Tuesday, February 12, 2019

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

Sermon: “Is That the Best You Can Do”

In the "Big Game" the other week there were plenty of fans screaming, "Is that the best you can do?"

Some might wonder the same about the lineup of servants (Isaiah, Paul, Peter, Andrew, James and John) that the Lord assembled in this week's readings (Isaiah 6:1-8, 1 Corinthians 15:1-10 and Luke 5:1-11).  A ‘foul mouthed friar’, a proclaimer of the faith who was a persecutor of the faithful, a crew called to fish for people that seemed to never be successful at catching fish without divine intervention...Lord, is that the best you can do?

Even those so chosen recognized their own limitations:  "Woe to me I am a man of unclean lips."  "I am unfit and am the least of the apostles."  "Leave 'us' Lord; 'we' are sinful men."  Is this the best that can be done?

What else these 3 accounts of these servants who having been purified from the altar, washed in baptismal water, and found in the presence of the Lamb who takes sins away of the world…is their passion and dedication to the calling.  "Here I am send me, send me!"  "I work harder than the others and am eager to be about the sharing of the good news."  "They left everything and followed Him."

The fair question to the biblical accounts that I have asked, is one that I also ought to ask honestly about my life, "When it comes to serving am I doing the best I can?"
-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, February 11, 2019

The One Year Bible- February 11th

This week we will start the book of Mark and right at the beginning of this Gospel there is a verse that jumps out at me, “News about him [Jesus] spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee” (Mark 1:28 NIV). Just think of the power of Jesus. Mark tells us “At once” everyone around knew about him. It reminds me of living in the Internet age. We can get information “at once” as soon as events happen. It is amazing how fast news travels. But what has happened to the good news about Jesus? Why is his fame not being spread everywhere? Well one reason is because the Devil doesn’t want it to. Satan is waging war against the good news of Jesus Christ and at times he seems to be winning. Satan is not happy that you are reading the Bible this year and he will work on your soft spots to get you behind and tempt you to give up. Don’t let his tricks get you down. You have the most powerful weapon in the fight, the Word of God. Remember that the battle belongs to the Lord and even though we may loose a few skirmishes here and there the ultimate victory is the Lord’s. Keep up the good work and fight the hard fight as you pick up the sword of the Spirit daily. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
The end of Exodus is just a foretaste of what is to come in the book of Leviticus. We will be taking a break from the narrative story for a while and read about many of the nuts and bolts of religious life of the people of Israel. We usually do not read these sections of scripture in Church so they may be brand new for you. Exodus ends with the building of the tabernacle and all the furnishings. This place (and later the temple) is the physical representation of Yahweh on earth. It is quite literally, God’s house. The building of this structure is important for many reasons. First of all, it gave the people something tangible in their relationship with God. Secondly, it was a place where God could interact with his people bringing mercy and forgiveness. Third, it sets up the life and ministry of Jesus. Jesus referred to himself as a temple that would be destroyed and build again in three days. Jesus himself came down to be a physical representation of Yahweh on earth. In John 1:14 we read, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” The word we translate at “made his dwelling” literally means that Jesus “tabernacled” among us. When Jesus came to earth he becomes another tabernacle, this one wrapped in flesh and poised to be the ultimate sacrifice for the forgiveness of the sins of the world. Now the tabernacle had its own purpose in the days of the Israelites, and the temple as well for that matter, but they both point to a greater tabernacle and temple in the person of Jesus Christ.

One other thing I want to do this week is give you an introduction on the many different offerings that are mentioned in Exodus and especially in Leviticus.

Burnt Offering: Leviticus 1; 6: 8-13; 8: 18-21; 16: 24 The burnt offering was for unintentional sin. This was a blanket sacrifice for wrongdoing in general. The price was a male bull, lamb or goat. It had to be a perfect animal, without defect. The poor could offer a pigeon or dove. The penitent would present the animal at the entrance to the tent, which housed the altar and the tabernacle. After presenting the animal, the sinner would place his two hands on the animal and thus, it was accepted as an offering for sin. Probably this act transferred the sin from the human to the animal, which paid the penalty and was sacrificed. They would kill their own offering and then the priests took over.The priests bled the animal and cut it up ceremonially. The priests sprinkled the blood on the altar. Some of the internal organs and legs were washed. They then burned it whole on the altar. The aroma was said to be pleasing to God. The fire had to be continually burning and was never extinguished.

Grain Offering: Leviticus 2; 6: 14-23 Voluntary worship and thanks: A grain offering is just what it says. The grain had to ground into flour and could be put into loaves or cakes. Olive oil and incense were added to make a pleasing aroma when it burned. Yeast was forbidden for this offering. The cakes had to be salted. The offering was presented to the priests who burned a small portion of it on the altar. The rest was food for them and the Levites.

Fellowship Offering: Leviticus 3: 7: 11-34A voluntary act of worship, thanks and fellowship: This is called a fellowship offering because the sacrifice is eaten communally instead of burned. Any clean animal, male or female could be offered. Bread, both with and without yeast, was also part of the offering. These were presented at the gate of the tent. The priests would sprinkle the blood on the four corners of the altar. The internal organs, the fat on them and the best part of the liver were burned as a food offering. The rest had to be eaten within two days or else it was burned also.

Sin Offering: Leviticus 4: 1-5: 13; 6: 24-30; 8: 14-17; 16: 3-22 Mandatory for specific sins: All of these offerings for sins are for unintentional transgressions. If you were guilty of premeditated infraction, these offerings didn’t help you. Your stature in the community determined the kind of sacrifice that you were required to offer. A young bull was required for the sin of a high priest or for a community sin. Leaders had to present a male goat. The common people could bring a female goat or a lamb. The poor were permitted to offer a dove or pigeon and the very poor could get away with a tenth of an ephah of fine flour. The bull’s fat was burned inside the camp but the rest was burned outside. Leviticus 5 records the sins for which a sin offering was required. These include unintentionally touching an animal that is ritually unclean, touching something unclean of human origin or making a careless promise.

Guilt Offering: (Repayment Offering) Leviticus 5:14 – 6:7; 7: 1-6 Mandatory for unintentional sin requiring restitution: This is a repayment offering for a sin committed against God, like holding back your tithe. A ram or lamb was brought to the tent to be sacrificed. The debt would have to be paid plus an additional twenty percent. These were the offerings outlined in the first seven chapters of Leviticus. God could forgive mistakes but intentional sins were another matter.

The New Testament
At the beginning of last week we saw the familiar words of institution as Jesus gives his disciples communion for the first time. Remember that meals were very important for the Jews and the connection that this new meal of remembrance first occurred during Passover is by no means a coincidence. Remember that Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience and this new covenant made in blood would ring a bell with all his readers. This would cut to the heart of any Jew, hearing about this because blood equals life. It is not in our culture to think of that. In fact when people outside of the Christian faith hear about being washed in the blood of the lamb, they get turned off from Christianity. I guess my point here is we need to watch how we word some things. To a Jewish audience, Matthew does the culturally relevant thing; when we share the message of Jesus we need to be careful not to offend or even gross out someone when talking about blood.

I want to say a few words about the Great commission this week and I hope not to loose you when I start talking about Greek grammar. First of all every time we translate the Bible from its original languages we loose something. The phrase “Lost in translation” is really true. At times when we translate into English we then, without thinking place certain rules and meaning based on sentence structure and word order. Unfortunately many people, myself included, have misinterpreted portions of scripture because of our cultural bias toward English. In reading the Great Commission in English it seems to be that Jesus is giving us a command (called an imperative) in the word “go”, but in the Greek this word is an adverbial participle, not an imperative. What is an adverbial participle? The action described by an adverbial participle is primarily directed toward the verb. This kind of participle is usually translated with an adverbial phrase. “While studying for his Greek final...” or “While going through the world...”. So we see in Matthew 28 an interesting grammatical sentence that if translated properly is very poor English. A very literal interpretation would be, “As you are going, disciple all the nations, by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things...” The only imperative in the Great Commission is to disciple others—literally to make them learners. How do we do it? Well, Jesus tells us, we are to baptize and teach. Again these words are not imperatives but the natural flow of what will occur by “discipleing” others. Don’t even get me started on the NIVs use of the word “obey”. What a poor translation that is! We are to observe the things of Jesus through his word and actions and they serve as a guide. They are descriptive on how we are to live not prescriptive. I could go on about this one but we don’t have time here.

One quick thing about the book of Mark. As you read look for the extensive use of the word “immediately” (or similar phrases such as “at once”, they are usually the same word in the Greek). This is a book of action. It hits the ground running and never stops. It is a good book to read as we slug through Leviticus. It will give us some balance to our readings for the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

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

Sermon: “Outrageous”

The crowd is NOT upset that Jesus says the Scriptures apply to Himself!  Joyous affirmation however becomes furious confrontation when Jesus says God’s kingdom, His work and His grace are for those they’ve written off! 

If the Good News is for “OUR POOR” that’s one thing; freedom comes for “OUR PRISONERS”, great; sight for OUR BLIND, hurray; release for OUR OPPRESSED, preach it brother! 

Had Jesus said, “Amen”, they would have said, “Alleluia!” 

Instead of trying to throw Him down a hill they would have hoisted Him upon their shoulders…it wasn’t until He said to the ladies aid (who probably knitted Mary a baby blanket), “God had plenty of widows in Israel”. When Elijah went to the one in Sidon (that’s Phoenician territory, Samaritan land)…what Jesus was saying was, “God’s heart and mission is opened even to those your head and menu are closed to.”  As if that weren’t enough, Jesus goes on to say in the presence of the VPHW - Vets of Philistine Wars, “There were plenty of people afflicted with leprosy in the Jewish community but Elisha wasn’t sent to any of them but rather the commander of the Syrian army.”….what Jesus was saying was, “God’s peace extends to those your nation considers enemies – perhaps is even at war with.”  The folk (who minutes before were willing to embrace the declaration that Jesus is the one upon whom the spirit of the LORD rests), suddenly find themselves in a state of unrest and their intention is that Jesus rest…in peace, so to speak.  They intend to kill Him!  Let’s be clear their anger at Jesus at this time is NOT based upon the notion that they want to limit HOW God be here…in human flesh; rather their fury flows from the fact that they have set limits upon WHO God can be for... 
Now, to embrace that God loves everyone doesn’t mean we have to agree with everyone!  To embrace that God is for all, doesn’t mean we don’t have differences from many!  But we cannot remotely begin to love neighbor as self until we confess that He loves everyone as much as He loves us. 

God loves everyone, and none more than others nor others more than someGod loves ALL…fully, unilaterally, unconditionally!  God loves men as much as women and girls as much as boys, Africans as much as Europeans and Americans as much as Venezuelans. God loves Democrats as much as Republicans and Conservatives as much as Liberals. God loves persecutors as much as the persecuted; and the hateful as much as the faithful – don’t buy it, read the account of Saul in the book of Acts. God loves unbelieving salespersons as much as the ordained clergypersons. Don’t buy it, read the parable of the Good Samaritan. 

He loves Patriots as much as Rams and Rams as much as Patriots and both equally to the same degree as Steelers…I don’t get it but I know it to be true!  His love for you is such that I can say without question:  there is nothing you have ever done that could cause God to love you any less and there is nothing you could do that would cause Him to love you even more…He loves you completely, utterly and freely in Christ. 
-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

The One Year Bible- February 4th (Two Days Late....sorry!)

This week’s readings have been filled with many of the most theologically significant passages in all of scripture.  I hope you have found that seeing some familiar passages in context helps in the understanding of them.  We have a lot to get to so let’s get on to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament:
This weeks readings begin with the most revered event in Jewish history—The Exodus. After the plagues, Pharaoh finally relents and lets the people leave. As the people are leaving, God blesses the people by having the Egyptians give the people of Israel gifts of gold, jewelry and other valuables. These “gifts” will come in handy a bit later in the story. We begin to see what will become a pattern for the people. They start complaining. We will read about their complaints over and over in the upcoming chapters. This pattern continues once they get into the Promised Land as well and eventually explodes into open rebellion from God. God continues to show the people mercy even though he does not have to. He would have every right to get rid of them all but in His love He doesn’t. While they are in the desert God gives the people instructions on how to live, how to worship, how to conduct business etc. This is really a time of learning for the people. God is preparing them to be a Nation. One of the most significant things that God gives them is found in Exodus 20. Here we have what many have called “The 10 Commandments”. In Jewish tradition they were never called “commandments”. They were always referred to as “The 10 Words” or “The 10 Sayings”. They are as follows:

1. I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt.
2. You shall have no other Gods but me.
3. Do not misuse my name.
4. Remember the Sabbath day.
5. Honor your father and mother.
6. Don’t murder.
7. Don’t commit adultery.
8. Don’t steal.
9. Don’t give false testimony.
10. Don’t covet.

Christians disagree about the numbering of the commandments because of a misunderstanding of what “The 10 Words” were all about. Many see the Ten Commandments as a list of laws and rules that the people had to obey. They are seen as only a message of the law. When we look at these from a Jewish point of view we see that all the “words” flow out of a message of the Gospel, “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt”. Because of what God has done first then we are able to do the other 9 things. It is like saying; “Because God led us out of Egypt, is merciful to us, remembered us and loves us we would never think of having any other gods, or misusing his name etc.” The numbering of the commandments differs between Christians as well. Some make two commandments out of “You shall have no other Gods” and “You shall not make any idols”. In the Lutheran tradition, we have divided “Do not covet” into two commandments. So what is the point of all of this? Are we doing something wrong? Not really. The numbering of the commandments is a side matter. The big idea here is that the commandments are really our response to what God has done for us (this is a very Lutheran way of thinking anyway). Because God loves us our response is to follow his law. Some get it turned around and think that because I follow God’s law then God loves me. This was the thought of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day.

In our readings this past week God gave instructions for the tabernacle and all of the furnishing that will go into it. This was to be a forerunner of the Temple that would be built by Solomon in Jerusalem many years later. It was a visible sign of God’s presence with His people. It was a place for sacrifice and a reminder of God’s law as well as his promises.

Another tidbit of foreshadowing comes in a warning that God delivers to Moses.  God said not to have any interaction with the people who possess the land they will be inheriting.  He said, “Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. Do not let them live in your land, or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you” (Exodus 23:32-33 NIV).  Eventually as the people enter the Promised Land they will not heed this warning and their involvement with the local people will cause problems for them for their entire history.  Remember this passage and see how this plays out in the weeks to come.

The New Testament
In our readings we see a few encounters that Jesus has with the Pharisees. As Jesus speaks the truth to them he only makes them more upset and fuels the fire to arrest and kill him. One of the more interesting things I have seen in our readings came on February 3rd & 4th. On the 3rd we see Jesus restating the Law of Moses. When Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is he replies, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV). In a few short sentences, Jesus states the entire message of “The 10 words”. To love God with all your heart, soul, and mind is to have no other Gods, to not misuse the name of God, and to worship the LORD alone. To love your neighbor as yourself is to follow all the others. I find it fascinating that the very next day we see “The 10 words” in our Old Testament reading. I think the Spirit had something to do with this. Jesus also teaches quite a bit about signs of the end of the age. His main point is that we must be ready. Don’t worry about when it will happen or how it will happen, just know that it will happen and we must be ready. He makes his point clear with the story of the sheep and the goats.

We just started the story of the Passion this week and it will be good for us as Lent begins soon to read the whole story in preparation.  Take some time this week as you read the Passion account to ready your heart and mind for Lent this year.

Bits and Pieces

We will be starting two new books this week.  First off we will move into the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament.  A word of caution here, many people do well getting through Genesis and Exodus but Leviticus is a different story, it can be a brick wall for some people.  The narrative story takes a break for God to give some needed instructions to the people.  The book of Leviticus is not the easiest reading, but remember it is still God’s Word.  Be patient and remember that this is all part of the old covenant that has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  It may take you a bit longer to get through the readings but hang in there.  We will run into this again in a few of the prophets.  But for now, remember that we are not the primary audience of this book.  Put yourself in the context of the hearers and it will make some more sense to you.  Here are the vital stats for the book:

PURPOSE: To teach Israel how God shares His holiness with them and how they should live in His holiness.
SETTING: At the foot of Mt. Sinai. God is teaching the Israelites how to live as a holy people.
KEY VERSE: “Be holy because I, the LORD your God am holy” 19:2
KEY PEOPLE: Moses, Aaron, Eleazar (Aaron’s son)
KEY PLACE: Mt. Sinai
SPECIAL FEATURE: Holiness is mentioned more times (152) than in any other book of the Bible
GOSPEL THEMES: Cleansing; atonement; redemption; consecration; rest.
LAW THEMES: Uncleanness; sin requires a blood sacrifice; diseases resulting from sin; walking in God’s statues and commands.

We are also starting the Gospel of Mark this week.  I love the book of Mark and I suggest that this is a good book to start reading with a new Christian. Marks favorite word is “immediately”. He uses it often. Mark has been called the action Gospel or the Gospel to the Gentiles. Mark is believed to be the writer of Peter’s story.  Many scholars see the fingerprints of Peter throughout the book.  Here are the vital stats:

PURPOSE: To proclaim Jesus the Son of God, who calls disciples to repent, to believe the Gospel, and to bear the cross.
AUTHOR: John Mark. He was not one of the 12 disciples but he accompanied Paul on his first missionary journey (Acts 13:13)
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The Christians in Rome, where he wrote the Gospel
DATE WRITTEN: Between A.D. 55 & 65
SETTING: The Roman Empire under Tiberius Caesar. The empire with its common language and excellent transportation and communication system was ripe to hear Jesus’ message, which spread quickly from nation to nation.
KEY VERSE: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (10:45)
KEY PEOPLE: Jesus, the 12 disciples, Pilate, the Jewish leaders
KEY PLACES: Capernaum, Nazareth, Caesarea Philippi, Jericho, Bethany, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Golgotha
SPECIAL FEATURES: Mark was probably the first Gospel written. The other Gospels quote all but 31 verses of Mark. Mark records more miracles than any other Gospel.
LAW THEMES: Repentance; political and religious opposition; uncleanness; authoritative teaching; heard-heartedness
GOSPEL THEMES: The Good news; baptism; compassion; mercy; cleansing; authoritative teaching; ransom; Lord’s Supper

Monday, January 28, 2019

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

Sermon: “Our Real, Present, God is a Keeper”

Read: Psalm 121

Psalm 46 begins, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  These words from Scripture have given comfort and hope to countless generations since they were first penned centuries ago. 

The words of Psalm 46 form the basis for the theme of National Lutheran Schools Week that begins today and will be celebrated in nearly 2,000 Lutheran early childhood centers, elementary schools and high schools across the country. 

With an enrollment of over 200,000 Lutheran schools students across the country will encounter a Real, Present God in the days ahead, and hopefully the rest of their lives.   

With the psalmists, we celebrate the only true God who is real in the person and work of Christ and who, through the Means of Grace, is present with His people. These truths are what all Lutheran Schools strive to impart on each and every student. 

Of course this day we not only remember and celebrate with those who are currently enrolled in Lutheran education, but also those who have graduated or spent time learning in an environment where this Real, Present, God is made known.

It was many years ago, but remember with great fondness my time at St. Paul’s Lutheran school in Garden Grove, CA.  It was within the walls of that school I first heard the call to serve the Lord. 
Today we also lift up all the others who have heard the call of God to serve in Lutheran schools, here at Bethany, and across the country and we give thanks for our teachers and staff who give of themselves daily with children from 2 years old through 8th grade. 

While Psalm 46 provides the immediate context for the theme of Real, Present, God, the entirety of the book of Psalms describes and gives praise to this Real, Present, God. 

This morning I would like to turn your attention to Psalm 121, the text of which is printed for you in the worship folder.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.
(Psalm 121)

What an amazing description of our Real, Present, God!

Notice the underlined words in bold.  There is something that brings comfort knowing that the Lord is my keeper. 

Often times when we talk about something being a keeper, we have many different ideas.

It could be a position on the soccer pitch whose job it is to keep the ball from going into the goal.

If you were to go fishing and reel in the catch of a lifetime, you would call that a keeper.  You are not throwing that one back be it for display on the mantle or to dine at your table, it’s a keeper. 

One might say the same for a good boyfriend or girlfriend.  When you find a good one, they are a keeper, you don’t want to let that one go!

When I was in school I remember the cool folder to get was something called a “Trapper Keeper.”  All the cool kids had Trapper folders and the coveted Trapper Keeper binder.  What made these folders far superior to the boring Pee-Chee folder was that the Trapper folder would not spill its contents easily. All the papers were kept safe.  And inside the binder, all the folders were closed in with an uber safe Velcro closure. 

If you know what I’m talking about you know how cool the Trapper Keeper was.   You can still buy them from the Mead Company; so if you are in the market for a new binder, check them out. 

If history is more your thing, perhaps you are familiar with the area in a castle known as the keep.  It is a type of fortified tower built within castles and usually refers to large towers in castle that were fortified residences, used as a refuge of last resort should the rest of the castle fall to an adversary. 

In this Psalm, the Lord is described as “your keeper.” 

In good Lutheran fashion, let’s ask, “What does this mean?”

First of all we see that God is a keeper of people, meaning He thinks highly enough of you to keep you.  He doesn't toss you aside or think you are not worthy.  We have a God who cares deeply about each and every life that He was willing to exchange His Son for us…but I am getting ahead of myself.

When the Psalmist describes the Lord as a keeper, it means that He keeps us safe.  Like a folder that keeps papers in order, our Lord keeps us safe and secure and binds us together with one another in the church. 

He does this by being present with us in Water and Word, Wafer and Wine, and in the Witness of one another.

God is also our keeper as He is our “refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble” as Psalm 46 says.  Just as the keep in the castle is the last refuge in attack, our Lord is our refuge from daily the attacks of the devil. But this idea of the Lord as our keeper is so much more than this. 

The fact is we are not good keepers. You don’t have to think too hard to know that try as you might; you still fall short of doing what God desires of you.  You might try and keep His law, but sooner or later you will mess up.  Scripture is clear, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." (James 2:10)

And from our second lesson on Sunday, from the book of Romans, “It is impossible to do what God’s standards demand because of the weakness our human nature has.”  (Romans 8:3a)

You are not a good keeper.  In fact, most of what we keep separates us from our keeper.

But because God sees you as a keeper He sent one who could keep the law.  Paul continues in Romans 8, “But God sent His Son to have a human nature as sinners have and to pay for sin.  That way God condemned sin in our corrupt nature.  Therefore, we, who do not live by our corrupt nature but by our spiritual nature, are able to meet God’s standards in Moses’ Teachings.”  (Romans 8:3b-4)

Don’t believe Paul?  Listen to the words of our Lord from the Gospel reading today, “I can guarantee that unless you live a life that has God’s approval and do it more faithfully than the experts in Moses’ Teachings and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 5:20)

But Jesus was not going to leave us alone, wallowing in sin.  His love is deep for His creation and He came to keep the law for us.  Listen again, “Don’t ever think I came to set aside Moses’ Teachings or the Prophets.  I didn't come to set them aside, but to make them come true.”  (Matthew 5:17 GW)

Or as the ESV renders this verse, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”  (Matthew 5:17 ESV)  Jesus was a keeper of the Law, but that’s not all.

Jesus is also a keeper of sins.  When He followed the will and plan of the Father, he willingly took upon himself your sin and mine, all those things you cannot keep, he kept, and then he took your punishment. 

Jesus is a keeper of sins, and by his death he separates your sin from you as far as east is from west so that he might keep you forever.  For that was the goal. 

You are a keeper in God’s eyes. Each and every life is precious to God, toddler, teen or retiree; fetus, factory worker or fashionista; prenatal, parental or professional, student, staff or supporter.

The Lord is your keeper!

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.
(Psalm 121)

Pr. Seth Moorman

The One Year Bible- January 28th

We are almost one month into the reading and I hope it has been a blessing to you.  I have been thinking about the over arching story of the Bible.  As we journey in the Bible this year we will see narrative sections as well as prescriptive sections.  The narrative portions get the big billing since they tell the “story,” but don’t just skip past the other sections.  There is some good stuff in there.  Just over 40% of the Old Testament is devoted to telling the narrative story.  The following Old Testament books are largely or entirely composed of narrative material: Genesis, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Jonah, and Haggai.  Also, Exodus, Numbers, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Job contain substantial narrative portions.  People like stories, and the stories in the Bible are important.  They are purposeful stories that tell the historical events of the past and are intended to give meaning and direction for a given people in the present.  There is a difference in the Bible’s stories for they tell God’s story.  As the book How to Read the Bible for all Its Worth says, “The Biblical narrative tells the ultimate story—a story that, even though often complex, is utterly true and crucially important.  Indeed it is a magnificent story, grander than the greatest epic, richer in plot and more significant in its characters and descriptions than any humanly composed story could ever be.” (How To Read the Bible for All Its Worth, p. 90)  Enjoy the stories and remember to try to see the overarching story of God’s love for his creation and his desire to save us from sin. 

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
Exodus is a well written book that is foundational for the faith of both Christians and Jews; within its pages lie some of the key elements of our faith (the Passover, the 10 commandments a.k.a. the 10 words). A reading of this book is not complete without seeing the awesome wonder and power of God. One of the key words in the Old Testament is translated as “remembered”, as in God remembered his people, the people are to remember to celebrate the Passover etc. This is a theologically significant word in that it shows God’s grace and his love for his people. This theme will be carried out to completion as God “remembers” his people once again as they are slaves to sin and provides redemption through his son. Before we get to the Passover lets take a closer look at one of the most famous sections in the book, namely the plagues. Much has been made of these events in movies and other media but they show how God works in systematic ways. One thing to remember is that even when God showed his mighty wonders, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. He said the right things but went back on his word. I think at times we are all a bit like Pharaoh. We like to have things our own way and when things are going badly we will promise everything. Things ease up and we go back on our word. Eventually this will end up badly for us. But I am getting off track, so back to the plagues...

Before the first plague Moses and Aaron have a confrontation with Pharaoh and his magicians. We see here that Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them. By looking at the first nine plagues in groups of three we can see some interesting things.

The Plagues:

1. Blood (7:14-25)
2. Frogs (8:1-15)
3. Gnats (8:16-19)

4. Flies (8:20-32)
5. Animal Disease (9:1-7)
6. Boils (9:8-12)

7. Hail (9:13-35)
8. Locusts (10:1-20)
9. Darkness (10:21-27)

In each series the first and second plagues are announced to Pharaoh in advance. The third is given without previous warning. The series of 3 x 3 leads up to a climax in number 10—the number that is the symbol for completeness. Within the plagues themselves there is a progression, an increase in severity. The last three are especially severe and destructive. The Egyptian magicians vie with Moses in duplicating the first two plagues. At the third they try but no longer succeed in their magic arts. They must confess, “This is the finger of God.” Beginning with the second group of plagues (4,5 & 6) a distinction is made between the Israelites and the Egyptians. The land of Goshen where the Israelites live is spared. The first nine plagues deal with phenomena that have to do with nature. Since the Egyptians worshiped the powers of nature, what more effective way could God display his power over all things, which they looked upon as deities? The tenth plague was the plague of the firstborn. With this plague all the first-born were to be killed. But the angel was to “pass over” the homes of the Israelites.

The Passover presents to us one of the most important Old Testament types of the Savior Jesus Christ. As we look at the directions for preparing the Passover meal, we see step by step how the entire ritual points to Christ, our Passover lamb. The Passover lamb was to be a year-old male. John the Baptist tells of the Messiah who was to be the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." In Corinthians, Paul says, “For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.” God directed that this Passover lamb was to be “without defect.” Peter wrote that we were redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” The Passover lamb was to be slaughtered as a sacrifice. Paul reminded his people “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”. The writer of the book of Hebrews repeatedly refers to Christ as an “offering” and “sacrifice”. “Do not break any of the bones.” This was direct foreshadowing of Jesus. The Israelites were to “take some of the blood and but it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses.” God said, “When I see the blood I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” This points to the teaching that we are redeemed from the power of sin, death and Satan with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. God tells the people that they are to remember the Passover for “generations to come”.
I hope you can see how the Passover celebration is important to our understanding of who Jesus is and how he is the culmination of Gods redeeming work on earth. It is no coincidence that Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples the night before he was betrayed. Again it is no coincidence that Jesus instituted another celebration that is to be celebrated for “generations to come” as he gave his disciples the first communion feast.

The New Testament
I want to spend a little bit of time talking about parables this week since we have seen so many of them in the book of Matthew and we will see more as we go through the Gospels. In my seminary classes on the New Testament we spent quite a bit of time on parables because of their wonderful content and use for us not only as preachers but also as Christians. Today I would like to share with you some material from an article written by Dr. Erich H. Kiehl who was a professor at Concordia Seminary St. Louis for many years. He wrote an article titled “Why Jesus Spoke in Parables” in which he said:
A parable may be defined as “a story with a puzzling quality which confronts the hearer with the need to make a decision for or against Christ through the Spirits work.” Perhaps the most helpful is the more usual definition: “A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly (spiritual) meaning” with the addition “in the sense that it confronts the hearer with the need to make a decision for or against Christ through the Spirits work.”
An analysis of the content of the Gospels indicates that about one-third of the Gospel accounts are parables. Aside from their theological importance, parables shed much light on life in the New Testament era. Except for the Egyptian papyri, which emphasize life in Egypt, the parables are the best source of information about life in the Near East in the New Testament era. They reflect the innate love of graphic, pictorial speech and the great delight in a story, which is still true of life there today. Jesus’ parables demonstrate everyday experiences and events in the world of nature.
Since Jesus’ hearers would not listen to him on his terms, that is, the true meaning of the kingdom of God as revealed in Scripture, Jesus then began to speak to them in parables. His hearers had an innate love for graphic stories and pictorial speech. Jesus used this appealing parabolic approach to catch their attention and to seek to get them to ponder the true meaning of what he said. As people wondered and pondered what Jesus was telling them in his parables, the Holy Spirit could work in their hearts, seeking to lead them to the proper Biblical understanding of His message. In time, as the Spirit penetrated the hardness of the heart, hearers could grow in understanding of the true meaning and nature of God’s kingdom and of life in the kingdom. Crucial in this was the Spirit leading them to understand who Jesus truly is in His ministry and teaching as the fulfillment of the prophecies in his person and work, and its decisive implications for their life as members of God’s covenant people.

From The Concordia Journal July 1990 p.248-249.

Dr. Kiehl continues in his article to develop the skills of determining what Jesus actually meant when he told his parables. He warns us not to try to put our own meaning into the parables but to strive to find the true meaning, the one that Jesus meant for us to have. This is no easy task, especially when Jesus does not explain the meaning of the parable. Don’t worry too much if some of this flies over your head. The main point is not to force our own thoughts and insights on the text and miss the true point of the parable. When in doubt, pray, meditate, or ask your pastor if you don’t fully understand.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of January 20, 2019

Sermon: “Life in Jesus”

John, (unlike the chronological, biographical in nature synoptic Gospels) is not looking to tell his readers what happens to Jesus in life, but rather what happens to life in Jesus. 

In fact Jesus’ own words, recorded in John, concerning His ministry's purpose: "I have come that they might have life...life to the full."

In Cana, as a wedding reception guest, draws as little attention to Himself as possible and allows those who are saved from embarrassment to get the credit..."you guys have saved the best till last!"  

Some might say He, Jesus, could have picked a better miracle with which to start His ministry. Lazarus resurrection at Bethany for example!  A major location, everybody in attendance knows Lazarus is dead (his death is the reason for their attendance) and thus in the end all recognize the situation and all see the sign. Cana on the other hand is a rinky-dink town, few in attendance knew there was a problem (the partiers were at the bottom of the barrel (literally) but they had no idea the cellar was empty); fewer still in the end - know of Jesus' intervention and solution.  Then again, John's intention is not to tell us what happens to Jesus in life but what happens to life in Jesus. Those who receive the revelation, who witness the manifestation, who see the sign (Epiphany stuff) put their "faith in Him" and give Him the glory.

Such disciples know that Jesus has come to transform! That's what's going on here in Cana, that's why Jesus starts His ministry with this miracle and why John starts his Gospel with this sign.  For Jesus is displaying His power...His pattern...and His purpose...He has come to transform!

Jesus, will in John's Gospel, transform death into life and the dead into the living: Lazarus story, which coincidentally only John's Gospel records.  Jesus will transform a social outcast, and religious reprobate, that wanton woman from the Samaritan well into the first Christian missionary (By the way, John is the only Gospel author to include the account in his narrative).  Jesus shall transform the very nature of access to God...it was understood that personal action like ritual observation such as water purification was the direction to go to get to God.  (Of course, the water Jesus uses in this story is water contained in jars for ritual washing...behold the transformation...that's not the route to the Father, I am! Says the Lord, "I am the way, truth and life; no one gets to God except through me!"  How many Gospels record those words?  You guessed it, only one, John.

John is not looking to tell his readers what happens to Jesus in life, BUT rather what happens to life in Jesus.  This is a story of transformation and here Jesus transforms that water into wine...the necessity of life into the abundant life.  He transforms: where guilt, grace; where death, life; He transforms followers into leaders, those who have seen His goodness revealed into those who reveal His goodness so it is seen.  That's what happens to life in Jesus.
Pr. Kevin Kritzer

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