Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of November 12, 2017

Sermon: “When Will His Kingdom Come?”
                                    OR
                 “His Kingdom Will Come When…”


While we pray for many things to “come” to us: employment, joy, love, meaning, health, resources…

Our Lord has taught us to pray for His Kingdom to come “to us.” 

In his Small Catechism, Luther states that God’s Kingdom comes when His Word is taught in truth and purity and we lead holy lives according to it.  When Jesus speaks of His Kingdom’s coming He proclaims a twofold reality: It’s presence among us now as well as its forthcoming future arrival. 

Now, even as we pray for some many things to “come” to us; all that God has is already ours.  Yet, many of those blessings belong to us only by faith; and there are times when we can point to things in our world and our lives where the Kingdom is not fully, or even barely, realized.  However, the day is coming, soon and very soon even, when all that is ours by faith shall be ours by sight and that for which we pray (and have received in Christ) will be ours by experience.  So we pray, “Thy Kingdom Come.”


-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, November 13, 2017

The One Year Bible- November 13th

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.

Psalms
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
AUTHOR: Peter
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 07, 2017

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of November 5, 2017

Saint & Sinner - We are both at one and the same time. 

Sinner from conception (and action); Saint by declaration (and action)!  On the one hand our impure acts of thought, word and deed reveal us for the people we are by nature: sinners.  On the other hand the people we are through Christ (that is saints in the Lord), is revealed in acts we might not even notice ourselves. {Read Matthew 25}

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, November 06, 2017

The One Year Bible- November 6th



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 31, 2017

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of October 29, 2017

“The Reformation is all about Jesus!”

500 years ago today Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the castle church doors in Wittenberg. When you boil it down, sum it up and get to the heart of the matter the Reformation is all about a man, a perfect man; who at the same time is true God.  The Reformation is all about Jesus!

What God has done for us in Christ’s perfect life, innocent suffering and His sacrificial death and how God views on account of the same is what the Reformation is all about.  This is best summarized in the Reformation slogan Sola Gratia (Grace Alone).  Thus the Reformation is all about Jesus! 

How God bestows on us the righteousness of Christ and how we apprehend personally what the Lord has accomplished for all objectively is what the Reformation is all about.  This is best summarized in the Reformation slogan Sola Fide (Faith Alone). Thus the Reformation is all about Jesus! 

Where one finds, hears and connects with God’s self-communication and message; and what is therefore the sole source of Christian belief and behavior is what the Reformation is all about.  This is best summarized in the Reformation slogan Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone).  Thus the Reformation is all about Jesus!  

A single sentence can express this quite well, “We are saved by grace, through faith, for Christ’s sake apart from works of the law.”   That sentence summarized in the Reformation slogan Solus Christus (Christ Alone).  Thus the Reformation is all about Jesus! 

Perhaps that is made most clear in the final sola of the Reformation, Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Belongs the Glory).  To God Alone Belongs the Glory!  The altar and pastor(s) are adorned in red on Reformation to make it clear that the Reformation is at its heart, when summed up and boiled down all about our God’s work in Christ. Red, the color of Pentecost is the color of the Reformation because the same Spirit that gave life to the church restored the truth of the Gospel and its proper place in the church through the Reformation.   The Reformation which is, was, and ever shall be: All About Jesus!

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, October 30, 2017

The One Year Bible- October 30th



With Halloween and Reformation Day upon us,, All Saints day coming up, and Thanksgiving and Advent on the horizon, it goes without saying that this is a busy time of the year.  It seems that life gets more hectic every year.  Perhaps you feel like you could write your own lamentations today.   But even in the midst of the tough times of life we praise God by saying, “Great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23).  Let that be our guide today. On to the study...

Pastor Seth’s Thoughts 

The Old Testament

This week we will dive into the book of Lamentations. I was thinking that this book is like the soundtrack to the book of Jeremiah. If they ever made a movie (more like a miniseries) about Jeremiah, the music would have to be influenced by the book of Lamentations. In David M. Gosdeck’s commentary on the book he says the following:

The Hebrew title for this book of the Bible is taken from the first word, “How”. When, during the Intertestamental Period, the Jews translated this book into Greek they gave it the title, “The Tears of Jeremiah”. When the Greek was translated into Latin, it was named “The Lamentations of Jeremiah,” the title we use today. Lamentations consists of five individual poems. The first four (chapters 1-4) use a poetic device known as “acrostic”. In an acrostic each new line of poetry begins with a successive letter of the alphabet. In chapters 1,2, and 4 each verse begins with a new letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Since the Hebrew alphabet has twenty-two letters, each of these chapters has twenty-two verses. In chapter 3 the author triples the acrostic. Every three verses begin with a new letter of the alphabet, so chapter 3 has sixty-six verses.

In the face of Jerusalem’s destruction, the prophet encouraged the believers to keep on clinging to the Lord. The nation was without excuse. It has plenty of time to repent, but it chose the path of sin. Not its sins had brought the present terror. On its own, the nation could not deliver itself. Its only hope lay in a return to the Lord, and the Lord did not fail. Even in this disaster, believers could see his gracious hand. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). Even under suffering, the believer can confidently wait for the salvation he knows will come.

The New Testament
By the end of the week we will have read two letters in their entirety (Titus and Philemon) and will be into the book of Hebrews. Titus is known as one of the Pastoral letters (along with 1 & 2 Timothy) and has much advice for pastors and church leaders. The following is from Armin W. Schuetze’s commentary on Titus:

Since Paul calls Titus “my true son in our common faith” (Titus 1:4), he know doubt was one of Paul’s converts. He may have been from Antioch, where Paul had worked for an entire year before his missionary journeys (Acts 11:26). We find Titus there when Paul and Barnabas “were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders” about the necessity of circumcision for salvation (Acts 15:2). Paul mentions Titus as someone he had taken along as a test case and reports that “not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised even though he was Greek” (Galatians 2:1,3).

Later Paul found Titus to be a valuable and trusted associate whom he sent to Corinth to settle the problems that had arisen in this congregation. In all of his Corinthian assignments Titus proved to be an evangelical, trusted, and respected “troubleshooter”.

After Paul’s release from his first imprisonment, he may have met Titus when he came to the island of Crete. Paul left Titus there to complete the organizing of the church (Titus 1:5). This was not an easy assignment because of trouble makers who needed correction (Titus 1:10-16). Paul promised to send a replacement to Crete so that Titus might join him again at Nicopolis where Paul intended to spend the winter (Titus 3:12).

Titus must have been with Paul in Rome during a part of his second imprisonment, for Paul sent him from Rome to Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10). We know nothing more about this assignment.

Titus was no doubt younger that Paul but very likely older than Timothy. He did not need the kind of encouragement that Paul gave his younger “son” Timothy. The advice Paul gave Titus for his work on the island of Crete continues to be a blessing to the church and its pastors as they read, study and apply his inspired words to themselves and the church of all times.

The book of Philemon is very short but very profound. The following is from the intro to the book in “The Life Application Bible”:

This is a personal letter sent as a plea for a runaway slave. Imagery and parallels abound in this short letter. Paul writes to Philemon and reintroduces Onesimus to him, explaining that he is sending him back not just as a slave but as a brother. Tactfully he asks Philemon to accept and forgive his brother. The barriers of the past and the new ones erected by Onesimus’s desertion and theft should divide them no longer for they are one in Christ.

This small book is a masterpiece of grace and tact and a profound demonstration of the power of Christ and of true Christian fellowship in action. As with Philemon, God calls us all to seek unity, breaking down walls and embracing our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I will have plenty to say about the book of Hebrews in the next two weeks.

Bits and Pieces

The New Testament
As we look at the book of Hebrews this week, don’t forget the audience of the book.  They are Jewish Christians who are in danger of going back to Judaism. Keep this in mind so it will hopefully make more sense when you read language like “greater than Moses”, “high priest”, “Melchizedek”, “covenant”, “tabernacle”, “sacrifice” etc. I will spend a lot of time in the next two weeks talking about this book. It is one of my favorites.


Free Hit Counter