Tuesday, November 19, 2019

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

Sermon: “Worshipping Faithfully”

Did you catch it?  Worship is NOT about location!  “The day is coming when you will worship neither this mountain nor in Jerusalem.”  The Samaritans had long roots for their worship address.  Abraham had offered Isaac on an altar there.  It wasn’t like the Jewish community were newcomers to their address either.  David had offered to build God a house and Solomon had completed the construction project.  Yet, Jesus, now declares that address doesn’t grant access; worship is not bound to location but the incarnation.  God is now, in Jesus, tabernacling in the flesh, and this Jesus ushers us into God’s presence.  A presence that is not isolated to here or there propositions.  Of course, the worship conversation came up in a way because the woman was attempting to detour Jesus.  He was in Samaria because He took a detour, if you will; Jesus didn’t “have to” go through Samaria to get to Galilee.  It wasn’t as if it were required of Him in terms of circumnavigation.  Jesus “had to” go through Samaria John tells us; and it appears this is the reason why!  His purposeful meeting of the unexpecting water gathering Samaritan. 

Often we too are caught off guard by divine encounters.  Even when we head to the “location”, “address”, of His presence i.e. church.  It is possible on occasion you’ve come to church like the woman, feeling unwelcome, an outsider among your own.  At times perhaps like her, you’ve viewed heading to church a chore that must be accomplished.  There may even have been moments when somewhat like the disciples, “You’ve wondered what in the world is that person doing talking with Jesus?”   Regardless of how we arrive, Jesus purposefully meets us!  He won’t let us hide our guilt from Him, even if we’ve managed to keep it well concealed from everyone else.  In fact, that is what He “had to do.”  He came to deal with her sin, and ours, on a different Mt. Calvary.  Having done so successfully, having paid the price for our sin, Himself a perfect sacrifice and pure offering, His resurrection assuring us that sin, and death and devil are defeated, He comes to meet us where we are, and opens our hearts and minds to where we go when we enter worship.  

-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, November 18, 2019

The One Year Bible- November 18th

With thankful hearts, family events coming up, the anticipation of Advent and eyes cast upon Christmas it may be hard to find time this holiday season to read your Bible every day. It seems that every year there is more to do and less time for our own interests. Make sure you have a plan before your time runs short and you find yourself so busy with holiday preparations that other things don’t get done. Make sure that you carve out (pun intended) some time each and every day to spend time in God’s word. On to the study…

Seth’s Thoughts 
The Old Testament
The book of Ezekiel is winding down. This week we got to probably one of the most famous parts of his prophecy, that is the Valley of the Dry Bones. From Kieth Kuschel’s commentary on Ezekiel:

The faith of the child of God is constantly threatened by two opposing dangers: overconfidence and despair. It was to the second of these dangers that God’s message in Ezekiel 37 is addressed. In the previous chapter God had assured his people that the exiles now in Babylon were not forever gone, but that “they would soon come home” (38:8). God’s people were so depressed by their situation, however, that they found it difficult to believe God’s promise. They said: “Our hope is gone; we are cut off” (37:11). To reassure his people God granted Ezekiel a remarkable vision: the vision of the valley of the dry bones. God’s question of Ezekiel—“can these bones live?”—normally would have been answered in the negative. Ezekiel’s reply was interesting. He said, “Only the Person who made all those bones could make them alive.” Only the God who made man from the dust of the earth could make something living out of that valley full of bones which represented the whole community of exiles. The Lord promised to do for these bones just what he had done for the dust formed into a body in Eden: “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). At the Lord’s command, Ezekiel prophesied to lifeless bones and a miracle happened. There was a rattling noise as bone came together to bone. To Ezekiel the valley seemed no longer to be full of disconnected bones but of skeletons. God’s miracle continued, “Tendons and flesh appeared on them.” Now the valley resembled a battlefield littered with corpses. But God’s miracle was still not over. At God’s command Ezekiel continued to prophesy, and breath entered that army of corpses, and they came to life and stood up. Through a vision Ezekiel saw how God would re-create his people now apparently hopelessly lost in Babylon. Ezekiel carried out his orders and the Lord kept his promise. This ought to be a description of our lives: We carried out the Lord’s orders and the Lord carried out his promises. Knowledge that we are doing the Lord’s will in our lives is what takes away the boredom and drudgery. We are not just working for a paycheck. We are serving God and supporting our families as God expects. We are not just studying. We are using our minds to the maximum capacity because the Lord has called us to be good managers of our intellect. We are not just taking care or the kids. We are shaping the souls of God’s own children by letting them learn of Jesus from the way we talk and act. And the Lord keeps his promise, just as he did when Ezekiel preached to those dry bones as he was instructed to. After Jerusalem had fallen and the rest of the nation had joined them in exile, the Jews in Babylon had given up hope. “As a people and a nation we are just as good as dead.” they said. To which the Lord replied, “I can change that. I can raise you from the dead! I can return you to your land. Nothing is impossible for me.” This vision of the dry bones might have been the basis for the New Testament picture of the spiritual status of all people. St. Paul, for example, wrote, “You were dead in your transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). By nature everyone is spiritually dead, unable to do anything pleasing to God. But in his might and mercy the Lord has made us “alive with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4). This makes it possible for us who were “foreigners and aliens,” exiled from God because of sin, to become “fellow citizens with God’s people” (Ephesians 2:111-13, 19).

The New Testament
James is one of those books that has a checkered past in the history of the Church. It was one of the books that underwent a tough fight before it found its place in the New Testament. Many of the objections to the book revolve around the issue of good works. From a quick reading, it does seem like the book preached a faith and works salvation. This problem cannot just be swept away easily. Martin Luther called James an “epistle of straw”, meaning that it had not much substance or worth according to him. This viewpoint has not been held tightly even in the Lutheran church, although many of the teachings of the book are very difficult to translate. The one big way to help bring about understanding, at least for me, is to think of the works portions as a natural result of faith. When we look at good works as the logical outcome of living a life of faith then it is only natural to think that if there are no works there must not be true faith. I don’t know if this helps you or not but it works for me. Another way to help is by reading the book of James through Ephesians 2:8-10, “For it is by Grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

From The Life Application Bible intro to the book of James:
Genuine faith will inevitable produce good works. This is the central theme of James’s letter, around which he supplies practical advice on living the Christian life.James begins his letter by outlining some general characteristics of the Christian life (1:1-27). Next he exhorts Christians to act justly in society (2:1-13). He follows this practical advice with a theological discourse between faith and action (2:14-26). Then James shows the importance of controlling one’s speech (3:1-12). In 3:13-18, James distinguishes two kinds of wisdom, earthly and heavenly. Then he encourages his readers to turn from evil desires and obey God (4:1-12). James reproves those who trust in their own plans and possessions (4:13-5:6). Finally, he exhorts his readers to be patient with each other (5:7-11), to be straightforward in their promises (5:12), to pray for each other (5:13-18), and to help each other remain faithful to God (5:19,20).

This letter could be considered a how-to book on Christian living. Confrontation, challenge, and a call to commitment awaits you in its pages. Read James and become a doer of the Word (1:22-25).

Bits and Pieces
The Old Testament
We will finish up Ezekiel this week and start on the book of Daniel. Here are the vital stats for Daniel:

PURPOSE: To give a historical account of the faithful Jews who lived in captivity and to show how God is in control of heaven and earth, directing the forces of nature, the destiny of nations, and the care of his people.
AUTHOR: Daniel
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The other captives in Babylon and God’s people everywhere.
DATE WRITTEN: Approximately 535 B.C., recording events from about 605-535 B.C.
SETTING: Daniel has been taken captive and deported to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 B.C. There he serves in the government for about 60 years during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus.
KEY VERSE: “He [God] reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him” (2:22)
LAW THEMES: Babylon holds Judah captive; Judah has failed to obey God’s voice and has violated God’s covenant; open shame; apocryphal events, including the profaning of the temple and the abomination that makes desolate; God’s final judgment of mankind; everlasting contempt.
GOSPEL THEMES: The Most High God rules the kingdom of men; He keeps his covenant; mercy for the oppressed; His Anointed One will rule a kingdom that shall never be destroyed; an everlasting dominion; everlasting life.
KEY PEOPLE: Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, Shadrach, Mexhach, Abednego, Balshazzar, Darius
KEY PLACES: Nebuchadnezzar’s palace, the fiery furnace, Belshazzar’s banquet, the den of lions.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Daniel’s apocalyptic visions (chapters 8-12) give a glimpse of God’s plan for the ages, including a direct prediction of the Messiah

The New Testament
We will finish up 1 Peter and get into 2 Peter this week. Here are the vital stats for 2 Peter:

PURPOSE: To warn Christians about false teachers and to exhort them to grow in their faith in and knowledge of Christ
TO WHOM WRITTEN: To the church at large, and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 67, three years after 1 Peter was written, possibly from Rome
SETTING: Peter knew that his time on earth was limited (1:13-14), so he wrote about what was on his heart, warning believers of that would happen when he was gone—especially about the presence of false teachers. He reminded his readers of the unchanging truth of the gospel.
KEY VERSE: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and goodness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (1:3)
LAW THEMES: Exhortations to virtue; warnings against false prophets; ignorance; nearsightedness; forgetfulness; fiery judgment; destruction of the ungodly.
GOSPEL THEMES: God’s sure Word; the Spirit’s work; Christ cleansed us from our former sins; eternal kingdom; God promises new heavens and a new earth; God does not wish any to perish.
SPECIAL FEATURES: The date and destination are uncertain, and the authorship has been disputed. Because of this, 2 Peter was the last book admitted to the canon of the New Testament Scripture. Also, there are similarities between 2 Peter and Jude.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of November 10, 2019

Sermon: “Worshipping Faithfully”

Last week we talked about the “we” in worship.
  • Worship is a “we” event as we are all gathered together in His name both with the saints on earth and those above.  
  • Worship is a “wee” moment, a small slice of your daily lives, and
  • Worship is a “weeeee” experience, that thrilling rush when we realize that God himself and His gifts come to us here. 

Today we will see that worship is a “to be” reality.  We are all called to be living sacrifices and live a life of worship with our whole being and that is what worshiping faithfully is all about.

To begin I want to start by looking at our Old Testament lesson from Sunday.  From Exodus chapter 3, “Moses was taking care of the sheep of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian.” (Exodus 3:1a)  Let’s stop right there. 

I’m guessing that many of you know the story of Moses, but let me sum it up for you.  Since the time of Joseph, Jacob’s family had lived in Egypt.  They grew in numbers and the promise given to Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation was coming to pass. The new Pharaoh soon became leery of the Israelites and ordered all the male children born to God’s people to be killed in hopes of destroying them. But when Moses was born his mother hid him in a basket, set him in the Nile and was spared; the Pharaoh’s daughter eventually discovered him and Moses grew up in the court of the king and became a powerful person in Egypt.   One day Moses sees an Egyptian mistreating an Israelite so he intervenes. In doing so he commits murder and runs away to the land of Midian.  Back to the text…

 “As [Moses] led the sheep to the far side of the desert, he came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  The Messenger of the LORD appeared to him there as flames of fire coming out of a bush.  Moses looked, and although the bush was on fire, it was not burning up.  So he thought, ‘Why isn’t this bush burning up?  I must go over there and see this strange sight.  When the LORD saw that Moses had come over to see it, God called him form the bush Moses, Moses!  Moses answered, ‘Here I am!’” (Exodus 3:1b-4)

You heard the rest of the text; Moses encounters God visibly and tangibly.  Moses takes off his sandals because he was standing on holy ground.  In this text we see that God calls, God redeems, God loves and God sends his people to be.

The great “I AM” calls Moses “to be” with the people, to stop running away, and go with confidence to be a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. 

Moses was a runaway.
  • He ran from his trouble thinking they would disappear.
  • He fled from those who sought to bring him to justice
  • He attempted to justify his behavior in order to gain his freedom and ultimately…
  • He was a prisoner of his disobedience, separated from God, but God had other plans.

His story is not unlike your story.  Your inclination and mine is to run from trouble, flee from the things that seek retribution or justice and justify behavior in order to be free.  But it doesn't work. 

What have you done or left undone that has put you on the run?   So often our feet do not stand on holy ground and attempt to make an end around.  The calling “to be” is replaced by the desire to just be me.    What have you put your trust in that makes the worship of the great “I Am” something that is done only out of compulsion or habit? What is calling after you and enticing you to follow the things of the world?

Like Moses, you have been called, you have been redeemed, you have been loved and you have been sent to be.  This begins in this place, here in worship and with those around you as the church.  The word we translate as church in the New Testament has the idea of both being called out and called together. It is Christ who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light, did so through his nail scarred hands.

Without Jesus, the problem of sin and its vile handmaiden, death would run rampant in the world.  God himself had to enter the world of real sin and unrelenting death in order to bear its responsibility and pay its price. It’s through Christ’s body, beaten and broken and then raised to new life for us, that the enemies of this life and the next are defeated so that we might obtain the gifts of resurrection and everlasting life.

While our sin continues to distract us with salvation attempts that avoid all suffering because of the things we have done, it is the cross that counters all earthly attempts at justification.  It seeks all who have run away and run after.  It is at the cross that Christ saves through suffering and weakness rather than victory and strength. At the cross, Christ conquers what we cannot and redeems what we would rather worship. The scars of his hands become the sign of his victory, for by his wounds you have been healed. In Christ you are forgiven!! His cry of “It is finished!” is the call to be gathered together to worship faithfully. 

The church is that community that God has called out of the world, out of death and sin and hell, and into Christ, his mission, his ministry, his message and is sent to the ends of the earth.  And in worship is where we are called out, called together and called to be.  From this “we” moment we are “to be” in the world.  Like Moses at the burning bush, in worship we too come face to face with God’s mercy and grace, which fundamentally changes who we are and what we do. 

Word, Spirit and Sacrament come to us in real, tangible, objective ways when we are gathered in this place.  Here week after week, we hear the call again and are gathered into Christ. In worship we are most at rest and most alive.  As we worship we receive and we offer back what we have first received.  We sing in celebration because God has given us a song.  We recite and speak the Word because we have received all the promises of the Word made flesh, in Christ.  We proclaim the forgiveness of sin because we have received forgiveness at the cross and we proclaim the passion, the death and the resurrection of our Lord because through him we have been raised to newness of life. As we worship Christ himself arrives and is genuinely and truly present with us.  He is not present is some strange spiritual or metaphorical sense. 

When Christ says he is present, he doesn't mean he is symbolically present.  When we tell our kids, “Don’t worry, I’ll pick you up at five” we mean what we say.  This is not a symbolic promise.  My kids would not stand for this and in worship we shouldn’t either. Christ really comes to you here in this place. 

In word and sacrament, the Lord who calls and gathers, arrives. Here God himself is present and beyond our comprehension the sacraments unveil themselves, unmasking their appearance with profound comfort, not bread and wine alone, not water alone, not just words on a page of ancient writing. No!  He is here!!

In worship we are not alone, Christ is here and to be with Christ means we receive the forgiveness of sins, the Spirit of truth, the holiness of righteousness, the life that never dies, the Father who never leaves, the Spirit who enlivens us to understanding, the faith that rests on God’s words, and the brother and sister next to you who need you, because you bring Christ to them.

Worshipping faithfully is much more than just the “wee” hour you are here in this place.  Scripture describes our spiritual act of worship is “to be” living sacrifices to those next to you.

In his letter to the Romans Paul lays out what worship looks like every day when he writes, “Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

Worship is a “to be” reality not just in the wee moment you are here but “to be” in every moment.

We live in a world where oh so many are alone, running from their sin and hiding in the lifeless desert of life.

God calls us to be with them, partnered with one another and enjoined to an intimate fellowship of Christ’s own making that preserves, admonishes, forgives, encourages, proclaims, and strengthens to be Jesus to them.

Today we stand on holy ground for here in this place we encounter the very presence of God and are given all the gifts of Christ himself and everything we need to be living sacrifices; you for me and me for you; us for the world; us with Christ out in the world as living sacrifices holy and pleasing…this is our spiritual act of worship. 

In Christ, the span of separation is overcome; the chasm of sin is crossed.  As we become living sacrifices for others we bring the gifts of Christ to the world.  We are Christ’s and he is ours and the world waits for the gifts of Christ that are given to you here because the world longs for the news that death is no more and that evil is condemned.

The world waits even if it is not aware its waiting, to make the confession that is already on your lips, that in Christ sin has been destroyed and through you he is calling the world, redeeming the world, loving the world as you are sent to be, this is living a life of worshiping faithfully.

-Pr. Seth Moorman

Monday, November 11, 2019

The One Year Bible- November 11th

If this is your first year reading through the Bible you may be tempted at the end to do what you do with a good book.  Some people like to take a weekend or a slow evening and finish it up in one sitting or in a few hours.  It is tempting to do, especially when you see that there are just a few pages left.  Some days I feel like that with our Bible readings but I want to give you some advice. If you want to finish reading the Bible in the next couple of days, do so. You will feel very accomplished, but then go back each day and review the readings. I kind of like to think that Bible reading is kind of like eating cheesecake. It is really good in small doses. If you try to eat the whole cake in one sitting you will get a tummy ache. It is way too rich and complex to try to digest all at once. If you can’t help yourself, go ahead and indulge. It really can’t hurt you, but you will get more out of your readings when you pace yourself. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
We keep plugging along in Ezekiel. This week’s readings seemed to be more “normal” than last weeks. Just the run of the mill judgments on Israel and the other countries (note the hint of sarcasm in my voice). I found one of the best nuggets of grace this week. At the end of Chapter 18 we read, “Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!.” (Ezekiel 18:31-32 NIV) Remember our discussion a few months back (I don’t exactly remember) when we talked about repentance and confession? This passage goes into that category. By this I mean that repentance and confession occur because of what God has already done for us. It is God who turns us by his word, and his Spirit. Another thing that I did not mention before is that God refers to Ezekiel by the phrase, “Son of Man”. Most scholars believe that when Jesus starts using this same term in reference to himself he was giving us an indication of his own character. By saying he [Jesus] was the Son of Man, he was saying that he is human. He has a human nature in addition to the divine. This is the same usage as God uses it in reference to the man Ezekiel. 

One other thing we saw this week and we will see again before the end of the book is the idea of “The Day of the Lord”. Whenever you see this phrase you should think: Judgment. This almost always refers to what will happen after the patience of God runs out and his punishment comes. Ezekiel was using in Chapter 30 in reference to what will happen to Egypt, but later it will be used in reference to the whole world. The New Testament picks up this same idea in Revelation.

A quick note here; did you catch that reference in Psalm 110 to Melchizedek? Like we talked about last week, this is a reference to the Messiah. Note the difference between LORD and Lord in this chapter. If LORD is Yahweh then Lord (at least in this chapter) could be the pre-incarnate Jesus. Neat stuff!!!

The New Testament
Where do I start? So much here, I want to talk about it all, but I do not have the time or the space to do it. So let’s start with the idea of the High Priest. I know we talked about it last week but here is some more info. When we teach children and new believers about the Faith we usually end up talking about the “offices” of Jesus. By this we do not mean the corner office in the company, we mean his jobs. We often say that he is prophet, priest, and king. The last two are very evident in the book of Hebrews. As a Jew, your only hope of forgiveness of sins lies with the High Priest. He is the only one that could go to God on your behalf and offer a sacrifice for the forgiveness of your sins. Jesus is now our high priest. He went to God for us and offered himself as the sacrifice. The author of the book of Hebrews really hammers this point home by discussing it over and over. This would have been a huge deal to a Jewish person. They are hard-wired to accept the idea of sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. Many Jews struggle with the idea that the Temple is no longer standing. Quite literally, in their view, they have not been able to have forgiveness of sins since 70 A.D when the Romans destroyed the temple. Jewish Christians can find comfort in the fact that the sacrifice has been done in the person of Christ and this is once for all! It does not need to happen over and over again. The destruction of the temple would have been a very convincing argument for the writer of Hebrews so many scholars feel that this book was written before that. Another thing to mention is the idea of shadows here on earth and the real temple being in heaven. This is rather Aristotelian as far a philosophy goes (no time to get into that here) but we can all try to understand what that means. Temple worship on earth was never meant to be “the-be-all-end-all” of the life of faith. It served to foreshadow what was to come. All good books have some foreshadowing. What is present on earth will be fulfilled and completed in the heavenly realms. It ends up being a matter of Faith, which is what comes next in the book. Chapter 11 of Hebrews is often called “The Faith Hall of Fame”. It tells of the accomplishments of many of the saints that have gone before and tells how they too believed in the promise of the Messiah. They did not know about the person of Jesus but they did know about the promised Messiah. Their actions to keep faith alive were credited to them as righteousness from God. The obeyed even though they never saw, heard, touched, or experienced the Messiah. How much more should we hold on in faith since we know all about Jesus and he promised he would be with us always. We get to spend some intimate time with him each time we partake in communion. We know him and he knows us!! Let us then hold firm to the faith we have been given!! “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV). 

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We will continue in Ezekiel and we will get to the famous dry bones story as well as the description of the new city of Jerusalem which has some parallels to Revelation; a lot to say about these in a later post.

The New Testament
We will read through the book of James this week as well as start 1 Peter. Here are the vital stats on James:

PURPOSE: To expose hypocritical practices and to teach right Christian behavior
AUTHOR: James, Jesus' brother, a leader in the Jerusalem church
TO WHOM WRITTEN: First-Century Jewish Christians residing in Gentile communities outside Palestine, and all Christians everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: Probably A.D. 49 prior to the Jerusalem council held in A.D. 50
SETING: This letter expresses James's concern for persecuted Christians who were once part of the Jerusalem church
LAW THEMES: Must keep the whole Law; death; works required for salvation; sinners judged by Law as transgressors; faith apart from works is dead.
GOSPEL THEMES: Good and perfect gifts from the Father of lights; brought forth by the Word or truth; heirs of the kingdom; counted as righteous; the coming of the LORD, compassionate and merciful; forgiveness; because of Christ’s death and resurrection, sinners are judged under the “law of liberty”.
KEY VERSE: "But some will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do" (2:18 NIV)

And here are the vital stats for the book of 1 Peter:

PURPOSE: To offer encouragement to suffering Christians
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Jewish Christians driven out of Jerusalem and scattered throughout Asia Minor, and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 62-64, possibly from Rome
SETTING: Peter was probably in Rome when the great persecution under emperor Nero began (Eventually Peter was executed during this persecution). Throughout the Roman empire, Christians were being tortured and killed for their faith, and the church in Jerusalem was being scattered throughout the Mediterranean world.
LAW THEMES: Sin; ignorance of foolish people; perishable; disobeying God’s Word; darkness; judgment; fiery trials.
GOSPEL THEMES: Christ bore our sins in His body; He suffered for us; He ransomed sinners; He is imperishable; Christ’s death involved a righteous man dying for unrighteous people (the great exchange); marvelous light; stand firm in God’s grace; God’s Word is the living and abiding Word; good news; royal priesthood; holy nation; chosen race.
KEY VERSE: "These have come so that your faith...may be proved genuine and may result in priais, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1:7 NIV)
KEY PEOPLE: Peter, Silas, Mark
KEY PLACES: Jerusalem, Rome, and the regions of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia Minor, and Bithynia
SPECIAL FEATURES: Peter used several images that were very special to him because Jesus had used them when he revealed certain truths to Peter. Peter's name (which means "rock") had been given to him by Jesus. Peter's conception of the church- a spiritual house composed of living stones build upon Christ as the foundation- came from Christ. Jesus encouraged Peter to care for the church as a shepherd tending the flock. Thus it is not surprising to see Peter use living stones (2:5-9) and shepherds and sheep (2:25; 5:2,4) to describe the church.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of November 3, 2019

At the heart of a ‘Renaissance of the heart’, personal transformation is faithful worship. 

All Saints Sunday reminds us of these three truths:
V  Worship is a "We" event.  When we enter God's presence in worship, though deeply individual and intimate, we find ourselves in His company as well as the company of saints on earth and those in heaven.  Our faith, our journey is not a game of solitaire.  We are not in this thing alone and worship clearly reveals that truth.

V  Worship is a "wee" moment.  While in the wide sense worship is also our very life (Romans 12; which we will discuss next week) worship in the narrow sense (worship service) is a small sliver of time.  If "church" "runs long" and last an hour thirty five, we still spend less than 10% of our Sabbath in God's house.  This small sliver of time is a moment in a much larger reality.  Heaven and earth collide as we stride into a sanctuary and while we might check our watches while in church, while in worship we are on the "eternal clock."

V  Worship is a "weeeee" experience.  Whether in a chapel or a cathedral, whether under a basilica's dome or a starry sky, whether joined by thousands or just two or three, worship is always a thrilling rush when we realize God Himself with His gifts comes to us in worship. 

-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, November 04, 2019

The One Year Bible- November 4th

We are entering a time in our readings where we will be starting new books almost every week. In fact, next month, will be a blur of books. The goal is to try to keep them all straight in your mind. I will continue to give you the vital stats for each book. Try to keep these facts in your head as you read; it will help out a lot. Let me give you an example. The audience of Ezekiel is the exiles in Babylon.  They had been taken from their homes and force to live in a foreign land.  Keeping this context in your mind as you read will be helpful in understanding the message of the book. That being said, on to the study…

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
There sure are some weird things that happen in the book of Ezekiel and Bible scholars debate some of the events, whether they were literal or not. For example in Ezekiel chapter 4, God tells the prophet to lie on his side for 390 days, one for each year of Israel’s sin, and then switch over to the other side for 40 days. A literal interpretation would seem to say that Ezekiel lay on his side for over 400 days. Is this even physically possible? Other scholars believe that he did this each night or during much of each day as a symbol against the sins of the people. For many this is confusing and can be an obstacle in understanding. For me, I tend to lean on the story from the New Testament of the rich young ruler who asks Jesus how he can be saved. Jesus gives him some hard lessons and in the end Jesus says, “With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26 NIV). If God wants Ezekiel to lie on his side for over a year then he will give him the ability to make it happen. If it was just some of the time then so be it. Sometimes when we try to put God in a box and make him conform to our way of thinking we can get ourselves into trouble. I give it up to faith.

Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel paints a grim picture for the people in exile. He speaks of the destruction of the people and God’s wrath upon them, but every once in a while we get these great images of restoration and grace. It is time to mine the scriptures again. Keep looking for these promises of God, we will see many of them as we close out the Old Testament. Many of them relate to the return from exile but some go deeper and foreshadow the Messiah and the wonderful ministry that will come to pass soon.

Another very important feature of the book of Ezekiel is all of the visions. These visions will be very important when we get to the book of Revelation. It seems that John and Ezekiel see many of the same things. Did John lean on the descriptions of Ezekiel? Probably to some extent, but it cannot be denied that they both were blessed to catch a glimpse of the throne room of the most high God. The four creatures with four heads and eyes all over their bodies will make a return in Revelation. More time will be spent when we get to Revelation but for now you must remember that these visions are symbolic in nature. Both John and Ezekiel are trying to describe something that is really indescribable. They try to put into words that their audience could understand what they were seeing. One character we will see again is the figure in chapter 8. I looked, and I saw a figure like that of a man.  From what appeared to be his waist down he was like fire, and from there up his appearance was as bright as glowing metal.” (Ezekiel 8:2 NIV) Is this an angel or could it be, as some Bible commentators suggest, the pre-incarnate Christ? I am not going to answer this question right now, but I want you to think about it and we will talk more about this character later (especially when we read Revelation). We also saw the Lord refer to his chosen people as a prostitute (Ch. 16ff). This will be a common theme in many of the prophetic books to come, especially Hosea. Even though the people are like a prostitute, God still loves them and will fulfill his promise to them. More to be said about this in a few weeks…

The New Testament
Hebrews is one of my favorite books in all of Scripture. One thing you have to have in your head the whole time you read it is the Old Testament sacrificial system. The anonymous author of this book has to be Jewish. He (could be a she as well) knows the Jewish system backward and forward. He knows his audience and he knows Jesus. In a masterful way, he spins the person of Jesus Christ as the long awaited Messiah. He does it in such a way to honor Jewish tradition and to be strong and solid witness to Jesus Christ. I could write so much about this book so I will have to restrain myself. Here are the highlights from this past week:

In Chapter 4 we read a fantastic passage on the power of Scripture, For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 NIV). If that doesn’t make your hair stand on end, then you need a dose of the fear of the Lord. Yes, the Word of God is good but it also cuts deep into our sinful flesh. It exposes us for who we really are, it shows that we are not worthy and filled with contempt and hatred toward God. And then just a few verses later we have some very comforting words, For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV). I don’t know about you, but that is AWESOME!!! We can come boldly to the throne of God even after his holy Word has cut us to the core. We have not been left for dead. We have been cut open and laid bare by his word but it was for our good, like surgery, he heals us. His sacrifice as our High Priest brings us into a right relationship with God once again.

A few notes on the whole High Priest thing. Remember that the High Priest was the one who would go into the Holy of Holies (the innermost part of the temple) to offer sacrifice for the forgiveness of the sins of the people. He did this once a year (on Yom Kippur = the day of atonement) but every year. Jesus now serves as that priest. He takes the sacrifice of himself and offers it for the forgiveness of our sins. But Jesus was not a just a priest. He was not from the line of Aaron and not a Levite. The author of Hebrews tells us he was actually much more. He was a priest in the order of Melchizedek. This interesting character is found in Genesis 14. Melchizedek was not only a priest of the most high God (Yahweh) he was also a king. Abraham gave him a tenth of everything he had. Jesus is not just a priest but also a king in the same way as Melchizedek. This story is ripe with symbolism here but we need to move on. In chapter 8 we get some new covenant talk and a quote from Jeremiah 31. We just spent some time talking about this a few weeks ago. I will have more to say about this book next week, until then keep your mind on the Old Testament as you continue in this great book.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of October 27, 2019

Thank you, thank you!  Like the apostle, at Bethany we give thanks for all of you in our prayers!

A special word of thanks this morning for everyone who made both our 75th anniversary and Oktoberfest celebrations such joyous and wonderful occasions!

Of course every day is a day to celebrate the truth that Jesus loves us and Jesus lives for us!  Jesus died for us and Jesus rose for us!  Jesus speaks to us and Jesus saved us!  Jesus also CHANGES us!  Jesus transforms us!  

In fact, Jesus works a Renaissance within each heart that holds Him, and into which He is planted, as Lord and Christ.  The heart of the Renaissance is Jesus and His Word.  In His Word Jesus goes to work, like a master artist, shaping and transforming us! 

As Jesus’ words are put into practice, we find His renewing Renaissance work ever on-going in and through us.

Last month (October) during our First Sunday of the month Evening Service (YES, we have a Service on the First Sunday of each month at 6:30PM) we explored the Scripture that declares our Renaissance begins with “receiving.”

We used the following prayer to help us receive:
“Gracious Lord Jesus, take from me my sin,
Relieve me from all that burdens me, lighten all that weighs heavily on my heart, mind and spirit.  
I am ready to receive what You have to give.   
Grant me Your forgiveness anew. 
Give me strength to believe Your Word, regardless of what my experience is saying.
Give me strength to follow where You lead, no matter what the cost.
Give me strength to resist temptations, however great they may be.  

Dear Lord, I come to You that I might receive all You have to give:
Your grace for one as guilty as me
Your wholeness for all my brokenness
Your abundance ------ for I lack so much
Your faithfulness ----- though I am prone to stray
Your love that exceeds comprehension.

Dear Lord I come to You that I might receive all You have to give
….for only then can I be prepared to give as I have received.
This month Sunday November 3rd at 6:30PM we hear Jesus call to “abide” in Him.  A Renaissance of the Heart begins with “receiving” and it continues and grows as we “abide” in Him.
-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

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