Friday, July 17, 2009

"God Calls People to Special Service" Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending July 19, 2009

Purpose: To explore the meaning of ordination within the ministry of the baptized

Scripture Text: Leviticus 8:1-13 (NRSV)

Leviticus 8:1-13
(1)The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: (2)Take Aaron and his sons with him, the vestments, the anointing-oil, the bull of sin-offering, the two rams, and the basket of unleavened bread; (3)and assemble the whole congregation at the entrance of the tent of meeting. (4)And Moses did as the Lord commanded him. When the congregation was assembled at the entrance of the tent of meeting, (5)Moses said to the congregation, ‘This is what the Lord has commanded to be done.’

(6) Then Moses brought Aaron and his sons forward, and washed them with water. (7)He put the tunic on him, fastened the sash around him, clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod on him. He then put the decorated band of the ephod around him, tying the ephod to him with it. (8)He placed the breast piece on him, and in the breast piece he put the Urim and the Thummim. (9)And he set the turban on his head, and on the turban, in front, he set the golden ornament, the holy crown, as the Lord commanded Moses.

(10) Then Moses took the anointing-oil and anointed the tabernacle and all that was in it, and consecrated them. (11)He sprinkled some of it on the altar seven times, and anointed the altar and all its utensils, and the basin and its base, to consecrate them. (12)He poured some of the anointing-oil on Aaron's head and anointed him, to consecrate him.(13)And Moses brought forward Aaron’s sons, and clothed them with tunics, and fastened sashes around them, and tied head-dresses on them, as the Lord commanded Moses.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

Two important things to remember when you read this passage is the way the first verse begins and the way the last verse ends. It was the Lord that was in command of this service of ordination.The other interesting aspect of this service, is it was done after the erection of the tabernacle and after Aaron and his sons had been performing these tasks for a long period of time. The ordination comes closer to the end than the beginning of Aaron's reign.

So what was the purpose of the ceremony? I think God was trying to instill in the nation of Israel a couple of truths. First, they themselves had been called by God to be priests to the rest of humankind. And they will be a priestly nation, that is the priest will teach them the commandments and teachings of God. If they obeyed there would be no need for a king or other secular leader. God wanted them to be a holy nation.

The same is true of His Church today.The Church of Jesus Christ is called to bear witness to the rest of humankind that being a Christian should make a difference, just as the nation of Israel was a testimony to the rest of the nations that were neighbors and enemies. We as Christians are called to be a priestly witness to both our neighbors and our enemies. A priestly witness or holiness living does not mean being an overbearing snob. Our call is to connect everyone with Christ, point everyone to Christ, a priestly witness should reflect Christ; when they look at you they should see the reflection of Christ in you.

The one commandment that seems to be the most ignored is the last commandment of Christ, “go and make disciples”. This is exactly the same point the Lord was trying to make to the nation of Israel at this most pious and holy ceremony. It would be almost impossible to witness this ceremony which lasted for seven days, and not be impressed with the holiness of the Lord, and the call to separate yourselves as a nation and as individuals to the ministry that the Lord wants to share with the rest of the world.

One thing I have no explanation for is the “Urim and “Thummin” that were placed in the breastplate. Over the years I have read and heard many explanations, but none have satisfied my curiosity. We know it was used in special circumstances to help in making decisions.

How can we better serve the mission that we have been called to fulfill? Why was this ordination service conducted in front of the entire congregation? What do you think is the best way to share God's mission in the world?

For a special blessing, please watch "The Great Physician." It is a wonderful slide show that demonstrates how God can use each of us to share God's mission to the world.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

God Calls People to Remember Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending July 12, 2009

Purpose: To experience the power of sacred memory expressed in ritual in shaping our life together as God's people.

Scripture Text: Deuteronomy 16:1-8 (NRSV)

Deuteronomy 16:1-8 NRSV
(1)Observe the month of Abib by keeping the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night.(2)You shall offer the Passover sacrifice to the Lord your God, from the flock and the herd, at the place that the Lord will choose as a dwelling for his name. (3)You must not eat with it anything leavened. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it—the bread of affliction—because you came out of the land of Egypt in great haste, so that all the days of your life you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt. (4)No leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory for seven days; and none of the meat of what you slaughter on the evening of the first day shall remain until morning.(5)You are not permitted to offer the Passover sacrifice within any of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you. (6)But at the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name, only there shall you offer the Passover sacrifice, in the evening at sunset, the time of day when you departed from Egypt. (7)You shall cook it and eat it at the place that the Lord your God will choose; the next morning you may go back to your tents. (8)For six days you shall continue to eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly for the Lord your God, when you shall do no work.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

Memories are an important part of life, not just our spiritual life, but our family life as well. In this passage God is re-teaching the meaning of Passover and how he wants His people to celebrate and remember it.

In our house there are special holidays that we celebrate as a family; those are primarily Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. By far the most memorable is always our Christmas Eve celebration. Because of what has happened in the past, and what happens each year it has become a very special holiday for our family. We no longer have all the excitement that comes from young children or grandchildren, nor is it all about the presents anymore. Now it is about remembering when our children and grandchildren were much younger, and enjoying the food and sharing stories of Christmas past. The house is always decorated like it was many years ago, the food consists of at least one special dish for each individual, maybe a cookie, a pudding, cake, shrimp, or chocolate fountain, or fondue. Everyone is looking forward to their special annual treat. But the thing that makes it so special is that in a family, which is now about twenty or so people, is this is one time when pettiness and sniping cease, and we truly enjoy the moment, maybe it is because of the Christmas spirit, that everyone makes a special effort to tolerate and enjoy a family get- together. It normally ends with a midnight Christmas Eve candlelight service at our church, not everyone can make that, but those that do enjoy that time of remembering.

I am convinced no matter how old my children and grandchildren get, the Christmas eve celebration will always be remembered.

That is sort of what God wanted from the people He had called out of Egypt. He wanted them to remember that night some forty years prior when He brought them out of slavery and into a promised land. In the Christian world today probably Passion Week, would be similar to the Passover celebration. We begin with Palm Sunday, and go through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter morning. Each service has special meaning, and gives us the opportunity to remember what Christ went through and the ultimate victory that was achieved on that glorious resurrection morning. We are also called to remember through Communion services, baptismal remembrances, and confirmation services.

When one studies the Old Testament and the different Holy days that God commanded for His people, you can really get a sense that God knew His creation was going to need times of celebration. He established three very important Holy days. In addition to the Passover, He established the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles; three distinct Holy days to mark the passing of time with God's saving work. God's creation needs time to pause and reflect, relax, and enjoy the presence of God in their lives. We must also continue to celebrate the rituals that have been designed for each of the special days we set aside to remember. The rituals are what separates us from the rest of the world, and gives testimony that we worship the Creator God, the Loving God, and the Redeeming God.

Are there old rituals you would like to restore, or new rituals you would like to see created? Why are rituals so important to our faith community?

Please visit "The Prayer". The slide show was sent to me by a friend, to share on my website and blog. Both the photos and the words are beautiful and truly moving. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

"God Calls People to Covenant " Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending July 5, 2009

Purpose: To receive God's law as a gift and commit ourselves to holy living for the sake of God's mission in the world.

Scripture Text: Deuteronomy 5:1-9, 11-13, 16-21 (NRSV)

Deuteronomy 5:1-9, 11-13, 16-21
(1)Moses convened all Israel, and said to them: Hear, O Israel, the statutes and ordinances that I am addressing to you today; you shall learn them and observe them diligently. (2)The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. (3)Not with our ancestors did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today.(4)The Lord spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the fire. (5)(At that time I was standing between the Lord and you to declare to you the words of the Lord; for you were afraid because of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:

(6) I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; (7)you shall have no other gods before me.

(8)You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. (9)You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents,to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me,(11) You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

(12) Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. (13)For six days you shall labour and do all your work.

(16) Honour your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

(17) You shall not murder.

(18)Neither shall you commit adultery.

(19)Neither shall you steal.

(20)Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor.

(21)Neither shall you covet your neighbor's wife. Neither shall you desire your neighbor's house,or field,or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This is the second time Moses shared the Ten Commandments with this community of people. The first time was some forty years earlier, shortly after he had led the children of Israel out of Egypt by way of the Red Sea. The first giving of the law took place approximately fifty days after the angel of death passed over those that painted their door post with the blood of a lamb, sparing the first born of all that followed God's command. We often think of Pentecost as a New Testament event, but it was really a celebration of the giving of God's law on Mt. Sinai, approximately fifty days after the original Passover. It is no coincidence that the second Pentecost involved the giving of the Holy Spirit, because it would be by the Holy Spirit that this new generation of believers would receive the same comfort, grace and assurance that the original giving of the law provided to that first generation at Mt.Sinai

The children of Israel have been lost in the desert for forty years and they are about to cross over the Jordan River into Canaan. A whole generation has died since they originally received God's law at Mt.Sinai. Moses is restating for this new generation what happened at Sinai, and trying to instill in them the responsibility they have, to respond to the grace, that God has shown them.

There are those that look at God's law as being impractical, too hard to follow and too restrictive on ones life. The flip side of that is; if we follow that law we have increased our probability of happiness, security and prosperity. In today's world you do not have to look very far to see the unhappiness and disappointment that comes from disobeying God's commandments. Our politicians are making news all the time and offering all sorts of alibis and apologies, as well as showing remorse and repenting, for their acts. Unfortunately it does not just happen to politicians and other celebrities; it also happens to everyday to people just like us.

The Ten Commandments are not just a one sided set of rules, for any society or community or even our own marriages to survive there must be rules. As adults we impose rules on our children, not out of anger, but out of love. God did the same thing, He knew where the trouble would come from and He tried to help us, by giving us some very specific rules. He wanted our response to come out of our gratitude for what He has done for each of us, just as He wanted this generation of this new community he had brought out of slavery from Egypt to respond,by following these Ten Commandments.

Some how we have been led astray thinking it is for God's sake that we are to obey, but it is for our sake that we have been given this guidance, and it comes from God's grace and not His anger. The one sure way we have of accomplishing all that God wants us to accomplish, is by being obedient to his law. In the same way, God wanted this community of people to show they had received something special from God, by just following these Ten Commandments. Certainly all of the world would take notice, if they followed these rules and accepted them as, what was best for them, in their relationships within the community and the family.

God wants us transformed from the inside out, just as Jesus promised for us at Pentecost. We can take that transformation into our daily lives, and live as we have been instructed, or we can ignore that transformation and face a constant struggle in our witness and testimony. Just as Moses addressed that generation at Mt. Horeb, the Holy Spirit speaks to this generation, and is calling each of His children to be obedient, to set themselves apart from the rest of the world, to live to a higher standard. And God knows what is best for each of us, Samuel said “obedience is better that sacrifice” I imagine there are a few governors, as well as Wall Street moguls, that agree.

How does your life stack up with what people expect from you? The old hymn calls for us to “press on to higher ground”, are you pressing on to a higher plain?

God shows his love by showing us the way we can live the happiest and most effective for Him.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

God Calls the People Out of Egypt Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending June 28, 2009

Purpose: To step out of fear into a robust faith in God who guides, protects and delivers.

Scripture Text: Exodus 14:15-25, 30 (NRSV)

Exodus 14:15-25, 30
(15) Then the Lord said to Moses, Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward.(16)But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the Israelites may go into the sea on dry ground. (17)Then I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and so I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots, and his chariot drivers. (18)And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained glory for myself over Pharaoh,his chariots, and his chariot drivers.’

(19) The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. (20)It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.

(21) Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. (22)The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. (23)The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. (24)At the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. (25)He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.’

(30) Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

Suppose you were God, and you wanted to teach the whole world a lesson about your power, your love, your grace and your holiness; what could you possible do that would make an impression for thousands and thousands of years?

This story is a possible fulfillment of just such a plan. First you call a special people to worship you and you call them by faith to go to a land that you will show them. Then through a series of circumstances this whole family ends up in Egypt, and multiplies into a group of diligent, hard working people that know they have a special calling and have practiced circumcision to separate themselves from the rest of the world. One of them was even raised in the court of the most powerful ruler in the entire world. This special tribe of individuals is united by the persecution and the forced labor that is imposed on them. Then the opportunity comes to gain their freedom, but it would mean leaving all that they knew, and the security of being protected from outside forces by a government they despised.

We should understand that God knew exactly who he was dealing with, in Pharaoh. Pharaoh was not impressed by the great I Am, of the Israelites, Pharaoh considered himself a god. It took the “Great I Am” a series of plagues that would make the Egyptian god's seem powerless; from the locust to the boils each was shown as powerless when compared to the “Great I Am”. Finally through obedience and faith, Pharaoh said “go”.

Now what final act would be appropriate for all time, for all the nations of the world both then and now; what amazing and miraculous feet would be next?

It is possible to sense that God actually taunts Pharaoh into changing his mind and start chasing this large multitude of people he had just sent away. Now the tension builds as this large multitude of people find themselves between the most powerful army on earth and the Red Sea. There is no way this comes out with a happy ending or teaches anybody anything, except, be content in whatever circumstance you find yourself. But God has a plan, and this plan involves some faith and trust, on the part of the Israelites. Do you think God would have had any takers if He revealed this plan to this tribe of people before the fact? Here is the plan you go toward the Red Sea, and when you get there you raise your staff and stretch out your hand and I will part the Red Sea so you can all walk across on dry ground, and then I will destroy the entire Egyptian army by letting them drown and I will cause the wheels on the chariots to seize up and they will go around in circles. One other thing I will do is put a pillar of fire between you and the Egyptian army, so that they will know it is the “Great I Am” that is fighting for you, and saving you, from the most powerful army in the world.

This story would be the story of redemption for the Israelites for the next fourteen hundred years, until a new plan would be revealed, whereby everyone could be saved by the same grace and faith experienced by those faithful followers on that historical day.

God's plan for redeeming His people has not changed, it is still His grace and our faith, that he has given each of us, that sets the wheels in motion for us to have a relationship that will cause Him to fight for us,to protect us and to nurture us, when we are obedient to His call, we do not need to yield to fear, but to step out in faith and He will guide, protect, and deliver us, just as He did on “that day”.

What would it take for you to let go and let God have His way in your life? What enemies are chasing you? I love the unbelievers prayer “O'God, if there is a God, save my soul, if I have a soul”. I think that is about where the Israelites were, they did not have a lot of options. Maybe that is where you are? He will fight for you too.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"Pharaoh Ignores God's Call"-Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending June 21, 2009

Purpose: To recognize and accept that God's authority takes precedence over all competing authorities.

Scripture Text: Exodus 5:1-9, 22-23, 6:1 (NRSV)

Exodus 5:1-9, 22-23
(1)Afterwords Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “Let my people go, so that they may celebrate a festival to me in the wilderness.” (2) But Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the Lord, that I should heed him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and I will not let Israel go.’ (3)Then they said, ‘The God of the Hebrews has revealed himself to us; let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to the Lord our God, or he will fall upon us with pestilence or sword.’ (4)But the king of Egypt said to them, ‘Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their work? Get to your labours!’ (5)Pharaoh continued, ‘Now they are more numerous than the people of the land and yet you want them to stop working!’ (6)That same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people, as well as their supervisors, (7)‘You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as before; let them go and gather straw for themselves.(8)But you shall require of them the same quantity of bricks as they have made previously; do not diminish it, for they are lazy; that is why they cry, “Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.” (9)Let heavier work be laid on them; then they will labour at it and pay no attention to deceptive words.’

(22)Then Moses turned again to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, why have you mistreated this people? Why did you ever send me? (23)Since I first came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has mistreated this people, and you have done nothing at all to deliver your people.’

Exodus 6:1
(1)Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh: Indeed, by a mighty hand he will let them go; by a mighty hand he will drive them out of his land.’

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

T. S. Eliot wrote these words; “The greatest proof of Christianity for others is not how far a man can logically analyze his reasons for believing, but how far in practice he will stake his life on his belief.” Moses had received a call from God, and he had reluctantly answered that call, but was he really committed to the call? Likewise the children of Israel had received God's message by way of Moses and Aaron that God had seen their plight and was ready to move against the Egyptians. But were they willing to follow the lead of Moses and Aaron and this new revelation of Yahwey, (I Am, the Lord)?

Then there is the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh was a god in his own sight and in the sight of the Egyptians; he was not interested in the god of the Israelite's, regardless of what they called him. He looked at this request for a three day weekend to go out into the desert and offer a sacrifice, as a sign of laziness, nothing more.

The Israelites outnumbered the Egyptians; this problem was originally addressed earlier in Exodus, (where Moses’ birth and the Hebrew midwives actions are recorded). Pharaoh used the same psychology as many parents use, if you are complaining then you are not busy enough, or you have too much time on your hands. The answer is more work, more chores to do. The more they were required to do, the less they could threaten Egypt's sovereignty.

I am not certain Moses was completely honest with the Israelite leaders, when he addressed them. God had told Moses and Aaron he would harden Pharaoh's heart (vs 4:21-23), maybe Moses did not believe that part of the message, or maybe he thought that would be to hard for the Israelites to understand and they would feel defeated before they began. Whatever happened, the Israelites only listened to the good news, and they heard what they wanted to hear (Vs, 4:31).

That brings me back to Moses' call; sometimes the hardship falls on others around the one that has been called. I have often wondered about the pastor's or missionary's spouse, when they are called. Do they just follow in obedience to their spouse? Often we neglect to recognize the hardships that befall a family when a member of that family receives the call from God.

In our text, the hardship falls on the laborers that make the brick. Moses does not seem to waiver in his faith and he has the courage to confront God, still believing, but now is looking for answers. Why God, did you send me? Why did you bring trouble on your people? Why? Why? Why?

Our Purpose statement says “God's authority takes precedence over all competing authorities”. Pharaoh did not understand this. He thought he was equal with this Hebrew God.

The question for all of us to answer is: What competing authorities are we allowing to have authority in our lives? Are we so selfish we think our happiness is what is important? Or is it our security that we try to protect? What rules your life?

An interesting historical and archaeological note: If you Google Bricks of Pithom you will find what archaeologist have discovered in the digs of Egypt. On the bottom layers of walls the bricks they used were full of straw, and as the building rises they found less and less straw, and more stubble, finally on the upper rows there is no evidence of straw in the bricks. It could be scientific proof that the events transpired as written, just a thought.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"Moses and Aaron Respond" Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending June 14, 2009

Purpose: To be Confident that our saying “yes” to God's call will always be accompanied by God's empowering presence.

Scripture Text:
Exodus 4:10-16, 27-31 (NRSV)

Exodus 4:10-16,27-31 (10) But Moses said to the Lord, ‘O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ (11)Then the Lord said to him, ‘Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? (12)Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.’ (13)But he said, ‘O my Lord, please send someone else.’ (14)Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, ‘What of your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he can speak fluently; even now he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you his heart will be glad. (15)You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do. (16) He indeed shall speak for you to the people; he shall serve as a mouth for you, and you shall serve as God for him.

(27) The Lord said to Aaron, ‘Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.’ So he went; and he met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. (28)Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord with which he had sent him, and all the signs with which he had charged him. (29)Then Moses and Aaron went and assembled all the elders of the Israelites. (30)Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses, and performed the signs in the sight of the people. (31)The people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had given heed to the Israelites and that he had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshipped.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This week's lesson offers some unique insights into the characteristics of God, and we have Moses’ reluctance to thank. The conversation that goes on between Moses and God gives us a slight insight into some of the characteristics of God. The first, to me, is how important relationships are to God. God is interested in the relationship between himself and the Israelites, Moses and the Israelites, and Moses and his brother Aaron.

God does not appear as the overbearing force that some of us were raised with, but rather a conversationalist that is willing to listen and reassure, rather than threaten and impose his will. We see a God that is willing to reason with Moses, hear his doubts and answer his questions. Every reason Moses gives for not responding to God's call, God gives him the assurance that he indeed is qualified and able to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

A lot is made of Moses answering God's call, but I think, little is made of how important Aaron's attitude is in this whole scenario. Because relationships are important to God, he restores Moses and his brother Aaron after 40 years of separation. They are reunited for the purpose of achieving God's desire to reclaim His people out of the hand of the Egyptians. Aaron would not get the glory or the notoriety and he would only hear God's command second hand, God was going to communicate with Moses and Moses would relay God's word to Aaron, Aaron then in turn would relay that message to the Israelites. I think the same can be said of those today that are the ones doing the work, while others get the spotlight. The New Testament tells us we are all given unique gifts, our purpose is to use those gifts in a way that glorifies and magnifies God's power and presence. While it is important to have those that have received a special call from God, it is also important for the Aaron's of the world to accept their position in God's work.

Egypt had served it purpose in helping to maintain the Israelites as a special called people; without Egypt and Joseph's efforts those descendants of Jacob may have been lost. Unfortunately there was now a Pharaoh that did not remember Joseph and his contributions to the Egyptian nation. The new Pharaoh was only interested in these industrious people he used as slaves.

The Israelites responded to the message of God delivered by Aaron, as received from God and Moses. They exercised great faith, and were extremely grateful that God had seen their plight and heard their cries and responded in the same manner we should respond, when we realize God loves us, and has gone to great lengths to show us that love. They bowed down and worshipped. How can we respond any other way? If relationships are important to God, shouldn't we assume they should be important to us?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

"God Call's Moses" Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending June 7, 2009

Purpose: To recognize that God calls us, like Moses, to realign our lives to act within God's liberating purposes.

Bible Text: Exodus 3: 1-12 (NRSV)

Background Text: Exodus 2:23-3:12

Exodus 3:1-12
(1): Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb,the mountain of God. (2)There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. (3)Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ (4)When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ (5)Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’(6)He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

(7) Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings,(8)and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites,the Hivites, and the Jebusites. (9)The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. (10)So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’ (11)But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ (12)He said, I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

In the world we live in today, communicating has never been easier, and yet how frustrating to try and get someone to respond to our call at times. Most of us are more interested in our hotels offering free internet access than we are in comfortable beds. We have the technology to be in constant communication, but we also have the ability to completely ignore text messages, e-mails and phone calls. Imagine how Moses must have felt, he left Egypt 40 years ago, he was minding his father-in-law's heard hundreds of miles from any town or city, and yet God was able to make contact.

God's formula has not changed; He challenged Moses where Moses may have been the most vulnerable. Remember he had to flee Egypt because he killed an Egyptian that was causing hardship for Moses’ people and Moses felt empathy for their struggle. God says to Moses in verse seven “I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed I know their suffering”. Now it was time for Moses to respond, he was willing to kill one of the “taskmasters” but would he be willing to go back and lead them out of this terrible situation that had continued to get worse over the past 40 years. The rulers of Egypt had changed since Moses fled; his life was no longer in danger,if he returned.

Notice God says in verse eight "I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians”. God will do the delivering, but God also adds a little more by saying “The cry of the Israelites has now come to me: I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them”. The words seem to almost vindicate Moses for his actions. How is Moses not going to respond to something which is so important to him?

The call of Moses shows us several important things; first, God usually calls us to do things which we are passionate about. This is why when we make suggestions about a project or mission we must be prepared to lead that project or mission. Second we have the same assurance that was given to Moses, “I will be with you”, Emmanuel, God with us. Third, we can not go far enough to escape from God, long before cell phones and e-mails or twitter, God was able to contact Moses and reveal himself and his mission, and Moses, though reluctant at first, responded to God's call.

How often have you tried to run from God? How often have you put him on ignore?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Equipped for New Life- Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending May 31, 2009

Purpose: To claim God's power to stand firm against the spiritual forces of evil.

Scripture Text: Ephesians 6:10-18 (NRSV)

Ephesians 6:10-18 (10) Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. (11)Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (12)For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (13)Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. (14)Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.(15)As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. (16)With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (17)Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

(18) Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

As in last weeks lesson, the very first line, tells us what should happen if we want to be successful Christians. “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power”.

The second point I would make is that it is God's armor we are to put on, not our own. God has provided us with all we need to defeat the enemy, but unless we are willing to put it on, it has little value or protection against those powers that would defeat us. The “cosmic powers” require special armor. There may be some powers that we can defeat with just the “sword of the spirit”. There may be other powers we can defeat with the “breastplate of righteousness”. We must always be ready “to proclaim the gospel of peace”. Verse 14 says “Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist”. But we must revert back to verse 11, “put on the whole armor of God”. We must be willing to put on all of the combat gear that God has made available to us, as his followers.

It may be hard for us as American Christians to comprehend the struggles that others face. Since the beginning of the Iraq war the number of Chaldean Christians has decreased by a million believers. The Syrian Orthodox has lost forty percent of their followers since the 2003 invasion. There is disturbing information now out about the population growth of Europe and Russia. The Russian army may be made up of forty percent Muslims. Islam will soon be the majority religion in France, Spain and England and within a short period of time it will replace Christianity as the most popular religion in the world.

This should be a sobering thought to all believers, we know that Christians are persecuted in the Islamic world; we have read and heard many stories of families being torn apart.

Certainly these “cosmic powers” will require all of Christendom to put on the “whole armor of God”. One of the area's that has changed in America is we are no longer just social Christians, we no longer attend church just because the doors are open, it is no longer socially necessary to attend church, in fact the opposite now seems more socially acceptable. Those that choose to attend are doing it for the right reasons, the church may now just play a small role in our current culture, but our resolve should be stronger than ever and our mission more defined, we are at war with the world. Those that make up the community of believers are in a definite minority. In verse 13, we are called to do all we can do; and then, when there is nothing you can do, stand – knowing you do not stand alone, and we stand with all of the armor God has made available to us.

The final call is for us to be alert and to pray always, and always pray in the spirit, and always persevere in supplication for the saints. Why should we be heartened by what is going on in our churches? Is our strength in numbers, or is it in the armor? How can we come out of today's woes stronger?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

New Life in the Home- Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending May 24, 2009

Purpose: To recognize that God calls all Christians, male and female,young and old, to lives of mutual submission.

Scripture Text: Ephesians 5:21-33; 6:1-4 (NRSV)

Background: Ephesians 5:1-6:4

Ephesians 5:21-33
21) Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

(22) Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. (23)For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Saviour. (24)Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.

(25) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, (26) in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, (27) so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. (28)In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (29)For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, (30)because we are members of his body. (31)‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ (32)This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. (33)Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.

Ephesians 6:4
(6)Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (2) ‘Honor your father and mother’—this is the first commandment with a promise: (3) ‘so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’ (4) And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

As I read the title for today's lesson, it made me very nervous. I am not sure at my age “New life in the home” would be the title I would have chosen, I am trying my best to stay out of the “home”. All of that aside, the make up of the home is a very important part of the family unit. As our leaders have taught us we must use the scriptures, tradition, experience and reason, to help us as we interpret the bible. It is why we study the bible and not just read it.

The traditional family of the first century in an eastern culture, would be considerably different than today's family structure, therefore some statements made by the writer need the light of today in our existing culture to shine on them to make them relevant for today. That is not discounting the scripture, it is simply applying truths after studying, and using what we have been taught and have reasoned by experience.

There are too many examples of women leaders in both the Old and New Testament to make an assumption that women have no place in God's church. The writer of Ephesians is talking about mutual submission.

In today's world, there are many examples of relationships that fail, or are very difficult. On TV there are some reality programs that try and deal with the conflicts and problems of a relationship. “Jon and Kate plus Eight” offers an example of a husband and wife struggling with their relationship and eight children, and that may not survive the present difficulties they are going through. Another program called “Wife Swap” whose premise is two mothers and wives swap places for a short period of time and deal with each others dysfunctional families. Usually one is real strict while the other is laid back and does not believe in discipline. Amazingly they come out of the experiment with a better understanding of what is important for a family relationship.

Our text covers many of the problems these TV programs highlight. Relationships are difficult, and they are especially difficult if God is not involved in the marriage or in the home. Our relationships need to be based on the same love that Christ has shown to His church. If we claim the name of Christ our relationships need to reflect His love, whether it is husband and wife, employer/employee, parents and children, or older parents and older children.

This subject is so important that it is covered almost identically in two books of the bible, this passage in Ephesians and the passage in Colossians 3:18;-4:1.

Is there a secret for making a relationship work that you would like to share? There are many single parent families, how does this scripture text apply to them? How can the Church best minister to these families?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"New Revelation in Christ" - Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending May 17, 2009

Purpose: To proclaim against all opposition that the church be a diverse community of persons demonstrating God's impartiality and love for all people.

Scripture Text: Ephesians 3:1-13 (NRSV)

Ephesians 3:1-13
(1)This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— (2) for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given to me for you, (3) and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, (4) a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. (5)In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: (6) that are the Gentiles have become fellow-heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

(7) Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power. (8)Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles th
e news of the boundless riches of Christ, (9) and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; (10) so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (11)This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, (12) in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. (13) I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

As we continue in our study of Ephesians for the balance of this quarter, today's lesson provides a real challenge to each of us as well as our churches. As we have stated, in earlier commentary, Paul's reason for writing this
circular letter to the early churches of Asia was an effort to bring together both Greek and Jew in the body of Christ.

The point of this portion of scripture seems to be; we are all equal in God's sight, Jew, Greek or whatever we are (v6) “fellow heirs, members of the same body, sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel”. Paul reveals he has been given an understanding of the (v4) “mystery of Christ”.

Back in the book of Genesis in chapter 11, God had scattered the people and given them diversity in language because they were content to settle a small portion of his creation. God intended for all of us to be diverse and unique, God also intends for all of us to love one another. Our diversity is not something to make us afraid, but rather is something we should embrace, it is part of the mystery of God, and it is in our, (v10) rich variety that the rulers in “heavenly places” will realize that God's church has received the wisdom of God.

In verse 17 of this ch
apter, the writer says “and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love”. Paul seems to imply that the church's faith, and love for one another is what will separate them from the rest of God's creation.

From the beginning God had a plan, and that plan has been revealed to Paul and to the prophets, this mystery was hidden from the, (v5) “sons of men”. From the tower of Babel to the resurrection of Christ and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, from the calling of one man named Abram an establishing a nation of separated people, all was part of God's plan. Who could be more diverse that the sons of Isaac, (Jacob and Esau) or even the sons of Jacob.

God wants us to be diverse, it is by showing our love for those that are different in culture, race, ethnicity, and even in beliefs, that we can show the world that the love of Christ in our hearts is what makes us part of God's family. I think that God calls his people to love those that are unloved and unlovely, those that may have a different sexual orientation than others, we are called to love them all, and I do not see any exceptions to God's law of love.

Is it ea
sier to love those that are different than us, or do you find it harder to love some of those you know more about? Can our knowledge of someone get in the way of our love? Why is Ephesians 3:17 so important in our ability to love?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

"New Life in Christ " Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending May 10, 2009

Purpose: To acknowledge how necessary God's grace is to move us from the blindness and helplessness of sin to a life of good works.

Scripture Text: Ephesians 2:1-10 (NRSV)

Ephesians 2:1-10
(1)You were dead through the trespasses and sins (2)in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. (3)All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. (4)But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us (5)even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— (6)and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (7)so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. (8)For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— (9)not the result of works, so that no one may boast. (10)For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This is our second lesson from Ephesians, and as we stated in our last lesson, this letter was written as a circular letter to the Asian churches that Paul had established during his missionary journeys.There is some tension between the doctrines of Ephesians and the doctrine of some of Paul’s other writing which has caused some to dispute Paul as the author of Ephesians. I will try and point out some of those tensions as we progress through this lesson.

As we noted last week, this letter is written to Christians and to the Churches established by Paul. The writer begins by recalling our former state before we became part of God's family. You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived”. Just as we studied about six weeks ago in the book of Ezekiel 37 we were the living dead, moving about as dry bones, with no life, no purpose, no hope and cut off completely. We were guilty of following the course of this world. And so doing the writer says we were following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient”. The author is clear in proclaiming those outside of Christ are lost, and the same as dead.

The reasoning then, is if we follow our own desires and we are in bondage to “the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses”, we are separated from God and in need of being restored to God as one of His children, as God intended us to be. “We were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else”. Then we have the most important two words in this text “But God”. Despite our own perverse will, God's plan for us is something other than death. “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses , made us alive together with Christ”. This passage of scripture emphasizes the here and now as opposed to some distant happiness, and that reveals the t
ensions with other passages. In Romans 5:1-11, Paul seems to say “not yet” compared with today's “already”. Romans 5:9 states “while we have been justified, we will be saved.” In Romans it seems to be about the cross, in today's lesson it seems to be about the resurrection. Our text today is certainly more comforting if we are facing trials and tribulations it is nice to know, God's love has, “made us alive together with Christ”.

Paul's logic concerning salvation
sometimes seems unclear or hard to follow, but in today's text it seems to be presented in a nice uncomplicated package. “For by grace you have been saved through faith”. Our salvation is God's work and not ours; “we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” Paul states something similar when he describes the “fruits of the spirit” in Galatians 5:22-25. James states “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17). A little saying has been making the rounds lately but it is well worth repeating here “God loves us just the way we are, but he loves us too much to leave us that way”.

Why do you think you deserve a place in heaven? Which do you prefe
r, the plan for salvation found in Romans 5 or the one found in Ephesians 2? Why? Both have been canonized so both are applicable, both are the word of God for the people of God.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

"New Family in Christ" Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending May 3, 2009

Purpose: To celebrate all that God has done to make us God's own adopted children

Scripture Text: Ephesians 1:3-14 (NRSV)

Ephesians 1:3-14
(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,(4) just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. (5)He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, (6)to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (7)In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace (8)that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight (9)he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, (10)as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (11)In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, (12)so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. (13)In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; (14)this is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This week's lesson is from the Book of Ephesians, written by Paul, while a prisoner in Rome. In today's bibles the letter is addressed to the church at Ephesus, but the oldest manuscripts are not addressed to anyone in particular, and the book of Ephesians is considered a circuit letter meant to be read by several churches in that area.

The dilemma for Paul is he has two congregations, one is the newly converted Gentiles, and the other is the established Jewish congregations. Paul does not want to see two different churches; he wants one church, one in Christ. He wants the Jews to accept that the Gentiles can become Christians without becoming Jews, and he did not want the Gentiles to be prejudiced against the Jews. This epistle is addressed to the Gentile Christians; Paul had earlier appeased the Jewish element by taking them a generous offering.

Paul sees God as a Great Big Something, in whom there is room for all races, viewpoints and prejudices, and God is able to solve and resolve all of the differences, and bring us all into a relationship with Him. In 3:10 he even hints at other unseen universes. Regardless of what we think, God had an eternal purpose, which was accomplished through Jesus Christ.

Paul had spent three years in Ephesus, but the letter contains no personal greeting as in some of his other letters. In today's text Paul states God's purpose and plan, that includes redemption, adoption, forgiveness, and sealing of a people for God's own possession. This plan had been determined in eternity and was now being brought to completion by the effective exercise of God's will.

The text opens with praise, much as the Lord's Prayer, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. The emphasis remains on Jesus through out the book. It is in Christ that God's plan has been revealed and accomplished. In verse four we are told “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love”. It would be a mistake to think God has embarked on some plan to create superhuman beings without flaw or defect. The perfection God has in mind is a perfection of love. When we choose God, through Christ, we fulfill a destiny that was established before the foundations of the world. God chose to redeem mankind, now it is our chance to choose God through Jesus Christ.

In verse five, it says, “He destined us for adoption as his children”, the Greek word rendered “destined here literally means “foresaw”. God becomes both the granter and guarantor for his plan of redemption. Clearly in God's plan his willing and caring come first, but that does not mean our own actions and willing are irrelevant. Note in verse 12, “we who were first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of His glory”. And later it says, “when you had heard the word of truth,.... and believed in him were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit”. Then the Holy Spirit becomes our “pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people”.

God has gone to great lengths, to provide a means whereby we can become part of His family. God's work is done, now it is up to us to accept our new heavenly Father and His plan which includes the work of Jesus Christ, and the forgiveness that is available through His blood.

I think it is important to remember this letter was written to the redeemed, to the church of Asia, to encourage them to enjoy now, through the person of the Holy Spirit, what they would receive later in eternity, to live blameless before Him in Love. Have you responded to God's love? How? If our adoption is offered but declined, where does that leave us?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"Bringing New Life to Those in Need" Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending April 26, 2009

Purpose: To offer assurance that through the life and witness of the church, we can extend Christ's power and presence in times of need.

Scripture Text: Acts 9:32-43 (NRSV)

Acts 9:32-43
(32) Now as Peter went here and there among all the believers, he came down also to the saints living in Lydda. (33)There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years, for he was paralysed. (34)Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed!’ And immediately he got up. (35)And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.

(36) Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. (37)At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. (38)Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, ‘Please come to us without delay.’ (39)So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. (40)Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. (41)He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. (42)This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. (43)Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

As I look at this text from Acts, I am struck by a couple of things, first, God's will is not always done on earth, second, that is why it is so important they we communicate with God about our needs and desires. It appears to me, God responds to our prayers when His response is in agreement with His will.

Last week we talked about the writings of Luke (The Gospel of Luke and the Act's of the Apostles). The Gospel of Luke points us towards Jerusalem and the Book of Acts points us outward from Jerusalem. We can further divide the Book of Acts into those things that went on in Judea and Samaria and then all the way to Rome. It can also be divided into the ministry of Peter (1-12) and the ministry of Paul (13-28).

Our text takes place in the Judean and Samaritan time frame, as Peter was visiting the early Christians in the area away from Jerusalem. The healing of Aeneas is very similar to the healing of the paralytic found in Luke 5:17-26. It is easy to make the case that this miracle was an important part of spreading the good news in this area outside of Jerusalem, and we know it is God's will “that all should be saved”. However we may miss the importance of Peter's prayer, “Jesus Christ heals you”. I do not think it was because of God’s will that Aeneas was paralyzed, and because of that fact God was willing to answer Peter's prayer for Aeneas's healing. It would serve to glorify God in several ways, the obvious way and in the strengthening of Peter's faith, for even greater acts. It is important to note Peter did not heal, Jesus Christ was the healer.

With the spreading of the news about Aeneas throughout the area it is no wonder help was sought when in the neighboring town of Joppa the Christian community was going through a trial of its own. It had lost a disciple named Dorcas,(in Greek) or Tabitha (in Aramaic or Hebrew). Dorcas is the only woman identified as a “disciple” in the Book of Acts. Dorcas seemed to have been a very diligent and gifted disciple and was especially loved by the widows of Joppa. We do not know the circumstance of her death. It did not have to be God's will that she die, but it was certainly His will that she be called back from the dead by Peter, but without Peter's prayer it would not have happened.

Where does prayer stand, in your witness? In your church's witness? Prayer is a powerful tool that we have been given; our responsibility is to use it wisely. It is not to be used like a magic wand, but it is to be used to communicate to the Father our concerns and our needs and the needs of others. We are taught to pray “thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven”. I believe God's will is done in heaven, I pray that it will also be done on earth, but I need to ask Him to do that, and if I don't ask, I will never know what His will is.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Witnesses to New Life" Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending April 19, 2009

Purpose: To demonstrate that despite our fears, the risen Christ empowers us to worship and witness.

Scripture Text: Luke 24:44-53 (NRSV)

Background: Luke 24:36-53

Luke 24:44-53
(44) Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ (45)Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, (46)and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, (47)and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.(48)You are witnesses of these things. (49)And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’

(50) Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. (51)While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. (52)And they worshiped him, an returned to Jerusalem with great joy; (53)and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

The Gospel of Luke, written by the “beloved physician” (Col. 4:14) is also the only Gospel written by a gentile. The fact that Luke was a physician might play a part in his fascination with Jesus eating broiled fish and honey after the resurrection. (Vs 42-43)

The overall theme of Luke is “Christ, the Son of Man” and many of the events in this book demonstrate Christ's humanity. Luke's writings also include the Book of Acts of the Apostles, so the Gospel of Luke, is the first part of a continuing story. The Gospel of Luke is constantly pointing us to Jerusalem and the cross, while the Book of Acts, starts in Jerusalem and extends to “the ends of the earth”, which Christ commands in Acts 1:8:“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”. Today's lesson is simply preparing the disciples to do the work of witnessing to “the ends of the earth”.

Jesus is going to teach in just a short period of time, some 40 days, everything He had tried to teach them the three years prior, but they were unwilling to learn.

When I was younger I took flying lessons, and as long as the instructor was with me, in the right hand seat, I was very comfortable, no matter what the circumstance, because I knew he did not want to die prematurely, but when the day came and he climbed out and he told me to go do three “solo landings” and “take offs”, I suddenly wished I would have paid more attention to what he was telling me for the previous six weeks or so. The same was true with the disciples; they all of a sudden realized they were going to have to fly solo. It was them that would be responsible for spreading the good news around the world.

After I had achieved the ability to fly by myself, then I was certified to carry passengers with me, and some forty hours of flying time later, I began working on an instrument rating. I can relate that to what the disciples went through, the intense learning, and learning to trust someone else, a higher force, than what I was able to do with my own vision. Eventually I became able to not only fly solo, I was able to do it when I could not see the ground or other aircraft, I had learned to depend on someone who had the big picture, someone that knew where every airport was and who also knew where every airplane was in the sky. Of course I had to check in with them every time I wanted to fly, and they would give me the clearance to proceed to my destination.

Like the disciples, I had to learn a lot and I had to have my mind opened to understanding the Instrument Flight Rules. It was an intense learning time and I studied harder than I had ever studied and the final exam was the hardest I had ever taken, but the whole world was opened to me, I could literally fly anywhere i wanted to go and just about anytime I wanted to go, as long as I was in touch with the “controller”.

I think that is exactly where these eleven or so disciples were, they were told to wait until they received their clearance from on high, and then they were to go into the entire world preaching the gospel, but always staying in touch with the “controller”.

I must confess there were times when I would start out on my own, trusting my own sight, but if I found myself unable to see the way, I could immediately call the controller and tell him my situation and where I wanted to go, if the air traffic and weather were no problem, he would then direct me to my destination, if I obeyed his commands and did exactly as he said.

Who do you trust, are you flying by sight? Or are you willing to trust the Controller? God does not want to be our co-pilot; He wants to be the Controller