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.”




Monday, July 4, 2016

“We Are All Under Sin’s Power” Adult Sunday School Lesson


International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday July 10, 2016

Purpose: To recognize that salvation does not come through the Law but from God

Bible Lesson: Romans 3:9-20

Background Scripture: Psalm 136; Romans 3:9-20

Key Verse: It follows that no human being will be treated as righteous in his presence by doing what the Law says, because the knowledge of sin comes through the Law. (Romans 3:20)

Romans 3:9-20 (CEB)
(9) So what are we saying? Are we better off? Not at all. We have already stated the charge: both Jews and Greeks are all under the power of sin. (10) As it is written, there is no righteous person, not even one. (11) There is no one who understands. There is no one who looks for God. (12) They all turned away. They have become worthless together. There is no one who shows kindness. There is not even one. (13) Their throat is a grave that has been opened. They are deceitful with their tongues, and the poison of vipers is under their lips. (14) Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. (15) Their feet are quick to shed blood (16) destruction and misery are in their ways; (17) and they don’t know the way of peace. (18) There is no fear of God in their view of the world. (19) Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, in order to shut every mouth and make it so the whole world has to answer to God. (20) It follows that no human being will be treated as righteous in his presence by doing what the Law says, because the knowledge of sin comes through the Law.


Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This week’s lesson is about Sin and we are studying it so we can appreciate next week’s lesson, which will be about God setting things right.

While our lesson uses the Psalms and Isaiah to make Paul’s point, it was initially said by Moses in Deuteronomy 30 (11) This commandment that I’m giving you right now is definitely not too difficult for you. It isn’t unreachable. (12) It isn’t up in heaven somewhere so that you have to ask, “Who will go up for us to heaven and get it for us that we can hear it and do it?” (13) Nor is it across the ocean somewhere so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the ocean for us and get it for us that we can hear it and do it?” (14) Not at all! The word is very close to you. It’s in your mouth and in your heart, waiting for you to do it.

In modern day theology it is called “antinomianism” which means “against the law.” Theologically, antinomianism is the belief that there are no moral laws God expects Christians to obey. This is what Paul is speaking of in verse 8 just prior to our text. It is prevalent in today’s world. Too many Christians believe that God’s grace no longer requires them to live a moral life, we can do as we please.

In our text, Paul quotes the Psalmist, and goes in great detail to prove his argument, that whether Jew or Greek, we have all fallen short and we are all sinners. And just as Moses predicted some two thousand years’ prior, those chosen by God, would fail to uphold God’s moral law.

Paul’s argument will continue and will show a difference between being “pardoned” and being “justified.” The Old Testament rituals could offer a pardon for sin, but they could not remove it from the record. Just as in today’s world you can be pardoned for a crime, but the crime still remains as part of your record. Justification, on the other hand says, “just as if you never sinned.” Jew and Greek alike can now be “justified” through the sacrifice made by Christ. The blood of Jesus is more powerful than the blood of bulls and rams.

In our own strength it is impossible for us to live a good and righteous life, but with God working through the Holy Spirit, we can become a new creation. While we can’t, God can.

When we accept Christ into our life, we receive a “new name.” Which brings me to my hymn for this week, “A New Name Written Down in Glory.”


Monday, June 27, 2016

“Ignoring God’s Truth Within Us” Adult Sunday School Lesson


International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday July 3, 2016

Purpose: To demonstrate God’s truth within us by the way we live

Bible Lesson: Romans 2:17-29

Background Scripture: Psalm 104; Romans 2:14-29

Key Verse: It isn’t the ones who hear the Law who are righteous in God’s eyes. It is the ones who do what the Law says who will be treated as righteous. (Romans 2:13)

Romans 2:17-29 (CEB)
(17) But, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the Law; if you brag about your relationship to God; (18) if you know the will of God; if you are taught by the Law so that you can figure out the things that really matter; (19) if you have persuaded yourself that you are: a guide for the blind; a light to those who are in darkness; (20) an educator of the foolish; a teacher of infants (since you have the full content of knowledge and truth in the Law); (21) then why don’t you who are teaching others teach yourself? If you preach, “No stealing,” do you steal? (22) If you say, “No adultery,” do you commit adultery? If you hate idols, do you rob temples? (23) If you brag about the Law, do you shame God by breaking the Law? (24) As it is written: The name of God is discredited by the Gentiles because of you. (25) Circumcision is an advantage if you do what the Law says. But if you are a person who breaks the Law, your status of being circumcised has changed into not being circumcised. (26) So if the person who isn’t circumcised keeps the Law, won’t his status of not being circumcised be counted as if he were circumcised? (27) The one who isn’t physically circumcised but keeps the Law will judge you. You became a lawbreaker after you had the written Law and circumcision. (28) It isn’t the Jew who maintains outward appearances who will receive praise from God, and it isn’t people who are outwardly circumcised on their bodies. (29) Instead, it is the person who is a Jew inside, who is circumcised in spirit, not literally. That person’s praise doesn’t come from people but from God.


Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

My thoughts on this lesson might offend some of you. However, since most of us have not experienced circumcision for religious reasons, I think I can make a valid point for my argument. As modern day professing Christians we should replace the word circumcision, with baptism, or church membership.

Many modern day Christians rely on their baptism, or church membership, just as the Jews Paul was writing to, depended on their circumcision.

The same applies to a lot of church members that have not attempted to live any differently than the world, but are trusting in a ritual or act to save them from +God’s judgement.

Being a follower of Christ means more than going through some ritual. We cannot put our hope in church, or denomination membership. God will judge us on what we do with the knowledge we have. The measuring stick that will be used is Jesus, where do we stand in relation to Him? How have we responded to is commands? Remembering Jesus reduced all of the law into these two commandments found in Mark 12 (29) Jesus replied, “The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, (30) and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. (31) The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. [b] No other commandment is greater than these.”

Anyone today that thinks they are going to skate through judgment because they have belonged to some denomination or have been baptized is standing in the same place as the Jews Paul was addressing in this passage.

True followers of Christ have a circumcised heart. That is life should be lived as Christ lived. Every effort should be made to keep from sinning, not seeing how much we can get away with and still be called a Christian. Our lives should reflect Jesus. Our goal should be to be as much like Jesus as we can be.

There is a great old hymn that we don’t sing much anymore, “More About Jesus would I know, more of his love to others show.” While all of our works outside of Jesus is as filthy rags, only what we do for Him will surely last.



Monday, June 20, 2016

“Ignoring God’s Plain Truth” Adult Sunday School Lesson


International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday June 26. 2016

Purpose: To commit to discerning and following God’s will

Bible Lesson: Romans 1:18-23, 28-32

Background Scripture: Psalm 8; Romans 1:1-32

Key Verse: Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—God’s eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through the things God has made. So humans are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

Romans 1:18-23 (CEB)
(18) God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven against all the ungodly behavior and the injustice of human beings who silence the truth with injustice. (19) This is because what is known about God should be plain to them because God made it plain to them. (20) Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—God’s eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through the things God has made. So humans are without excuse. (21) Although they knew God, they didn’t honor God as God or thank him. Instead, their reasoning became pointless, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (22) While they were claiming to be wise, they made fools of themselves. (23) They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images that look like mortal humans: birds, animals, and reptiles.

Romans 1: 28-32 (CEB)
(28) Since they didn’t think it was worthwhile to acknowledge God, God abandoned them to a defective mind to do inappropriate things. (29) So they were filled with all injustice, wicked behavior, greed, and evil behavior. They are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, deception, and malice. They are gossips, (30) they slander people, and they hate God. They are rude and proud, and they brag. They invent ways to be evil, and they are disobedient to their parents. (31) They are without understanding, disloyal, without affection, and without mercy. (32) Though they know God’s decision that those who persist in such practices deserve death, they not only doing these things but also approve others who practice them.


Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

To set a historical reference for Paul’s letter to the Gentiles that were part of a congregation in Rome, Paul was the end of his third missionary journey. He was in Corinth for three months and had an important decision to make, go to Rome and then on to Spain, or go back to Jerusalem with the offering he had collected from the Macedonian Christians to help those struggling in Jerusalem.

Paul chose to return to Jerusalem, and write a letter to those in Rome. Because this powerful letter would become part of our canonized scripture we can assume that Paul’s decision was the will of the Father. It is important to remember as Paul was writing this letter, he had no idea of its importance. He had no way of knowing he was writing scripture to be studied for the next two millennia. It would be over 300 years before this letter would be recognized as Holy Writ.

Unlike his other letters, Paul was writing to a church he had not founded. Paul wanted to partner with those in Rome to help him continue to spread the gospel throughout the Roman world, especially to Spain and maybe even Britain.

For someone who had never met most of these Romans, Paul seemed to know a lot about them. Paul was a great networker, in his day. In this letter, he mentions about 30 individuals, both men and women, that were on the church rolls in Rome. As usual Paul took a two pronged approach. Doctrine followed by duty; theology followed by practice; understanding followed by application and believing followed by doing.

It is easy to see from Paul’s writings he was well aware of the lifestyle of many Romans. He is quick to point out that there is no excuse for this vile behavior, and they will be without excuse when God chooses to let them Waller in their vile behavior.

Paul tells the Romans, there is no excuse for not recognizing and worshipping with thanksgiving the Creator God. Obviously no wooden image or anything else was worthy of our worship, certainly not one of the creatures rather than the Creator. The way they ignored God only added to their foolishness.

There were several verses from this passage that were left out of our printed text, I am going to print them here.

(24) So God abandoned them to their hearts’ desires, which led to the moral corruption of degrading their own bodies with each other. (25) They traded God’s truth for a lie, and they worshipped and served the creation instead of the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (26) That’s why God abandoned them to degrading lust. Their females traded natural sexual relations for unnatural sexual relations. (27) Also, in the same way, the males traded natural sexual relations with females, and burned with lust for each other. Males performed shameful actions with males, and they were paid back with the penalty they deserved for their mistake in their own bodies.

These verses are the strongest condemnation of the LGBTQ lifestyle. Today we are faced as a nation and as a church to accept the words, as of God or man. Certainly everyone needs salvation, all of us. Also, we know only God can perform the miracle of a transformed life. I only know what I can control, as for me, I choose to serve the Christ/God of Paul. As for my hymn this week it is “Open My Eyes, That I May See.”



Monday, June 13, 2016

“Assurances and Joy for the Faithful” Adult Sunday School Lesson


International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday June 19, 2016

Purpose: To celebrate God’s gift of reconciliation

Bible Lesson: Zephaniah 3:9-14, 20

Background Scripture: Genesis 1:1–2:3; Zephaniah 3:9-20

Key Verse: Rejoice, Daughter Zion! Shout, Israel! / Rejoice and exult with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem. (Zephaniah 3:14)

Zephaniah 3:9-14, 20 (CEB)
(9) Then I will change the speech of the peoples into pure speech, that all of them will call on the name of the Lord and will serve him as one. (10) From beyond the rivers of Cush, my daughter, my dispersed ones, will bring me offerings. (11) On that day, you won’t be ashamed of all your deeds with which you sinned against me; then I will remove from your midst those boasting with pride. No longer will you be haughty on my holy mountain, (12) but I will cause a humble and powerless people to remain in your midst; they will seek refuge in the name of the Lord. (13) The few remaining from Israel won’t commit injustice; they won’t tell lies; a deceitful tongue won’t be found on their lips. They will graze and lie down; no one will make them afraid. (14) Rejoice, Daughter Zion! Shout, Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem.

Zephaniah 3: 20 (CEB)
(20) At that time, I will bring all of you back, at the time when I gather you. I will give you fame and praise among all the neighboring peoples when I restore your possessions and you can see them—says the Lord.

Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This week’s lesson, in contrast to the previous two weeks, offers hope. Putting this into the historical context, Zephaniah started this prophecy during the reign of Josiah. Josiah started reforms during his reign, but his sons and grandsons did not follow Josiah’s reforms and forty years later the nation of Judah was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar.

So Zephaniah’s prophecy of doom does come true. Today’s text is the only good news in this short book. The people of Jerusalem had become complacent about God, they thought God would do no harm, nor would he continue to be important to Judah. When we become complacent about God, we are saying we can take care of ourselves, we don’t need God any longer.

God always offers hope for the faithful. Those that were complacent were removed, and the remnant that remained were offered hope and peace. From an historical perspective, after the return from captivity, that faithful remnant never worshipped idols again in the remainder of Old Testament history

I think it is interesting to look at the contrasting characteristics of God, we see in the history of God’s chosen people. They saw him as a loving redeemer from slavery in Egypt, to a daily provider of their needs, a mighty warrior that led them in victory. God was also the prosecutor and judge for those that needed it. He also provided hope and promise of a better life to come in Canaan. That is why it is so hard to define God by his character. I think God can best be defined as simply, Father, or as Jesus called him Abba Father, which we translate as papa or daddy.

Everything that God did, whether love or judgement, corresponds to the way earthly fathers (should) react in our society. God continues to reward the humble and meek, those that have no hope, except in His mercy and grace.

I find it hard to choose a hymn for this week, the obvious choice would be “This is My Father’s World.” But I just used that a few weeks ago, so I will choose, “How Great Thou Art.”



Monday, June 6, 2016

“The Consequences of Disobedience” Adult Sunday School Lesson


International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday June 12, 2016

Purpose: To consider God’s warning of punishment and God’s desire that humankind correct disobedience

Bible Lesson: Zephaniah 3:6-8

Background Scripture: Genesis 1:1–2:3; Zephaniah 3:1-8

Key Verse: [God] said, “Surely, she will fear me; she will take instruction so that her habitation won’t be cut off because of everything I did to her.” (Zephaniah 3:7)

Zephaniah 3:6-8 (CEB)
(6) I will cut off nations; their towers will be destroyed; I will devastate their streets. No one will pass through. Their cities will be laid waste. There will be no person, no inhabitant left. (7) I said, “Surely, she will fear me; she will take instruction so that her habitation won’t be cut off because of everything I did to her.” However, they rose early to corrupt their deeds. (8) Therefore, wait for me, says the Lord, wait for the day when I rise up as a witness, when I decide to gather nations, to collect kingdoms, to pour out my indignation upon them, all the heat of my anger. In the fire of my jealousy, all the earth will be devoured


Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

I think it is impossible to read verse 6 and not think of the towers we all saw come down on September 11, 2001. I think it is interesting to note the effect of that event on church attendance for a short period of time.

I find the event of 9/11 creating the same atmosphere that God was trying to create through Zephaniah’s prophecy. I think it is possible to draw a parallel between today and Judah at the time of Zephaniah. Because I think it is important to read the verses preceding our text I am printing it here.

(1) Doom, obstinate one, the defiled one, the violent city. (2) She listened to no voice; she accepted no discipline. She didn’t trust in the Lord, nor did she draw near to her God. (3) The princes in her midst are roaring lions. Her judges are wolves of the evening; they leave nothing for the morning. (4) Her prophets are reckless, men of treachery. Her priests pollute that which is holy; they do violence to the instruction. (5) The Lord is righteous in her midst. He does nothing unjust. Morning by morning he renders justice, but the unrighteous one knows no shame.

As you read these first 5 verses you see a world paralleling our own, the government and the religious leaders all devouring and depicted as beast of prey. Like them, we are polluting the holy and ignoring God’s instructions (His word). The hope is in verse 5, when amidst it all God is there, willing and able to render justice.

The question we have to ask ourselves is do we believe God’s word to be alive? If we believe God still speaks to us through His word, how should we interpret today’s text for us?

God’s hope is that we learn something from the prophecy and repent. If we do, there is still time for God to bless us and redeem our generation. God would always rather redeem than destroy. Faced with those choices what do you choose?

My hymn for this week is a great hymn written by A.B. Simpson the founder of both the Christian and Missionary Alliance and The Assemblies of God. “Yesterday, Today, Forever”,



Monday, May 30, 2016

The Day of the Lord Adult Sunday School Lesson


International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday June 5, 2016

Purpose: To discover what it means to live within God’s plan for creation

Bible Lesson: Zephaniah 1:4-6, 14-16

Background: Genesis 1:1–2:3; Zephaniah 1:2–2:4; Zephaniah 2:3

Key Verse: Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land who practice his justice; seek righteousness; seek humility. Maybe you will be hidden on the day of the Lord’s anger. (Zephaniah 2:3)

Zephaniah 1:4-6, 14-16 (CEB)
(4) I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. I will eliminate what’s left of Baal from this place and the names of the priests of foreign gods, (5) those bowing down to the forces of heaven on the rooftops, those swearing by the Lord along with those swearing by Milcom, (6) those turning away from the Lord, those who don’t seek the Lord and don’t pursue him.

Zephaniah 1: 14-16 (CEB)
(14) The great day of the Lord is near; it is near and coming very quickly. The sound of the day of the Lord is bitter. A warrior screams there. (15) That day is a day of fury, a day of distress and anxiety, a day of desolation and devastation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and deep darkness, (16) a day for blowing the trumpet and alarm against their invincible cities and against their high towers.

Zephaniah 2:3 (CEB)
Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land who practice his justice; seek righteousness; seek humility. Maybe you will be hidden on the day of the Lord’s anger.

Some Thoughts By Burgess Walter

A good way to approach any theological Bible study is to ask three basic but connected questions. (1) What does this passage say about God? (2) What does this passage say about human beings? (3) What does this passage say about the relationship between God and human beings?

To set our lesson in historical terms Zephaniah was a contemporary of Jeremiah and prophesied in the early years of King Josiah. Because a revival promoted by King Josiah started in his 12th year, we can assume that today’s text was written during the first twelve years of Josiah’s reign. It is also believed that Zephaniah was a relative of King Josiah and his words were responsible for the reforms that King Josiah ordered. Josiah ruled Judah for 31 years from about 639 B. C. to 608 B. C. During the latter days, Josiah repaired the Temple, the Law was read, the Passover kept, and the covenant was renewed. And the land was cleansed of idolatrous priest, groves and sodomites Zephaniah prophesied against.

So, what does this passage say about God? It tells us about God’s awesome power, not only to create but also to destroy. Notice that the destruction comes in the same order as creation. 1:2 I will destroy the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea. I will make the into a heap of ruins; I will eliminate humanity from the earth, says the Lord.

God holds humanity responsible for not taking dominion over everything He had created and all that He called “supremely good.”

What does this passage say about human beings? They had failed to be good stewards of God’s creation. They also had sought other gods, and some had chosen to ignore God. (6 those turning away from the Lord, those who don’t seek the Lord and don’t pursue him) The very people God brought out of slavery in Egypt chose to worship other gods, or worse, chose to ignore the one that had redeemed them.

What does this passage say about the relationship between God and human beings? It appears to be a one sided relationship, God provided and we perverted. God’s instruction through Moses and others was clear, we should have no other god’s, but humankind wanted what the ungodly had. Humankind saw the practices of an evil world and chose that rather than a life of humbleness and holiness. God offers a chance for redemption, but humankind chooses to ignore.

Like those in Zephaniah's day we consider God to be powerless, and of no consequence to our lives. We think God is like all of our other gods that we worship, dependent on our resources. We are in control of our own destiny and our own happiness. Unless we repent and again seek God we are doomed just Zephaniah prophesied.

My hymn for this week is “I Surrender All.”