Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of April 14, 2019


No one likes expecting one thing to only receive something else.  In the world of marketing such is called "bait and switch".

Jesus rides into Jerusalem and is welcomed as King.  He enters the Holy City, in the eyes of many in the crowd assembled, to reign.  Yet, by week's end He is paraded out of the city as a criminal.  He is crucified outside the Holy City, in the eyes of many in the crowd assembled, as a blasphemer.

Those, or at least a great many of those, who greeted Jesus on Palm Sunday were expecting this to be the pinnacle of Jesus' ministry.  David's throne re-established God’s Kingdom come.  It could have been; Palm Sunday could have been the climax of the "Christ event" and had it been it would have been the closest to heaven we'd ever get.  A pilgrimage to Jerusalem to visit a temple made by hands would be the closest to holiness we could find ourselves.  

Hosanna, hosanna in the highest that Palm Sunday!  Praise God that Palm Sunday is the beginning of the week we call holy - not the completion!  In Jesus not only do we get the unexpected, we receive the undeserved.  Jesus exchanges a throne for a crown...of thorns.  He will not rule an earthly kingdom but establish an eternal one.  This King is the Prince of peace and His ultimate coronation is His crucifixion.  And we, by grace through faith, receive the unexpected - no longer are we simple members of a crowd who can see the King pass by.  We are sons and daughters of the King, citizens of the Kingdom, through whom the Kingdom is extended and the King seen.
-        Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, April 15, 2019

The One Year Bible- April 15th


I am not sure if I have mentioned this before, but I have been a big fan of the book of Psalms for many years. Remember, the book of Psalms was like the hymnal for the people of Israel. Unfortunately the tunes have been lost to history but the words are still there. I wish we had more time to dive deep into the Psalms and perhaps someday I will do just that, but every once in a while I want to highlight some things from this great book. This week I want to look at Psalm 86 (April 17). This is a Psalm of David and has some great words of comfort and also can serve to refocus us when things seem to going wrong. In verses 11 & 12 we read, “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.” I think that reading through the Bible from cover to cover is one way that God teaches us His way so that we might walk in the truth. There is just so much to learn from His word.
Lets get going....

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
Many of the readings this week were like a geography lesson. If you are like me it did not make much sense since the geography of the Holy Land is a bit of a mystery. The list of landmarks did not help me very much either. Please don’t get frustrated at this. The best thing to do is go to a map. I found this one on the Internet that shows how the land was divided. You may have one in the back of your Bible as well. For me this visually shows what we have been reading this week.




The geography of the Promised Land will be important later in the story. Eventually this land will become a kingdom under the rule of Saul. Things go well for a while but eventually the land is divided in two. The Northern Kingdom will have ten tribes, and the Southern Kingdom will have the other two (Judah, and Benjamin). Simeon will go with the North. This will be important later because the Northern Kingdom will be taken into exile never to return. A few years later the South will also be taken but some will return. This story points to Christ in so many ways but we don’t have the time to discuss this now. Trust me; we will discuss it later this year. One other note, the tribe of Dan will complain about their land and they will move out and head north to a city known as Dan. This is important because the city of Dan is in the far north of the kingdom and is part of a phrase we will see a number of times. When an Old Testament writer uses the phrase, “From Dan to Beersheba” they mean the entire land, since Dan is in the north and Beersheba is the city furthest south. Both places are on the map.

The New Testament
Jesus seems to talk a lot about money. To Jesus, money is something that can be used for good but it can also be used as something to be worshiped. Jesus said, "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate (remember our discussion of hate from last week?) the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (Luke 16:13 NIV) This was a direct attack on the Pharisees who loved money. The point is that God wants us to be faithful with the monetary blessings that we have been given but they are not to rule us and in reality become an idol that we worship. When Jesus talks to the rich young ruler, money is again an issue. Jesus tells him to sell everything he has and give the money to the poor. This man was not ready to give up his money. We all struggle with money. How much should we give away? How much is too much etc. Many of us are afraid if we do not save money we will not be able to survive. We sometimes forget the wonderful words of Jesus, "What is impossible with men is possible with God." (Luke 18:27 NIV) God will take care of us, we should not have to worry about money because we can focus on money and it will rule us if we are not careful.

Bits and Pieces
We will finish up the book of Joshua this week and begin the book of Judges. Here are the vital stats on the book of Judges:

Purpose: To present Israel’s declining spiritual state and the Lord’s mercy, by which He forgave them and held them together.
Author: Unknown, possibly Samuel
Setting: The land of Canaan, later called Israel. God had helped the Israelites conquer Canaan. which had been inhabited by a host of wicked nations. But they were in danger of losing this Promised Land because they compromised their convictions and disobeyed God.
Law Themes: Israel’s failure to conquer the Promised Land; transgression of the covenant; cowardice; idolatry; unfaithful Levites; doing what is right in one’s own eyes.
Gospel Themes: The Lord provides saviors and judges; the Lord answers Israel’s cry for help; the angel of the Lord; the Spirit of the Lord.
Key Verse: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” (17:6)
Key People: Othniel, Ehud (my favorite Judge), Deborah, Gideon, Abimelech, Jephthah, Samson, Delilah Special Feature: Records Israel’s first civil war

Monday, April 08, 2019

The One Year Bible- April 8th


When I was in second grade our class was scheduled to sing in church.  The song we sang was called “Everywhere I Go.”  Why do I remember such a thing?  Well, this song had a big impact on my life.  It has a catchy tune and great words and I latched on to this song and sang it everywhere I went.  I started singing this song every time I was scared or though I was in trouble.  I sang it a lot while riding my bike.  This song gave me comfort and security because even as I child I knew that God was there with me.  This song came to my mind this week while reading the story of God’s people as they entered the Promised Land.  I am sure many of them were scared and fearful of the future.  But Moses and Joshua reminded the people that God was with them everywhere they would go, and to be strong and courageous.  As we begin today, don’t forget that the same God is with you as well.  We begin with the words of that song:

Everywhere I go the Lord is near me
If I call upon Him He will hear me
Never will I fear, for the Lord is near
Everywhere I go.

Everywhere God is there
Tending all in loving care
He is with me everywhere I go

On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

Psalms

One quick comment from one of our readings this week: In Psalm 78:41 (April 7th) a reference to the “Holy One of Israel” is found. We will see this term often when we get into Isaiah and some of the other prophets. This term refers to the promised Messiah and when you see it you can be certain that this is talking about the coming of Christ.


Let me set the stage for you once again.  The people are on the edge of the Promised Land.  Moses has gathered the people together to give them a pep talk and remind them of the promises of God and his continued faithfulness.  Moses will not be joining the people because of his own disobedience but he is still God’s prophet.  At the end of the pep talk he breaks out into song.  This last bit of instruction for the people served as a reminder and a comfort for them.  Just before Moses gets a glimpse of the Promised Land, he introduces Joshua as the new leader.  We see in just a few short verses the phrase, “Be strong and courageous”.  This is an important phrase, as the people will be doing some difficult things in the next few years.  Moses as well as the Lord tells Joshua and the people to, “Be strong and courageous”  at least six times.  Indeed the Lord will be with them; and indeed he was.  The Lord caused the Jordan river to stop as the people crossed it. 

In the next few days we will see that the Lord delivered the fortified city of Jericho into their hands.  The Lord blessed them, but true to form the people disobey.  After Jericho was destroyed someone took some of the plunder that was to be devoted to the Lord.  This caused a military defeat of the people and doubt started to creep in.  It was just one small action that had big consequences.  It seems that is what happens in our lives as well.  Just one seemingly small sin causes us big problems.  Even after the pep talk from Moses, the people disobey.  This will be a theme we will see over and over again.  When we look at the world today we see the same theme.  We have heard what we should do, we know the right things be we find ourselves doing the opposite or not even listening to God.  For the people of Israel this caused problems.  Later we will see how sin begins to spiral out of control and eventually the people will be lead off to exile.  We are in the exile of sin as well and we are in need of rescue.  God sent his son Jesus to rescue us from our sin.  Because we could not do it, Jesus did it all for us.  Jesus fulfills the requirements of God and we get all the benefits.  The Old Testament once again points us to Christ the author and perfector of our faith. 

The New Testament
A few things jumped out at me as I read through the readings from Luke this week. After our readings in the Old Testament about washings, the section at the end of chapter 11 (readings for April 6th) where Jesus really blasts the Pharisees makes more sense to me. Jesus really lets them have it for only worrying about the outside things. He tells them in no uncertain terms that God looks at the inside as well and they need to get their act straight. In Luke 7 Jesus says some hard things. Jesus tells us that if we want to be his disciple we need to hate other things. I have always struggled with this statement. In one of my seminary classes we talked about the word “hate” and how it is used in the New Testament. This is another word that we translate the Greek literally but it has some Hebrew meaning. In Hebrew the word we translate as “hate” means that we prefer one thing over the other but not necessarily at the expense of the other. In the Old Testament we read that Jacob “hated” his wife Leah, but he still cared for her, he had children with her and he provided for her. This does not sound like the “hate” we think of. Now it is true that Jacob preferred Rebekah, but he did not “hate” Leah as we see it. I hope this sheds some light on this passage for you. We are to prefer following Jesus over all others. We will still need to carry our cross and count the cost and that will only be possible with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Have a great week and remember that God is with you everywhere you go!!

Monday, April 01, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of March 31, 2019


Sermon: “From Adored to Abhorred”

It was just after midnight on March 21st and our Boeing triple 7 rumbled down the taxiway of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.  It was the end of an amazing week in Kenya and the beginning of a long 19 hours of flight time home.  Soon we were airborne for an 8 ½ hour flight to London’s Heathrow Airport. I usually adore flying on a plane. It usually means that adventure is ahead or perhaps the glow of time away remains forefront in my mind. But soon this flight would go from adored to abhorred. 

To say the least, there was not much space on the plane.  We were seated in the second row of basic economy and legroom and shoulder room was in short supply.  I was in a middle seat and was next to a woman who was trying to curl up the best she could to get some sleep on the overnight flight.  Soon after takeoff the person in front of me leaned their seat back and now the entertainment screen was just inches from my eyeballs and was burning my retinas with every passing mile.  After a while, the meal services started and the choices were some sort of spinach item and lamb.  Wanting nothing to do with the spinach, I chose the lamb.  It was a poor choice.  It was awful.  As the cabin lights dimmed, I tried to get some shut eye. But just as I drifted off to la-la-land I was shaken from my slumber by someone in the row behind me getting up to use the facilities. 

As they got up, they used my seat back to steady themselves and scoot out.  If it would have been one time I would have excused this but it went on about every 30 minutes for about 5 or 6 hours. I would doze off for a moment…then I was shaken from slumber. I just wanted to die.  There were no adoring glances given to those behind me.  Soon I began to abhor the whole situation. By the time we arrived in London I was impatient with the trip, cranky and upset and I was quick to criticize my fellow passengers, British Airways and even the entire airline industry.  But this is minor compared to what happened with God’s people recorded in the book of Numbers chapter 21.

Then they moved from Mount Hor, following the road that goes to the Red Sea, in order to get around Edom. The people became impatient on the trip and criticized God and Moses. They said, “Why did you make us leave Egypt—just to let us die in the desert? There’s no bread or water, and we can’t stand this awful food!”

So the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people. They bit the people, and many of the Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we criticized the Lord and you. Pray to the Lord so that he will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake, and put it on a pole. Anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it on a pole. People looked at the bronze snake after they were bitten, and they lived.  (Numbers 21:4-9)

Just for the record, there were no snakes on my plane, no one died, that I know of and for me it was just a minor inconvenience.  For God’s people in the wilderness it was more than just an inconvenience, it was life and death.

And in that moment as Moses intercedes for the people, he does something confounding.  He instructed the people to do that which was contrary to their religious sensibilities… “Make a snake, and put it on a pole. Anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” It’s a confounding story, as the people adore what is raised up they find life. 

Of course, that which is even more confounding is what happened when another was raised on a pole; that moment when God, Himself, took on human flesh and was raised up on an instrument of torture as a sacrificial offering.  “For just as Moses lifted the snake up on a pole, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.” (John 3:14)

For the times Israel went astray, for the occasions we have wandered away, for the times Israel grumbled against God and the occasions we’ve complained about Him.

For the occasions the Hebrew community distrusted God and the times the Bethany community has done so as well.  For the occasions the Israelites embraced group think and the occasions we’ve done the same. For all the acts of injustice, disobedience and self-centeredness that humanity has ever engaged – and for all those things you have done and left undone, Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin…and God who declared Him to be His beloved and chose Him for this work – condemned Him chief of sinners and rejected Him for our guilt.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

The one who was adored just days before when he entered Jerusalem was now the one abhorred by those who called out “Crucify, crucify!” but it's far worse than that.  For on the cross, the son of God was abhorred by His Father because of our sins; as the Father turns His face away from His only begotten Son, the punishment for the sin of the world fell firmly upon Him. 

He did this so that having become a curse, He might redeem you and me from the law’s curse…in Jesus we’ve gone from being abhorred…to adored!

In this season of Lent we draw our eyes to the cross and there we see that Jesus became the embodiment of our sin and mistakes.
 
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

He took in Himself all our sin: our acts of injustice, our taking advantage of others for our gain, and our self-centered faithlessness.  He, who was once adored by many, became an image abhorred by all.  Yet, our salvation lies with Him, the one who “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” (Galatians 3:13).

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

It is there, as we behold the sight of our enfleshed sin, beaten, pierced, and crucified, that God calls us to adore what was raised, first on the cross and then raised to defeat sin, death and the devil, to look and to live, for there all humanity is transformed from abhorred to adored.
 -Pr. Seth Moorman

The One Year Bible- April 1st (No Foolin')


In just a few weeks the Christian Church will celebrate Easter.  It is the day that the whole Bible centers on.  From the promise of a Messiah back in the Garden of Eden, through the covenant with God’s People in the wilderness and the exile, the narrative of Scripture leads up to the day where God reconciles himself with humanity.  As you read through the pages of Scripture try to think about how the account fits into the overall meta-narrative of salvation.  The Bible is indeed a Christ centered book.  Reading through the Old Testament can sometimes be like a treasure hunt as you look for Christ, but the best news is that He has already found you.  Because of His great love for you, He willingly went to the cross to take your sin away and on Easter morning He defeated sin, death and the devil so that you might be with Him forever.  That is the greatest message found in the Bible. On to the study…

Seth’s Thoughts
In the midst of a lot of do’s and don’ts this week a few things caught my attention this week and I wanted to make mention of them. Remember the scene here. Moses is giving a pep talk and history lesson to the people on the eastern side of the Jordan River. The people are about to enter the land of the promise under the leadership of Joshua. Moses cannot enter because of his actions in the wilderness. The dietary restrictions of the people serve a two-fold purpose. First of all, God was setting these people apart to be special in doing so he has selected their diet. This was a health thing. Many of the foods that were unclean were also potential health hazards. These animals carried diseases and God was making sure the people were healthy. Secondly, these restrictions served as a way for the people to be obedient to God. They could show their willingness to follow by adhering to the dietary restrictions. Most Jews still practice many of these laws and they have been expanded and interpreted in many ways. You can find kosher foods in most stores now days. If you look for the kosher label (a circle with a K inside) you can be sure that this product is made under the strict standards of modern Jewish law. The question remains, why don’t we all follow these guidelines? A complete answer is complex but the short answer is that we have freedom in Christ. We live under the new covenant of Grace and we no longer are subject to all the rules and regulations of the law, part of which is dietary restrictions. Does this mean we can do whatever we want? Well, yes, and no. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “Everything is permissible for me—but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me—but I will not be mastered by anything.” More about this when we get to that section of the New Testament. 

A few books could be written regarding our reading for the past week in Luke. Just two things I want to touch on today. In Luke 9, right after the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus takes some time out with his disciples. They get away from the crowds and pray. This is just a short interlude, a mini-retreat if you will. But in this time we have some very profound events. Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say I am?” In the moment Peter gives a wonderful confession of faith, “You are the Messiah”. This was a big step for most Jews. They were waiting for the Messiah to come and when Peter gives this profession of faith he is saying that he now believes that the Messiah has come and that he is right in front of him. Jesus goes on to describe his mission on the earth, to suffer, be rejected, and to be killed, but be raised again. This was not at all the kind of Messiah the Jews were expecting. The key here is the profession of faith by Peter.
Bits and Pieces
PURPOSE: To present the renewal of the Sinai covenant for God’s people before they entered the Promised Land.
AUTHOR: Joshua, except for the ending, which may have been written by the high priest Phinehas, an eyewitness to the events recounted there
SETTING: Canaan, also called the Promised Land, which occupied the same general geographical territory of modern-day Israel
KEY VERSE: “Go through the camp and tell the people. ‘Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you for your own.’” (1:11)
SPECIAL FEATURE: Out of over a million people, Joshua and Caleb were the only two who left Egypt and entered the Promised Land


The Old Testament

Another thing that jumped out at me was this: What is God’s deal with blood? He seems to have a fascination with blood. In our society and culture blood has become taboo. It carries disease and it reminds us of death and many get squeamish around it. I think this was probably the case for many back in the Old Testament as well. For the Israelites, blood means life. In fact the word for blood is sometimes used as a synonym for life. The life of the organism is in its blood. Blood was a key part of the sacrifice. God required punishment for sins and he accepted the life (i.e. blood) of an animal in our place. This concept gets further expanded when the blood of Jesus is shed for us. His life (and blood) were given for us for our forgiveness. Now in communion his blood (i.e. life) is offered for the forgiveness of sins. So the blood thing may gross you out but it is vitally important to understand the sacrificial system and how Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice.

On April 1st we read from Deuteronomy 18:15, “The Lord you God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers.  You must listen to him”.  The same day we read from Luke 9:35, “A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him’”.  I don’t think the compilers of the ONE YEAR BIBLE knew that these to passages would be read on the same day but it is pretty cool how they are connected.  Jesus is the final prophet that Moses was talking about in Deuteronomy 18.  The voice of God confirms it when he says, “Listen to him”. 

The New Testament

The other passage that I found interesting this week is in Chapter 11. Jesus talks about the sign of Jonah. What is Jonah doing here in the New Testament? Matthew records that Jesus talked about Jonah as well. You remember the story. Jonah was the prophet who was sent to Nineveh but he didn’t want to go. God made sure he got there by sending a storm and then a big fish swallowed up Jonah. Jesus uses this common story to describe his ministry. “But the only sign I will give them is the sign of Jonah. What happened to him was a sign to the people of Nineveh that God had sent him. What happens to the Son Of Man will be a sign to these people that he was sent by God.” Jonah is seen as a “type” of Christ. And his three days in the belly of the fish parallel the three days that Jesus will be in the belly of the earth. Very interesting stuff indeed.

We will finish the book of Deuteronomy this week and start the book Joshua.  Here are the vital stats for the book of Joshua:
LAW THEMES: Devoted to destruction; hard-hearted; laws of the covenant; snare of idolatry; cursing.
GOSPEL THEMES: Redemption, “I am the LORD your God”; inheritance; righteousness by God’s word; promises of the covenant; God’s love and calling; atonement; faithfulness; blessing.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of March 24, 2019


Sermon: “Anointed”

Where would you go if you knew you only had a few days to live?

Jesus heads to Bethany!  Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, heads to where she has been before - Jesus' feet.  At the feet of Jesus we've found her being blessed.  At the feet of Jesus we've found her broaching a burden.  Now, at the feet of Jesus we find her bringing her best!

Mary anoints Jesus.  She is anointing her prophet; He who has spoken the Word to her.  She is anointing her priest; He who has cared for her in her deepest pain.  She is anointing her King; He is set to enter the holy city to waving palms and communal cheers.  Yet, this anointing is not for a coronation but an execution.  He is being anointed not in order to ascend a throne but to be suspended from a cross.  As He Himself states, this anointing is for His burial. He is anointed with oil at Bethany, but shortly on Calvary He shall be anointed with the guilt of humanity, only to thereafter be anointed with God's wrath toward sin in its entirety. 

It is after His anointing but prior to His explaining its purpose that Judas decries the event.  He does so, as John says, because he was a thief who stole from the treasury.  He is more than that!  He is the fella who feigns spirituality to cloak his carnality.  He is the guy who takes and takes and takes but never gives...the person who demeans the laudable work of others to cover over the laxness and lured work of himself; the person who criticizes the sacrificial gifts of others while never offering an offering of his own.  As much as the room absorbs the scent of the perfume poured on Jesus, Judas is absorbed with himself.

Self absorption is our natural state.  We are - by sin - bent in - on self.  Yet, as His anointed children, anointed in water and Word at baptism, anointed with mercy and forgiveness by the grace of God in Christ, anointed by the Spirit through faith, are given a new nature. 

We are ANOINTED

A
N - ew
O - rientation
I - n
N - ature
T - urned (the)
E - xternal
D - irection

Which means - we are free to find ourselves at Jesus' feet being blessed, broaching or burdens and bringing our best. 
 -Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, March 25, 2019

The One Year Bible- March 25th


When I was in high school, I played on the basketball team.  My first year I warmed the bench for the freshman “A” team.  I would have liked to actually play on the “B” team but my coach was great and wanted me on his team.  My sophomore year was a blur and I think I played a total of three minutes but I loved being part of a team.  My junior year I got cut from the team and I poured my heart out to the coach and asked to just be able to practice with the team.  He said “no” but the varsity coach put me back on the team, (I think there is a story of redemption there but that is not where I am going).  Needless to say I played a total of zero minutes that year, but I never missed a practice and I worked my tail off.  My senior year I made the varsity team and was encouraged by a great coach.  Gene Campbell will always have a place of honor in my heart.  He not only put me back on the JV team the previous year, he gave me shot as a senior.  His pre-game speeches were amazing.  Our team was picked by the local paper to come in last in the league; we were small, un-athletic, and inexperienced.  That did not stop Coach Campbell from giving us confidence and inspiring us to be more than we were told we could be.  We finished the year in fourth place out of ten teams.  We missed the playoffs but made everyone stop and notice us.  I see Moses as that type of person for the people of Israel.  If the paper did a story on them, they would be picked last among the people in the area, they were small, un-athletic, and very inexperienced, but Moses had confidence in them.  As he stands at the boarder of the Promised Land, he recounts the history of the people and gets them ready and pumped up for the battle ahead.  This is how I view the book of Deuteronomy.  Keep this in mind as you read the rest of the book.  On to the rest of the study...

Seth’s Thoughts 

The Old Testament
I want to spend some time this week talking about one of the most important passages in the Hebrew Bible.  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 NIV).  Mark Braun in his commentary on the book of Deuteronomy says the following:

“Israel did not worship a pantheon of gods; their God was one, undivided.  Because of that, God wanted them to give him undivided loyalty.  The Baals of Canaan were manmade pictures of the various forces of nature, but Israel’s God was one.  “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one” is the deepest statement of God’s nature as one Lord.  For centuries the Jews have called this their Shema, from the first Hebrew word of this phrase.  Observant Jews still say the Shema twice each day, as part of their morning and evening prayers, yet it is not so much a prayer as a statement of faith.”

This idea of one God is known as monotheism.  It was a distinctive feature of the Hebrew religion.  Many ancient peoples believed in many gods, or pantheism.  But the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God of the whole earth, the only true God.  This was an important insight for the nation of Israel because they were about to enter a land filled with people who believed in many gods.  God reminds the people over and over again before they enter the land, not to have anything to do with these other gods.  We shall soon see that this is a bit of foreshadowing, as the gods of the land of Canaan are the cause of many problems and eventually captivity and exile for the people. 

Right after the Shema, Moses then gives some instructions to the people regarding education.  The LORD wanted to make sure that the following generations would hear the stories and know of the love and mercy of God and his statutes and teachings for His people.  “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6: 6-9 NIV). 

Mark Braun continues in his commentary:

“God wanted education in the faith to be a family thing.  God didn’t want his people confining it to Sabbath days, leaving it to the religious professionals to conduct.  Moses’ words in verses 7-9 were probably meant in a figurative way; parents were to talk about their relationship with their Savior God and they went about their day-to-day lives.  Many later Jews, however, took these versed literally.  Jewish males, thirteen and older, tie phylacteries on to their foreheads and their left arms—two little black boxes containing tiny parchment scrolls on which are written four passages of the Hebrew Scriptures.  Observant Jews also fasten mezuzoth to the door frames of their homes and public buildings—small wooden or metal boxes that hold two scrolls on which are written this verse and Deuteronomy 11:13-21.  The Jewish teacher Maimonides said that those who look upon the mezuzoth and the phylacteries as lucky charms are ignorant, yet by obeying Moses’ words literally, many Jews many have found these outward symbols served as strong reminders of their faith.  Crosses or pictures of Jesus serve a similar purpose in our homes.”

Jesus makes mention of this practice in Matthew 23 when he says, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you...
Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'”  Jesus points out that although the Pharisees seem to be doing the things on the outside right, they are not right on the inside.  They need to do what Moses intended.  The word must come out through our actions (tied to our hands) and should be always on our minds (tied to our foreheads). 

 

Here are some pictures of phylacteries and mezuzoths that may help:





The New Testament
We continue our journey in Luke and there are some amazing passages from this past week’s readings. I like the quote from Jesus, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Luke 5:31 NIV).  We are all definitely sick because of sin. We are all in need of a doctor and the great physician; Jesus himself is there for us. You may have wondered about this “Son of Man” reference that Jesus keeps making reference to. I could write a book about it but the short answer is that he is most likely making reference to Daniel 7 where a “son of man” comes in glory from the clouds to rule. This was what Jesus was on earth to do. I will try to remember to talk about that when we get into Daniel (in November).

Jesus’ teachings on loving your enemies should make us all a bit uncomfortable. Do we really have to love them? Remember that because of sin we are enemies of God. He still loved us so much that he sent Jesus to die in our place for us. How many of you would die for your friends let alone your enemies. Just amazing. To a Jew the heart was the center of the emotions, as well as all reason and intellect. When Jesus talks about the good things and the evil things that come from our hearts would really hit home. He is not just talking about emotions here. This is the whole shootin’ match. What you say flows from what is in your heart. So that begs the question, what is in your heart? Is it sin or is it love. If it is sin how can you get rid of it? If it is love, how did it get there? The only way the sin will be removed is through what Jesus did for us. Because of his death he has removed that sin and has put in it’s place love. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of March 17, 2019


Sermon: “Jesus Doesn’t Give Out Clean Slates”



St. Paul begins his letter to the Romans with the bold proclamation that the Gospel is not a second chance opportunity but the very gift of salvation itself. 

We all can recall a time when we saw names (ours or classmates) on a chalk or white board in school filled with tally marks behind them.  These were not, usually, to note noble actions but rather to count "naughty" transgressions.  Our tally marks in eternity would be plenty!  Yet, Jesus comes and turns each mark into a cross +.

Our transgressions become His own; "Father count these against me!" is essentially what our Lord says. 

This is the Good News!

We’ve become recipients of such Good News, our response (Paul says elsewhere in the letter to the Romans) is not to see how many tally marks we can amass, "Shall we let sin increase so that grave can increase - never!"  Rather, in response to a "clean slate" the apostle will unashamedly share the Good News, unselfishly seek to live a life of service to God and others, and unabashedly forgive as he's been forgiven.
 -Pr. Kevin Kritzer


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