Monday, July 24, 2017

The One Year Bible- July 24th



There have been times in my life where I can just feel the presence of God.  At times I can hear his call and he seems close.  But there are also times when God seems distant and far removed from my daily life.  Have you ever felt this way?  Remember that it is all just a matter of perspective.  In reality in our sinfulness we are the ones that drift away.  Sin takes us far from God and in our own minds we try to blame God for leaving us.  Some times I would like God to give me a big sign in the sky to tell me his plan or that he is right there.  The people of the Old Testament got a visual show.  When God’s presence came to earth, the people would see it in the form of a thick cloud.  God revealed himself to his people visually so they could believe.  He did the same when he sent his son Jesus.  Jesus became the walking temple for all of us to see.  Today we can see him every time we partake in the Lord’s Supper, every time we read His Word, and every time he calls another child his own in baptism.  When you think that God is distant, remember that he is right here, closer than you think.  On to the study…

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
Some good stories this week in the Old Testament. Most of the counting and lists are done with and the narrative picks up in earnest. You may not have even been aware that we started 2 Chronicles this week. Solomon continues to build the Temple for the LORD. It was an impressive structure! There was so much gold used it could not be counted. Silver meant nothing and bronze was almost worthless. It is interesting to note that the curtain of the temple is mentioned. It is what separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. This is the curtain that tore in two (in a different temple mind you) when Jesus died. Jesus’ death brings Holy God and sinful man back into a relationship again. It must have been an awesome sight to see the thick cloud of YAHWEH filling the temple. This was the first time in a while that there had been a physical manifestation of God on earth. Solomon’s prayer was a good one and got the people back on track. God’s response to Solomon was also quite amazing. All was good during the life of Solomon but soon he would be buried with his fathers and his son Rehoboam would become king. Rehoboam did not fare to well. He did not listen to his father’s advisors and soon the kingdom was split. Civil war then raged and the Northern Kingdom went on a road to destruction as they worshiped idols and bowed down to other Gods. King Asa tried to get things right with God but it did not last. Jehoshaphat tried to do what was right but we will soon find out that he has troubles as well. Here are the vital stats for the book of 2 Chronicles:

PURPOSE: To unify the nation around true worship of God by showing his standard for judging kings. The righteous kings of Judah and the religious revivals under their rule are highlighted, and the sins of the evil kings are exposed.
AUTHOR: Ezra, according to Jewish tradition
TO WHOM WRITTEN: All Israel
DATE WRITTEN: Approximately 430 B.C., recording the events for the beginning of Solomon’s reign (970 B.C.) to the beginning of the Babylonian captivity (586 B.C.)
SETTING: Second Chronicles parallels 1 and 2 Kings and serves as their commentary. Originally 1 and 2 Chronicles were one book. It was written after the exile from a priestly perspective, highlighting the importance of the temple and the religious revivals in Judah. The northern kingdom, Israel, is virtually ignored in this history.
KEY VERSE: “If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV).
KEY PEOPLE: Solomon, the queen of Sheba, Rehoboam, Asa, Jehoshephat, Jehoram, Joash, Uzziah, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Josiah
KEY PLACES: Jerusalem, the temple
SPECIAL FEATURES: Includes a detailed record of the temple’s construction

The New Testament
Paul really gets on a roll in this weeks readings. If you were not convinced you were a sinner before, I bet you are now. Romans six deals with the idea that those who have been united with Christ have been united with him in his death and more importantly in his resurrection. This is great news because now those who are “in Christ” (one of Paul’s favorite phrases) will receive all the benefits of God. Those who are in Christ are dead to sin and alive in Christ. We do not have the freedom to just continue sinning. We are no longer slaves to sin. But then Paul brings up a good point. This is a confusing passage (especially in the NIV) but the NLT (New Living Translation) is a bit clearer for me. “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead I do what I hate...I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it” (Romans 7:15,18b-20 NLT). Paul realizes that in this world, we are so interwoven with sin that it is impossible to extract ourselves. We are in dire straights! We cry with Paul. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24 NIV). In the end it is all about Jesus. He is the only one that can free us from this problem. His death and resurrection make it possible for us to leave the sin of this world behind and live for Him in all we do. We now live our lives by the Spirit of God and we have been adopted into his family. And we can call him Daddy (Abba, Father). This relationship cannot be broken. It holds firm even when sin attacks. Therefore do not worry about your status in the world. The important thing is that we are part of the family of God. On the 27th we will read that being a member of this family is easy, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9 ESV). Good news indeed!!!  Now this verse has been used by many Christians to support a view that human beings must do something in order to become a Christian.  This is not a new idea.  Now days we call it “decision theology” but this has been with the Faith for a long time.  To use a $2 word it is called syncretism.  This means that in some way we have to cooperate with God in some way shape or form for our salvation.  When we make some sort of an effort towards God then he will have mercy on us.  The point of view goes something like this:  We encounter the message of salvation and then we need to make a decision to accept this good news.  The power of God does not begin in our lives until we make a conscious choice to follow him.  Until then we are lost.  This point of view is prevalent in many Christian circles.  Those who hold this view are big believers in altar calls and praying the “sinners prayer” in order to become a believer in Jesus.   There are two passages that help me understand that this is not how God operates.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3 NIV)  Paul also says in Romans 8, The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7-8 NIV)  When we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, is cannot be an act of a sinful person, because this pleases God.  There must be something that was working in us before we could even do this.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit.  He works in us before we even know who Jesus is.  He comes to us in the waters of baptism before we can even talk.  He starts working on our sinfulness even before we know.  There is no way we can cooperate with God.  Salvation is his action and his action alone.  I could go on and on with this one but I think you get the idea.  Please let me know if you have any more questions about this. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

The One Year Bible- July 17th



Summer is usually a time of rest and relaxation. But sometimes summer can be just as busy if not more so than the school year. During the school year there is a set rhythm to the days and weeks and months, but summer seems to be a flurry of activity. I need a VACATION!! It reminds me of our life in Christ. We all are looking forward to the day when we can rest in the presence of Jesus. It seems like that day will never come. And as we wait we have been given the task of doing God’s will here on earth. Some days it seems like we will never get it all done, but even when we fail (and we will!), God is right there to forgive us and point us in the right direction again. I hope that through your daily reading of Scripture the Lord speaks to you to not only remind you of the rest that awaits, but His love for you as we carry out His will. On to the study....

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
I will admit that this weeks readings were not too interesting for me, mostly a bunch of lists and numbers. A few things did jump out at me. Fist of all was the repeated mention of the Davidic Covenant that YAHWEH had made with the family of David. This was to last forever but it came to an earthly end. But remember that Jesus is the fulfillment of that covenant and Jesus still sits on the throne that was promise so many years ago. I also thought that it was cool to read about the six-fingered man. It is not too often you hear about them. One last thing that jumped out was the fact that David was the one who made the plans for the temple and gave them to his son Solomon. I am not sure if this is idealized history but it is in the Bible and I believe it.

The New Testament
WOW!! Where to begin? There are many, many books written about Romans and I do not intend to add to the list by using this blog. But I would be remiss if I did not touch on the big theological themes in the book. First of all it is important to remember that Romans reads like a legal court document. Paul is serving as the lawyer who representing faith in Jesus and he is defending his beliefs to a particular group of people at a particular time in history. I do not believe, as others do, that this book contains all that is needed to be a Christian. (i.e. there is no mention of holy communion just to name one). But I do believe that this book contains some of the most important insights into the Faith. First of all, Paul sets up his case by setting out the argument that everyone is a sinner. There is no one who does right. We are all scum, even those who think they are doing what is right (those who follow Jewish Law). God is also a God who shows no favoritism. He hates all sin no matter who does it. Paul brings up the character of Abraham because he is one of the biggies to the Jews. He is like a superhero to them. If anyone deserved to be saved it was Abraham, right? But what does Paul say that makes Abraham a righteous man? Was it is accomplishments, or his attitude, or the fact that he was circumcised? NO! In fact Abraham is declared righteous in Genesis 15 and he is then circumcised in Genesis 17. Abraham was justified by faith, apart from works of the law. We too are justified the same way. We do not magically become Christians by being baptized. We become Christians by faith!! Don't get me wrong here, baptism is important and is powerful, but it is not some pill that is taken or hoop to jump through in order to get "in". That was Paul's point. There is nothing that we do! When we try to earn our own way, or believe that we have some part in this process we get it all mucked up and we forget that this is an action of God and not us. Because we are in this great dilemma, God sent Jesus to us to be a sacrifice for us so we could be saved. It is all passive (by the way almost all of the Greek verbs that describe what we do or become of us are in the passive case). Paul says it way better than I, "For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous." (Romans 5:19 NIV).

Psalms
One quick thing here. On the 16th of this month we will read from Romans 3 that quotes from Psalm 14 and then we read Psalm 14 on the 18th? How cool is that!!!

I hope your summer is not too busy and that you get some time for some earthly rest. Have a great week, let me know if you have any questions and I will see you all soon.

Monday, July 03, 2017

The One Year Bible- July 3rd



With the calendar in my office reading July, I wish to congratulate you on reading more than one half of the Bible!! The year is half way done and we are well on our way to reading all of God’s Word this year. This may be the time to evaluate how you are doing in your reading plan. Is everything going well? Do you need to make any adjustments in your reading plan? Do you need to find a buddy to read with? Let me know how I can help. Keep up all the hard work! On to the study today...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
We finished up the book of 2nd Kings this week with a flurry of Kings, most of them bad. We read quite often, “but he did what was evil in the LORD’s sight...”. Over and over the kings continued in the sins of the previous rulers. Remember God’s word to Joshua way back, “Make sure you drive out all the people living in the land and do not worship their Gods” (my paraphrase). Well the kings did not do a very good job and now the consequences are going to set in. First it was Israel’s turn to be exiled. The author of 2nd Kings does a great job telling us why, “This disaster came upon the people of Israel because they worshiped other gods. They sinned against the LORD...the followed the practices of the pagan nations...they build pagan shrines...they set up sacred pillars...they offered sacrifices on all the hilltops...they worshiped idols despite the LORD’s specific warnings” (2 Kings 17:7-12 NLT). What were these warnings? Sometimes it is helpful to look at the whole picture. The Old Testament is not in complete chronological order. So far it has worked out, but we will soon see, in the books of 1st and 2nd Chronicles, that this is not always the case. One thing that is difficult is the warnings most often came from the prophets. God sent his holy men to warn the kings and the people what would happen if they did not turn back to YAHWEH. Isaiah and Jeremiah are two prophets who gave many warnings. We must remember this context when we get into these two long books a bit later in the year. There are some Bibles out there called “Chronological Bibles” that insert the warnings of the prophets into the narrative story. This can be very helpful to remember the context of the prophets. We do get a couple of good kings, Hezekiah was pretty good Josiah was even better, but even these two kings could not stop the exile from happening. One neat thing from 2 Kings 19, when Isaiah speaks he mentions “The Holy One of Israel”. Remember this term. We will see it over and over again in the prophetic books. Almost always it is used in reference to the promised Messiah (Much more on this when we are in the book of Isaiah later this year). One really great thing that happened during the reign of Josiah was that the book of the Law was found. How did it get lost? This does answer some of the questions about how king after king did not follow the Law of YAHWEH. Josiah had the book of the Law read to the people and they began to come back to the LORD. I am of the opinion that God used Josiah to get the people ready for the exile. God had promised that a remnant would return (through the prophet Isaiah). This remnant will build the city up again. Israel went to exile never to be heard from again but Judah had the promise of the Davidic covenant and we will soon see how God will be faithful even to his unfaithful people. The city of Jerusalem lies in ruins, the people have been exiled and all hope seems to be lost.

The New Testament
We continued the story of Paul at the end of his third missionary journey. It seems that everywhere Paul went, there was some sort of trouble. There was trouble in Ephesus, and then big time trouble in Jerusalem. Even in all of this trouble and turmoil, Paul remains calm and cool. He stays focused on his mission, to spread the message of Jesus Christ. Paul knew that he was to go to Rome. It will not happen the way he wants it to but I am getting ahead of the story. You can tell a lot about Paul by from this quote, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.” (Acts 20:24 NIV). May we all have the same conviction as Paul!! We read just one chapter later, “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:13 NIV). I am truly humbled when I read of the conviction of Paul. Paul gets into some hot water with the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and they try to kill him. Paul gives a great sermon and testimony on the steps of the governor’s palace. I am sure that there were some who heard his message and believed but many still wanted his head. The Roman commander ordered Paul to be whipped but once it was learned that he was a Roman citizen that was stopped quickly. Paul almost incites a riot between the Pharisees and the Sadducees when he was on trial and the Romans took no chances in losing control and secretly sent Paul off to Caesarea. Paul will never again live his life as a free man. Not only was he in physical chains, he also believed he was in chains to the Gospel and was a slave to Christ. We will see these patters emerge when we read some of Paul’s letters.

Bits and Pieces


The Old Testament
We will start 1 Chronicles the week but before we do we need to get some context to the book before they will make any sense to us. Both 1 and 2 Chronicles were written after the exiles returned from Babylon. They parallel many of the stories we have already read. Don’t get confused by hearing the same story again. These books are like commentaries on the books that preceded them. They are also like history books that were written by people who were not eyewitnesses to the events.  Here are the vital stats for 1 Chronicles:

PURPOSE: To chronicle for the exiles the rule of David’s house and appointed services of the Levites as a record of how God’s people “keep the faith”
AUTHOR: Ezra, according to Jewish tradition
TO WHOM WRITTEN: All Israel (the nation is once again called Israel)
DATE WRITTEN: Approx. 430 BC recording events that took place from about 1000-960 BC
SETTING: First Chronicles parallels 2 Samuel and serves as a commentary on it. Written after the exile from a priestly point of view, 1 Chronicles emphasizes the religious history of Judah and Israel.
LAW THEMES: Breaking faith, exile, failure to follow God’s Word, seek the Lord.
GOSPEL THEMES: God’s blessings and rule through David, the Lord’s rule through David’s house, God with His servant, atonement at the tabernacle.
KEY VERSE: “And David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel and that his kingdom had been highly exalted for the sake of his people Israel” (1 Chronicles 14:2).
KEY PEOPLE: David, Solomon
KEY PLACES: Hebron, Jerusalem, the temple

The Psalms
We finished the book of Psalms this week but we get to do it all over again.  Please let me know if you have some questions the second time around.

Have a great week!!!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Bethany Bullet - Week of June 25, 2017

Sermon: “What’s the ‘Therefore’ There For?”

Some incorrectly assume that with his advice to, “sin boldly;” Luther was giving an affirmative to St. Paul’s rhetorical question, asked in the 6th chapter of his letter to the Romans, “Shall we go on sinning that grace may increase.” God overflows with grace and mercy, we are filled with error and iniquity; God abounds in forgiving, we excel at transgressing – a perfect match, therefore, “sin boldly!”

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth!  Luther was doing to things when he wrote to his friend Philip Melanchthon, “remember God does not save false sinners….let your sins be strong (sin boldly) but let your trust in Christ be stronger still (even more bold).”  Luther was first of all addressing any self righteous notions that could lead one to think that they were somehow more worthy of God’s grace and blessings than others; or at the very least that others were somehow more deserving of God’s judgment than they were.  Sin boldly, i.e. admit your guilt, don’t try to cover it up, claim that it is somehow less serious than it is and that you are somehow more righteous that others are.  Second, Luther was reminding his friend that there is no trespass for which Christ was not crucified; no transgression which He cannot forgive, no sin that He cannot cast as far as east is from west; sin boldly but trust Christ even more boldly; i.e. don’t doubt that Jesus’ grace is sufficient and that His righteousness is your righteousness

Luther’s advice to his friend is good advice for us, this summer and throughout our lives, it reminds us to take our eyes off ourselves and fix them squarely on Jesus.  It reminds us that even our best, is tarnished with sin, and our good works but filthy rages before God.  It reminds us that we are not free to do whatever we please nor can we do anything to make ourselves pleasing to God, He is pleased with us solely on account of Christ and it is His good pleasure to redeem, restore and rescue us in Christ. 

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Friday, June 23, 2017

The One Year Bible- June 26th



I am in the habit of writing smiley faces or unhappy faces in the margins of my One Year Bible to indicate a good story or a bad one. Usually they about equal each week. This week however, I had way more unhappy faces. I wrote one for each time someone killed another person or events that were displeasing to God took place. Looking back, it makes me appreciate even more the love God has for us. As a group, people keep messing up. I do every day. But God loves us and sent his son for us. It is just amazing when you stop to think that Jesus was sent to this earth in spite of and because of people like Ahab and Jezebel. On to the study.....

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

A couple of stories I want to mention today that have parallels in the New Testament. First of all, there is a miraculous conception with the woman from Shunem. It reminds be of the story of Abram and Sari in Genesis but it also points forward to both Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and Mary, the mother of Jesus. Like Jesus, this child died and was brought back to life again (after he sneezed seven times…that is funny). Now I don’t want to press the text too much, but it does set a precedent that God is a powerful God and he can bring people back from the dead. Then there is the story of the poisonous stew. Elisha made sure the stew was O.K. to eat and in a fashion similar to the feeding of the 5,000 everyone ate and was satisfied and there was food left over. In an of themselves these stories show the power of God, but I think they also are a set up for what was to come in the person of Jesus Christ. Then there is the story of the ax head the floats in the water. What was that all about? Again it shows the power of God and points to who Yahweh is. One more… after Elisha dies and is in his tomb the people need to bury another person. Now in those days the dead were buried in shared tombs like caves. The Moabites start a raid on the people so they just throw the body in the tomb. It bumps into Elisha’s bones and the guy comes back to life! Now that is awesome!! God is still using Elisha to show is power long after Elisha died. I wish there was more to this story but the text just goes on to another story. Sometimes the Bible does that. It does not mean that it is not part of scripture but sometimes there is nothing else about the story. One thing that I found in reading this week was trying to keep the kings straight in my mind. What I did was look for some sort of a list and here is what I found. I hope it is helpful:

Kings of Judah and Israel

Kings Before Division of Kingdom
· Saul: First King of Israel; son of Kish; father of Ish-Bosheth, Jonathan and Michal.
· Ish-Bosheth (or Eshbaal): King of Israel; son of Saul.
· David: King of Judah; later of Israel; son of Jesse; husband of Abigail, Ahinoam, Bathsheba, Michal, etc.; father of Absalom, Adonijah, Amnon, Solomon, Tamar, etc.
· Solomon: King of Israel and Judah; son of David; father of Rehoboam.
· Rehoboam: Son of Solomon; during his reign the kingdom was divided into Judah and Israel.

Kings of Judah (Southern Kingdom)
· Rehoboam: First King.
· Abijah (or Abijam or Abia): Son of Rehoboam.
· Asa: Probably son of Abijah.
· Jehoshaphat: Son of Asa.
· Jehoram (or Joram): Son of Jehoshaphat; husband of Athaliah.
· Ahaziah: Son of Jehoram and Athaliah.
· Athaliah: Daughter of King Ahab of Israel and Jezebel; wife of Jehoram; only queen to occupy the throne of Judah.
· Joash (or Jehoash): Son of Ahaziah.
· Amaziah: Son of Joash.
· Uzziah (or Azariah): Son of Amaziah.
· Jotham: Regent, later King; son of Uzziah.
· Ahaz: Son of Jotham.
· Hezekiah: Son of Ahaz; husband of Hephzi-Bah.
· Manasseh: Son of Hezekiah and Hephzi-Bah.
· Amon: Son of Manasseh.
· Josiah (or Josias): Son of Amon.
· Jehoahaz (or Joahaz): Son of Josiah.
· Jehoiakim: Son of Josiah.
· Jehoiachin: Son of Jehoiakim.
· Zedekiah: Son of Josiah; kingdom overthrown by Babylonians.

Kings of Israel (Northern Kingdom)
· Jeroboam I: Led secession of Israel.
· Nadab: Son of Jeroboam I.
· Baasha: Overthrew Nadab.
· Elah: Son of Baasha.
· Zimri: Overthrew Elah.
· Omri: Overthrew Zimri.
· Ahab: Son of Omri; husband of Jezebel.
· Ahaziah: Son of Ahab.
· Jehoram (or Joram): Son of Ahab.
· Jehu: Overthrew Jehoram.
· Jehoahaz (or Joahaz): Son of Jehu.
· Jehoash (or Joash): Son of Jehoahaz.
· Jeroboam Il: Son of Jehoash.
· Zechariah: Son of Jeroboam II.
· Shallum: Overthrew Zechariah.
· Menahem: Overthrew Shallum.
· Pekahiah: Son of Menahem.
· Pekah: Overthrew Pekahiah.
· Hoshea: Overthrew Pekah; kingdom overthrown by Assyrians.

The New Testament
We are in the middle of hearing about the missionary journeys of Paul. I hope you found a good map to help you follow along. A couple of things about these readings; first of all Paul is following his pattern of going to the synagogue first (remember this pattern from last week?). Then he heads out to the streets and in Acts 14 we have a very famous sermon. It is referred to as the sermon on Mars Hill. Paul argues using Greek ways to the philosophers about this person called Jesus. Later on Paul uses one of the statues of the “gods” and says that this “unknown god” is indeed Jesus. Of course this gets Paul into all kinds of trouble and they people try to kill him so he flees the area. Acts 15 records a big debate on whether or not Gentiles have to become Jews first (i.e. through circumcision) before they can be Christians. Paul has a great line in the debate that seems to set the church on the right path, “But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” (Acts 15:11 ESV) Then James gets up and makes the decision to have a compromise and he says, “Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those who turn to God.” (Acts 15:19 ESV) I think these are some wise words that we need to be heard today. Of course, because of the message, Paul and Silas end up in prison, but God turns it into a positive thing when they were able to share the message of Jesus with all in the prison, including the jailer. We find out that they all get baptized and became followers. There is a lot more to say about this week’s readings but we don’t have time here. Let me know if you have any questions.


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