Monday, June 18, 2018

Adult Uniform Sunday School Lesson for June 24, 2018

            “Reaping God's Justice”

Adult Uniform Sunday School Lesson for June 24, 2018

Purpose
To compare and contrast our personal understanding of justice with God’s will

Bible Lesson
Background: Luke 16:19-31; John 5:24-30

Luke 16:19-31 (CEB)
19 “There was a certain rich man who clothed himself in purple and fine linen, and who feasted luxuriously every day. 20 At his gate lay a certain poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. 21 Lazarus longed to eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Instead, dogs would come and lick his sores.

22“The poor man died and was carried by angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 While being tormented in the place of the dead, he looked up and saw Abraham at a distance with Lazarus at his side. 24 He shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I’m suffering in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received good things, whereas Lazarus received terrible things. Now Lazarus is being comforted and you are in great pain. 26 Moreover, a great crevasse has been fixed between us and you. Those who wish to cross over from here to you cannot. Neither can anyone cross from there to us.’

27 “The rich man said, ‘Then I beg you, Father, send Lazarus to my father’s house. 28 I have five brothers. He needs to warn them so that they don’t come to this place of agony.’ 29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets. They must listen to them.’ 30 The rich man said, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will change their hearts and lives.’ 31 Abraham said, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the Prophets, then neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

Key Verse
But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received good things, whereas Lazarus received terrible things. Now Lazarus is being comforted and you are in great pain. (Luke 16:25)
Some Thoughts
By
Burgess Walter

Today’s lesson is one of a series of parables on perils of being rich. The Lazarus mentioned in this parable should not be confused with the brother of Martha and Mary that Jesus raised from the dead.

While the proceeding parable is about the farmer who thinks he needs bigger barns, our text is about being aware of what is going on around you.

The point of both is that at some point in the future there will be an accounting for what you have done, and not on what you acquired.

Our text makes no mention of the rich man being a bad person, except he seemed to ignore this man that was at his gate every day begging for some food, drink or comfort. Some may think that he not only ignored him, but he never really seemed to see him. However, as the story progresses, the rich man knew exactly who he was. The rich man's claim of not knowing, is soon exposed by Abraham. When he requested, “ Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I’m suffering in this flame.’

We should not preclude that all rich men are evil and destined to spend eternity in  some sort of tormented hell, or that all poor beggars are going directly into a paradise. John 5:24 says 24 “I assure you that whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and won’t come under judgment but has passed from death into life.”

Jesus is trying to get those to whom he is talking “Pharisees” to understand the choice is now, sending someone back from the dead (which will happen in a few short years at the resurrection) will not necessarily change anyone's mind, unless they believe that Jesus is God’s Son.

Where we spend eternity depends on how we respond to the life, death and resurrection of God’s only Begotten Son. Jesus was pretty plain when He said, “if you love me keep my commandments.”

When our neighbor is a beggar, we are obligated to love them, feed and cloth them as a community of believers or as an individual. Our text does not tell us how Lazarus came to know Christ or believe in Abraham, but he probably prayed every day to be rescued from the hell he found himself in. Just a reminder we are all as lost as the rich man and Lazarus both unless we acknowledge our only chance for salvation is through Jesus the Christ.

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

Monday, June 11, 2018

Adult Uniform Sunday School Lesson for June 17, 2018

             Jesus Teaches About Justice

Adult Uniform Sunday School Lesson for June 17, 2018


Purpose

To affirm through actions how we can live in the spirit of the Law


Bible Lesson
Background: Matthew 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13


Matthew 15:1-9 (CEB)
1 Then Pharisees and legal experts came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why are your disciples breaking the elders’ rules handed down to us? They don’t ritually purify their hands by washing before they eat.”

3 Jesus replied, “Why do you break the command of God by keeping the rules handed down to you? 4 For God said, Honor your father and your mother, and The person who speaks against father or mother will certainly be put to death. 5 But you say, ‘If you tell your father or mother, “Everything I’m expected to contribute to you I’m giving to God as a gift,” then you don’t have to honor your father.’ 6 So you do away with God’s Law for the sake of the rules that have been handed down to you. 7 Hypocrites! Isaiah really knew what he was talking about when he prophesied about you, 8 This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me. 9 Their worship of me is empty since they teach instructions that are human rules.”

Key Verse
This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me. (Matthew 15:8)

Some Thoughts
By
Burgess Walter

Today’s lesson presents an interesting challenge to today’s Church. How do we separate God’s commandments from tradition?

Our text this week is about whose authority are we to follow?  The Pharisees took a rule dictated about the priest and applied it to all.   Leviticus 22:4-7 4 Any descendant of Aaron who is afflicted with skin disease or has a discharge cannot eat of the holy things until he is clean. Anyone who touches anything made unclean by a dead body, or who has an emission of semen, 5 or who touches any swarming creature or another person who makes him unclean—whatever the uncleanness might be— 6 the person who touches these things will be unclean until evening. He must not eat of the holy things unless he has bathed his body in water. 7 Once the sun has set and he has become clean again, he may eat of the holy things, for that is his food.

Likewise, they had taken the Ten Commandments and made a more convenient law they called “corban.” Deuteronomy 5:16 puts the law concerning honoring parents this way: “Honor your father and your mother, exactly as the Lord your God requires, so that your life will be long and so that things will go well for you on the fertile land that the Lord your God is giving you.” The elders tradition of “corban” said if the children gave the money to the temple they did not have to take care of the parents in their old age. Jesus called this hypocritical.

Today we face similar problems, our seminaries teach that the bible is not necessarily God’s word, we have a cafeteria type approach, that is, we can pick and choose what to believe.

Discerning  what is God’s will and what is man’s idea of God’s will requires being in touch with God constantly. God’s commandment is “if you love me , keep my commandments.”

My hymn for this week is “Constantly Abiding” Jesus is mine.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Adult Uniform Sunday School Lesson for June 10, 2018

      Parables of God's Just Kingdom

Adult Uniform Sunday School Lesson for June 10, 2018

Purpose
To understand God’s redemptive justice and how we can enable others to experience it

Bible Lesson
Background: Matthew 13:24-43

Matthew 13:24-33 (CEB)
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like someone who planted good seed in his field. 25 While people were sleeping, an enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 When the stalks sprouted and bore grain, then the weeds also appeared.

27“The servants of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Master, didn’t you plant good seed in your field? Then how is it that it has weeds?’

28“ ‘An enemy has done this,’ he answered. “The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and gather them?’

29 “But the landowner said, ‘No, because if you gather the weeds, you’ll pull up the wheat along with them.

30 Let both grow side by side until the harvest. And at harvest time I’ll say to the harvesters, “First gather the weeds and tie them together in bundles to be burned. But bring the wheat into my barn.” ’”

31He told another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and planted in his field. 32 It’s the smallest of all seeds. But when it’s grown, it’s the largest of all vegetable plants. It becomes a tree so that the birds in the sky come and nest in its branches.”

33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast, which a woman took and hid in a bushel of wheat flour until the yeast had worked its way through all the dough.”



Key Verse
Let both grow side by side until the harvest. And at harvesttime I’ll say to the harvesters, “First gather the weeds and tie them together in bundles to be burned. But bring the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:30)


Some Thoughts
By
Burgess Walter

This the first of three lesson on parables taught by Jesus. So what is a “parable?”  C. H. Dodd, a great New Testament scholar (1884–1973), once defined the parable form by saying, “At its simplest, the parable is a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought.”

Jesus used parables because it was easy for the common agro society of His day to understand. Others also used parables, one of the most notable was the Prophet Nathan using a parable to awaken King David of his terrible sin.  (2 Samuel 12:7)

The parable of the weeds is often referred to as the parable of the wheat and the tares. A tare is a destructive weed that looks similar to wheat in its early development. As Jesus often did, he set this parable in an agricultural situation. Jesus likened the kingdom of heaven to someone going out to grow wheat.

Then something unusual happens. While everyone is asleep in the night, an enemy comes and plants weeds, or bad seed, among the good. The servants being dedicated went to the owner and ask if they should pull up the weeds. The owner has a better idea, let them grow together and later be separated at harvest time.

Let me interject a personal comment, today we hear a lot about the universalist belief that everybody gets into heaven. I think this parable taught by Jesus debunks that idea. It also answers the question about why the bad are successful. As Christians we are ask to wait till the end, for justice.

As for the other parables concerning the yeast and the mustard seed, again these also demands our patience.  I think the church might be the object of these parables.

The church of Jesus Christ  started in the smallest of fashion, One unique Son of God came and lived as a man, and from that, the church grew from one to twelve to one hundred and twenty to five thousand in fifty days. That is the miracle and mystery of our faith. Who would not want to share this amazing story?

My hymn for this week is “We’ve A Story to Tell to the Nations.”





Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Justice and Sabbath Laws

              Justice and Sabbath Laws

Adult Uniform Sunday School Lesson for June 3, 2018

Purpose
To discover how the Law enhances our lives as God’s people

Bible Lesson
Matthew 12:1-14 (CEB)

1 At that time Jesus went through the wheat fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry so they were picking heads of wheat and eating them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are breaking the Sabbath law.”

3 But he said to them, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and those with him were hungry? 4 He went into God’s house and broke the law by eating the bread of the presence, which only the priests were allowed to eat. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple treat the Sabbath as any other day and are still innocent? 6 But I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what this means, I want mercy and not sacrifice, you wouldn’t have condemned the innocent. 8 The Human One is Lord of the Sabbath.”

9 Jesus left that place and went into their synagogue. 10 A man with a withered hand was there. Wanting to bring charges against Jesus, they asked, “Does the Law allow a person to heal on the Sabbath?” 11 Jesus replied, “Who among you has a sheep that falls into a pit on the Sabbath and will not take hold of it and pull it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! So the Law allows a person to do what is good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he did and it was made healthy, just like the other one. 14 The Pharisees went out and met in order to find a way to destroy Jesus.

Key Verse
If you had known what this means, I want mercy and not sacrifice, you wouldn’t have condemned the innocent. (Matthew 12:7)

Some Commentary
By
Burgess Walter

This week we start a new series of lessons, with the overall theme “Justice in the New Testament.”  The first four lessons are subtitled “God Is Just and Merciful.”

In the chapter before out text, we find Jesus approached by John’s disciples asking if He is the One or should they wait for another. While Jesus does not answer directly, He simply tells them to go back and report to John what they have seen.
The previous chapter 12 closes with these three verses “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

When we take those veres and compare them to our lesson text, Jesus might be offering a new yoke that is not as burdensome as the old yoke of the law. Jesus is offering a new way that can bring rest, a humble way that brings gentleness.

When Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees for breaking a sabbath law,  He is saying laws are not bad, He only says, There needs to be compassion administered along with the law.

In our society today He might have said, “is it wrong for an ambulance or fire truck to disobey the traffic laws?”

God had given the Israelites laws for their own good, because a society cannot exist without some order and laws help provide that order. But at the same time the Priest were instructed to work on the Sabbath, because it was for the benefit to the community.

None of God’s laws apply, when good can be performed. Human life supersedes God’s law of the Sabbath. Therefore Doctors, Firemen, Policemen, and Preachers appear to be exempt from Sabbath laws.

More importantly we that have accepted Christ as the Son of God, are now bound by a new law.  Love your neighbors, and more importantly love the Lord with all of our heart, mind and soul.

Just as “obedience is better than sacrifice” so is “mercy.” Can we go wrong extending mercy?  What if we follow Jesus’ lead and become a merciful people, and less legalistic? Would burdens be lifted? Would Jesus be glorified?  Is human life more valuable than animal life?

My hymn for this week is “Jesus Took my Burden and left with a Song.”

Monday, May 21, 2018

Uniform Adult Sunday School Lesson for May 27, 2018

            Rejoicing in Restoration

Uniform Adult Sunday School Lesson for May 27, 2018

Purpose
To claim the reconciliation and healing God offers us through Jesus Christ

Bible Lesson
Background: Leviticus 16; Psalm 34; Hebrews 2:5-18

Psalm 34:1-10 (CEB)
1 I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise will always be in my mouth.
2 I praise the Lord— let the suffering listen and rejoice.
3 Magnify the Lord with me! Together let us lift his name up high!
4 I sought the Lord and he answered me. He delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to God will shine; their faces are never ashamed.
6 This suffering person cried out: the Lord listened and saved him from every trouble.
7 On every side, the Lord’s messenger protects those who honor God; and he delivers them.
8 Taste and see how good the Lord is! The one who takes refuge in him is truly happy!
9 You who are the Lord’s holy ones, honor him, because those who honor him don’t lack a thing.
10 Even strong young lions go without and get hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Hebrews 2:17-18 (CEB)
17 Therefore, he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way. This was so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God, in order to wipe away the sins of the people. 18 He’s able to help those who are being tempted, since he himself experienced suffering when he was tempted.

Key Verse
Taste and see how good the Lord is! The one who takes refuge in him is truly happy. (Psalm 34:8)


Some Thoughts on This Week's Lesson
By
Burgess Walter

As I prepare for this week’s lesson, there is news of yet another school shooting in Texas. This epidemic is reaching more and more people every day. Our politicians and educators do not seem to have an answer. Although no one wants to state the obvious, our text says it very well.

For the past forty or fifty years America has done everything possible to keep  God and biblical teachings out of our schools. In addition we have cheapened human life by allowing abortion as a form of birth control.

The challenge is laid out for us in today’s text, when we sincerely worship and praise our living God, we will find our suffering wanes, and our joy is increased. Believing and serving God will make a difference in our personal lives and in our countries life.  

The Psalmist assures us that God listens and is willing and able to help us in our times of trouble. We are then challenged in verse 8 “Taste and see how good the Lord is! The one who takes refuge in him is truly happy!”

We have the Lord’s assurance, but it is conditional on our own willingness to honor Him as it says in verse 9 “You who are the Lord’s holy ones, honor him, because those who honor him don’t lack a thing.”

We can not continue to ignore God’s words, and expect different results. The call is for repentance and reconciliation. God has gone to great lengths to provide a way through His only begotten Son. One that came and lived as a man, suffered the cruelest of deaths in order that we can have not only a high priest that has lived life as a man, but also a savior that has died for us.

What more could we ask? “Taste and see,” True happiness depends on it.

My hymn for this week is simply “How Great Thou Art.” We have not because we ask not.”

Monday, May 14, 2018

Uniform Adult Sunday School Lesson For May 20, 2018

                  Remembering With Joy

Uniform Adult Sunday School Lesson For May 20, 2018

Purpose
To consider the biblical understanding of jubilee and how to celebrate jubilee today

Bible Lesson
Background: Leviticus 25

Leviticus 25:1-12 (CEB)
1 The Lord said to Moses on Mount Sinai, 2 Speak to the Israelites and say to them: Once you enter the land that I am giving you, the land must celebrate a sabbath rest to the Lord. 3 You will plant your fields for six years, and prune your vineyards and gather their crops for six years. 4 But in the seventh year the land will have a special sabbath rest, a Sabbath to the Lord: You must not plant your fields or prune your vineyards. 5 You must not harvest the secondary growth of your produce or gather the grapes of your freely growing vines. It will be a year of special rest for the land. 6 Whatever the land produces during its sabbath will be your food—for you, for your male and female servants, and for your hired laborers and foreign guests who live with you, 7 as well as for your livestock and for the wild animals in your land. All of the land’s produce can be eaten. 8 Count off seven weeks of years—that is, seven times seven—so that the seven weeks of years totals forty-nine years. 9 Then have the trumpet blown on the tenth day of the seventh month. Have the trumpet blown throughout your land on the Day of Reconciliation. 10 You will make the fiftieth year holy, proclaiming freedom throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It will be a Jubilee year for you: each of you must return to your family property and to your extended family. 11The fiftieth year will be a Jubilee year for you. Do not plant, do not harvest the secondary growth, and do not gather from the freely growing vines 12 because it is a Jubilee: it will be holy to you. You can eat only the produce directly out of the field.

Key Verse
You will make the fiftieth year holy, proclaiming freedom throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It will be a Jubilee year for you: each of you must return to your family property and to your extended family. (Leviticus 25:10)
Some Thoughts

Growing up on a farm in Indiana in the 1940’s & 50’s, we practiced a form of the sabbath year. Back then it was common to rotate crops from year to year and different fields would get rested. Farmers had learned what God told the Israelites thousand of years earlier, the land needs to be rested. Today because of modern farming methods and chemicals, the ground is rarely plowed, and  it has become more effective, to do less toiling of the soil and use more chemicals.

What God revealed to Moses at Mt. Sinai was that once they got to the land God had given them, this was what God wanted them to do.  Reminding them it was His land and this is the way he wanted it farmed. If they did as He commanded they would have sufficient crops in the six prior years to carry them through the seventh year. Back on the farm, when we left a field rest, it would often produce what we called volunteer crops, that is crops would appear that had not been planted, this is what God if referring to when He refers to secondary crops.

While they were allowed to eat from the secondary crops they were not suppose to harvest them for storage, but rather use them for everyday meals.

The following command applied to the year after they had observed seven sabbatical years or the fiftieth year.  It was to be a year of Jubilee, celebrating seven sabbaths for the land, and a returning to the original hiers all of the land that had been put up as collateral for debts and foreclosures. As you can imagine from a financial standpoint this became problematic for lenders during that time just prior to the Year of Jubilee.

This seven year sabbath for the land became a real big problem after the end of the Judges  reign. Because the people failed to obey this sabbath law for the land, God counted that in the 490 since Saul was King, they had not observed this sabbath rest for the land. So, God forced the land to rest for seventy years while the nation was taken captive by the Babylonians and Assyrians, from 586 - 516. One year for each sabbath year missed in the previous 490 years.

At the end of this time, the people were restored and debts forgiven and the temple was rebuilt. All of this shows God’s mercy and grace towards His people.

It should serve to us as a reminder, God keeps His word, and is willing to forgive, when we repent. Today we have redemption promised by the acts of Jesus resurrection and death.  Today we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the nation of Israel being established in 1948, an anniversary celebrated by the USA establishing it’s embassy in the city of Jerusalem. The words of the prophet are coming true.

My hymn for this week is “Jerusalem.” or "The Holy City"




Monday, May 7, 2018

Uniform Adult Sunday School Lesson for May 13, 2018

                Bringing First Fruits

Uniform Adult Sunday School Lesson for May 13, 2018


Purpose
To give God our first and best


Bible Lesson
Background: Leviticus 2:14; 23:9-22

Leviticus 23:9-14, 22 (CEB)
9 The Lord said to Moses: 10 Speak to the Israelites and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you and harvest its produce, you must bring the first bundle of your harvest to the priest. 11 The priest will lift up the bundle before the Lord so that it will be acceptable on your behalf. The priest will do this on the day after the Sabbath. 12 On the day the bundle is lifted up for you, you must offer a flawless one-year-old lamb as an entirely burned offering to the Lord. 13 The accompanying grain offering must be two-tenths of an ephah of choice flour mixed with oil, as a food gift for the Lord, a soothing smell. The accompanying drink offering must be a quarter of a hin of wine. 14 You must not eat any bread, roasted grain, or fresh grain until the exact day when you bring your God’s offering. This is a permanent rule throughout your future generations, wherever you live. . . .

22 When you harvest your land’s produce, you must not harvest all the way to the edge of your field; and don’t gather every remaining bit of your harvest. Leave these items for the poor and the immigrant; I am the Lord your God.

Key Verse
“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you and harvest its produce, you must bring the first bundle of your harvest to the priest.” (Leviticus 23:10)

Some Thoughts

The Book of Leviticus has many enemies today, it has been stigmatized as a “bloody book” as antiquated and as unhistorical. However, it is also the “gospel” of the Old Testament. It is the first book that Jewish boys are told to read.
Historically it was probably written by Moses during the time after the completion of the tabernacle at Mt. Sinai.

The purpose of the book, is to teach sinful men, how to have a relationship with a
Holy God. Each sacrifice and holy day point us to the Christ in the New Testament.

In Moses time, God communicated through the tribe of Aaron and Moses, which was the tribe of Levy

Offerings offered without going through a Levitical Priest, were not accepted. The reason for that was there were conditions and practises that the priest had to obey that qualified them to be an intermediary between man and God.

One cannot help but notice, that the offering is to take place on the same day of the week as the resurrection, (11 The priest will lift up the bundle before the Lord so that it will be acceptable on your behalf. The priest will do this on the day after the Sabbath.) The pureness of the offerings and being the first fruits also speaks of Christ.

In much the same way as Christ teaches us through the beatitudes, God instructs the Israelites to be generous to the poor and the Aliens in the land. A fact that was important in the story and Book of Ruth.

What would be the best way for a Holy, Righteous God to communicate with mankind that is selfish and sinful?  While we can never be as pure and holy as God, He has provided a way through the sacrifice of His only begotten Son and the blood He shed and victory achieved by raising Him from the dead.  Our choice is to accept or reject that gift, our faith is counted as righteousness when we believe.

My hymn for this week is “I Need No Other Argument.” or “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place.”


Monday, April 30, 2018

Uniform Adult Sunday School Lesson for May 6, 2018

        Giving From a Generous Heart

Uniform Adult Sunday School Lesson for May 6, 2018

Purpose

To give eagerly


Bible Lesson
Background: Exodus 25:1-7, 35:4-29; Leviticus 27:30-33; 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

Exodus 35:20-29  (CEB)
20 The whole Israelite community left Moses. 21 Everyone who was excited and eager to participate brought the Lord’s gift offerings to be used for building the meeting tent and all its furnishings and for the holy clothes.
22 Both men and women came forward. Everyone who was eager to participate brought pins, earrings, rings, and necklaces, all sorts of gold objects. Everyone raised an uplifted offering of gold to the Lord. 23 And everyone who had blue or purple or deep red yarn or fine linen or goats’ hair or rams’ skins dyed red or beaded leather brought them. 24 Everyone who could make a gift offering of silver or copper brought it as the Lord’s gift offering. Everyone who had acacia wood that could be used in any kind of building work brought it. 25 All the skilled women spun cloth with their hands, and brought what they had spun in blue and purple and deep red yarns and fine linen. 26 All the women who were eager to use their skill spun the goats’ hair. 27The chiefs brought gemstones and gems to be set in the priest’s vest and the chest pendant, 28 spices and oil for light and for the anointing oil, and for the sweet-smelling incense. 29 All the Israelite men and women who were eager to contribute something for the work that the Lord had commanded Moses to do brought it as a spontaneous gift to the Lord.

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (CEB)
6 What I mean is this: the one who sows a small number of seeds will also reap a small crop, and the one who sows a generous amount of seeds will also reap a generous crop. 7 Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver. 8 God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace. That way, you will have everything you need always and in everything to provide more than enough for every kind of good work.  



Key Verse
What I mean is this: the one who sows a small number of seeds will also reap a small crop, and the one who sows a generous amount of seeds will also reap a generous crop. (2 Corinthians 9:6)

Some Thoughts

This lesson is the first in a new unit titled “Give Praise to God.” As the title for this lesson suggests, one of the ways we give praise to God is by giving from a generous heart.

After Moses descended Mount Sinai the second time “with the two covenant tablets in his hand” (Exodus 34:29), he “gathered together the whole Israelite community and said to them: These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do” (Exodus 35:1). The biblical text for this lesson picks up the story here.

If you read the background scriptures you find each text contains a list of gift offerings that will “be used for building the meeting tent and all its furnishings and for the holy clothes” (Exodus 35:21). The passage from Exodus 25 is included in the words God spoke to Moses during their first meeting on Mount Sinai. The passage from Exodus 35 is included in Moses’ report to the Israelites of what God desired for them to do. Note the words in both texts: “freely wants to give” (Exodus 25:2; 35:5)

Exodus 35:20-21: This begins the Print Passage for this lesson. After the people heard Moses declare God’s instructions regarding the construction of the holy dwelling, they dispersed in order to obey God’s command and collect the necessary items. Note these important points:
The people who wanted to participate were “excited and eager” (verse 21). Giving was not required. The command to “collect gift offerings for the Lord from all of you” was followed by “whoever freely wants to give” (verse 5). The instruction to give was extended to everyone, indicating “both men and women” (verse 22). Moses gave the Lord’s instructions “to the whole Israelite community” (verse 4), yet the gifts were offered by individuals, not the community as a whole. We saw in the backstory that the Israelites had previously responded to God’s gift of deliverance from Egypt with complaints  about living in the desert and unfaithfulness by worshiping an idol. These actions almost caused God to destroy and abandon them. Perhaps their “excited and eager” attitude toward giving was a sign of relief and thankfulness for a second opportunity to live in God’s presence.

In our passages from 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about the act of giving as also being an expression of faith and trust in God. Note the repetition of the phrase “more than enough.”  Paul was talking about abundant generosity on the part of God and the people. He wrote, “God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace.”

Verse  7 has a new theory on giving,  “Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver.”

Our gifts should reflect our faith and trust in God’s grace. As recipients of that grace, we are equipped “to provide more than enough for every kind of good work.” When the people of Israel placed their trust in God to provide for their needs in the desert, they were able “to provide more than enough” to complete the construction of “the meeting tent and all its furnishings and for the holy clothes” (Exodus 35:21). They reaped the harvest of God’s grace and faithfulness.

My hymn for this week is “He Giveth More Grace.”

Monday, April 23, 2018

Uniform Adult Sunday School Lesson for April 29, 2018

          Blessing, Glory, Honor, Forever

Uniform Adult Sunday School Lesson for April 29, 2018

Purpose
To appreciate the symbolism and significance of Christ as the Lamb that was slain

Bible Lesson
Revelation 5:6-14 (CEB)
6 Then, in between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb, standing as if it had been slain. It had seven horns and seven eyes, which are God’s seven spirits, sent out into the whole earth. 7 He came forward and took the scroll from the right hand of the one seated on the throne. 8 When he took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each held a harp and gold bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 They took up a new song, saying,

“You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slain, and by your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation.

10 You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will rule on earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard the sound of many angels surrounding the throne, the living creatures, and the elders. They numbered in the millions—thousands upon thousands. 12 They said in a loud voice,

“Worthy is the slaughtered Lamb to receive power, wealth, wisdom, and might, and honor, glory, and blessing.”

13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea—I heard everything everywhere say,

“Blessing, honor, glory, and power belong to the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb forever and always.”

14 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshipped.

Key Verse
Worthy is the slaughtered Lamb to receive As John continued watching, he saw “in between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, . . . a Lamb.” The Lamb represents Jesus Christ and was “standing as if it had been slain.” The proximity of the Lamb to God’s throne symbolizes the close relationship between God and Christ. The Lamb power, wealth, wisdom, and might, and honor, glory, and blessing! (Revelation 5:12)

Some Thoughts
Last week John, witnessed an amazing scene of worship. He reported seeing God on a throne in heaven. The throne was surrounded by 24 elders and encircled by four living creatures, while “the seven spirits of God” were in front (Revelation 4:2, 4-6).

This week As John continued watching, he saw “in between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, . . . a Lamb.” The Lamb represents Jesus Christ and was “standing as if it had been slain.” The proximity of the Lamb to God’s throne symbolizes the close relationship between God and Christ.

The Lamb that was slain emerged victorious over death. Theologians compare John’s imagery here with the Passover lamb. In the story of Israel’s escape from bondage in Egypt in Exodus, God said, “Your lamb should be a flawless year-old male.”  (Exodus 12:5, 12-13)

The apostle Peter used language reminiscent of the Passover when he wrote, “You were liberated by the precious blood of Christ, like that of a flawless, spotless lamb” (1 Peter 1:19). Likewise, the apostle Paul made this connection: “Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

The Old Testament prophet Daniel noted the power of the beasts with horns that he saw in his apocalyptic vision: “I saw a fourth beast . . . with extraordinary power . . . it had ten horns” (Daniel 7:7). “I suddenly saw a ram with two horns. . . . No animal could resist the ram, . . . It became powerful” (Daniel 8:3-4).

The response of the four living creatures and the 24 elders was worship. The “elders fell down before the Lamb” just as they fell down before God in worship in Revelation 4:10.

The living creatures and the elders offered a new song in recognition of the new day that had come. The words of praise and worship, “You are worthy,” that were proclaimed to God the Creator in Revelation 4:11 are now proclaimed to Christ the Lamb. Only Christ, God’s perfect Son, was worthy to purchase or redeem all humankind for God by the sacrifice of his blood. This continues the theme of understanding Christ as the flawless Passover lamb.
John reported seeing angels too numerous to count come to this place of worship. They surrounded the throne and everyone within the worship space and offered their own refrain of praise.

Following the angels’ song, John “heard every creature” in the universe proclaim words of adoration and praise to God seated on the throne and to Christ the Lamb. Their words of praise affirmed that “blessing, honor, glory, and power” belong to God and Christ “forever and always.”

This dramatic experience of worship ended with the four living creatures saying amen and the elders falling down once again before God and Christ in worship.

My hymn for this week is “Blessing and Honor.”

Monday, April 16, 2018

Uniform Adult Sunday School Lesson For April 22, 2018

          The Lord God the Almighty

Uniform Adult Sunday School Lesson For April 22, 2018


Purpose
To recognize the power of symbol in ritual and worship

Bible Lesson
Background: Revelation 4

Revelation 4:1-6, 8-11 (CEB)
1 After this I looked and there was a door that had been opened in heaven. The first voice that I had heard, which sounded like a trumpet, said to me, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in a Spirit-inspired trance and I saw a throne in heaven, and someone was seated on the throne. 3 The one seated there looked like jasper and carnelian, and surrounding the throne was a rainbow that looked like an emerald. 4 Twenty-four thrones, with twenty-four elders seated upon them, surrounded the throne. The elders were dressed in white clothing and had gold crowns on their heads. 5 From the throne came lightning, voices, and thunder. In front of the throne were seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God. 6 Something like a glass sea, like crystal, was in front of the throne. In the center, by the throne, were four living creatures encircling the throne. These creatures were covered with eyes on the front and on the back. . . .

8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings, and each was covered all around and on the inside with eyes. They never rest day or night, but keep on saying,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is coming.”

9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to the one seated on the throne, who lives forever and always, 10 the twenty-four elders fall before the one seated on the throne. They worship the one who lives forever and always. They throw down their crowns before the throne and say,

11“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, because you created all things. It is by your will that they existed and were created.”



Key Verse
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, because you created all things. It is by your will that they existed and were created. (Revelation 4:11)

Some Thoughts

Today's lesson is a leap from the days after the resurrection to the apocalyptic scenes that John experiences in the Book of Revelation.

The Book of Revelation is an example of apocalyptic literature. Simply defined, in this type of literature a seer is given a vision of the future and writes it down. The vision is usually filled with symbolism.

In this book, the seer is John, the beloved disciple, who has been exiled by the Romans to the tiny Isle of Pathos. John has been chosen by God to receive a look into the future and what lies ahead. And to share with the seven churches of that period, but also with us who would follow.

At the time of John’s vision, the accepted view was the universe was like a three story building,  “consisting of the earth, with Hades, the bottomless pit, and the lake of fire below, and a single heaven above.”  Another ancient view was that “there were seven heavens . . . God dwelled, as a rule, in the highest heaven.” Moses reflected this view when he told the people of Israel, “Clearly, the Lord owns the sky, the highest heavens, the earth, and everything in it” (Deuteronomy 10:14).

What John saw in this vision is described in verses 3-8. All that John saw was symbolic of a place beyond our wildest imagination.  Throughout the Old Testament God’s presence is often associated with thunder and lightning.

Interestingly the jewels mentioned are the same jewels that were sewn into the breastplate of the High Priest as recorded in  (Exodus 28:15, 17, 20).

The rainbow was a full circle rather than the arc we normally see. The Twenty- four elders could represent the twelve tribes and the twelve disciples, or it could represent the early martyrs of Christianity, like Peter, Paul, John the Baptist, Stephen, James and others, John is the only surviving disciple and many martyrs have given their life.

You have to jump to the next chapter (5:6) to see that the Lamb of God was also standing before the throne.
The seven spirits of God could be the “Gifts of the Spirit”  (Romans 12:6-8) 6 We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us. If your gift is prophecy, you should prophesy in proportion to your faith. 7 If your gift is service, devote yourself to serving. If your gift is teaching, devote yourself to teaching. 8 If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached. The leader should lead with passion. The one showing mercy should be cheerful.”  
Also those recorded in  Isaiah 11:2-3 “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.”

There is another theory that they represent the perfect (seven meaning perfection) Spirit of God. (The third person of the Trinity)  

As for the Four beast that are all eyes that sees all, I think it is a depiction of God’s omnipresence in the four corners of the earth, but no theologians seem to agree.

Remember this whole scene is about worshipping God, today in our sanctuaries we have many symbols to remind us of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, all being part of the Triune God we worship.

There is a hymn that talks about some of these things, it was written many years ago by Fanny Crosby “Blessed Assurance,  Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine!” and in the second verse “Angels descending bring from above echoes of mercy, whispers of love.”