Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Bethany Bullet - Week of March 19, 2017

Sermon: “The Prodigal Father”
Text: Luke 15

Prodigal means "wantonly reckless" or "brazenly careless" and thus is a quite fitting title for the younger brother in Jesus' parable recorded in Luke 15.  He is a boy who wanted his father's stuff but not his father; and in the end does what he wants, when he wants, with what he believes is his to do with as he pleases.  Yet, the older brother too was wantonly reckless in his estimation of himself. Read the story again you'll find that he is a boy that believes his father owes him and his status is based on his superiority rather than his father's generosity, his behavior not his father's nature.  

In the end however, perhaps we learn that the term prodigal might belong to this father more than either brother.  After all he is always there...loving, caring, providing for the self-satisfied child whether or not he realizes it, desires it or knows he needs it; and he is always there waiting, longing, aching to embrace the self-destructive child even when he believes himself worthless and irredeemable. 

To be known as being wantonly reckless with blessings and brazen careless with grace ... like Father God and His only begotten Son, our Savior and brother Jesus...oh may the term prodigal rightly be said of us.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, March 20, 2017

The One Year Bible- March 20th

As I have been driving around this past week I have noticed that many of the trees are starting to leaf out. It is an exciting time of the year when we see blossoms on plants, the days getting longer and the temperatures climbing (a bit). Spring is in the air and I think it is kinda neat that during this season we celebrate Easter. Now, I know I am getting ahead of myself since we are still a few weeks away and Lent is still in full swing, but as we look to the changes that are taking place on the earth, new life and new growth, I can’t help but think about the new life that has been given to all of us because of Jesus’ victory over death. When you see the new life springing from the ground, think about Jesus and the new life granted to us and guaranteed by what he did on the cross and his “springing” from the ground in his wonderful resurrection. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
Numbers is a strange book. It combines the narrative with some rules and regulations and then the “numbers” of counting and census taking. It can be hard to keep track of the story. I found myself turning back the pages a few times to remember what we read (this is not such a bad idea to do once in a while). A few things stuck out for me this week. The name of Baalam comes up again in the New Testament book of Revelation. I don’t know how much you know about the book of Revelation (and we don’t have time here to discuss in detail) but at the beginning of the book, Jesus gives John a message for seven churches. One of the letters warns of holding to the teaching of Baalam. This is the only place in the New Testament that makes reference to this story. Baalam knew about Yahweh but he took money from king Balak to give a curse against the people of Israel. Baalam gave in to the money and compromised his faith for the sake of material gain. I think that many in our world have compromised their faith or their beliefs for monetary gain as well. We outwardly worship the Lord but our hearts lust after wealth. This is the main message of the story. This lesson is important enough for John to mention it in the book of Revelation. Baalam ends up dying at the hands of the Israelites a few chapters later (31:8).

Another amazing event takes place in chapter 31. As the Lord commands the people to take revenge on the Midianites, they completely destroy them with the Lord’s help. This is amazing in and of itself but what really got to me was the fact that when the generals and captains gave a report to Moses they said, “Your servants have counted the soldiers under our command, and not one is missing.” (31:49 NIV) How amazing is that!!! They go to battle and no one is killed?? No friendly fire, no accidents, not even one lost battle. This should have been a sign to the people to trust in God, but as we shall see, the people will start to trust in themselves and not in God and things go wrong. In chapter 33 we have a very important task and warning from God. As the people are on the edge of the Promised Land, they get a command from God, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you and destroy all their figured stones and destroy all their metal images and demolish all their high places. And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it... if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. And I will do to you as I thought to do to them.” We will see that this is one of the main problems for the Israelites in the Promised Land. God told them what to do and they didn’t quite get the job done.

As we begin the book of Deuteronomy this week, don’t be puzzled by the fact that Moses retells almost the entire story of the history of God’s chosen people. I will have more to say about that next week, but I like to think of this book as Moses’ pre-game speech to the team led by Joshua. They were about to engage the enemy in battle and standing on the eastern bank of the Jordan, Moses encourages and motivates the people to do what God has been preparing for a long time. They were on the verge of taking possession of the promise that was given so long ago to Abraham. It is an exciting time, and time filled with some fear and expectation as well.

The New Testament
Luke is a great storyteller. He weaves a wonderful story together. Luke tells of three “songs” in the beginning of the book; Mary’s song, Zechariah’s song and Simeon’s song. All three of them are wonderful examples of praising God. Mary gives glory to God for the gift she has been given, Zechariah praises God for his mercy, and Simeon thanks God for the fulfillment of his promises through the Christ Child. These “songs” give a depth of emotion not found in the other Gospel accounts. If you grew up in a Lutheran Church that used the old 1941 hymnal you probably know Simeon’s song by heart (by the way it has made a comeback in the new Lutheran Service Book p.p. 199-200). I love that song. I will admit as a child I liked that song because that meant the service was almost over, but as I grew older that song and the words had an impact on me. Those of you who know the tune can sing along:

Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word, For mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation: which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people. A light to lighten the Gentiles and the Glory of Thy people Israel. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be world without end AMEN.

After his baptism and a list of his earthly ancestors, Jesus’ ministry begins in earnest. He first is tempted in the desert and rejected in Nazareth. I could just imagine the scene in the synagogue where Jesus gets up to read for the service and at the end hearing him say “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” I think that would be one of the most exciting times for those who believed that the Messiah was coming soon. Was this guy the one that was promised? Could he be the Messiah that we have been waiting for? Can we like Simeon, now die in peace? For some this guy was a blasphemer and a troublemaker. I hope I would know that this is the Christ the son of the living God. Soon we see that the Pharisees start looking for ways to get rid of Jesus. They see him forgiving sins, and healing on the Sabbath.

One other interesting point Luke makes is that he sets the story in a historical context. One of the knocks on the Bible is that it is just some fanciful story that was made up by the writers. One way Luke gives some credibility to his book is that he places it within the frame of history. This makes the document have more legitimacy outside of religious circles because of the verifiable evidence of history. At the beginning of Chapter 3 Luke writes, “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,...” All of these people can be verified to have existed using extra-biblical sources. Luke wants to let his readers know that he is not just making this stuff up. This was a very important point in the third century when the formation of the New Testament was happening. The inclusion of this information (as well as other factors) gave Luke a solid historical footing for inclusion in the New Testament.

Bits and Pieces

We will start the book of Deuteronomy this week. Here are the vital stats for the book:
PURPOSE: To remind the people of what God had done and encourage them to rededicate their lives to him
AUTHOR: Moses (except for the final summary which may have been written by Joshua)
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Israel (the new generation entering the promised land)
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
SETTING: The east side of the Jordan River, in view of Canaan
KEY VERSE: “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. (7:9)
KEY PEOPLE: Moses and Joshua

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Bethany Bullet - Week of March 12, 2017

Sermon: “Immeasurably More”

Our Text (from Sunday morning) comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians the third chapter verses 20 & 21. 

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

A survey was recently conducted among people who earned salaries of six figures or more. The question put to them was: “How much do you really need in order to feel secure…to feel that you have enough?” And their answer to that question was, overwhelmingly, some variation of these words: “Just a little bit more.”

Please note that the question was put to people who earned salaries of six figures or more. Their response is very revealing.

It shows us how most in our culture perceive the source of security in this life. It reveals that, for so many, their god is the money they have…or the money they wish they had.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he speaks of the “immeasurably more” that God desires us to receive, to accomplish His purposes in our lives, and in the life of our congregation. 

Just what is that “more” we are invited to believe God wants to bring?

First, let’s remember some great examples from Scripture.
  • Abraham prayed for more mercy for Sodom and Gomorrah – Genesis 18:16-33
  • Joshua prayed for more daylight to win his battle with the Amorites, and the sun stood still – Joshua 10:12
  • Solomon prayed for more wisdom – 1 Kings 3:1-15
  • A man with a sick child prayed to Jesus for more faith, and the life of his son was restored – Mark 9:24
  • Jesus prayed for deliverance, and received strength for his ordeal – Matthew 26:36-56

What kind of “more” does God desire us to ask for, and receive?
Whatever it might be, it is not a number in a bank account but I’m convinced it’s something that draws us closer to Him, something that causes us to treasure our salvation, and to seek to serve others in a more powerful, compelling way.

Our God wants us to have more; more of what Paul says right before our text in Ephesians , “. . . this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Eph. 3:19

The love that was expressed so beautifully, so tragically, at the cross, where the One who prayed that the “cup be taken from me” willingly drank it fully for us, so that by His death on our behalf, we might be sitting here with a destiny of hope, and a vision of what is possible if we grow as disciples of our Lord Jesus.

During the past few months, you’ve been hearing a great deal about the Renaissance campaign. 

We’ve been growing in awareness of what we believe the Lord desires to do through us, and why it’s the best for the future ministry here at Bethany.

That God may work a Renaissance first and foremost in the hearts of His people here in this place and also in the physical spaces here on our campus so that many more may come to faith in Him. 

This “more” we’re talking about: it’s not something that we have the power to do by ourselves. It’s not something that we are going to do because we’ve voted for it, and thus it’s the right thing to do.  This more is really not about a number in an account.

It’s something that God wants to do with us. To us. Through us. It is something that He sees, and we as His disciples say, “Amen” to what Paul said, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. . .”

For that we kneel in obedience. We kneel in prayer. Because the vision God has given us is so far beyond our best efforts that He will have to make it happen by His power.

Because we’ll need all the inspiration God can give us, and strengthening within, for what He has in store for us.

On Palm Sunday, just a few weeks from now, we are all going to have the opportunity to make a commitment to the future God sees.

Everyone whose life our congregation touches – everyone who calls this place their worship home – will be invited to be a part of the "immeasurably more” that our God has for us.

Can you imagine the possibilities when our campus is a beacon of hope for the community, when all our youth in our programs have access to wonderful facilities, when the students who come here to hear about Jesus every day are provided greater safety and structures on which to play and imagine and learn? 

Imagine the first time visitor coming into our sanctuary and catching a glimpse of the divine in worship or seeking help in the comfort of our redesigned offices. 

Can you imagine that? Some can, but I also know that some are having difficulty, and of course there are some here who don’t want to imagine it, because they don’t want it to happen.

Regardless of where we are collectively, this “more” will be “more than all we can ask or imagine.” That’s God’s promise.

We pray that we will all experience personal renaissance and spiritual growth.

We pray that we will be inspired by the Word of God in order to see this “immeasurably more” come about.

That’s how Paul describes it: these things happen “…according to his power that is at work within us.”
Our goal, after all, is not transforming the value of our bank account; it is transforming the hearts of God’s people gathered here. It’s not just a number on a statement it’s so we can make a statement for Christ and what He has done for all humanity. 

Our goal is not to inspire you to give to a goal or a project, but to be transformed into disciples who are changed, and who continue to grow as generous people.

For that reason, Paul prayed, right before our text in Ephesians, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Eph. 3:16

Ask yourself: for what do you need prayer for, with regards to our Renaissance campaign?
  • Are you one of our Directors, or a team member or volunteer, who has been putting in long hours to make this campaign happen? If so, we’re going to pray that you receive the strength and inspiration you’ll need to do “immeasurably more than all you can ask or imagine.”
  • Are you one of the many who have become excited about our campaign, and who are looking forward to hearing more about the plans God has for our future? If that’s you, can you pray for our leadership, that they can describe our endeavor in a way that is “immeasurably more” than all we can ask or imagine?
  • Maybe you are a person who still isn’t quite sure what we’re doing and why it’s important. If so, let’s pray together that, as Paul wrote, “…the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.”
  • Perhaps today, as you’re listening, you know what our campaign is about, and you’re just not sure it’s the right thing for us as a congregation. We all want to respect each other’s opinions, and listen to each other, and so if that’s the case, the best thing we can do is to pray that our love for each other, inspired by the love God demonstrated for us at the cross of our Savior, will draw us together in a more powerful way than ever.

After our Commitment Sunday we pray that we will move on in the Renaissance Project and begin to impact the ministries here and the lives that they intersect.

And who will get the glory for all this? He will:   “…to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.” Eph. 3:21

So, we pray for more.
  • More desire to speak to the Lord in prayer about our hopes, and yes, our fears, about this campaign.
  • More desire to see the vision we have coming true in our midst.
  • More passion to be generous, to give as those who are incredibly loved by God, through Jesus Christ.

I’d like to share with you a true story that occurred recently in the life of Jerry Kieschnick, one of the past presidents of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.  In a recent article, he wrote:
During the Sunday service I noticed across the aisle a little girl who was crying while the offering was being gathered. Looking more closely, I detected a coin in her little clenched hand. About that time she looked toward the back of the sanctuary at the ushers who were making their way from front to back. I deduced that she was deeply upset about missing the offering plate.

Her mother was saying something to her that was impossible for me to hear. But I surmised that mom had suggested her daughter could still deposit her offering since the ushers would pass by again on their way back to the front of the sanctuary to place the offering plates on the altar. Unaware of the dilemma, the ushers walked right past her pew, which catalyzed additional tears.

After briefly pondering if and how it would be appropriate to help, I quickly got out of my seat, walked across the aisle, knelt beside the little girl and asked her mother if her daughter was crying because she missed the offering. Mom’s answer was in the affirmative. So I asked the mother if it would be okay for her daughter to go with me to the altar to put her offering in the plate. She readily agreed. So did the little girl, whose face suddenly turned from sadness to satisfaction.

Hand in hand a little girl and a man she had never met walked down the center aisle and up the chancel steps. When we stood before the altar, which was much too tall for her to reach, I asked if I could pick her up so she could reach the plate. She nodded in agreement. I picked her up, she completed her mission, and we walked back together to her appreciative mother. On the way I noticed no small number of smiling worshippers who had witnessed what had transpired.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, I learned from her mother after the service that the little girl’s name is Katelyn. She is four years old. When I saw the coin she placed in the plate I was reminded of the biblical story of the widow who gave all she had. And I was thankful that I did not let my initial concern about possibly making a scene or interfering in a parental matter prevent me from taking what turned out to be a most rewarding risk.

May we be given that same desire for more and when the time comes, and we are invited to bring forward a commitment to the future God sees. To echo Paul, then, “. . . to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.”

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, March 13, 2017

The One Year Bible- March 13th

With Lent in full swing and our calendars filling up quickly, it may be time to reevaluate your reading plan.  About every three months or so it is good to do a little check-up.  Have you been able to keep up with your daily readings?  If not, do you know why?  What can be done to tweak your routine to find time to read?  I settled into a routine a few years ago and it has worked for me.  My weekends are quite busy so I have been doing two readings a day on Monday through Thursday and taking a break Friday through Sunday.  This plan gives me one day of wiggle room in case I really get bogged down with other things.  The important thing is to find a time that works and stick to it.  Soon it will become habit.  Please let me know if I can help out in any way!  On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

As we have said before, the book of Numbers has a general them of grumbling and complaining by the people.  Time and time again God tries to show the people his love but the people don’t seem to get it.  The phrase that God uses over and over to show is Grace is, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God.” (Numbers 15:41 NIV).  This is almost the same phrase God uses when he gives the law with the Ten Words (Ten Commandments).  God reminds the people that the relationship he has with them is based on Grace.  That being said, God is still a jealous God, who is Holy (meaning without sin and hating sin), therefore he cannot just turn a blind eye to the grumbling and disobedience of the people.  A few examples to illustrate my point:

Their first complaint resulted in God sending a fire to destroy the people. Moses prayed to God and the fire left. One verse later the people start complaining again! Now they want meat. They were sick of this manna stuff and they longed to be back in Egypt. Moses even gets agitated with the people. But God, in his mercy, gives them meat to eat. So much meat that they get sick of it. Moses then selects 12 men to go into the Promised Land to check it out and when they return, 10 of the men say that Israel should not go in because the people are giants. Only Joshua and Caleb give a true account. They trust in God’s promises. So the people started complaining again. They even wanted to kill Caleb and Joshua. God gets fed up with this group and tells them that none of them will even enter the Promised Land.

Chapter 16 tells the story of the rebellion of Korah. This story serves as a lesson to all those who do not trust God. All those who followed Korah were either killed by fire or swallowed up by the earth. Then God wants to destroy all the people, but God in his mercy hears the cry of his people and spares them. (Do you see a theme here?) Surely this will put an end to the complaining. But as soon as they run out of water they rebel again. But God in his mercy hears the cry of his people and provides for them.

Then Moses gets into trouble by not giving credit to God for providing the water from the rock and he finds out that he will not enter the Promised Land. So the people start complaining again in Chapter 21. So God sends snakes to kill the people. But God in his mercy hears their cries for help. He tells Moses to put a snake on a pole and those who look at it will live. This is a foreshadowing of Christ, because those who look upon Jesus (on a pole a.k.a. the cross) will be saved (“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up” –John 3:14). Our readings for this week ended with the people looking for safe passage through some of the lands near Canaan. They get themselves into trouble by trying to fight when God said not to.

Next up is the story of Baalam. This is a story that tells about the power of God. Baalam knows the true God, but Baalam was not always faithful. King Balak wants Baalam to curse the people but Baalam will not because the Lord (Yahweh) is with them. God also shows his power by making Baalam’s donkey talk. God will use any means necessary to get his message across.

I hope you can see that our God is a God of mercy.  He showed that mercy ultimately in the person of his son Jesus Christ who was the ultimate sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. 

The New Testament

We finished up Mark’s Gospel and it was a quick journey. It is believed that Mark was the first account of Jesus that was written. And it ends just as it begins, with action. In quick succession we have the Last Supper, the time in the garden, the trial, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and Mark’s version of the Great Commission. Like Matthew, Mark mentions the Temple curtain being torn in two. This was very significant. Remember from our readings in the Old Testament that there was a curtain that separated the holy place from the most holy place and that only the high priest could enter it and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement. When that curtain tore, it showed that we no longer need a human person to go to God for us. Jesus has restored our relationship with the father and now we can approach him because of Christ. The book of Hebrews really drives this point home. It is also interesting that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all say that it tore from top to bottom. Thus signifying this was from God.  There is an interesting bit of text at the beginning and end of the book that serve as bookends for Mark.  In Chapter 1 he writes, “The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God”.  Then in Chapter 15 verse 39 we read this that came from the mouth of the Roman centurion, “Surely this man was the Son of God”.  Everything in between these two verses tells us all about the ministry of Jesus.  Now of course the resurrection was coming but that was just more proof as to who Jesus is.  One other textual note, I am sure that you noticed that at the end of Marks Gospel there was some note saying something like “The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20”.  That is not to say that they are not Biblical.  The translators want the reader to know that there are some textual problems with these verses.  For the most part the problems do not go so far as to place a great deal of doubt in these verses but theologians do not generally use these verses as proof texts for doctrine. 

As we begin the book of Luke I want you to notice the different style that Luke uses as compared to Mark.  Luke seems to take more time in the story telling and uses “songs” to show some of the emotion behind the stories.  Many have said that Mark is the Gospel for guys and Luke is for the ladies.  I know that is stereotyping but I hope that helps you see the difference in the books. 

Have a great week!!

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

The Bethany Bullet - Week of March 5, 2017

Sermon: “What’s Left Unchanged”

Matthew records Jesus’ call to Peter and Andrew, James and John and we see these fishermen leave their nets and boats and business partners to follow Him. 

So much changed for these men: their occupations and addresses, their present and future, their circle of friends, and list of enemies.  Yet the greatest change was the one that took place inside of them; as they, through the power of Christ and the work of Christ, came to know the love and grace of God.

Our Renaissance at Bethany knows that much will change…paint, pews, stucco, sound system, office configuration, Youth facility, and play grounds, etc.  Yet, the greater change is that which will take place in us (spiritually, personally, and collectively in our ministry) as we hear more clearly His call and go to follow Him and “fish” for Him. 

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Bethany Bullet - Week of February 26, 2017

Sermon: “You Shouldda Seen It!”

This past week I spent a few days in Arizona at a ministry conference called Best Practices with a few other staff members from Bethany and you shoulda seen it. 

It is an annual conference hosted by Christ Church Lutheran in Phoenix and attended by almost 2000 people from all across the nation. 

Let me tell you a few things I witnessed.  
  • I watched as church workers jumped off a perfectly good two-story tower.  
  • I moseyed in the grass with a herd of fake cows. 
  • I got a Klondike bar from a pastor dressed up as a cockroach. 
  • I ate fajitas surrounded by a Mariachi band. 
  • I watched three people dressed as ketchup, mustard, and a hamburger run a race. 
  • I received a warm doughnut from a parrot. 
  • I heard Darth Vader play the trumpet. 
  • I was called into a session by a gorilla with a bullhorn.

No, I’m not playing Mad-Libs all this really happened.  But besides all of that, we did hear some amazing speakers, were inspired in worship, made some awesome connections, and saw the hands and feet of God serving, sharing, and learning together. 

We heard and experienced the sweetness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and truth be told, we were fed very well, both spiritually and physically.

You shoudda seen it!  It was amazing!  It was like nothing I have ever witnessed.  It was almost unbelievable. I almost wanted to set up a tent and just stay there.

It reminds me of the account in our Gospel reading (from Sunday morning). 

Today we remember the events that took place on the mountain of transfiguration.  Let’s look at the text again from Matthew 17, “After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John (the brother of James) and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone.  Jesus’ appearance changed in front of them. His face became as bright as the sun and his clothes as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared to them and were talking with Jesus.  Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it’s good that we’re here. If you want, I’ll put up three tents here—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  He was still speaking when a bright cloud overshadowed them. Then a voice came out of the cloud and said, “This is my Son, whom I love and with whom I am pleased. Listen to him!” 

It was a “you shoudda seen it” moment.  Peter was entranced by the notion of seeing Moses and Elijah and then the radiance of God Himself in Jesus Christ shining in the darkness. 

It was almost unbelievable.  It was like nothing He had ever seen and what did Peter want to do?  Yep, set up a tent and stay there.

If you were not at the Best Practices conference you might never believe the sights and the sounds I witnessed, but you might catch a glimpse by looking at pictures on Facebook or you could ask the others who were there with me.  Eyewitness accounts can be powerful testimonies of actual events.

It would be nice to sit down with Peter, James and John and talk to them about what they witnessed that day.  How great it would be to see their Facebook posts or tweets about the event.  But we can’t.

Not only was there no social media at the time, Jesus told them to keep the events to themselves until after He was brought back to life on Easter morning.

And Peter did just that.  But later he records his eyewitness account in our New Testament reading from today.  Listen to part of it again, “When we apostles told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, we didn’t base our message on clever myths that we made up. Rather, we witnessed his majesty with our own eyes.  For example, we were eyewitnesses when he received honor and glory from God the Father and when the voice of our majestic God spoke these words to him: “This is my Son, whom I love and in whom I delight.”  We heard that voice speak to him from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.  So we regard the words of the prophets as confirmed beyond all doubt. You’re doing well by paying attention to their words. Continue to pay attention as you would to a light that shines in a dark place as you wait for day to come and the morning star to rise in your hearts.”  (1 Peter 1:16-19)

Peter is the eyewitness that we yearn for, the one we desire, the one that will help us contemplate the enormity of the event from that Transfiguration Day and indeed the entire incarnation.

Peter’s words preserved for us in the pages of Scripture make his witness, sure, more believable and can strengthen our faith in the one true God who revealed His nature on that day.

But how often have you said, “I’ll believe it when I see it”? 

When doubts creep in, when the devil starts to whisper his lies in your ear that the accounts of the Bible are too outlandish to believe let alone trust in, when you start to wonder if this story is really true, ponder the events of Transfiguration, rest on the words and witness of Peter, hear the powerful Word. 

For the witness of Scripture is not something that was fabricated by humanity...Hear the witness of Peter again, “First, you must understand this: No prophecy in Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.  No prophecy ever originated from humans. Instead, it was given by the Holy Spirit as humans spoke under God’s direction.” (1 Peter 1:20-21)

“You shoudda seen it!”  I’m not sure those are the exact words the followers of Jesus used when they started talking about the work of Jesus but I’m sure it was something like it. 

It was almost unbelievable what they did to Jesus on the cross.

The open and empty tomb was like nothing that had ever been witnessed before.

But it’s absolutely true.  It’s not a fabricated fairy tale or antiquated worldview.

And you too can see it today.  As the Word is proclaimed, as the water and Word combine in baptism, when the body and blood of Jesus are in with and under the wafer and the wine and when we witness the work of God’s people, we see Jesus!

It’s a story that continues today as the Word comes all the way to you, to dispel your fear and doubt, to bring forgiveness of sin and to remind you that the witness accounts contained in this book are true, all of ‘em. 

At the very end of the conference yesterday afternoon we had a service of sending in the sanctuary of Christ Church where we were encouraged by fellow brothers and sisters in the faith, we sung hymns, heard Scripture and at the very end we got, what I believe was a brief glimpse of the glory of heaven once again. 

It was not the dazzling white radiance of the Lord but was His light shining in all of us as hundreds sang the Doxology a cappella in multipart harmony. 

I had goose bumps as I felt the presence of God in that place. I wanted to set up a tent and stay right there in that place. You shoulda seen it! 

And you will one day because you see, there is more to being a follower of Christ than an earthly convention, for there will be an eternal convocation of all the saints who will all see with their eyes the brightness of God in all his radiance and splendor for all eternity!

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, February 27, 2017

The One Year Bible- February 27th

Congratulations on almost two months of reading the Bible! This is a big accomplishment and you should be proud. We are in a tough stretch right now with our readings from Leviticus but hang in there. I hope you have settled into a routine and that spending time in the Word is becoming a habit. Before we get into the meat of the study I want to touch on one of the Psalms we read this week. Psalm 40 has had a special place in my heart for a long time. It wasn’t that it spoke to me in a time of trouble; it wasn’t that I heard a great sermon about it; it wasn’t even the fact that it was written by David. The reason this Psalm is one of my favorite is because the rock band U2 has a song called “40” that uses the same words. If you are not familiar with U2 you might have heard of their lead singer who goes by the name Bono. When they started out as young musicians in Ireland in the late 70’s, their music was influenced by their faith. You can still hear the message of faith in many of their songs today. The best way to share this song with you is for you to hear it. Thanks to good old YouTube here is the video:
Seth’s Thoughts
The Old Testament
I want to spend some time talking about one of the most important days in the life of the Jewish people. The Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, is the holiest of days in the worship life of God’s chosen people. This was the day that the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies (the inner part) in the Temple and offer a sacrifice for the forgiveness of the people. We read about its regulations this week. Let me put it into some easier terms for you. God had set up a system of blood sacrifice that was to be done for the forgiveness of sins. Originally it was to be the one who committed the offence, but God in his mercy and grace said that he would take a substitute in the place of the person (most of the time this means a lamb or bull without anything wrong with it). The people were to come to the temple at least once a year to make a blood sacrifice for the atonement of their own sins, and then once a year a special sacrifice was to be made for all the people. On Yom Kippur, all the people were to fast and the High Priest was then to enter behind the curtain in the presence of the Ark and the other sacred objects including the mercy seat, which was the covering of the ark. This is where the blood was to be poured to cover the sins. This whole event is ripe with symbolism and New Testament parallels. A few interesting things about the actual event: the High Priest was the one who represented all the people. His sacrifice was sufficient for everyone in Israel. He was the only one allowed to enter the presence of God and as soon as he went in he had to make a sacrifice for himself first. Jewish tradition says that the High Priest would tie a rope around his midsection and another priest would hold the other end. The High Priest would also have bells tied to his robes. In the event that he did something wrong, or he angered God and was struck down, the other priests could pull him out without endangering themselves by going into the Holy of Holies. This act of sacrifice could only be done at the temple and was the only way of forgiveness. Let’s bring the forward to Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. This was a physical symbol that the Day of Atonement was no longer necessary. Jesus, who called himself a temple, became the High Priest and offered a sacrifice for the forgiveness of all people for all time. The New Testament speaks of this as the fulfillment of the Old Testament requirements. Paul, in Ephesians speaks of Jesus dividing the barrier of hostility, a possible image of the temple. The book of Hebrews speaks of Jesus being the High Priest and that this sacrifice meets the requirements of the Law and that at the Temple (Jesus) atonement has been made. Theologians call this Vicarious Atonement, meaning that we are now at one with God because Jesus was our substitute sacrifice.
One last thing, we have seen a lot of blood in Leviticus and we have talked about this before but to a Jew blood = life. In fact the Hebrew word for blood can also mean life. That makes some neat comparisons to Jesus. We have life because of the blood (life) of Jesus. We drink his blood in communion and that gives us life. Once again, we see that understanding the Old Testament really brings the things in the New Testament to life (no pun intended). Here is a picture and map of the temple that may help you get a visual of its structure:
The New Testament
In our readings in Mark we see more miracles and stories of Jesus. In Mark 7, Jesus makes reference to some of the washings we have been reading about in Leviticus. Jesus makes some people angry when he says it’s not all about keeping the laws and traditions. In fact, there is much more to it. We need to not only be clean on the outside, we must be cleaned on the inside as well. It is not what comes from inside that makes us unclean, but what comes out of our heart. Just a small aside here; the heart was seen by a Jew as the center of not only the emotions but also the entire soul, including the intellect. When Jesus says these things come from our heart, he is saying that our entire being is full of wickedness. This is something we all need to hear. We are all sinful and unclean. There is not one who does good. And we all fall short of the glory of God. We are in need of a Savior. Jesus has some words for the disciples about being a servant. The disciples were fighting about who was the greatest and once again Jesus turns conventional wisdom on its ear. He tells them that they must be a servant of everyone else. They must put the needs of others before their own. This was a radical way of thinking. We sometimes forget how radical Jesus’ words were.
Bits and Pieces
We will finish up the book of Leviticus this week and start with the book of Numbers. The book of Numbers continues the story of the people from Mt. Sinai on to the Promised Land. Here are the vital stats for Numbers:
Purpose: To describe how the LORD preserves Israel despite the obstacles from Sinai to Canaan
Author: Moses
To Whom Written: The People of Israel
Date Written: 1450-1410 B.C.
Setting: The vast desert of the Sinai region, as well as the lands just south and east of Canaan
Key Verses: “Not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times—not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.” Numbers 14:22-23
Law Themes: Duties; uncleanness; punishment for complaining; rebellion; cursing.
Gospel Themes: Redemption, “I am the LORD your God”; consecration; purification; atonement; blessing.
Numbers records the story of Israel’s unbelief and should serve as a dramatic lesson for all God’s people. God loves us and wants the very best for us. He can and should be trusted. Numbers also gives a clear portrayal of God’s patience. Again and again he withholds judgment and preserves the people. But his patience must not be taken for granted. His judgment will come. One of the recurring themes in Numbers is that of complaining. It is complaining that gets the people into trouble. Complaining and grumbling become very destructive for the people. Many of them even wanted to go back to Egypt. They had already forgotten that in Egypt they were slaves!!
Have a great week and let me know if you have any questions!!

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