Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of September 16, 2018


Thus you have intrinsic value and divinely granted purpose.  This ought to shape our view of life and they way we live!  If you missed Sunday's message, click HERE to link to our Podcast page on our website and you may listen to Sunday’s message. 

The next 5 weeks we will be exploring "the way we live" and our Bethany Blueprint.

-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, September 17, 2018

The One Year Bible- September 17th

There is an art to discipline. Being a classroom teacher for many years always reminded me that for every student there is a way of dealing with his or her behavior. Sometimes they need to be yelled at, other times they need to feel loved. But there is always that one child where nothing seems to work. No matter what you say, they still make poor decisions; they still put their foot in their mouth. While reading through Isaiah, I get the feeling that he tried everything to get the people to listen. He used harsh words, he used loving words, and nothing seemed to work. His message was very important for their well being. If they would listen, they would be saved. At times it seems like Isaiah (and the other prophets as well) is just repeating himself. What else could he do? He was called by God to be His mouthpiece. Sometimes it comes down to being faithful to the calling you have received and not worrying about how the message is received. That’s my two cents for the day. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts
The Old Testament
The major theme of Isaiah is the proclamation of what will happen to those who do not put their trust in Yahweh. Isaiah has a simple message for all the countries: you will be destroyed. This same message is for Israel as well, with one caveat; there will be a remnant. This faithful remnant will return to the Promised Land ready for the coming of the Messiah. One neat thing I read this week revolved around the idea of applying the book of Isaiah to our lives in the 21st century. The book was not initially written to us, but it is preserved for us. The question is why? Many things come to light when answering this question. First of all, Isaiah’s warnings should ring true for us today. The same warnings he gave to Israel, we should heed today. We must put God first, and look to him for wisdom and strength. Second, Isaiah is preserved because of its wonderful Messianic prophecy. Can you imagine Christmas or Easter without quotes from Isaiah? A third thing I read, and I am still digesting, is the idea that just as Israel needed to watch its alliances with other countries, because of the problems that can develop (think about Isaiah’s warnings about Egypt), we also need to watch what things we ally ourselves with. We need to watch who we hang out with and spend time with. We must be careful of those close to us and their influence upon us. Chapter 36 begins a narrative section that gives some insights on the events from the reign of King Hezekiah. This is a neat section that shows how even when all seemed doomed, God rescued his people. Even after this, a few years later Jerusalem is destroyed and the people are taken into captivity.

The New Testament
I love Paul’s letter to the Galatians!! Many Bible scholars see the wonderful theology of Romans in an infant form in this smaller letter. Galatians shares many of the same themes and analogies as the longer letter to the Romans. Remember that Paul was not writing to one church. This letter went to all the churches in the area that Paul founded on his first missionary journey. I am sure Paul had fond memories of his very first mission trip and the people he saw and taught. These were memories he would cherish his whole life. I will never forget my very first class of students as a teacher. Some of the other years are a bit fuzzy at times but that first class will always be with me. Paul has some strong emotions for what he has heard from the believers in Galatia. Right from the get-go Paul tries to snap them out of the influence of a group known as the Judaizers. This group of people demanded that to become a Christian, one first had to convert to Judaism. The person must fulfill all the requirements of the law before being allowed to become a part of the community of believers. Paul was strongly opposed to any such group. He believed that these people were taking the free gift of God and turning it into a work. This was quite contrary to the message of Jesus Christ. The argument was settled by the church at the first Jerusalem council where it was agreed that one did not have to first become Jewish before believing in Jesus as the Messiah. The balance of the letter addressed this same issue. In Chapter one Paul lays it down, But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!(Gal. 1:8-9 NIV). Strong words from a passionate man. Paul goes on with saying that faith in the Law is worthless. Trying to gain salvation by the Law is hopeless for sinful people. Paul reminds the people of Abraham, the father of the promise. The Jews considered Abraham to be one of the big guys and we now live according to that same promise because of Jesus. In one of the best passages in all of Paul’s letters we find this, But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” (Gal 4:4-7 NIV). I could probably write a dissertation on these verses!!! To me they spell out the clear message of salvation. We were slaves, but Jesus adopted us as sons and we now enjoy all the blessing of being his own. I can’t imagine better news!!! Most of the rest of the letter spells out the difference between following the law and the ideas of the Judaizers in contrast to living in the Grace of Jesus Christ. One quick note on the fruit of the spirit; notice it does not say fruits (plural), it says fruit (singular). The Holy Spirit produces all of these things in our lives!!

Bits and Pieces
The Old Testament
We will be finishing up the first part of Isaiah and start the second (remember the divisions from last week). The second part, which starts at chapter 40 is more focused on future events. Isaiah will be writing about things that will happen beyond his own lifetime. There will be a lot said of Israel’s salvation and savior. The return from exile will be a major theme with an emphasis on redemption. Isaiah will still give warnings but his audience has changed and so has his message.

The New Testament
We will finish up Galatians this week and jump right into Ephesians. Here are the vital stats for the book of Ephesians:
PURPOSE: To Strengthen the believers in Ephesus in their Christian faith by explaining the nature and purpose of the church, the body of Christ
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The church at Ephesus, and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 60, from Rome, during Paul’s imprisonment
SETTING: The letter was sent with Tychicus to strengthen and encourage the churches in the area. Paul had spent over three years with the Ephesian church. Paul met with the elders of the Ephesian church at Miletus (Acts 20:17-38)—a meeting that was filled with great sadness because he was leaving them for what he thought would be the last time. Because there are not specific references to people or problems in the Ephesian church and because the words “at Ephesus” (1:1) are not present in some early manuscripts, Paul may have intended this to be a circular letter to be read by all the churches in the area.
KEY VERSES: “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (4:4-6 NIV).
LAW THEMES:  Rivalry between believers; grieving the Spirit through unfaithfulness; marital unfaithfulness; spiritual warfare.
GOSPEL THEMES: Baptism; election by God’s grace; justification by grace alone; the mystery of Christ revealed; unity in Christ’s body.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Several pictures of the church are presented: body, temple, mystery, new man, bride, and soldier. This letter was probably distributed to many of the early churches.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of September 9, 2018

Sermon: “The Law, the Whole Law, and Nothing But the Law…So Help Me God!”
Text: James 2:10

Since almost the advent of Television, courtroom shows have graced the airwaves and filled the cable channels giving us a window into the legal system of our great country. 

I’m not sure what show comes to your mind when you think of courtroom or legal shows on TV.  Perhaps it is the classic Perry Mason, or the intrepid Matlock.  Perhaps you spent time watching the exploits of LA Law or the cases played out on Law and Order or JAG.  Some of you might be up to speed on Suits or Goliath.  If courtroom drama is not your speed, perhaps you have caught an episode of Judge Judy, the Peoples Court or Judge Joe Brown. 

For me, the best courtroom TV show by far, and the one I look back on for teaching me the most about the legal system was Night Court.   Some of you may chuckle because you know the show, for those who don’t let me set the stage.

The storyline, goes like this, “In this situation comedy, the honorable Judge Harold T. Stone presides over ‘Night Court’, a court which deals with petty crimes which can be dealt with in a dime-a-dozen manner. Invariably, the cases appearing before the court are bizarre, but that's ok because Judge Stone is not your regular judge, he’s a hip, jeans-wearing eccentric judge whose views on various cases isn’t always normal, nor is his judgments. He's assisted by a motley crew of clerks, bailiffs and lawyers who often create as much chaos as the criminals they bring in for trial.”

This show was hilarious and every episode something crazy happened.  It ran from 1984 to 1992 and really catered to my young adult sense of humor.  Do me a favor when you get home and look up some Night Court clips on YouTube, or better yet, download a season or two for your next trip, you won’t be disappointed. 

So, why all the talk about courtrooms?  In our epistle lesson for today we come face to face with the Law. 

As I spent time with the second chapter of James this week I couldn’t get the law out of my mind.  

When reading God’s Word or hearing the proclamation of it here in God’s house it would be easy to come to the conclusion that to be a follower of Jesus you have to adhere to a strict collection of guidelines, behaviors and yes, even laws. 

Quite often it is believed that one must follow said guidelines in order to be received into the community. Fortunately this is not the case. 
Reception into the body of Christ is not dependent upon what we do, but upon what Christ has done…but I’m getting ahead of myself. 

From the Epistle of James, the 2nd chapter verse 10, “If someone obeys all of God’s laws except one, that person is guilty of breaking all of them.”  (James 2:10)

It would have been a whole lot easier for Perry Mason or Judge Harry Stone to operate in a courtroom that had those regulations; one slip up and you are done for!

The Jewish people were so focused on not transgressing the law that they not only tried to follow the ones instituted by God, but they made up even more to keep themselves distanced from even the chance that they may disobey. 

In the 3rd Century Jewish Rabbis enumerated 613 laws they found directly from the Old Testament Scriptures.  On top of that they added more regulations and requirements for every one of the 613 laws just to make sure they didn’t break them.

Let me give you an example.  The 10 commandments would be part of the 613 laws.  Let’s take the 3rd commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.”  First of all, good job to you all for keeping that one today.  But the Pharisees added another 39 regulations onto this one commandment.  Additional requirements would include how many steps you can take on the Sabbath, what specific activities constituted as work and many, many more.  

In modern times it has been expanded even greater.  Have you ever visited a Jewish hospital on a Saturday?  All of the elevators stop at every floor without the need to press a button, because that would be doing work on the Sabbath.  And this is just with one commandment! 

It is the belief that as long as you follow all of the laws, you will get into heaven. 

But it’s not just those in the Jewish faith.  It’s the secular world too.  As long as I am a good person, or take care of others or do right, then everything is going to be OK. 

And let’s be serious for a moment, in the Christian world we have this mixed up too.

If you took inventory of your life with just the 10 commandments, would you be declared innocent or guilty?
  • Have you ever put your trust into something other than God? 
  • Have you ever misused God’s name, even once? 
  • Have you always kept the Sabbath Day and the importance of worship in your life? 
  • Have you always honored your father and your mother? 
  • I would hope you have kept the commandment not to murder but as we learn in Luther’s Small Catechism this is more than just taking a life, it’s defending life too.  Have you ever not stood up for the life of another, or have you harbored hatred for another in your heart? 
  • Have you been faithful in both actions and thoughts in your relationships at all times? 
  • Have you ever taken what is not rightfully yours? 
  • Have your words always given a faithful witness to others? 
  • Have you desired to take or get that which does not belong to you? 
  • Are you innocent or guilty?  What does our text say?

“If someone obeys all of God’s laws except one, that person is guilty of breaking all of them.”  (James 2:10)

If we followed the Law, the whole Law and nothing but the Law, the only thing we could do is cry out, “So help me God!”

Those who look to the Law for salvation are missing the point.  There is no escape from the consequences of sin. 

As English poet and writer GK Chesterton once wrote, “Lawlessness in many modern matters seems to be the principal effect of law.”

Like a condemned criminal there is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor or turn away His wrath.  The judge has ruled and you are guilty! But God's love and mercy for us moved Him to provide a Substitute. Jesus became human to take our sins upon Himself, and He received the full punishment for those sins in His suffering and death on the cross.

Watching the brutality Jesus suffered in movies like The Passion of the Christ helps us realize how serious God is about His Law and holiness. But it also reminds us that God completely satisfied His holiness and justice by laying our sins on Jesus, who paid for each one in full.   Listen to the comforting words of Scripture:
“For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us-for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” (Galatians 3:13)

“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

This is Grace!  When we cry out, “So help me God!” He provides just what we need.  In our Psalm for today we encountered these words, Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” (Psalm 146:5)

The drama of your court case was settled on a hill outside of Jerusalem, where the God of the universe willingly changed places with you.  He took your punishment and gave you his righteousness. Blessed is he who help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.

This grace comes to you free of charge. 

As the popular song by Christian artists Casting Crowns correctly states when singing out to God, “Not because of who I am, but because of what You’ve done.  Not because of what I’ve done, but because of who you are.”

While the Law may make some sense to our human minds, Grace is hard to understand.  Why would God do such a thing as to take our sin upon himself? 

The only answer we find in the pages of Scripture is Love.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son so that we might not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  It’s the only thing that could satisfy the requirements of the Law.  We might try to fight against the Law, but Jesus won the victory. 
The unconditional, irrational, undeserved and totally amazing love of God has granted you grace, has pardoned your sin and on account of Jesus you are forgiven…so help us God.   Amen!

-Pr. Seth Moorman

Monday, September 10, 2018

The One Year Bible- September 10th

This is my 14th year in a row reading through The One Year Bible.  Each time I do it I see new things and my routine of reading is a bit different.   Most days I have been pretty good about reading in the morning right when I get to the office.  As soon as I get in I close my door, and vow not to turn on the computer or listen to voicemail until I have done my reading.  This has worked pretty well but there are times I like to do my reading while I’m having breakfast at home.  There is no right way to do this.  I hope you are finding a time and a routine that is working for you.  It is amazing how God continues to speak to us through his word every day.  I hope you are finding that being in the word has been a blessing to you and your life with Christ.  On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
The book of Song of Songs is unique to scripture. It my mind it is like a Broadway Musical (but rated at least PG-13). We have the lovely song of the young woman, with a response from her true love. The chorus comes in on occasion to fill out the story. I love the point, counterpoint of the verses and the overarching theme of love. On the surface this book is all about young love. Going a bit deeper, there is another story at work. A frequent image in the Old Testament of the relationship between God and Israel is that of husband and wife. God loves his chosen bride, Israel and would do anything to keep that relationship in tact. God continues to care for Israel no matter what. But Israel is unfaithful. She goes off and does he own thing. She gets into trouble and turns her back on God. But God’s love is amazing. It continues to love in all circumstances. This theme will be played out in the book of Hosea as well. This relationship is also seen in how Jesus relates to his bride the church. When all is going well, love abounds and beautiful music is made. But often times we, as the church, mess things up. We fall away and become unfaithful. The moral of all the stories is God is faithful no matter what. His love endures to the ends of the earth and conquers time and space.

The book of the prophet Isaiah is considered by many Biblical scholars to be the theological textbook of the Old Testament. Many key doctrines and themes that form the foundation of faith and relationship to God are found within its pages. Martin Luther says that the, “chief and leading theme of all the prophets is their aim to keep the people in eager anticipation of the coming Christ.” Isaiah is an amazing book. Let me give you a few of my personal insights and some key themes this week. We will have plenty of time to talk about this most wonderful book. First of all Isaiah did not sit down and write the book in one sitting. This is more like a journal of the prophet and his dealings with God and the kingdom of Judah. The events take place over the entire life of the prophet. It is important to have this perspective when reading. There is a marked division in the book. Chapters 1-39 are directed to the time of Isaiah. Chapters 40-66 are a vision of the future captivity in Babylon. The second part is filled with figurative language as Isaiah struggled to relate his visions to his contemporaries. I find it interesting to note that there are 39 chapters in the first part and 27 chapters in the second part of Isaiah. Remember there are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. Pretty cool, huh?? Some have even called Isaiah “The Bible in Miniature”. Now I would not press the analogy too far but it does make one stop and think. One other thing of note is the mention of “The Holy One of Israel”. Most theologians agree that this term makes reference to the Messiah. This is the one who will deliver the people from oppression and bring about an eternal kingdom. When you come across this term, spend some time looking at the context and see if you can see Jesus there. I will have a lot more to say in the next few weeks.

The New Testament
We will finish up 2 Corinthians this week, and what a finish. Paul gives some great instruction right at the end. One thing we have heard here at Bethany is the idea of “my stuff is not my stuff”. Paul tells the Corinthians just this same thing in Chapter 9. Giving to God comes from the heart. In chapter 10 Paul spends some time on boasting. He says that boasting about what has happened within the boundaries of the work of God is a good thing. We must rejoice in what God is doing, and we can boast in Him at all times. In Chapter 11 Paul gives his defense for being an apostle. Paul lays it all out on the line and asserts that his message is valid and useful. Paul’s over all theme here at the end is about being proud and arrogant. He gives us a glimpse into his personal life when he admits to some sort of “thorn in the flesh”. We are not sure what this was. Speculation ranges from an ulcer, to a mental disability, to a physical deformity. What is was is beside the point, the fact is it has kept him humble and focused in service to his Lord. Paul wraps it all up in Chapter 13. I love his closing words, Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”  (2 Corinthians 13:11 NIV). In just a few sentences, Paul summarizes what it means to live the Christian life.

Bits and Pieces
The Old Testament
Remember to read Isaiah like you just picked up the journal of the prophet. This week we will read entries that contain prophecies against Moab, Damascus, Cush, Egypt, Babylon, Edom, Arabia, Jerusalem, and Tyre. Isaiah will enter some songs of praise to God and deliverance of Israel. There will be woes to Ephraim, David’s city, the obstinate Nation, and to those who rely on Egypt. Chapter 36 begins a section of prose and gives some of the historical context for the prophecy. Keep looking for “The Holy One of Israel” as you read.

The New Testament
We move on to the book of Galatians this week. Here are the vital stats for the book:

PURPOSE: To refute the Judaizers (who taught that Gentile believers must obey the Jewish Law in order to be saved), and to call Christians to faith and freedom in Christ
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The churches in southern Galatia founded on Paul’s first missionary journey (including Iconium, Lystra, Derbe), and Christians everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 49 from Antioch, prior to the Jerusalem council (A.D. 50)
SETTING: The most pressing controversy in the early church was the relationship of new believers, particularly Gentiles, to the Jewish laws. This was especially a problem for the converts and for the young churches that Paul had founded on his first missionary journey. Paul wrote to correct this problem. Later, at the council in Jerusalem, the church leaders officially resolved the conflict.
KEY VERSE: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (5:1)
LAW THEMES: The threat of subtle false teaching; hypocrisy; works cannot justify; the Law’s curse; works of the flesh; the Law of Christ.
GOSPEL THEMES: One saving Gospel; God’s gracious call; justified through faith in Christ; the gift of the Spirit; adoption as God’s own sons; freedom in Christ.
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Peter, Barnabus, Titus, Abraham, false teachers
KEY PLACES: Galatia, Jerusalem
SPECIAL FEATURES: This letter is not addressed to any specific body of believers and was probably circulated to several churches in Galatia.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of September 2, 2018

Sermon: “Labor Days”
Text: Luke 10:2

Labor Day, it’s the day thereafter as this is being written.  Labor Day is often referred to as the last holiday of the summer.  Quite naturally therefore it is associated with picnics, BBQ’s, and pool parties, etc.  If you stop to think about that, it’s a little fascinating that a word that connotes work, sweat, effort and the daily grind has a “day” named after it that connotes fun, frivolity and rest.  Of course, in the big picture both rest and work is the domain of God.  He did both at creation.  In our own formation He appoints us to work and commands (the third one) us to rest.

Jesus Himself invited His own to pray that God would send laborers into His harvest field.  This prayer that we are invited to pray, is a prayer that He answers through the very ones who have prayed the words.  (Better go ahead and re-read that sentence a few times.) 

We are the answer to the prayer our Lord has asked us to offer.  We are the ones He sends into His harvest field.  This isn’t a text only about professional church workers!  Everyone who calls on His name is one He calls on to share the wonders of His name with others. 

That might sound like hard work; and admittedly it can be.  However, one of the easiest ways to do this is through the simple telling of our own story.  Share what it is you have received from the Lord, why it is you call on His name, how you became one who has been called by Him to pray. 

On Saturday, September 22nd we will be hosting a Lutheran Hour Ministry event helping us to “labor” in His field, so to speak, in this tech driven age.    -Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Share the Faith!
When was the last time you had a conversation about God? For most people, the unfortunate and surprising answer to that question is not very often. Spiritual conversations are exceedingly rare for most Americans, and even for Christians, who are at best reluctant to have them.  In 1993, The Barna Group partnered with Lutheran Hour Ministries to research reasons why people did and did not engage in intentional outreach. A lot has changed since that initial study, so 25 years later they asked follow-up questions to see if talk of faith has become labored in a culture that is more digital, secular and contested than ever. Come and hear about the results in Barna's latest study called- Spiritual Conversations in the Digital Age.  This workshop will help you find ways to engage in more spiritual conversations in this current digital age.  Join us on Saturday, September 22nd from 9:00AM-12:30PM in the Youth Center. Lunch will be provided by the Taco Guy! This event is totally FREE but please RSVP to Pastor Seth (smoorman@bethanyluthean.org) so we have enough resources and food for lunch. 

Monday, September 03, 2018

The One Year Bible- September 3rd

A few years ago I wrote the following introduction to this week’s study:

I came into the office today and I was greeted with ants!! Tons of them just walking around my desk. There was no point to it. I had no food for them to get, they were not organized in a line going to or from some sweets, but they were just there. It seemed to be meaningless. It reminded me of the book of Ecclesiastes that we read in its entirety this week. Those ants lead meaningless lives at times, but God created them for a purpose. There are people who live meaningless lives in our world today. Many do not know the joy of Jesus or the wonderful grace that comes through him. As we study this book today, don’t forget that this topic is just as relevant today as it was when Solomon wrote it.

On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

Let’s start with a few last comments on Job before we jump into Ecclesiastes. . I will be honest with you, I never read the whole book of Job until my first journey through the One Year Bible. I had heard the stories and knew the basics, but I never actually read the book straight through. Job is a hard book to wrap your head around. Does God really want us to suffer? Is it OK for us to be mad at God? These are rough questions. In my final analysis, God is a loving God who does not give us anything we can’t handle. I am reminded of what it says it the book of James, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4 NIV). If that is what it takes, then I guess I am ready.

The book of Ecclesiastes is another book that is hard to understand. Solomon wrote this book at the end of his life, after he followed God for a while and then spent a good deal of time away from God. He brings a neat perspective on the idea of life. A casual reading of the book may bring up more questions than answers and that is O.K. Once again, to help us understand this book I am bowing to a higher source.

Roland Cap Ehlke in his commentary on Ecclesiastes says the following:

The entire Bible is a unified whole. It all points to Jesus Christ. It all presents the law of God and the gospel of his love in Christ. Nevertheless, within this unity there is room for diversity. Some books are historical, others doctrinal. Some books emphasize one theme, while others stress something else. In other words, each book of the Bible has its own special emphasis. With this in mind we shall consider the outlook and purpose of Ecclesiastes.

Throughout the book two important concepts occur over and over. Together they make up the combination which unlocks Solomon’s outlook on life.

The first thought is summed up in the terms “meaningless” and “under the sun.” Again and again Solomon returns to the initial refrain of Ecclesiastes: “Meaningless! Meaningless!...Everything is Meaningless” (1:2). This is how he describes life “under the sun,” that is, in this world. According to Solomon, life on earth is full of trouble; and even when we find pleasure, it is fleeting and soon disappears like one’s breath on a winter day.

This is the first key thought of Ecclesiastes: everything under the sun is, and of itself, meaningless.  Solomon’s repeated use of this concept implies that there is something “beyond the sun.” Somewhere out there is something or someone not subject to this meaningless world. That someone, or course, is God. The role of God in our life is the second main thought in Ecclesiastes. Solomon describes God as a stern Judge, but also as a gracious God who blesses us with countless gifts. The greatest of these gifts is life after death: “The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (12:7)

When one puts these two main thoughts together, it becomes evident what Solomon has done in Ecclesiastes. He has presented life from two perspectives. First he views the world without God. This view leads to the conclusion, “Everything is meaningless.” But he also looks at life with God in control. Here we find many gifts and blessings. We can picture Solomon’s twofold presentation thus:

spiritual world
material world

The unbeliever sees nothing beyond the material world, or at best catches an occasional glimpse that there might be something beyond. His sights are focused on what is under the sun. The believer on the other hand, views life through the eyes of faith.

From his perspective the unbeliever can only conclude that all is meaningless. For him it would be better never to have been born (4:2,3). The believer, however, sees God’s hand in everything and so finds peace, contentment and stability in a changing world. And this brings us from Solomon’s outlook to his purpose in writing. He directs us to God and his love for the purpose of strengthening our faith and courage as we carry on “under the sun.”

From- The People’s Bible Commentary- Ecclesiastes / Song of Songs by Roland Cap Ehlke, Concordia Publishing House, p.p.4-5.

It is important to remember Solomon’s point when reading this book. We have hope because we know what is beyond this world. Our hope is beyond the sun as we look to the Son—Jesus Christ himself.

The New Testament
I don’t know about you, but I have really enjoyed reading through 2 Corinthians the past couple of weeks. This letter of Paul’s does not get the top billing like Romans, Ephesians, or even 1 Corinthians, but it has been quite an enjoyable read. I have found some connections between what we read in Job and the encouragement Paul gives to the Corinthians. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NIV).

Paul really spoke to me in Chapter five this week. At times I think I am nuts for doing what I do. Every week I look at my schedule and think, “What am I doing???” I have so much to do as my ministry at Bethany expands, I have multiple Bible studies to write, help plan worship, visit those in the hospital, meet with various boards, not to mention spend time with my wife and kids, try to keep up with the Angels, and the list goes on. But Paul, writing through the Holy Spirit speaks directly to me,If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5:13-15 NIV).

One big theological thing that Paul writes about in 2 Corinthians is The Ministry of Reconciliation. The fact is that we, as sinful people, are enemies of God. We do not do what he wants, and we continually fall short. But we are new creatures in Christ, “the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17b NIV) We have been reconciled to God. The American Heritage dictionary defines reconciled as: “To reestablish a close relationship between” or “To settle or resolve”. What has been reestablished is our place in God’s kingdom. What has been settled is the problem of sin. This is a gift from God, but this is not the only gift. We are also given us the task of reconciling people to God (see 2 Cor. 5:18 ff.). We have been given the task to share the good news of reconciliation with everyone!! What an honor!! More on 2 Corinthians next week.

Bits and Pieces

We will get into the book of Song of Songs this week.   Here are the vital stats for the book:

PURPOSE: To tell of the love between a bridegroom (King Solomon) and his bride, to affirm the sanctity of marriage, and to picture God’s love for his people (and a foreshadowing of our life with Christ)

AUTHOR: Solomon

DATE WRITTEN: Probably early in Solomon’s reign

SETTING: Israel—the Shulammite woman’s garden and the king’s palace

LAW THEMES: Religious promiscuity and unfaithfulness (idolatry), like sexual promiscuity and unfaithfulness, are destructive.

GOSPEL THEMES: In faithful love, God sent Christ to save the world; He grants to believers the priceless blessings of love for Him and marital love for spouses.

KEY VERSE: “I am my lover’s and my lover is mine; he browses among the lilies” (6:3)

KEY PEOPLE: King Solomon, the Shulammite woman, and friends

We will also start the book of Isaiah this week. It will take us a while to get through this book. It is deep and theological. Here are the vital stats for Isaiah:

PURPOSE: To call the nation of Judah back to God and to tell of God’s salvation through the Messiah.

AUTHOR: The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz

DATE WRITTEN: The events of chapters 1-39 occurred during Isaiah’s ministry, so they were probably written about 700 B.C. Chapters 40-66, however may have been written near the end of his life, about 681 B.C.

SETTING: Isaiah is speaking and writing mainly in Jerusalem

LAW THEMES: Judgment on false worship; Judgment day; selfishness; woes against Israel and the nations; defeat by Assyria and Babylon; idolatry condemned.

GOSPEL THEMES: The remnant preserved; Immanuel; the Messiah’s just reign; salvation promised to Ethiopia, Assyria, and the nations; the feast; mercy for Hezekiah; God’s comfort for Zion; the Lord’s Servant; Zion’s deliverance; new heavens and new earth.

KEY VERSE: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (53:5)

KEY PEOPLE: Isaiah, his two sons Shear-Jashub and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz

SPECIAL FEATURES: The book of Isaiah contains both prose and poetry and uses personification. Also, many of the prophecies in Isaiah contain predictions that foretell a soon-to-occur event and a distant future event at the same time.

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