable Planet” by Hugh Ross (highly recommended) a chart showing the number of Non-Christians to Christians goes from 360 to 1  in AD 100 all the way down to 7 to 1 by 1990. This remarkably shows how the world has changed since that first century after Christ. Regardless of what you may think and what others may be telling you, God continues to redeem.

God planned His work of redemption before He created this unique place called earth. See what Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:9 God is the one who saved and called us with a holy calling. This wasn’t based on what we have done, but it was based on his own purpose and grace that he gave us in Christ Jesus before time began.

Also in Titus 1:1-2 (1) From Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I’m sent to bring about the faith of God’s chosen people and a knowledge of the truth that agrees with godliness. (2) Their faith and this knowledge are based on the hope of eternal life that God, who doesn’t lie, promised before time began.

The psalmist is inviting each person in this psalm who sings or prays to address God as “my God” rather than “his” God, “her” God, “our” God, “your” God, or “their” God. In Psalm 104, praise and blessing flow from a worshiper’s personal and firsthand experience of the Lord.

Verses 27-30 are very special because they speak of how The God of Creation continues to rebuild and redeem His creation. It is a form of restocking the pond.

When we look at the Psalmist words and understand the magnificence of God’s creation and plan, we cannot help but praise and worship our Great God.

My hymn for this week is “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”



Monday, January 9, 2017

Praise God the Provider Adult Sunday School lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday January 15, 2017

Purpose: To find our security in the God who provides for our needs

Bible Lesson: Psalm 65:1-2, 9-13

Background Scripture: Psalms 65; 67:6-7

Key Verse: “In righteousness you answer us, by your awesome deeds, God of our salvation—you, who are the security of all the far edges of the earth, even the distant seas.” (Psalm 65:5)

Psalm 65:1-13 (CEB)
(1) God of Zion, to you even silence is praise. Promises made to you are kept— (2) you listen to prayer— and all living things come to you (3) When wrongdoings become too much for me, you forgive our sins.  (4) How happy is the one you choose to bring close, the one who lives in your courtyards! We are filled full by the goodness of your house, by the holiness of your temple. 5 In righteousness you answer us, by your awesome deeds, God of our salvation—    you, who are the security of all the far edges of the earth, even the distant seas. (6) You establish the mountains by your strength; you are dressed in raw power. (7) You calm the roaring seas; calm the roaring waves, calm the noise of the nations. (8) Those who dwell on the far edges stand in awe of your acts.  You make the gateways of morning and evening sing for joy.  (9) You visit the earth and make it abundant, enriching it greatly by God’s stream, full of water. You provide people with grain because that is what you’ve decided. (10) Drenching the earth’s furrows, leveling its ridges, you soften it with rain showers; you bless its growth. (11) You crown the year with your goodness; your paths overflow with rich food. (12) Even the desert pastures drip with it, and the hills are dressed in pure joy. (13) The meadowlands are covered with flocks, the valleys decked out in grain— they shout for joy; they break out in song!

Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter


For the past three weeks and I have taken some time off. During that time, I have heard from many of you that you missed the weekly lessons and commentary. It has also given me the opportunity to reflect on my call, and responsibility.  It is probably no surprise to many of you that I get so much more than I give by doing the lessons each week.

In today’s printed text I have included the background text, because I think it adds to our lesson. Also, our Key Verse comes from that text in verse 5.

As I and my family begin a new year and end the old one, we have gone through a Christmas season without one of our grandsons. Our grandson was called home at the age of 39 through a common disease that seems harmless, diabetes. He was vibrant, hardworking and took care of his body. He worked out daily.

For those of you that have grandchildren you can appreciate what many say, “grandchildren are God’s gift for not killing your children when they were young”.  But as much as we miss him, his mother and father miss him more.  I only share this because our lesson deals with everyday disappointments and failures and with the awesomeness of God.

I am struck by the words of verse (1) “to you even silence is praise.  I think the closest we can get to God is in our own silence. It is in our silence that we realize the majesty and magnitude of God's holiness and power.  In our silence, we can forget our cares and concerns, our disappointments and sorrows. With confidence, we know God loves and cares for all His creation.

It has been said that, “worrying is like praying to yourself.”  As you think about that statement, realize there is more truth in that, than you may be willing to admit.  There is only one way to deal with our struggles, be they grief or hunger, that is to trust in the one that made everything and knows everything.  The One that knows how to give gifts and supply our every need.

There is a verse from John that has been of great comfort to me during this time, and I think it shows how God’s grace is more than sufficient for our needs. John 6:11 says, “Then Jesus took the bread. When he had given thanks, he distributed it to those who were sitting there. He did the same with the fish, each getting as much as they wanted.” The last phrase, “each getting as much as they wanted,” jumped off the page to me. It reminded me of God’s generosity.  Seeing that, I felt in my spirit a sense that God was saying, “There is enough for you, too.”  Even when I am in a distant sea, or far off place. Regardless of the need.

There is one hymn that comes to mind as I read and study this text, “Jesus is all the World to Me.”  “My life, my Joy, my all, He is my strength from day to day.”


 

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Forerunner of the Promise Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday December 18, 2016

Purpose: To radically trust God’s Word even when it challenges us

Bible Lesson: Luke 1:8-20

Background Scripture: Luke 1:1-23, 57-66.

Key Verses: “Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son and you must name him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many people will rejoice at his birth” (Luke 1:13b-14). 

Luke 1:8-20 (CEB)
(8) One day Zechariah was serving as a priest before God because his priestly division was on duty. (9) Following the customs of priestly service, he was chosen by lottery to go into the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense. (10) All the people who gathered to worship were praying outside during this hour of incense offering. (11) An angel from the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. (12) When Zechariah saw the angel, he was startled and overcome with fear.

(13) The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayers have been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son and you must name him John. (14) He will be a joy and delight to you, and many people will rejoice at his birth, (15) for he will be great in the Lord’s eyes. He must not drink wine and liquor. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. (16) He will bring many Israelites back to the Lord their God. (17) He will go forth before the Lord, equipped with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will turn the hearts of fathers back to their children, and he will turn the disobedient to righteous patterns of thinking. He will make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

(18) Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? My wife and I are very old.”

(19) The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in God’s presence. I was sent to speak to you and to bring this good news to you. (20) Know this: What I have spoken will come true at the proper time. But because you didn’t believe, you will remain silent, unable to speak until the day when these things happen.”


Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

Normally our lessons progress forward, but this lesson goes back to the beginning of Luke’s writing.

Luke, who was a companion of Paul, seems to be writing in response to an inquiry about Jesus, by a Roman friend, named Theophilus (lover of God). Paul’s scroll is twofold, first (Luke) a scroll about the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The second (Acts) about this group that formed because of His teaching. Luke acknowledges that Matthew and Mark along with a lot of oral history was readily available. Theophilus seems to be looking for some assurances that the stories are all true. Because Luke address Theophilus as “Most excellent” he was a real person with some rank of office.

Because Theophilus was a Roman citizen Luke never blames the Romans for the crucifixion of Jesus. Nor does Luke spend a lot of time explaining Jewish traditions in his writings.

The story of Zechariah and Elizabeth is only told in Luke’s Gospel. It is the story of two very devout people from the Sons of Aaron. They were part of a twenty-four-family rotation of duty, for service in the Temple in Jerusalem. As the LORD does things Zechariah won the lottery for this time of service. The casting of lots was a very popular way of deciding issues throughout the Old and some of the New Testament.

By comparing Mary’s response and Zechariah’s we can draw some conclusions. While both were frightened and afraid, one's faith was rewarded, the other was met with a curse. One was actually doing the LORD’s work, the other simply waiting.

Even when Gabriel tells Zechariah, “I just came from God’s side” and this is what will happen. Zechariah doubted.  This was an answer to prayer, unlike Mary, who had not asked for anything.

It should also be noted that Luke points out that the service required of this son was so special he would need to refrain from certain things to maintain his purity, and a special relationship and mission with and for God. A practice that is now lost on most servants doing, so called, “God’s work.”

My hymn for today is simply one of my favorite songs of this era “Mary did you Know?”

 

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Affirmation of the Promise Adult Sunday School Lesson


International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday December 11, 2016

Purpose: To embrace joyfully our place in God’s mission to bless the nations

Bible Lesson: Luke 1:39-56

Key Verses: Mary said, “With all my heart I glorify the Lord! In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.” (Luke 1:46-47)

Luke 1:39-56 (CEB)
(39) Mary got up and hurried to a city in the Judean highlands. (40) She entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. (41) When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (42) With a loud voice she blurted out, “God has blessed you above all women, and he has blessed the child you carry. (43) Why do I have this honor, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (44) As soon as I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. (45) Happy is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill the promises he made to her.” (46) Mary said, “With all my heart I glorify the Lord! (47) In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior. (48) He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant. Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored (49) because the mighty one has done great things for me. Holy is his name. (50) He shows mercy to everyone, from one generation to the next, who honors him as God. (51) He has shown strength with his arm. He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations. (52) He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. (53) He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty-handed. (54) He has come to the aid of his servant Israel, remembering his mercy, (55) just as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.” (56) Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months, and then returned to her home.


Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

Lesson 1 reflected the Lord’s calling of Mary through the angel Gabriel in Luke 1:26-38. In verse 38, Mary affirms her role as the Lord’s servant. This week, we continue the narrative with Luke 1:39-56 and will study Mary’s joyful and worshipful response to her calling. Our text includes three parts. First, Luke 1:39-45 narrates Mary’s visit to Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s enthusiastic greeting and blessing over Mary. Second, in verses 46-55 (called the Magnificat), Mary offers a rich and dynamic poetic celebration of the work of the Lord. Third, verse 56 concludes our Scripture lesson with a summary of Mary’s visit.

Mary and Elizabeth join with the great women of the Old Testament in teaching us about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Such as: Sarah, Hannah, Miriam, Ruth, Naomi, Esther and Deborah to name a few.

As Mary travels to the high country, (Jerusalem.) Remember, Elizabeth’s husband was on a rotation as a priest in the Temple in Jerusalem. Notice also that Elizabeth has a higher station in life, as the wife of a priest, than Mary. However, Elizabeth soon recognizes that Mary now holds a higher calling, and acknowledges that in verse 43 “Why do I have this honor, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  Protocol would usually require the lesser to go to the higher, but Elizabeth knew she was the lesser, in this case.

In Luke’s writing both in this book and his second book (Acts) the Holy Spirit is an important figure. The Holy Spirit is also portrayed in an early writing the explore the birth of Mary. I am including an excerpt from that book. (The birth and early life of the Virgin Mary is not recorded in the Gospels or other books of the New Testament; however, this information can be found in a work dating from the second century known as the Book of James or Protevangelion.

According to the story found in this book, Mary's parents, Joachim and Anna, were childless for many years. They remained faithful to God, but their prayers for a child were unanswered. One day, when Joachim came to the temple to make an offering, he was turned away by the High Priest who chastised him for his lack of children. To hide his shame, Joachim retreated to the hill country to live among the shepherds and their flocks.

As Joachim was praying, his wife Anna was praying at the same time at their house in Jerusalem. An angel appeared to both and announced that Anna would have a child whose name would be known throughout the world. Anna promised to offer her child as a gift to the Lord. Joachim returned home, and in due time Anna bore a daughter, Mary) This Information is from the following  Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

Their tradition has Mary raised in a monastery type environment, which could account for her great understanding, and that her cousin was married to a priest offers some credence to that thought.

Both Mary and Elizabeth offer us an example of being a servant for the Lord. While Mary is not deity, she certainly ranks at the top of any list where we look at obedience, to God’s call, is involved.

My hymn for this week is “My Soul Gives Glory to My God”



 

Monday, November 28, 2016

God Promises a Savior Adult Sunday School Lesson


International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday December 4, 2016

Purpose: To act on God’s call and promises in spite of our questions

Bible Lesson:  Luke 1:26-38

Key Verse: “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.” (Luke 1:31)

Luke 1:26-38 (CEB)
(26) When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee,

(27) to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. (28) When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!”

(29) She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. (30) The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you.

(31) Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. (32) He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. (33) He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”

(34) Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?” (35) The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son. (36) Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son. This woman who was labeled ‘unable to conceive’ is now six months pregnant. (37) Nothing is impossible for God.”

(38) Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her.


Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

Our first lesson this quarter focuses on God’s calling of Mary to serve as the mother of Jesus, our Lord. This is a foundational event for our faith, but it is also an example for us about how God works in the world and how we can respond to God’s call today.

I would suggest you read each of the following passages before teaching or understanding our printed text:  Genesis 18:1-15; 2 Samuel 7:11-16; Isaiah 9:1-7. Also, be sure you read Luke 1:18-20.

These passages give you a background for all that Gabriel said to Mary. Mary was not a celebrity or distinct in any way except in her willingness to be a servant of God. She was not a “reality TV star.” and she had nothing, seen by the world, that would make her a likely candidate to become the one chosen by God to bear a child fathered by God’s spirit.  God was asking her to bear an “out-of-wedlock” child. Think of the stigma this would bring in that community. I do not think this was any small favor that God was asking. I am not sure we appreciate the sacrifice made by Mary.

Mary’s example is one we should all emulate; our prayer should be to be as willing and as obedient as this poor peasant girl.  She accepted God’s call on her life willingly and humbly.  Her response “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” 

Those words are a perfect response for anytime God calls us. My personal prayer is “Let it be with me just as you have said.” 

That all of this takes place in Galilee and as recorded in Isaiah 9 “Nonetheless, those who were in distress won’t be exhausted. At an earlier time, God cursed the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but later he glorified the way of the sea, the far side of the Jordan, and the Galilee of the nations.

In our modern world, we would never select Nazareth, away from the bright lights of Jerusalem. But when you highlight “Galilee of the nations” as Isaiah did you see God’s hand looking ahead to not just a Messiah for the Jews but a Messiah for the nations.

My hymn for this week is one that tells the story of our lesson, but may not be familiar to a lot of you “To a Maid Engaged to Joseph.”


 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Alpha and Omega Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday November 27, 2016

Purpose: To exalt Christ as the alpha and omega of God’s creation

Bible Lesson: Revelation 22:12-21

Key Verse: I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. (Revelation 22:13)

Background Scripture: Revelation 22:8-21

Revelation 22:12-21 (CEB)
(12) “Look! I’m coming soon. My reward is with me, to repay all people as their actions deserve. (13) I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. (14) Favored are those who wash their robes so that they may have the right of access to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. (15) Outside are the dogs, the drug users and spell-casters, those who commit sexual immorality, the murderers, the idolaters, and all who love and practice deception. (16) “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to bear witness to all of you about these things for the churches. I’m the root and descendant of David, the bright morning star. (17) The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who is thirsty come! Let the one who wishes receive life-giving water as a gift.” (18) Now I bear witness to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy contained in this scroll: If anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues that are written in this scroll. (19) If anyone takes away from the words of this scroll of prophecy, God will take away that person’s share in the tree of life and the holy city, which are described in this scroll. (20) The one who bears witness to these things says, “Yes, I’m coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (21) The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.

Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This is our final lesson of this quarter, and we are looking at the final chapter and verses in the Bible.  Most commentators call this section the “Epilogue” and consider that it begins in Revelation 22:6. So in Lesson 12, we covered the first two verses of the Epilogue, verses 6-7. One of the features of this epilogue is the different speakers. At times the speaker is the guiding angel of 17:1. Also, Christ speaks a few times, as does the author himself. It would have been nice if John had identified the speakers as he did in verse 16 (“I, Jesus”). However, he seems to have assumed that the different speakers would be obvious to his readers.

In Revelation, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and omega, stand as symbols for what is first and last in creation. Creation had its beginning in God and Christ and will have its conclusion in this same divine reality. Yet the ending in Revelation is not a final end to everything. As we have seen, the end is a new stage in creation: a new heaven and new earth. While the first heaven and earth pass away, something new and amazing take their place. If this is an ending, it is an eternal one.

The ending in Revelation is one of completion and fulfillment. God’s Spirit was at the beginning, creating the universe. God’s Spirit will bring this creation to its fulfillment in a new creation.

The above introduces the concept of eternity. Eternity is one of those huge concepts nearly impossible to comprehend. Perhaps we should admit that there are things in this universe that are beyond our limited human comprehension. For example, what existed before God created the universe? How long will eternity last?

Eternity is one of those holy mysteries that we cannot comprehend or explain. Yet we can respond to a holy mystery with awe, wonder, and praise. In other words, we can respond by worshiping the One at the heart of the mysteries of the universe and by trusting in this One’s eternal love.

Through our faith in the One who is, who was, and who is to come, we can see that death is none other than God’s loving, eternal embrace. Our lives had their beginning in God and will have their completion in God. We are part of the new creation that God is bringing about. Therefore, we can live with the joyful reassurance that our lives continue in the eternal grace of God.

One of my favorite more modern hymns is one that I think helps us understand these verses. It is called a “Hymn of Promise.”



Monday, November 14, 2016

Life and Healing Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday November 20, 2016

Purpose: To recognize that God’s gift of abundant life is a present and a future gift

Bible Lesson: Revelation 22:1-7

Key Verse: Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, shining like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb. (Revelation 22:1)

Revelation 22:1-7 (CEB)
(1) Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, shining like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb (2) through the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life, which produces twelve crops of fruit, bearing its fruit each month. The tree’s leaves are for the healing of the nations. (3) There will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. (4) They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. (5) Night will be no more. They won’t need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will shine on them, and they will rule forever and always. (6) Then he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place. (7) “Look! I’m coming soon. Favored is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy contained in this scroll.”


Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

The last two lessons for this study period are both from the final chapter of the Book of Revelation.

As you read today’s text you soon realize that it is very much like the beginning of the book.  In the beginning, in the Book of Genesis chapter two, we see a somewhat similar picture, with the tree of knowledge, the tree of life, and the stream flowing through the middle of the Garden of Eden.  So, as it begins it also ends.

It is unclear by verse seven, if John’s guide is still the angel, or if the Lamb is now doing the narrative.

John may have been influenced both by Genesis and Ezekiel 47 or it could be that this is just the way it is, whether it is John, Ezekiel or Moses. (who is credited with the Book of Genesis) that is recording their vision.

Some things are abundantly clear, what John is viewing is a place of peace, light, and worship. It is also a place of Holiness, without doubters or curses.

God the creator, the Lamb of God, and the Holy Spirit, or spirit of the prophets, will all be present in this new Jerusalem which has no temple. No temple is needed since God reigns in person.

Fortunately for us we do not need to wait until we get to heaven, to have God reign in our lives. We have access today to all of the Trinity. We may not enjoy the healing and peace that John saw, but we do have the Creator God, the Redeeming Lamb and the Holy Comforter with us now.

There is a great old hymn that goes along with this lesson, “Shall We Gather at the River.” Enjoy the words and enjoy what awaits us.




Monday, November 7, 2016

I See a New Jerusalem Adult Sunday School Lesson

 International Sunday School Lesson 
 For Sunday November 13, 2016

Purpose: To embrace the hope expressed in the vision of the New Jerusalem

Bible Lesson: Revelation 21:9-14, 22-27

Background Scripture: Revelation 21:9-27

Key Verses: I didn’t see a temple in the city, because its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. The city doesn’t need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because God’s glory is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. (Revelation 21:22-23)

Revelation 21:9-14 (CEB)
(9) Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues spoke with me. “Come,” he said, “I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” (10) He took me in a Spirit-inspired trance to a great, high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. (11) The city had God’s glory. Its brilliance was like a priceless jewel, like jasper that was as clear as crystal. (12) It had a great high wall with twelve gates. By the gates were twelve angels, and on the gates, were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel’s sons. (13) There were three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. (14) The city wall had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the Lamb’s twelve apostles.

Revelation 21: 22-27 (CEB)
(22) I didn’t see a temple in the city, because its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. (23) The city doesn’t need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because God’s glory is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. (24) The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. (25) Its gates will never be shut by day, and there will be no night there. (26) They will bring the glory and honor of the nations into it.
(27) Nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is vile and deceitful, but only those who are registered in the Lamb’s scroll of life.

Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

The study of the Book of Revelation is one of those most misinterpreted and scary books in the New Testament. But as we try to understand the Book as written by John, I think there is a better way to understand it. It was written when those ruling in Rome such as Nero (A.D. 54–68) and Domitian (A.D 81–96) were vigorously persecuting Christians.

If we look at this passage from a message of “hope” standpoint, I think we can better understand John’s message. Since I am not smart enough to explain it I will use the words of German theologian J├╝rgen Moltmann who wrote his popular book “Theology of Hope” in 1964. It was translated into English in 1967 and immediately became a bestseller among those who read theology books.

Moltmann argued that there are two ways the future is related to us. The Latin word futurum (few-CHUR-um) is one way. This word refers to the future developing out of the past and the present. We draw conclusions about the future based on past and present experience. Since “this” happened, we conclude that “that” is likely to happen.

This extrapolative thinking captured by futurum is important when we are projecting what could happen in the future. We see clouds building on the horizon and expect rain. We see that interest rates are rising and predict an economic trend.

Optimism is based on extrapolative predictions. We feel positively about the future when we see good things happening in the present.

One of Moltmann’s great contributions in his book was to insist that hope, unlike optimism, is independent of our circumstances. Hope is not based on the correct extrapolation of the present into the future. Hope is adventus (ad-VENT-us), a Latin word referring to a future coming from the outside of past and present. This is the future that comes from God.

Moltmann saw that hope does not emerge. Hope comes. Hope does not develop; it breaks into our lives as a gift from God. That is why hope can spring up even in the darkest and direst of circumstances. Christian hope is based on the possibilities of God irrespective of how bleak things seem in the present.

In today’s lesson, we will encounter a hopeful vision of a New Jerusalem. This is not a rebuilding of a destroyed city (futurum) but an entirely new reality that comes from God (adventus).

As Christians, we live in “hope” of what will be, regardless of what we are facing at the moment.

There will be a new Jerusalem and a new creation and it will be a holy place because as It says in verse 27 “Nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is vile and deceitful, but only those who are registered in the Lamb’s scroll of life.”

For my hymn this week I think there is one that we should all sing, When the Toils of Life Are Over (In the New Jerusalem) - Martha Reed Garvin


 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Pioneer and Perfecter of Our Faith Adult Sunday School Lesson


International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday October 30, 2016

Purpose: To affirm ways that God in Jesus Christ is with us in our journey of faith

Bible Lesson: Hebrews 12:1-13

Key Verses: Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Hebrews 12:1-13 (CEB)
(1) So then let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, (2) and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne. (3) Think about the one who endured such opposition from sinners so that you won’t be discouraged and you won’t give up. (4) In your struggle against sin, you haven’t resisted yet to the point of shedding blood, (5) and you have forgotten the encouragement that addresses you as sons and daughters: My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline or give up when you are corrected by him, (6) because the Lord disciplines whomever he loves, and he punishes every son or daughter whom he accepts. (7) Bear hardship for the sake of discipline. God is treating you like sons and daughters! What child isn’t disciplined by his or her father? (8) But if you don’t experience discipline, which happens to all children, then you are illegitimate and not real sons and daughters. (9) What’s more, we had human parents who disciplined us, and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live? (10) Our human parents disciplined us for a little while, as it seemed best to them, but God does it for our benefit so that we can share his holiness. (11) No discipline is fun while it lasts, but it seems painful at the time. Later, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness for those who have been trained by it.

(12) So strengthen your drooping hands and weak knees! (13) Make straight paths for your feet so that if any part is lame, it will be healed rather than injured more seriously.



Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This is our fifth and final lesson from Hebrews for this quarter. This week instead of looking at Jesus as our great high priest, we are looking at the example he lived for us.

As we stated last week, it is important that we understand the recipients of this letter had no New Testament to read, so this letter was an important letter to them in how they should live.  Most believe the letter was written to Jews that had accepted Christ as the Messiah and were living in Rome, where persecution was about to be amped up. Up to this point there had not been a lot of Christian martyrs, James, the brother of John, and Stephen were the most famous of early Christian martyrs. But Nero was just around the corner.

The writer of Hebrews wanted those that had chosen to follow the teachings of Jesus, to know what could be in store for them. The writer also painted a picture for them of how earthly parents discipline and trained their children. The writer also points out that God acts in much the same way. Today we say, “whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” the writer was a little subtler.

The author compares the “race” or “just living our life” with growing up in a family and many things that we think as children as cruel or harsh we later learn was our parent’s way of preparing us to live a life outside of their protection.  The writer also points out the importance of training, the training prepares us for the real thing.  Like our earthly parents, our heavenly Father not only disciplines us, but He also encourages us to do our best, and to live a life that allows us to be called a child of God. We were never promised that we would escape all the hazards of life, we were only promised that we would never go through it alone.

My hymn for this week is “Take your Burden to the Lord and Leave It There.”