Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of January 12, 2020

Sermon: “Watermarked”

Baptism is passive and promissory.  That is, in Baptism we receive, without any deserving or striving on our behalf.  In Baptism all our Lord has accomplished for us through His perfect life, innocent sacrificial death and victorious Resurrection from the grave became our own.  As St. Paul put it, "All of us who have been into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death....If we have been united with Him in a death like His (through baptism) we will certainly be united with in a resurrection like His."  Romans 6:3&5

Baptism is practiced and participatory.  That is, Baptism calls us to rise to newness of Life in Christ.  Like our Lord's so to our own, as Baptized children of God, are to be lives of trust and love, service and sacrifice, humility and dedication.  As St. Paul puts it, "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."  Romans 6:4

Jesus' own baptism is indicative and analogous of our own.  As He was being baptized the spirit of God fell on Jesus in the form of a dove and the voice of heaven declares that He was God's own beloved Son.  Then that same Spirit led Him into the wilderness, where the devil tempted Him; but Jesus not once favored the adversary's offer nor failed to rely on God's power; in the Word and thus words, "It is written" He stood firm.

While the dove went unnoticed and the decibel level did not register, the same Spirit that fell on Jesus fell in you in Baptism, Jesus identity and victory became your own, and the same voice proclaimed you a beloved child of God.  Baptism is passive and promissory.  That same God calls you His baptized child, to follow Him, journey with His Spirit and rest secure on His Word will traveling through the wilderness.  Baptism is practiced and participatory. 

Unfortunately, while Jesus holiness and righteousness have become our own in Baptism, our original nature yet remains.  Thus the reason on occasion (intermittently? frequently? constantly?) we find ourselves favoring tempting offers and failing to withstand the adversary as God's beloved child with God's all sufficient Word. 

That's why Luther when reflecting upon Baptism's gift and the baptized's life noted that, "Baptism indicates that we should daily drown the old creature in repentance and contrition and daily emerge and rise to live before the Lord’s holiness and righteousness." 

Because, after all:
V  Baptism is passive and promissory - receive that gift anew this and every day!   
V  Baptism is practiced and participatory - rise in the gift this morn and each morn to walk in newness of life!
- Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, January 13, 2020

The One Year Bible- January 13th

In seminary I took a class called Biblical Theology and Exegesis.  Don’t get too impressed.  I am convinced that theologians want to sound smart, so they use technical names for most of the classes.  For example in Seminary I took:  Hermeneutics, Homiletics, and Old Testament Isagogics.  In regular English that means I took Bible study, preaching, and Old Testament history (I hope I didn’t give away any company secrets).  Anyway, part of Biblical Theology and Exegesis is seeing the whole story of the Bible.  My textbook gave this definition, “Biblical theology is principally concerned with the overall theological message of the whole Bible.  It seeks to understand the various parts in relation to the whole.”  This is exactly what I try to do each week with our studies.  I guess I didn’t even know that I have been teaching a class in Biblical Theology every week on the internet for over five years.  Well, I hope that through these studies you will start to see the whole picture and the overall theme of God’s Word.  At the end of the first chapter of my textbook it says, “The Bible is about humankind falling into sin, and God’s determination to put things right.  It is about salvation, God’s rescue plan for human beings under judgment.  It is about the worship of the one true God and the rejection of the gods that fail.”  Lets all try to keep this in mind as we journey in God’s Word together.

Seth’s Thoughts
Old Testament
The opening stories of the Old Testament revolve around what we call the Patriarchs. This includes Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph. The first week of the year we sped through many generations as well as many years but this week we have been focusing on one family. This family has some issues.  Jacob is encouraged by his mother to pretend to be his brother so that Isaac will give him the family blessing.  If this sounds dysfunctional you are right. We will see plenty of dysfunctional behavior in the Old Testament. Remember the Old Testament is setting the stage for the coming of the Messiah, the one that was to save the people. Just wait until we get into the book of Judges and then we will see some real dysfunctional behavior. That PLR (people, land, relationship) promise that we talked about last week comes back (in whole or in part) quite often.  We saw it multiple times this week.  Each time I read it I put the letters PLR in the margin. I hope you begin to see that this is an important promise. This becomes the foundation for all the other promises that God will make in the Old Testament, including the coming of the Messiah. We read about Jacob and his rather strange relationship with his father-in-law, and then his odd relationship between him and his bickering wives. Once again we see some facets of dysfunctional behavior, but we also see that God will be faithful and keep his promise. The story of Joseph is one of the longest stories in the Old Testament. I will have more to say about this story later. For now be sure to catch all the details and see if they remind you of any other stories in the Bible.  Perhaps some of you are familiar with the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical called Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  This musical is a pretty faithful rendition of the story and if you get confused you may want to rent the movie version.  It stars Donny Osmond (don’t let that scare you) and has an appearance by Joan Collins (don’t let that scare you either). 

New Testament
In our readings from this week we find that Jesus still continues to teach, and heal and now he is starting to generate some interest. John’s disciples start to question him about things and we get a deeper glimpse into the ministry of Jesus. Chapter 10 has some interesting things to say about going out and speaking about Jesus, but remember that Jesus was speaking to 12 Jewish men in Israel almost 2000 years ago. It can be dangerous to make some one for one comparisons with these teachings and today. One very interesting section in our reading is found in chapter 12:13. Jesus uses some Old Testament stories to bring light to his earthly ministry. He gives us some clues about the end of his earthly ministry as he compares himself to Jonah. This is a fascinating passage for theologians as it sheds light not only on the work of Jesus but also the reason that the book of Jonah is in the Old Testament.  For those of you at Bethany, we will be studying the book of Jonah this Lenten season.  In that study we will explore this relationship ever further. Jesus also says that he is greater than Solomon. This was a big claim because no one was a wise as Solomon especially in the eyes of a Jewish person.  It is also another place that shows the relationship between the Old and New Testaments.

Bits and Pieces
One thing I think I forgot to mention last week. Every time you read the word LORD (in all capitals) in the Old Testament, the translators are saying this is the proper name Yahweh. It is God’s personal name. Remember that Moses is the one writing the first five books and he was the one to whom God revealed that name. So it makes sense that he uses it in his writing.
Another thing I want to point out to you is the use of names.  Names are important in the Bible.  like I just said above LORD is translated from Yahweh which means “I Am who I Am”.  It sounds rather nebulous to us but how could you try to contain God in a few letters no matter what language it is in.  On to my point, we have seen quite a few names, the names of people and places.  If you are reading through the NIV or the ESV you will notice that every time we encounter a new name there is a footnote.  If you follow those footnotes you will find some more information about the name.  For example, when Isaac was born we read in the footnote that Isaac means “he laughs”.  Some of these names have some theological significance.  The name Jacob means “he grasps the heel” which is an idiom for someone who deceives which is just what he does to his brother twice.  Later in the story we will get to Joshua.  His name means “the LORD saves”.  This is the same name that is translated as Jesus in the New Testament.  Makes sense doesn’t it.  The phrase Jesus Saves is almost redundant.  I will try to point out some of these names when they come up but feel free to follow the footnotes to get some more information. 

That is about all for now, but one word of encouragement. If you get behind in your reading don’t try to catch up all at once. Just double up your readings each day and soon you will be back on track. The other option is to just let some of the readings go, like water under the bridge and just pick up on the current day. Either way you are still in the Word, and that is a good thing. Have a great week and look for a new post next week!!

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of January 5, 2020

Sermon: “Resolutions Made & Resolutions Kept”
Text: Matthew 2

The gifts Jesus received on The Epiphany are a revelation of the gifts He gives; and tell us who He is while He is too young to yet make manifest these truths.

Gold: a present for princes.  This gift reveals to the Bethlehem family what the Magi had communicated to Jerusalem's leaders, "He is born to be king of the Jews."  Of course, Jesus is not only Israel's king; He rules and reigns over all!  A fact He will unveil to church and state rulers alike.  "You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of a God the Father."  "My kingdom is not if this earth."

Frankincense: a donation to Deity.  This gift reveals that this child is both human and divine at the same time:  100% man, 100% God.  The truth manifest at the beginning of Jesus' life is proclaimed again and again, to friend and foe alike, towards the end of His ministry.  "Flesh and blood has not revealed this truth to you Peter (the truth that Jesus is the Son if the Living God) but my Father who is in heaven."  "Before Abraham was I am!"

Myrrh: a contribution to corpses.  This gift reveals the purpose of His birth.  While the Magi secretly go home without sharing with Herod their discovery of the child.  Thus Jesus escapes Herod's evil intentions and heinous crime; so that He might later be sacrificed on account of ours.  When grown He will reveal the nature of His mission, "I have come to give my life as a ransom for many."

The gifts Jesus received reveal the gift He brings; and the gifts the Magi (and we His people) bring reveal the gift they have received in Him.

- Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, January 06, 2020

The One Year Bible- January 6th

We are six days into the New Year and I hope your reading plan is going well. If you missed last week’s post, I would highly encourage you to go back and read it as well.  Each week I will kick off our study with a short thought or some general words of encouragement. This week I want to give you some information about how our weekly studies will be arranged. Each week I will give you my thoughts on the week’s readings. I will not be commenting on all the readings but I will be giving some general comment as well as highlighting specific passages and trying to make some connections for you. My quotes from the readings will almost always be from the NIV. Please don’t get discouraged if I don’t write about certain parts of the reading. You can always ask me questions via the comment section or by email. If you want some more detailed comment on a particular reading you can visit The One Year Bible Blog (www.oneyearbibleblog.com). I visit this site regularly to get some insight as well.

Each time we start a new book of the Bible I will give you some vital stats for it in the Bits and Pieces section of the post. This will help you get your bearings as you begin to read. The most important thing I will say today is that we must remember the context of what we read. The Bible is a Christ centered book and it tells one overarching story. Try to keep that story in mind as you read. My posts will try to help with that as well. Keep up the good work and be ready to let God lead you as you immerse yourself in His Word. On to the study for today…
Seth’s Thoughts:
The Old Testament Like any good book the Bible begins with some great storytelling and some drama. The reason for the whole book is right there at the beginning. Because of mans fall and the steadfast love of God, a series of events takes place that will have an impact on the world and all humanity forever. In fact, the first promise of a Savior is found in Genesis. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel" (Genesis 3:15 NIV). The story of God’s love continues with Noah. God saw how sinful the world had become so, in his love, he destroyed those who disobeyed yet saved Noah and the promise of his love became more fully known. One of the great Old Testament words we see early on in Genesis and will have great meaning later is the word we translate as “remember”. God remembered Noah, he remembered his promises to Abraham; later in our story God will remember his people in Egypt and in exile. He will remember his promise from Genesis and send a savior for the world.
One thing to keep in mind while reading through the Old Testament narrative is that you need to try to keep the characters straight. Think of it like a program at the ballgame or the theatre. If you need to write down the characters and how they are related that might help out. This brings me to my first point about context. If you missed the fact that Lot and Abraham are related, you don’t quite get their relationship. Abraham loves his nephew so much and that relationship enters in to his decision making process.  Also, two times Abraham tells others that Sarah is his sister and at first it looks like he is flat out lying but in Chapter 20 we find the following passage, “Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife” (Genesis 20:12).  Now this may seem gross or unthinkable to us but remember we need to read this within the cultural context of the day and this sort of thing was O.K.  It can be dangerous to impress our 21st century American culture upon a people and a land far remove in time and place and make judgments.  This sort of thing will come up again and we must place ourselves in the culture of the day to understand.  We don’t have to like it, heck there are a lot of things in the Bible I don’t really like, but it is God’s Word.
The New Testament
The first thing I need to say about reading the Gospels is that they are not always written in chronological order. I hope I am not sacrificing any sacred cows for you with this but it is difficult to put a time line and chronology together when looking closely at the text. For example, in the book of Luke Jesus seems to be jumping all over the place in Nazareth and Judea. One moment he is teaching by the Sea of Galilee, the next moment he is in Jerusalem, and then he is back again. Many scholars (and I agree) tend to see the Gospels written from a thematic point of view. They take the stories and events and use them to not only tell the story but to highlight certain events. Taking a look at the Gospel of Matthew we see that it was written to a Jewish audience. How do we know that? First of all Matthew was a Jew so it makes sense to write to an audience that he knew. Secondly, Matthew places the events of Jesus ministry into an order that the Jews would see as very interesting. First of all Matthew tells us that the baby Jesus was taken to Egypt. Right after the family comes back from Egypt, we get the story of the baptism of Jesus then immediately to the desert for 40 days. A Jew of Matthews day would most likely see the connection to the Exodus story of the people coming out from Egypt and going through the waters of the Red Sea and then into the desert for 40 years. It is no coincidence that Matthew uses this series of events to bring a greater meaning to his Gospel to the Jews. A casual, non-Jewish reader might miss this connection. Matthew also leans on many of the Old Testament prophecies that his audience would be well aware (especially in the birth narrative). As you read in Matthew try to remember his audience of the first century and try to see how we can gain even more understanding by studying the book as a whole instead of taking parts out and studying them in isolation.
Bits and Pieces
-Begin your time in prayer and ask God to send His Spirit to guide you as you read.
-Find a place to read that is relatively free of distractions.
-Read the passage aloud and slowly if necessary. The goal is not just to finish, but to understand.
-Make some notes in the Bible and underline key verses. Look back at them later.
-Remember the Bible tells one story. That story is about redemption from Sin by the work of Jesus. Keep that in mind as you read.
-Take your Bible to Church and read along to see what comes before and after.
-Keep a journal about what you read and how it has affected you.
-Memorize key verses.
-Look at a children’s Bible storybook to get a mental image of the stories. This is especially helpful for the Old Testament stories.
-Teach what you have been reading to your children. This will help reinforce the stories for you and introduce them to your children.
-Share what you are reading with coworkers or friends who are not Christians. This can happen especially if you are reading during your lunch hour at work. If they are interested in the Bible point them to 1 John and to Mark.
-Use a daily devotional book (Portals of Prayer, Strength for the Day, etc.) in addition to your reading.
-Look at some Bible maps and get a layout of the land. This is important when talking about events in the Old Testament.
-Don’t worry if you miss a few days. Just double up your readings for a while until you catch up. Don’t try to read it all in one day.
-Some questions to ask as you read: What is the Biblical context of this passage? What is the historical context? Who is speaking and to whom are they speaking? How can I use this information today? Don’t worry if you can’t answer all the questions.

After God dispersed the people at Babel, he called one man, Abraham and gave him a promise. We will come back again and again to this promise. It is a three-fold promise that I like to call the PLR promise. We first see it in Genesis 13, but it will come back over and over again. The promise is that God will make Abraham into a people, a nation set apart, he will give them land, and he will have a relationship with them (PLR = people, land, relationship). This three-fold promise will not be fulfilled in Abraham’s day. The only piece of land he will ever own is a grave. But this promise will be fulfilled as the story continues with the people of Israel under the leadership of Moses and Joshua. It will be expanded in the New Testament era as we are all called to be God’s people, our land is in heaven, and we have a relationship with Jesus because of the empty tomb.

Last week I gave you some helpful tips as you begin your journey and I want to repeat them here again.  I know that some of you have just started this week and may have missed last weeks post. 

Tips for Comprehension

Have a great week and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Monday, December 30, 2019

The One Year Bible- December 30

Welcome to the first post for 2020, even though the ball hasn’t dropped on the New Year it’s never too early to start a regular journey in God’s Word.  For those of you just beginning this journey you are in for a wonderful experience as there is nothing quite like being in God’s Word each and every day of the year.  I welcome back those of you who journeyed with us last year.  The format for this study will be the same as last year.  I will try to give you some insights on what you have been reading and try to connect the dots the best I can. Then I will give you some things to look for in the upcoming reading for the week or some bits of information that I think may be interesting.  This format seems to work well and you can always ask questions by commenting on the blog or by sending me an email. 

Hopefully you have purchased a Bible that says “The One Year Bible” on it.  That is the format that we will be using.  You can also find the assigned readings for the day by going to www.oneyearbibleonline.com.  There you can find the readings for each day of the year and you can use your own bible. 

Each day in The One Year Bible you will find a selection from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament, a portion from the Psalms, and a selection from the book of Proverbs. January begins with Genesis, Matthew, Psalm 1, and Proverbs 1. When the year is over you will have read through the entire Bible and have read Psalms twice.

Getting in the Habit
If you are not in the habit of spending time each day in the Word it may be a struggle at first to find time. You will need to experiment and find a time that works for you. For many people, the morning works best, for others it’s after the kids are in bed. Others find that during lunchtime works well. You may want to divide up the reading and do part in the morning and part at night. It will take about 15 minutes to read through the passages for each day. Regardless of the time, you will need to do what works and then do it every day.

Find a Partner
It is always helpful to find someone who is willing to read with you. You can keep each other accountable and bounce questions off of one another as you read. There will also be a weekly on-line study to help keep you on track and to provide a place for questions and comments. Each week (usually Mondays) a new study will be posted at www.bethanylutheran.blogspot.com.

Tips for Comprehension
-Begin your time in prayer and ask God to send His Spirit to guide you as you read.
-Find a place to read that is relatively free of distractions.
-Read the passage aloud and slowly if necessary. The goal is not just to finish, but to understand.
-Make some notes in the Bible and underline key verses. Look back at them later.
-Remember the Bible tells one story. That story is about redemption from Sin by the work of Jesus. Keep that in mind as you read.
-Take your Bible to Church and read along to see what comes before and after.
-Keep a journal about what you read and how it has affected you.
-Memorize key verses.
-Look at a children’s Bible storybook to get a mental image of the stories. This is especially helpful for the Old Testament stories.
-Teach what you have been reading to your children. This will help reinforce the stories for you and introduce them to your children.
-Share what you are reading with coworkers or friends who are not Christians. This can happen especially if you are reading during your lunch hour at work. If they are interested in the Bible point them to 1 John and to Mark.
-Use a daily devotional book (Portals of Prayer, Strength for the Day, etc.) in addition to your reading.
-Look at some Bible maps and get a layout of the land. This is important when talking about events in the Old Testament.
-Don’t worry if you miss a few days. Just double up your readings for a while until you catch up. Don’t try to read it all in one day.
-Some questions to ask as you read: What is the Biblical context of this passage? What is the historical context? Who is speaking and to whom are they speaking? How can I use this information today? Don’t worry if you can’t answer all the questions.

Some things to help you out:
Here are a few websites that I have run across that help me when I am studying the Scriptures:
biblegatway.com - You can search on words or phrases as well as finding texts here.
www.oneyearbibleonline.com -Forgot The One Year Bible at home or even left it at the office? This site will give you the readings for the day. A great help when you don’t have your Bible with you.
www.oneyearbibleblog.com - Want get some in-depth information for the readings of the day? This is the place. It gives you the readings, some artwork and some commentary specifically on the readings for the day. This is a great site. I almost didn’t want to tell you about it because I get some of my info here.

Seth’s Thoughts

This week I want to give you some of the vital stats for the books that we are starting.  Each time we start a new book I will give you the vital stats to give you a road map of where we are going and to give you some background information that will be helpful in understanding the context and the overall story of the book and how it relates to the rest of Scripture.  Next week I will give you some thoughts to the readings so far and help answer any questions you may have.

The Old Testament starts off in Genesis. Here are the vital stats for the book:

DATE WRITTEN: c. 1446-1406 BC
PURPOSE: To trace the passing of the promise of God’s Savior from generation to generation, to all Israel and to all nations.
KEY PEOPLE: Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Joseph
LAW THEMES: The curse and death that come with sin and disobedience; humankind’s slavery to evil; families divided by sin.
GOSPEL THEMES: The promise of a Savior; God gives blessings, life, and freedom; God’s goodness and covenant promise for the faithful

The New Testament begins with Matthew’s account of the life of Jesus. Here are the vital stats on the book:

AUTHOR: Matthew (also called Levi)
PURPOSE: To proclaim that God’s end-times rule has come in the person and ministry of Jesus Christ.
KEY PEOPLE: Jesus, Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, the disciples, the religious leaders, Caiaphas, Pliate, Mary Magdalene
KEY PLACES: Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Capernaum, Galilee, Judea
LAW THEMES: God’s rule in judgment; repentance; political and religious opposition; authoritative teaching; confronting a brother who sins.
GOSPEL THEMES: God’s rule in mercy; Baptism; compassion; ransom; Lord’s Supper; forgiving a brother who sins.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Matthew is filled with Messianic language ("Son of David" is used throughout) and Old Testament references (53 quotes and 76 other references). This Gospel was not written as a chronological account; its purpose was to present the clear evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior.


AUTHORS: David wrote 73 psalms, Asaph wrote 12, the sons of Korah wrote nine, Solomon wrote two, Etan and Moses each wrote one, and 51 are anonymous.
DATE WRITTEN: Between the time of Moses (around 1440 BC) and the Babylonian Captivity (586 BC)
PURPOSE: To express hope in the Lord God for salvation, using prayers and praises spoken by God’s people at the Tabernacle and Temple or by individuals.
LAW THEMES: Persecutors assail God’s people; suffering brought by personal failures; waiting for God’s deliverance; exile in Babylon.
GOSPEL THEMES: The Lord’s saving righteousness and steadfast love; the Lord provides for and protects His people; prophecies of the Messiah, Jesus; God’s gift of life through the Word.
SPECIAL FEATURES: For the most part, the psalms were not intended to be narrations of historical events. However, they often parallel events in history such as David’s flight from Saul and his sin with Bathsheba.


AUTHOR: Solomon wrote or at least compiled most of the book with Lemuel and Agur contributing later sections.
DATE WRITTEN: Early in Solomon’s reign as king (10th Century BC)
PURPOSE: To bestow God’s wisdom.
LAW THEMES: Because foolishness is rebellion against God, fools condemn themselves to destruction; instruction cubs the misdeeds of fools and guides the deeds of the wise.
GOSPEL THEMES: Christ, God’s wisdom, delivers us from self-destruction and brings forth forgiveness.
SPECIAL FEATURES: This is a book of wise sayings, a textbook for teaching people how to live godly lives through the repetition of wise thoughts.  The book uses varied literary forms: poetry, brief parables, pointed questions, and couplets. Other literary devices used in the book include, antithesis, comparison, and personification.

If at any time you have some questions, concerns or just need a pep talk, feel free to contact me, smoorman@bethanylutheran.org, or (562) 420-7783 x. 13. May God richly bless you as you embark on this journey and remember: “All Scripture is god-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” –2 Timothy 3:16-17

Monday, December 23, 2019

The One Year Bible- December 23rd

We are almost at the end of 2019 so that means this is the last post for the One Year Bible for this year. Next week will be a post getting us ready for 2020 as we start fresh again. I hope you all will be joining us next year as well. If you were at all like me, seeing the end of the book is both exciting and rewarding. It is no small task to read the entire Bible. There are parts that are not much fun to read and there are parts that are hard to relate to. I think the best part for me is seeing how all the pieces fit together. The story as a whole is so much more powerful than some sections taken out of context. I hope that as you hear scripture being read in worship, you can fit it into its context and fill in some of the blanks in your mind to get the whole picture. I have finished my reading so this post will make reference to some things that you may have not read yet. Don’t worry, you can always come back and read the post again. With that, on to the last study of the year...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
This week we spent time in the book of Zechariah. The book of Zechariah is a post-exilic book, meaning it was written to the people who had returned to Jerusalem at the end of the exile in Babylon. It has many interesting and detailed images written in apocalyptic form. It was nice that we were reading from the book of Revelation at the same time since John seems to have used Zechariah for some of his imagery. This is not to say that John plagiarized his book but he did use other sources to help him make sense of what he was seeing. Many scholars have a difficult time with the prophecies in the book because there is no consensus on the historical context of many of the images. We know that some are obviously Christological (The Branch, illusions of Palm Sunday (9:9), looking on the one whom they have pierced (12:10)) and others must have some context in the day that we are too far removed to see. Eric Hartzell has this to say in his commentary on Zechariah: Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai. He too had seen the captivity and had returned. With Haggai, he say the people’s apathy toward building God’s house. He joined in the message of Haggai who spoke for God...”Build my house!” The book of Ezra tells us. “Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them” (Ezra 5:1) There are many striking pictures in the book of Zechariah. Some of them are surrealistic and in kaleidoscopic colors. Some are stark and strange. Zechariah painted with prophetic brush on the imaginations and consciences of his people. We come upon these paintings today and see that over the years the colors have not faded and the images have not been blurred. He painted hell and heaven; he preached God’s law and his gospel. Zechariah was also a prophet who spoke words directly describing the coming Savior. In this book we hear words that we recognize from the Passion History of our Lord. Zechariah knew the Savior by inspiration and by prophecy.

A few more days in 2011 sees the reading of the book of Malachi and the finishing of Revelation.

Here are the vital stats for Malachi:
PURPOSE: To confront the people with their sins and to restore their relationship with God
AUTHOR: Malachi
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The Jews in Jerusalem and God’s people everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: about 430 B.C.
SETTING: Malachi, Haggai, and Zechariah were post exilic prophets to Judah. Haggai and Zechariah rebuked the people for their failure to rebuild the temple. Malachi confronted them with their neglect of the temple and their false and profane worship.
KEY VERSES: “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace...But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall” (4:1-2)
LAW THEMES: Rejection of Edom; condemnation of unfaithful priests; divorce; unfaithfulness in offerings; the day of the Lord.
GOSPEL THEMES: Love for Israel; the Lord’s faithfulness; the messenger of the covenant; deliverance from evil.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Malachi’s literary style employs a dramatic use of questions asked by God and his people.

The book of Malachi is another post-exilic book and has many connections with the book of Nehemiah. Kenneth Barker in the book introduction of Malachi in the NIV Study Bible says:

Although the Jews had been allowed to return from exile and rebuild the temple, several discouraging factors brought about a general religious malaise: (1) Their land remained but a small province in the backwaters of the Persian empire, (2) the glorious future announced by the prophets had not yet been realized and, (3) their God had not yet come to his temple with majesty and power to exalt his kingdom in the sight of the nations. Doubting God’s covenant love and no longer trusting his justice, the Jews of the restored community began to loose hope. So their worship degenerated into a listless perpetuation of mere forms, and they no longer took the law seriously. Malachi rebukes their doubt of God’s love and the faithlessness of both priests and people. To their charge that God is unjust because he has failed to come in judgment to exalt his people, Malachi answers with an announcement and a warning. The Lord they seek will come—but he will come “like a refiners fire”. He will come to judge—but he will judge his people first.

Malachi ends with a warning of the Day of the Lord. As we have discussed before in this blog, this Day is always referring to the Day of Judgment; the day that God will put an end to the wickedness of this world once and for all. It is never a good day for those apart from God, but for those who believe it will be a good day.

The New Testament
It would take me weeks to give you all the info needed to understand the book of Revelation. One of my seminary classes was devoted to this book and we spent hours trying to figure out what it all meant and to try to make some applications for ourselves. For that class I read the biggest book of my scholastic career (almost 700 pages!!). I learned a lot and I am struggling trying to figure out how I can give you the condensed version. I will give you some highlights from my big commentary authored by Louis Brighton:

The book of Revelation is the last book of the Bible. Whether it was written last or not, the church was led to place it at the end of the canon because she saw in it the completion of God’s revelation. Nothing further would be revealed by God until the second coming of Jesus Christ. Revelation is thus the culmination of the entire story of salvation contained in the Bible. It is the end point of all that is written in both the OT and NT. for it draws all of revelation, both prophetic and apostolic, to its final goal: the exalted reign of Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of lords and the fulfillment of the promise of the new heaven and earth. As the last book of the Bible and the completion of God’s revelation to his church, it is the lens through which the entire Scripture is to be viewed. Revelation reveals and confirms that Christ was prophetically promised and that his incarnation, death and resurrection happened so that God’s creation could be restored to its original glory and righteousness. Revelation thus points to the final meaning and the final answer to all that is revealed in the Bible. In addition, as the last book, Revelation puts an official stamp on all of God’s revelation, a final confirmation of the divine truth and origin of God’s spoken and written Word. This finality points to the urgency of the last times, in which all things will be brought to an end—an urgency which reminds the Christian to Hold fast to the faith and which encourages the church to complete her mission.

Brighton goes on to say:
The message of Revelation reveals two ongoing phenomena: the terrifying sufferings and horror on earth, and the reign of Jesus Christ as Lord in his heavenly exalted glory. As these two phenomena are described, God’s people on earth are encouraged to cling in hopeful faith to the eternal heavenly glory that beckons them in Christ. In turn they also are strengthened and encouraged for the work of Christ’s mission on earth. The tribulations and sufferings portrayed lead the Christian not to pessimism and despair but to realism. The adversities and troubles prophesied will come to pass, and Christians will suffer because of and through them, as will unbelievers. Such plagues and distresses demonstrate God’s wrath and judgment for the purpose of motivating the godless to repentance. God’s own people also experience these same sufferings and plagues, for the dragon, Satan uses these sufferings and plagues in his attempt to destroy the church and her witness.

With all this being said, the most important thing to get out of a reading of the book of Revelation is that God is in control, his wrath is coming, it is time to repent, God will be victorious and all those who put their trust in him will have the blessings of eternal life. If this is all you got out of the book, then great. The other stuff is there to help make this point clear.

Bits And Pieces

I think the best way to finish out this study is to quote from the last Psalm, number 150:
Praise the LORD.
Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD.

I cannot say it any better myself. AMEN!!!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of December 15, 2019

Sermon: “Sharing Intentionally – Cancellation, Celebration, Conversation”

How good does it feel when a debt is paid off?  Whether it was as the last check was sent finally paying what was lent or when the balance has been paid by some other way, the cancellation of that debt most likely brings about celebration, which leads to conversation to tell everyone that it is done! 

Last week in worship we heard that it’s all about location, location, location.  It's what underlies Advent’s promises, proclamations and prophecies.  In that first Advent, Christ made His location among us to be one of us, to take upon Himself sins shame and sharing with us His name.  And no matter what location you find yourself, He intentionally intends to share Himself through you…that was last week’s sermon, if you want to catch it in its entirety, check out the podcast. 

This morning we will see that Advent is also about:
·         Cancellation
·         Celebration
·         Conversation

In the spirit of the Christmas season, Mary Horomanski decided to put some new Christmas lights on her house. Seeing the house at night, she had to acknowledge it had been a good investment, Clark Griswald would have been proud! She just hoped the electricity to run those lights wouldn't become a burden on the family budget.  Sometime later, Horomanski received her first bill from her electricity provider.  She took a look at the email, took a look at the figures, saw lots of figures. She saw this figure: $284,460,000,000! That's billion with a B!!

For just a split second or so, Horomanski wondered if she had strung those lights incorrectly. She hadn't. Everything had been done correctly. As she scanned her bill, she noted the debt could be paid off in a lump sum or by her making monthly payments. She opted for the second method, and she scratched out a check for $28,156. To make a long story short, Horomanski appealed her bill, and the embarrassed power company quickly adjusted her bill to where it should have been. The new figure she owed was $284.46.

Now I like that story. I like that story because it deals with a debt, which is so absurdly large it could never be run up by an individual, let alone paid by a single person. I think Jesus would have liked that story, too. 

You heard the text read (if you were here on Sunday, if not click HERE to read the text) from Mathew 11 and like many of the Gospel texts this season it doesn’t seem to fit the season…especially if that season you are expecting is Christmas.  But it’s Advent, the season of expectation that we find ourselves in for a few more weeks. 

Yes, we take a peek at Christmas but as we learned last week, Advent is about location, the location of Christ with us as He intentionally shares Himself so that we would be located with Him forever and the debt of sin that we owe has been paid in full. And if this sounds like news that is too good to be true, you are in good company, for John the Baptist thought so too.  Even though he was the one who was to prepare the way for the Messiah he doubted the news.

John sends some of his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the Messiah, the one promised of old.  Sin had blinded John of the message he had been sent to proclaim.  Doubts began to devour the faith in his heart.  “Are you the one who is coming, or should we look for someone else?”  (Matthew 11:3)

John the Baptist, the one who in the womb leapt as Jesus’s mother entered the room herself pregnant with the Christ Child, finds himself now wondering if the Messiah has even come. 

It’s a familiar tune, one played out in countless lives since John’s.  Is Jesus the one, or should we look for someone else?  The devil and this world try as they might to convince you that we wait in vain.  That there is no Savior of the world who walked on earth let alone will come again. So, to answer John’s question, Jesus engages in conversation.  “Go back and tell John what you hear and see.” (Matthew 11:4) And what did they hear and see?  The blind received their sight, the lame walked, diseases were cured, the deaf could hear and even the dead were brought back to life and the poor heard the Good News. 

This was a cancellation of the curse that goes all the way back to creation and the promise of Salvation given to our first parents.  It’s the forgiveness of a debt that humanity has been carrying for generations, a debt we could never pay. This is the fulfillment of prophecy; this is why Jesus came; this is why His Advent among us is so important.  And His is the message that John’s disciples took back.  In this moment of cancellation there is celebration. 

John needed to hear once again that Good News that the Messiah had come.  He needed to come face to face with the One who had come to cancel his debt, to open his blind eyes, to set him on his feet again, to cure the disease of sin, to unstop his ears to the message that even when he is dead in his sin and poor in spirit the Good News is proclaimed to him and that the faith given to him that moment he celebrated in the womb all those years ago brings blessings beyond measure. 

Cancellation brings about celebration initiated by conversation.  This is the life of the Christian.  No doubt you’ve had times like John in our text, wondering, waiting, hoping, and praying that Jesus is the One, the Savior of the world.  

Here in this place as you encounter the Divine in word and worship you have a safe place to ask those questions of faith.  “Are you the one who is coming, or should we look for someone else” and Jesus invites you into conversations as well.  “What do you see and hear?” Here in this place the blind see, the lame walk, the sinful are made clean, the deaf hear and the dead are brought back to life as all those poor in spirit hear the Good news that in Christ your sin is forgiven. 

What are those things that blind you?  What has made you unclean?  Do you find it hard to hear the voice of Jesus? 

In your sin, you are dead but in this place there is life! You have a debt so absurdly large that you could never pay it off, but in Christ your debt is cancelled, you sin is forgiven and all creation celebrates as you are invited into conversations with others to intentionally share this Good News with others. 

That's what the shepherds did when they heard the news from the Angels.  It’s what the magi did when they went home by a different route.  It’s what the woman at the well did after she encountered Jesus and countless others who shared what they saw and heard from Christ the Messiah, the Savior of the world.

Cancellation, Celebration, Conversation!

It’s the story of Anna, a Simeon, who waited for the consolation of Israel that came in Christ and they celebrated the cancellation of sin that was to come in Christ.  “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your will.  For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared before the face of all people.” 

No matter what doubts you are having, no matter the fears you are facing, no matter the sin you are hiding no matter the questions you are wondering, your sin has been cancelled and on account of Christ you are forgiven.  That calls for celebration and conversation.

Jesus could have thrown his cousin under the bus, casting him away because of his doubts, but he doesn't.  He lifts him up, reminding others of the greatness of John’s calling and yours as well. 
Jesus reminded his cousin in the midst of his doubts and questions, and he will remind you in the midst for yours, in water and word, bread and wine that you are his precious child and calls you into conversation, “What do you see and hear?” 

In this place I see the dead come back to life.  I’ve witnessed it at the fount where in water and word the dead are raised to newness of life. In this place, the ones with questions are unconditionally loved, the poor provided all they need, the sick healed, the blind received sight, and the deaf able to hear the voice of the promised Messiah and that is something to share intentionally and to have deep and lasting conversations about. 

Advent is about cancellation, celebration and conversation.  I invite you to find ways to intentionally share the promises, proclamations and prophecies of Advent, that our God is a God of location, cancellation, celebration and conversation and no matter where you find yourself, we know that Christ is there with forgiveness for all!
-Pr. Seth Moorman

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