Monday, July 24, 2017

Amos's Call Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday July 30, 2017

Purpose: To acknowledge that faithfully serving God often invites criticism from others

Bible Lesson: Amos 7:10-17

Background Scripture: Amos 7

Key Verses: Amos answered Amaziah, “I am not a prophet, nor am I a prophet’s son; but I am a shepherd, and a trimmer of sycamore trees. But the Lord took me from shepherding the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’” (Amos 7:14-15)

Amos 7:10-17 (CEB)
(10) Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, reported to Israel’s King Jeroboam, “Amos has plotted against you within the house of Israel. The land isn’t able to cope with everything that he is saying. (11) Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel will be forced out of its land.’”

(12) Amaziah said to Amos, “You who see things, go, run away to the land of Judah, eat your bread there, and prophesy there; (13) but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s holy place and his royal house.”

(14) Amos answered Amaziah, “I am not a prophet, nor am I a prophet’s son; but I am a shepherd, and a trimmer of sycamore trees. (15) But the Lord took me from shepherding the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’

(16) “Now then hear the Lord’s word. You say, ‘Don’t prophesy against Israel, and don’t preach against the house of Isaac.’ (17) “Therefore, the Lord proclaims: ‘Your wife will become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters will fall by the sword, and your land will be measured and divided up; you yourself will die in an unclean land, and Israel will surely be taken away from its land.’”


Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This is the last of five lessons in a unit entitled “Calling of Prophets.” We have learned about Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and today we will learn more about Amos.

First let me give a little tutorial.  There are two terms with which may not be familiar to you. Exegesis (ek-si-jee-sis) is defined as a critical explanation or interpretation of a biblical text. Exegesis seeks to be an objective attempt to determine the meaning and implication of the text. The other, even less familiar word is eisegesis (ahy-si-jee-sis). Eisegesis is the process of reading into the text our own presuppositions and biases.

Most of us are aware that America was founded on Christian based principles, but it was also established with a separation of Church and State.  Historically when that separation did not exist as in the Roman and other European countries there was a conflict of interest. Which is what lead to the new settlers coming to America.

At the time of Amos, approximately 750 B.C. there was a divided nation of Israel, Israel being the northern kingdom and Judah the southern kingdom. The king in the northern kingdom was Jeroboam II.  The southern kingdom was ruled by Uzziah at this time.

Amos lived in the southern kingdom of Judah, but was called by God to preach and prophecy in the northern kingdom of Israel. Amos was unique in that he was not a professional prophet nor even the son of a prophet. He had not received any formal training, he was a shepherd and farmer.

What Amos had to say in Bethel did not go over well with the King Jeroboam II or with the priest Amaziah.  After all things were pretty good in Israel, Assyria, which had been a threat to Israel and Judah for many years, was experiencing a period of decline with problems of its own. With it posing less of a threat, and Israel having to pay less to a foreign power, Abraham’s descendants could benefit greatly by engaging more freely in international trade. This was especially true for the northern kingdom of Israel.

However, God saw an injustice taking place, the poor were still poor and the wealthy were the only ones benefiting from this period of peace and prosperity. In addition, the Church leaders were also aligning with government of the north, hence Amaziah, the priest, comments to Amos.  

Which brings us to today’s problem in our own country.  Which side are we to be on, the church or the state?  Many things that the Church promotes is not popular with those that have no Christian understanding. The Church’s “Shall nots” come in conflict with the state's “rules and laws.”

Like Amos we may have to choose, the state or the church. Like Amos, our choice may be directly opposed to what is popular with the state.  Are we willing to face unhappy friends, neighbors or family for the sake of Christ?  No one wants to hear the truth about what might happen, we prefer the ostrich approach.

My hymn for this week is “God Bless America.”

Monday, July 17, 2017

Ezekiel's Call Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson 
For Sunday July 23, 2017 

Purpose: To depend on the teachings of Scripture for help in rising above seemingly insurmountable obstacles

Bible Lesson: Ezekiel 3:1-11

Background Scripture: Ezekiel 1–3

Key Verses: He said to me: Human one, listen closely, and take to heart every word I say to you. Then go to the exiles, to your people’s children. Whether they listen or not, speak to them and say: The Lord God proclaims! (Ezekiel 3:10-11)

Ezekiel 3:1-11 (CEB)
(1) Then he said to me: Human one, eat this thing that you’ve found. Eat this scroll and go, speak to the house of Israel. (2) So, I opened my mouth, and he fed me the scroll. (3) He said to me: Human one, feed your belly and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you. So, I ate it, and in my mouth, it became as sweet as honey.

(4) Then he said to me: Human one, go! Go to the house of Israel and speak my words to them. (5) You aren’t being sent to a people whose language and speech are difficult and obscure but to the house of Israel. (6) No, not to many peoples who speak difficult and obscure languages, whose words you wouldn’t understand. If I did send you to them, they would listen to you. (7) But the house of Israel—they will refuse to listen to you because they refuse to listen to me. The whole house of Israel is hardheaded and hard-hearted too. (8) I’ve now hardened your face so that you can meet them head-on. (9) I’ve made your forehead like a diamond, harder than stone. Don’t be afraid of them or shrink away from them, because they are a household of rebels.

(10) He said to me: Human one, listen closely, and take to heart every word I say to you. (11) Then go to the exiles, to your people’s children. Whether they listen or not, speak to them and say: The Lord God proclaims!


Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This week’s lesson is the fourth in the unit “Calling of Prophets.” Last week, we took a brief look at the life of Jeremiah and his experience with God in the Temple where God called him to be a prophet. In this lesson, we will investigate the life of Ezekiel and focus on his call experience.

To put this lesson into a historical context as well as spiritual context we must try and understand the situation in which Ezekiel finds himself.   Ezekiel was both a priest and a prophet. As part of those taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar, he found himself in an unfamiliar setting. He was away from both Jerusalem and the temple.

The thinking at the time by most reasonable men was that the god they worshipped was the strongest and therefore the victor’s gods prevailed.

When Israel and Judah find themselves in a foreign land where gods other than Yahweh are worshipped they are confused. Adding to this is the fact that their worship has always been connected to both Jerusalem and the temple.  Now priest like Ezekiel must use other means to worship. Nothing in their lives seemed to point them to God.

This is the temptation of every believer when he is separated from the home and church of his youth, and they find themselves in a strange environment.  The sense of God’s power and presence, in fact of God’s reality, are apt to suffer.

In this environment Ezekiel is led to employ a new strategy for teaching. Remarkably his prophecy begins with a new and revitalized picture of God’s sovereignty.  In this new vision God is no longer in a temple in Jerusalem but reigns from a glorious throne and from the throne comes the voice of God. Thus, the basic facts of religion are born, God’s existence, his supreme sovereignty, his revelation, and his appointment of a prophet. 

God warned Ezekiel the message is not going to be received by the hearers, but God never guarantees success, he only asks for obedience. 
Jeremiah had prophesied that this captivity would last 70 years. While most would count this a problem, God used it to inspire the wise men in captivity to accumulate and copy all the text that had been written, and that becomes the Jewish bible as we know it.  All gathered in one scroll. Out of the captivity, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,

becomes better known and His power through such men as Daniel, the three Hebrew children, Nehemiah, Ezra, and others is far greater than the gods of Babylon, Assyria or Persia.

My hymn for this week is “Wonderful Words of Life”

Monday, July 10, 2017

Jeremiah's Call and Commission Adult Sunday School Lesson

Uniform Adult Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday July 16, 2017

Purpose: To recognize that we can be reluctant and afraid when confronted with a divine challenge

Bible Lesson: Jeremiah 1:4-10

Background Scripture: Jeremiah 1

Key Verse: Don’t be afraid of them, because I’m with you to rescue you,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 1:8)

Jeremiah 1:4-10 (CEB)
(4) The Lord’s word came to me:
(5) “Before I created you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I set you apart; I made you a prophet to the nations.”
(6) “Ah, Lord God,” I said, “I don’t know how to speak because I’m only a child.”
(7) The Lord responded, “Don’t say, ‘I’m only a child.’ Where I send you, you must go; what I tell you, you must say.
(8) Don’t be afraid of them, because I’m with you to rescue you,” declares the Lord.
(9) Then the Lord stretched out his hand, touched my mouth, and said to me, “I’m putting my words in your mouth.
(10) This very day I appoint you over nations and empires, to dig up and pull down, to destroy and demolish, to build and plant.”


Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This week’s lesson is the third in a unit focusing on the calling of prophets. Today’s lesson examines the calling of Jeremiah and helps us deepen our understanding of how God calls people to mission and ministry.

We will learn, or at least be reminded, that being reluctant and afraid when God calls us to carry out his mission is no disqualification for service. As with the two previous lessons in this unit, it will help us appreciate the calling of Jeremiah if we have at least a minimal understanding of his historical context.

The prophet began his career during the reign of Josiah, around 626 B.C. (about 116 years after the call of Isaiah)  King Josiah is famous in Jewish history for his religious reforms, including an attempt to align the national policies of Judah with his concept of the Mosaic covenant.

Jeremiah was primarily a prophet to the nation of Judah, sometimes called the southern kingdom. The northern nation of Israel had already been conquered. Jeremiah served under four different kings of Judah. Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin. When Jehoiakim was king, he cut up and burned Jeremiah's first scroll. (36:20-26) So what we are reading today is a rewrite of the original.

In God’s call to Jeremiah, God promises to be with and rescue Jeremiah. However, Jeremiah faces a lot of resistance. Jeremiah, at one point, is arrested and placed in a cistern.  His words are found very offensive by other so-called prophets, who taught a more loving God would never allow Judah to be taken into captivity by the Babylonians. Verse 19:9 NKJV says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?

In 1:16 God says, “I will declare my judgment against them for doing evil: for abandoning me, worshipping other gods, and trusting in the works of their hands.” Then in 31:31 “The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah.” This new covenant is found in Mathew 26:28 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many so that their sins may be forgiven.”

While our lesson is about Jeremiah’s call, we should not forget that all Christ followers are called by Jesus in the Great Commission. Mathew 28:19  “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20)  teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”

Thankfully God has the authority and the right to pronounce both judgement and salvation. Our call is to share His teachings and persuade them to seek repentance and be restored by the New Covenant.  If we do that, we have the assurance that God will be with us. Knowing our hope is not in fame or fortune, but an eternal life with the creator, redeemer.

My hymn for this week is “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place.”


Monday, July 3, 2017

Isaiah in the Temple Adult Sunday School Lesson

Uniform Adult Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday July 9, 2017

Purpose: To realize that unexpected circumstances can lead us into new opportunities to serve God

Bible Lesson: Isaiah 6:1-8

Background Scripture: Isaiah 6

Key Verse: Then I heard the Lord’s voice saying, “Whom should I send, and who will go for us?” I said, “I’m here; send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)

Isaiah 6:1-8 (CEB)
(1) In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a high and exalted throne, the edges of his robe filling the temple. (2) Winged creatures were stationed around him. Each had six wings: with two they veiled their faces, with two their feet, and with two they flew about.

(3) They shouted to each other, saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of heavenly forces! All the earth is filled with God’s glory!”

(4) The doorframe shook at the sound of their shouting, and the house was filled with smoke.

(5) I said, “Mourn for me; I’m ruined! I’m a man with unclean lips, and I live among a people with unclean lips. Yet I’ve seen the king, the Lord of heavenly forces!”

(6) Then one of the winged creatures flew to me, holding a glowing coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs. (7) He touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips. Your guilt has departed, and your sin is removed.”

(8) Then I heard the Lord’s voice saying, “Whom should I send, and who will go for us?” I said, “I’m here; send me.”


Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

I learned a long time ago that you should be careful of what you complain about to God. If a problem has been brought to your attention and you complain, don’t be surprised if God ask you to fix it.

That is sort of the case with Isaiah, he was unhappy with the way people were acting and he realized he might be part of the problem.

When we compare ourselves to other mortals, it is easy to come to the wrong conclusion, that we might be better than most. God on the other hand does not compare us to other mortals. His standard is much higher. God’s holiness is so far above anything we can comprehend it is impossible for us to fathom.

Isaiah uses the most outrageous things he can, to come up with his description of a holy God.  The Hebrew language has no way to express a superlative except by repetition. To say “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord” is to declare that God is very, very, very holy.

The year of King Uzziah’s death is 742 B.C. The vision takes place in the temple in Jerusalem. Unlike the role of priest in the Jewish faith, there is no ordination for a prophet. Anyone can declare themselves a prophet, they are judged on their accuracy.

Politically the nation of Judah is headed down a slippery slope. In trying to save their kingdom, they had made alliances with Egypt and paid tribute to Assyria. They sought a political solution when God just wanted them to repent and serve Him only. Maybe it was because of Isaiah's preaching that Jerusalem was spared as long as it was. Only an intervention, by an angel of God, was Jerusalem saved in 701 B.C. (You can read that story in 2 Kings 19:35)

While our lesson focuses on the call of Isaiah, God’s act of salvation should not be overlooked. Isaiah’s cleansing comes as a divine initiative. Isaiah is made worthy to perform God’s work by the act of the “winged creature.” Isaiah was purified for service after he confessed his unclean lips were not worthy, along with rest of Judah.

God may not call you through an ordained office, He may just ask you to confess and go, God will always provide the purification if we confess. Whether it is called Salvation, Justification, or Sanctification it only happens when we confess our uncleanness and say, “I’m here; send me.”  Only when we compare ourselves to a Holy God do we see our own flaws.

My hymn for this week is “Holy, Holy, Holy.”


Monday, June 26, 2017

Moses and the Burning Bush Adult Sunday School Lesson

Uniform Adult Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday July 2, 2017

Purpose: To recognize God’s presence as we partner with God to correct injustice

Bible Lesson: Exodus 3:1-12

Background Scripture: Exodus 3

Key Verses: "Now the Israelites’ cries of injustice have reached me. I’ve seen just how much the Egyptians have oppressed them. So, get going. I’m sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:9-10)

Exodus 3:1-12 (CEB)
(1) Moses was taking care of the flock for his father-in-law Jethro, Midian’s priest. He led his flock out to the edge of the desert, and he came to God’s mountain called Horeb. (2) The Lord’s messenger appeared to him in a flame of fire in the middle of a bush. Moses saw that the bush was in flames, but it didn’t burn up. (3) Then Moses said to himself, let me check out this amazing sight and find out why the bush isn’t burning up.

(4) When the Lord saw that he was coming to look, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!”
Moses said, “I’m here.”

(5) Then the Lord said, “Don’t come any closer! Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground.” (6) He continued, “I am the God of your father, Abraham’s God, Isaac’s God, and Jacob’s God.” Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. (7) Then the Lord said, “I’ve clearly seen my people oppressed in Egypt. I’ve heard their cry of injustice because of their slave masters. I know about their pain. (8) I’ve come down to rescue them from the Egyptians in order to take them out of that land and bring them to a good and broad land, a land that’s full of milk and honey, a place where the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites all live. (9) Now the Israelites’ cries of injustice have reached me. I’ve seen just how much the Egyptians have oppressed them. (10) So, get going. I’m sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

(11) But Moses said to God, “Who am I to go to Pharaoh and to bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (12) God said, “I’ll be with you. And this will show you that I’m the one who sent you. After you bring the people out of Egypt, you will come back here and worship God on this mountain.”

Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

For the past four weeks, we have looked at those that were, “Called To Be Strong.”  This week we begin a new unit entitled “Calling of Prophets” and examine the calls of Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Amos. This week’s lesson examines Moses’ experience with God on Mount Horeb.

As usual a little background is needed to put today’s lesson into the historical setting. Briefly explained, God called Abraham, and a promise was made. Abraham’s grandson was Jacob, Jacob had twelve sons, one of which was Joseph, Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt. Joseph becomes second in command of all of Egypt. A great famine happens, and Joseph in his mercy, brings his father and brothers to Egypt to survive the famine.

The call of Moses takes place approximately 215 years after Joseph was in charge in Egypt.  In Exodus 1:8 we find these sad words, “Now a new king came to power in Egypt who didn’t know Joseph.”  That brings you up to date historically. Assuming you know about Moses’s story up to the point he was chased out of Egypt for killing an Egyptian.  Moses was raised and educated in the house of Pharaoh, he was a prince, prior to killing an Egyptian. Moses goes into the Sinai desert to escape punishment and marries the daughter of Jethro. Jethro was a righteous man and puts Moses in charge of his herd.

That is where our text for this week begins. Moses has plenty of time to contemplate while tending to Jethro’s herd.

God considers Moses the most qualified person to go back into Egypt and bring out the Israelites, that were slaves to the Egyptians.  Moses was qualified both politically and education wise to approach Pharaoh. He did have a speech problem that God would take care of. But most importantly God promised to be with him. God also promised that they would meet again on this very mountain, assuring Moses he would survive whatever the Egyptians might try.

After the death of Joseph, and the new Pharaohs came into power, the Israelites had become a very important work force for the rulers of Egypt. As they were treated worse and worse they cried out to God about their circumstances.  Verse 9 says, “Now the Israelites’ cries of injustice have reached me.”

A couple of things have taken place, the Israelites had multiplied and the Egyptians loved to have slaves. Like us, they cried out to God for deliverance. It may not be on our, time schedule or how we would do it, but we can always count on God to deliver. The promise to Abraham goes back 400 years, but God comes through.

My hymn for this week is “God Lead His Dear Children Along.”



Monday, June 19, 2017

Samson's Call Adult Sunday School Lesson

Uniform Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday June 25, 2017

Purpose: To remember that God created each person for a purpose that may involve circumstances not of our choosing

Bible Lesson: Judges 13:1-7, 24-25

Background Scripture: Judges 13–16

Key Verse: You are pregnant and will give birth to a son. Don’t allow a razor to shave his head, because the boy is going to be a Nazirite for God from birth. He’ll be the one who begins Israel’s rescue from the power of the Philistines. (Judges 13:5)

Judges 13:1-7 (CEB)
(1) The Israelites again did things that the Lord saw as evil, and he handed them over to the Philistines for forty years.

(2) Now there was a certain man from Zorah, from the Danite clan, whose name was Manoah. His wife was unable to become pregnant and had not given birth to any children. (3) The Lord’s messenger appeared to the woman and said to her, “Even though you’ve been unable to become pregnant and haven’t given birth, you are now pregnant and will give birth to a son! (4) Now be careful not to drink wine or brandy or to eat anything that is ritually unclean, (5) because you are pregnant and will give birth to a son. Don’t allow a razor to shave his head, because the boy is going to be a Nazirite for God from birth. He’ll be the one who begins Israel’s rescue from the power of the Philistines.”

(6) Then the woman went and told her husband, “A man of God came to me, and he looked like God’s messenger––very scary! I didn’t ask him where he was from, and he didn’t tell me his name. (7) He said to me, ‘You are pregnant and will give birth to a son, so don’t drink wine or brandy or eat anything that is ritually unclean, because the boy is going to be a Nazirite for God from birth until the day he dies.’ ”

Judges 13:24-25 (CEB)
(24) The woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson. The boy grew up, and the Lord blessed him. (25) The Lord’s spirit began to move him when he was in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.


Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

As we continue to study the Book of Judges, we again see this cycle of sinning against God, repenting, and God coming to the rescue.  You should be aware that as our story begins this week, God has allowed the children of Israel to be controlled the Philistines for forty years.

As we learned last week, God declined to help if they continued to worship other gods. Instead God suggested they should ask those gods that they were worshipping for help. As God always does when they repented, God repented and helped them defeat the enemy.

In the settling of the Promised Land as given by God and divided by Joshua, the tribe of Judah was given the seaside territory occupied by the Philistines. Today that territory is called Gaza and the dispute remains between Israel and Palestine.  (which means “land of the Philistines”)

In our text, we see that Samson is from the tribe of Dan, which governed the territory and was located immediately north of Judah. As you read the story, after they blinded Samson they took him to Gaza, or modern-day Palestine.  So, while our story is over three thousand years old the battle continues.

Unlike our previous stories, deliverance was not promised by God, but only the beginning of deliverance. (“He’ll be the one who begins Israel’s rescue from the power of the Philistines.” ) 13:5b  What Samson begins David will complete temporarily. However, most prophecy speaks of the Philistines being around until the final battle of Armageddon.

Take note of the similarities and the differences between Samson and Samuel.  Both mothers were barren, God came to one and the other went to God. Both were committed to bring the sons up as Nazarites. There are also similarities between Samson, Samuel and John the Baptizer, all raised as Nazarites. (Numbers 6:1-6) These women were considered to be barren. These women were obedient to God’s call on their life, but answering the call meant giving up the thing they wanted the most. The son’s each of them received, was taken from them and used by God. 

When we yield our lives to God, the result may not be exactly what we had hoped for. Our commitment to do God’s will for our lives, will probably cost us something, but living within His will, offers us blessings we could never know any other way.

My hymn for this week is “O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee”

A suggested prayer is: Dear God of all creation, we never cease to be amazed at the endless ways you find to bless us. Your mercy and grace and love are everlasting. As we gather today in your name, teach us your ways. Help us face adversity and evil with courage. Transform our hearts and minds, and renew your Spirit within us; in Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen



Monday, June 12, 2017

Jephthah Answers the Call Adult Sunday School Lesson

Uniform Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday June 18, 2017

Purpose: To affirm that people who disagree on many issues can still work together to accomplish common goals

Bible Lesson: Judges 11:4-11, 29-31

Background Scripture: Judges 11

Key Verse: And Jephthah said to Gilead’s elders, “If you bring me back to fight the Ammonites and the Lord gives them over to me, I alone will be your leader.” (Judges 11:9)

Judges 11:4-11 (CEB)
(4) Sometime afterward, the Ammonites made war against Israel. (5) And when the Ammonites attacked Israel, Gilead’s elders went to bring Jephthah back from the land of Tob. (6) They said to him, “Come be our commander so we can fight against the Ammonites.”

(7) But Jephthah replied to Gilead’s elders, “Aren’t you the ones who hated me and drove me away from my father’s household? Why are you coming to me now when you’re in trouble?”

(8) Gilead’s elders answered Jephthah, “That may be, but now we’re turning back to you, so come with us and fight the Ammonites. Then you’ll become the leader over us and everyone who lives in Gilead.” (9) And Jephthah said to Gilead’s elders, “If you bring me back to fight the Ammonites and the Lord gives them over to me, I alone will be your leader.”

(10) Gilead’s elders replied to him, “The Lord is our witness; we will surely do what you’ve said.” (11) So Jephthah went with Gilead’s elders, and the people made him leader and commander over them. At Mizpah before the Lord, Jephthah repeated everything he had said.
Judges 11: 29-31 (CEB)

(29) Then the Lord’s spirit came on Jephthah. He passed through Gilead and Manasseh, then through Mizpah in Gilead, and from there he crossed over to the Ammonites. (30) Jephthah made a solemn promise to the Lord: “If you will decisively hand over the Ammonites to me, (31) then whatever comes out the doors of my house to meet me when I return victorious from the Ammonites will be given over to the Lord. I will sacrifice it as an entirely burned offering.”


Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

There are a few historical facts that should be brought out about this week’s lesson. Jephthah was an illegitimate son of Gilead. Born of a prostitute, and rejected by the legitimate sons of Gilead. He was run off and denied any part of his father’s inheritance, by his brothers. So, Jephthah went north to Tob. There he became the leader of a band of outlaws, and he was very successful in that endeavor.

Meanwhile the Lord had become very upset with the habitual disobedience of the Gileadites and all of Israel. As recorded in Judges 10 (13) But you have gone away from me and served other gods, so I won’t rescue you anymore! (14) Go cry out to the gods you’ve chosen. Let them rescue you in the time of your distress.”

Of course, as soon as they repented, God repented and forgave them. That is where this week’s text comes in. Once again, God does not choose the best character to fulfill His mission, but he chooses the willing. Jephthah bargained with the desperate Gileadites and they agreed with the conditions.

Jephthah had to feel a great deal of vindication for the way his brothers had treated him, now he would become the ruler of Gilead.

On his way into battle Jephthah made a deal with God. Now I know none of you have ever done that. The deal found in the following verses:  (30) Jephthah made a solemn promise to the Lord: “If you will decisively hand over the Ammonites to me, (31) then whatever comes out the doors of my house to meet me when I return victorious from the Ammonites will be given over to the Lord. I will sacrifice it as an entirely burned offering.”

I think our purpose statement might be misleading, it is not about us agreeing or disagreeing amongst ourselves. It is, are we being obedient to the Lord or to other men?

God’s principles cannot be abandoned just to bring peace, God expects and demands obedience. And He is always willing to forgive if we repent of our own foolishness.

Jephthah was unable to take back his deal he made with the Lord, and it cost him the life of his only daughter. It was Jephthah’s lack of faith that cost him his only daughters life. It is that same lack of faith that can cost us eternal life.  

At the end of chapter 11 we read this tradition (40) for four days every year Israelite daughters would go away to recount the story of the Gileadite Jephthah’s daughter. Because of her willingness to become the sacrifice, this virgin daughter becomes a type of Christ.  She willingly lays down her life, to save all of those in Gilead.

While parts of this lesson can be very disturbing, it should be noted, God responds to those that diligently seek Him.  We are never more than a word of repentance from God, no matter how far we have strayed.


My hymn for this week is “Lord I Am Coming Home.” You too may have wandered far away; God’s arms are always open for the repented sinner.



Monday, June 5, 2017

Gideon's Call Adult Sunday School Lesson

Uniform Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday June 11, 2017

Purpose: To recognize that God is always with us, even when we doubt or feel abandoned

Bible Lesson: Judges 6:11-18

Background Scripture: Judges 6–8

Key Verse: The Lord’s messenger appeared to him and said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!” (Judges 6:12)

Judges 6:11-18 (CEB)
(11) Then the Lord’s messenger came and sat under the oak at Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite. His son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to hide it from the Midianites. (12) The Lord’s messenger appeared to him and said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!”

(13) But Gideon replied to him, “With all due respect, my Lord, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his amazing works that our ancestors recounted to us, saying, ‘Didn’t the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and allowed Midian to overpower us.”

(14) Then the Lord turned to him and said, “You have strength, so go and rescue Israel from the power of Midian. Am I not personally sending you?” 

(15) But again, Gideon said to him, “With all due respect, my Lord, how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I’m the youngest in my household.”
(16) The Lord replied, “Because I’m with you, you’ll defeat the Midianites as if they were just one person.” (17) Then Gideon said to him, “If I’ve gained your approval, please show me a sign that it’s really you speaking with me.

(18) Don’t leave here until I return, bring out my offering, and set it in front of you.”


Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This is our second in this series of “Called to be Strong.”  I have always been fascinated by the story of Gideon. For many years I was a member of Gideon’s International, the group that used to distribute New Testaments and Bibles to 5th graders, graduates, hotels and doctor offices. Most of that has now been discontinued because of pressure from government agencies.

As I read this story, I am amused at the humor God shows. When Gideon is cowering in a winepress threshing out enough grain to make bread to feed his family, peering out over the top looking for the enemy, the Lord introduces Himself to Gideon, by saying “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!”  You have to love Gideon's response, “With all due respect, my Lord, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?"  I think Gideon’s question is a legitimate question and one most of us have ask ourselves.

When Gideon responds “With all due respect, my Lord, how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I’m the youngest in my household.”  The challenge for us today is believing God’s answer.   “Because I’m with you.”

When we are called by God to do His work and He has called us to perform for Him we can be assured that He is with us.

I recall how some 30 years ago, my wife, Katherine, asked a similar question. She felt God’s call on her to do something, but what? After a time of prayer, she felt God calling her to minister to young married women.  She organized a study group that would meet every week, study, pray, and encourage each other.  This group of young mothers and wives grew into a real source of ministry for these women.

While they faced many problems at home with raising children, running a household and tending to the needs of their husbands, their own spiritual life suffered. The only way this was a successful endeavor was because the Lord was with her. Many of those women are now grandmothers and active in their local church, and many still look back to that time and group as helping them to survive raising a Christian family.

God does not always call the equipped, but He will always equip the called.  Both Gideon and Katherine had doubts, but with God’s help, both succeeded.  Never be afraid to accept God’s call on your life.
My hymn for this week is “Jesus Calls Us.”



 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Deborah and Barak Adult Sunday School Lesson

Uniform Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday June 4, 2017

Purpose: To consider how we can accomplish great things when we work together to carry out any mission God gives us

Bible Lesson: Judges 4:1-10 

Background Scripture: Judges 4–5

Key Verse: Deborah answered, “I’ll definitely go with you. However, the path you’re taking won’t bring honor to you, because the Lord will hand over Sisera to a woman.” (Judges 4:9)

Judges 4:1-10  (CEB)
(1) After Ehud had died, the Israelites again did things that the Lord saw as evil. (2) So, the Lord gave them over to King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, and he was stationed in Harosheth-ha-goiim. (3) The Israelites cried out to the Lord because Sisera had nine hundred iron chariots and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly for twenty years.

(4) Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was a leader of Israel at that time. (5) She would sit under Deborah’s palm tree between Ramah and Bethel in the Ephraim highlands, and the Israelites would come to her to settle disputes. (6) She sent word to Barak, Abinoam’s son, from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “Hasn’t the Lord, Israel’s God, issued you a command? ‘Go and assemble at Mount Tabor, taking ten thousand men from the people of Naphtali and Zebulun with you.

(7) I’ll lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, to assemble with his chariots and troops against you at the Kishon River, and then I’ll help you overpower him.” (8) Barak replied to her, “If you’ll go with me, I’ll go; but if not, I won’t go.”

(9) Deborah answered, “I’ll definitely go with you. However, the path you’re taking won’t bring honor to you, because the Lord will hand over Sisera to a woman.” Then Deborah got up and went with Barak to Kedesh. (10) He summoned Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh, and ten thousand men marched out behind him. Deborah marched out with him too

Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter

After a three-month absence, I am once again posting my weekly blog on the Uniform/International/Standard Sunday School Lessons. As I have stated I do the Uniform lessons to honor a long history of Sunday School teachers and writers. My grandmother, my father, my father-in-law, my uncle all taught Sunday School from the Uniform Series. In addition, one of my mentors was the editor of the Higley Commentary for many years, Dr. Loyal Ringenberg. He continued to mentor me until his death in 2000.

I grew up in a small town (Butler, Indiana) that had a Christian publishing house, called “The Higley Press” each year they put out a commentary on the yearly lessons of the Uniform/International Series Sunday School Lessons.  I think the last one published was in 2000. 

In addition, one of the great but underappreciated gifts to the church universal is the work of the Committee on the Uniform Series. The work of this interdenominational body of Sunday school scholars and editors had its origin in 1866 in the Sunday School Teacher of the Reverend John Heyl Vincent (a Methodist clergyman who was elected bishop in 1888). From the beginning, the goal of the Uniform Series was to standardize the lessons taught in Sunday school classes so that persons could study the same lesson in any Sunday school class they attended, no matter the denomination, anywhere in the United States. To that end, the Committee on the Uniform Series meets annually to prepare detailed lesson outlines that are then distributed to more than 20 denominational publishing houses. Then the varied publishing houses can locate writers within their own faith communities to draft Scripture-based lessons on eight general topics (such as God, Faith, and Worship) that provide an overview of the entire Bible every six years. For more than 150 years, these dedicated church workers have guaranteed that teachers and students in Sunday school classes— large and small, rural and urban, conservative and liberal—have the opportunity to explore the full breadth of God’s Word in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Now for today’s lesson. First, we need to set the time, approximately 1426 B.C. is when our story takes place. Joshua has died and only parts of Canaan have been conquered by the tribes of Israel.  Each tribe was more or less responsible for conquering the territory given it by Joshua.

Just as both Moses and Joshua had warned, many of the tribes failed to drive out the Canaanites. The people and leaders of the different tribes began to worship the Canaan gods of Baal, they especially liked the fertility gods and the ceremonies that took place during that worship. This of course grieved Yahweh, the God that had brought them out of Egypt. (The Israelites were forbidden to use or say the word God, so they referred to Him in some unpronounceable name, we interpret as YAHWEH.) 

With the death of Joshua, each of the twelve tribe’s leadership fell to one of those within the Tribe. For the tribe of Ephraim, Deborah was chosen for the position of leadership and she was also a judge and a prophet.  Deborah’s reputation was such that she had influence over several of the other tribes.

Deborah devised a plan whereby Barak, a member of the Napthal tribe in Kedesh would be able to defeat Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army. Now today we might say Barak was hiding behind a woman's skirt.

Deborah’s reply consented to Barak’s wishes but she warned him a woman might become the hero rather than him. As you read the full story in verse (21) But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent stake and a hammer. While Sisera was sound asleep from exhaustion, she tiptoed to him. She drove the stake through his head and down into the ground, and he died. (22) Just then, Barak arrived after chasing Sisera. Jael went out to meet him and said, “Come and I’ll show you the man you’re after.” So he went in with her, and there was Sisera, lying dead, with the stake through his head.  So, Jael, Heber’s wife, becomes the hero, not Deborah nor Barak. It should be noted Jael was not an Israelite, but rather a descendant of Jethro, Moses’s father-in-law, a Midianite, that had settled in the land near Kedesh a sanctuary city.

The lesson for me points out how easy it is for us to stray from God’s commands and teachings. We set up our own God’s, created by us, in our image, the way we would like it to be. Ignoring God and His word, we worship in a way that pleases us rather than what pleases God. Which is exactly what happened in the story of Cain and Abel. Cain worshipped God his way, Abel followed God’s commands.

My hymn for this week is “Thy Word is a Lamp Unto my Feet.”


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.