Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of November 11, 2018


Sermon:
R
U
T
H

Naomi, whose name means "lovely" has a story much like our own that is best understood through her daughter-in-laws name Ruth.
R-avaged
U-nder
T-hy
H-and

Naomi, after her husband and sons died, felt that even God had departed from her and she believed she was empty and sought to be called by a new name, "bitter".  Of course, God's law ravages us, leaving us exposed with nothing to offer.
R-eplenished
U-nder
T-hy
H-and

Through her daughter-in-laws faithfulness and companionship, Ruth actually means companion; and her Kinsman Redeemer, Naomi is ultimately Replenished and filled anew.  We too are renewed by the selfless act of our "kinsman", our human brother, our Redeemer who journeys with us and for us to the cross.
R-ejoicing
U-nder
T-hy
H-and

The end of Naomi's account finds her clinging to the baby boy born in Bethlehem (to Ruth) who restores joy to her life.  Our account too reaches its climax when we cling to the baby boy born in Bethlehem (to Mary) by faith.

-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, November 12, 2018

The One Year Bible- November 12th


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.


Monday, November 05, 2018

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of November 4, 2018


Sermon: “Cloud Therapy”

Two weeks ago as we wrapped up our series on the Bethany Blueprint, talking about sharing intentionally, Pastor Kevin made a reference to something he called cloud therapy.  He said that it would be a million dollar idea.

Just imagine… you are ushered into a room not unlike a planetarium, a large vaulted ceiling rises above your head, a few rows of incredibly comfortable armchairs below.  You take your seat, the room dims a bit, soft music starts to play and soon enough you are transported to a grassy hillside. 

You begin to survey the sky as clouds start to billow and blow.  You can feel the wind against your skin and the warmth of sun on your face.  You begin to make out shapes, faces and objects in the sky and your mind is drawn to some wonderful moments filled with magnificent memories and peaceful places. 

Before you entered, the weight of the world was on your shoulders; the stress of the daily grind and all the worries that filled your mind created crippling anxiety, and filled you with fear.  But an hour in cloud therapy and you feel, refreshed, revived, renewed and ready to take on life’s challenges once again.

What if I were to tell you that God has been in the business of cloud therapy since creation? 

It was the second day of creation and “God said, ‘Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.’  So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it.  And it was so.  God called the vault ‘sky’. (Genesis 1:6-8)

I have no doubt that in that second day of creation cloud therapy began.  That water in vault above?  Yep, you guessed it, clouds. But it was far from the last time clouds would make an appearance in the narrative of Scripture.

Throughout the pages of the Old Testament we see God presenting Himself in the form of a cloud.  Many times it’s in judgment. 

For example, rain came in the clouds in Noah’s day to bring Yahweh’s righteous judgment upon a sinful people, and that is one of many such examples.

I’m sure you have seen the cartoon with the raincloud following over the head of someone.  Have you ever felt this way?  Like nothing is going right?  Like no matter you do, it’s all gloom and doom? 

We all feel that way.  It’s the result of sin in the world and no one is immune.  In fact, it’s worse than just a few raindrops.  Like the people in Noah’s day, we are destined for destruction.  Your sin and mine will kill and separate us from God. We are in need of a different kind of cloud therapy. 

Digging deeper and we see that the Lord also comes in a cloud to be with His people, to give protection and comfort.  After the flood God said, “I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.”  (Genesis 9:13)

As the Israelites escape slavery in Egypt, as they were gripped with fear and crippled with anxiety, the Lord came to guide and comfort in a pillar of cloud. 

When the tabernacle is dedicated the Lord descends to earth and fills the place with the cloud of His presence. 

God sent clouds to a parched land in a time of drought when He reveals Himself as the only true God on the mountainside when Elijah encounters the prophets of Baal.

But these instances are not limited to the Old Testament.  At the mountain of transfiguration as Jesus speaks with Moses and Elijah Mark tells us, “Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!”  (Mark 9:7)

At the end of His time on earth, once again on a mountain top, Jesus ascends in a cloud, Luke records the following, “And after he said these things, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”  (Acts 1:9)

On the night of His betrayal, in the presence of the high priest Jesus stood before His accusers who ask Him directly, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?  ‘I AM’, said Jesus.  ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” (Mark 14:61b-62)

For the first seven years of my life I lived in northern Arizona.  While we may have clouds here in southern California, there is nothing like the unpolluted deep blue Arizona sky filled with beautiful puffy cumulous clouds.

I remember getting my own cloud therapy as I would imagine which one Jesus was on, or what one I might be riding one when Jesus would call me home to heaven.

If you are familiar with the comic strip Family Circus there is a great one where Jeffy and his Mom are out working in the garden.  Jeffy is pointing to a cloud filled sky saying, “Look Mommy, there is a hole in the sky and I can see a bit of heaven.”   Click here to see that comic strip. 

For many of us, today is a hard day.  Many of us have a hole in our hearts.  As we celebrate All Saints Day, we remember those who have gone before us, who are in the clouds of heaven. 

For some of you, that memory is new and the sharp sting of death is fresh in your mind.  For others, time may have gone on but the feeling of loss continues.  

Today, I remember a good friend who entered heaven this summer, my grandmother who passed away just two, months ago, my uncle who went to be with Jesus just a few weeks ago, my mother who received her eternal reward almost 12 years ago and my father-in-law, whom I never met whose stole I wear today.   I think we all need some cloud therapy. 

Listen to the words from our Reading from the book of Revelation again, “…I saw a large crowd from every nation, tribe, people, and language. No one was able to count how many people there were. They were standing in front of the throne and the lamb. They were wearing white robes, holding palm branches in their hands,  and crying out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10)

It is the culmination of what the writer of Hebrews described as the great cloud of witnesses. 

All Saints Day is a day of cloud therapy.  For the God who came to earth in the form of a cloud to lead and to guide, to comfort and to lift up, came again in the person of Jesus to live, to die and to rise again so that a cloud of witnesses too numerous to count would be in heaven forever praising His name and singing songs to the Lamb.

He came to earth, to take the wrath and judgment and the storm of sin upon Himself so that you would not have to face it.  He faced death and was utterly forsaken by His Father.  He was utterly alone as He took your sin so that you might never be.  His death brings you life and a connection to all the saints who have gone before. 

Jesus came, to bring life where there was only death, to comfort you in your grief, to wipe every tear from your eyes.  In Christ you are forgiven.  For all the times you rebelled and turned away, for all the times you gave up on God, He never gave up on you.

One day that hole you feel on this side of heaven because your loved one is on the other side will be made whole (w-h-o-l-e).  One day you too will join the cloud of witnesses and you will be whole. 

Until that day, I invite you to partake in some cloud therapy, to come to this place where God promises to be, in Word, in Water, in Wafer in Wine and in the Witness of the Saints of God.  In this place God comes to you to refresh, to revive (literally) renew and make you ready to take on life’s challenges again. 

On this day, as we look to the saints who have gone before us, we partake in a little cloud therapy which makes you whole. 
-Pr. Seth Moorman

The One Year Bible- November 5th


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 30, 2018

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of October 28, 2018

Sermon: “Reformation: By, Through & For
                   Reforming: For, Through & By”

Before he became the famous, or infamous, Reformer (depending on your view) Luther was a simple priest.  While a resident of the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt he could often be found prostrate before the altar pleading, "I am yours Lord, save me!"

Luther knew the gravity of his depravity and was burdened with his sin.  Release, however, was not found in the chancel but the classroom.  Preparing to lecture on St Paul's letter of Romans to university students, he found in the pages of Scripture the promise of God that "flung the gates of heaven wide open." 

The burden of sin, which weighed Luther down, and which the church had said could be lifted with personal action - (say a prayer, light a candle, purchase a mass, buy an indulgence, reverence a relic, etc.) never actually helped.  Yet, there in Scripture was the clear promise of divine intervention through which the burden of sin is lifted and we are saved "by grace, through faith, for Christ's sake."

By:  Not the result of anything from us nor in us but the result of God's favor for us, His grace.

Through: Not brought about via our action(s) nor decision(s) but simply personal trust in Jesus person and work, Through faith.

For: Not on account of our membership in the church or actions in the same but on account of Jesus perfect and holy life, His innocent suffering and death, and His victorious resurrection from the dead, For Christ's sake. 

As those burdened by sin no more, on account of Christ, we find ourselves however burdened anew by the work of the Spirit.  As God's redeemed children we bear a burden for the gathered and the scattered; those found and those yet lost.  And making a daily plea on their account, "They are yours Lord save them!" is where we Lutherans "Ought be found." 

(The word picture below was crafted by a member while listening to Sunday's message.  Perhaps it will help your visualization of this Scriptural truth too)

You are invited to go to the altar for 31 consecutive days, starting on Reformation day, praying for your brothers and sisters in the faith.  Pray by name or ministry team ..."They are yours Lord, save them!" and again for the outsider, those not yet a part of the community of faith.  Pray by name or in general..."They are yours Lord, save them!"  

Send an email, voicemail or text to PK to let us know you'll be heading to the altar these next 31 days burdened for others.  If you need a reminder download the Bethany app as we'll be sending out a daily call. 

-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, October 29, 2018

The One Year Bible- October 29th


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

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:
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:
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.


The Old Testament


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

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.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of October 21, 2108


Sermon: “Sharing Intentionally”

Anyone who has spent a delightful afternoon looking at a blue sky with puffy white clouds; shapes taking form and changing above, knows the joy of cloud watching. Lowering the blood pressure and engaging the grey matter seems to be a byproduct of cloud watching. When the author of the letter to the Hebrews says, "Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses..." the aim is neither to aid in passing time or assist in achieving peace of mind but allow us to find a source of encouragement and strength when life is anything but blue skies and billowing white clouds:  "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." 

We can all close our eyes and see faces emerge in "our cloud."  Some images are of those who reside in heaven, while others are members of our congregation; yet those images fade and a single shape emerges in our vision, or ought to according to Hebrews, "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...let us fix our eyes on Jesus the Author and Perfecter of our faith." 

Over the past month we've seen how the Bethany Blueprint is much more than a picture of how we want to live, it is the very definition of what Jesus did in His earthly ministry.   And nothing is more quintessentially Christ than the "last" Blueprint action of Sharing Intentionally.  The Lord who constantly sought to engage in divine conversations and use the run of the mill to discuss the eternal, does more than encourage and invite us to Share Intentionally ourselves; He commissions and commands us to do so!

In a world where we love to share, and do so with a simple push of a button, pictures of our latest meal or how we look in front of monuments or mirrors, the great cloud reminds us, we are commanded and commissioned to share the message of the Gospel:  The truth that though Jesus owed NOTHING, He gave EVERYTHING, so we wouldn't have ANYTHING standing against us before God, but would instead receive ALL THINGS from Him in Christ. 
-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, October 22, 2018

The One Year Bible- October 22nd


I have always been a fan of the morning prayer service known as Matins. This service has a rich tradition in the Church. This service is filled with singing, prayer and other music. Growing up Lutheran I have seen many versions of this service. But regardless of what hymnal it comes out of the words are very powerful and have great meaning for me. We will read one of the central passages used in Matins this week. Lets use these words as our focus today.
                       
 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
   let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
   let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the LORD is a great God,
   and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
   the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
   and his hands formed the dry land.
 Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
   let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God,
   and we are the people of his pasture,
   and the sheep of his hand.--
Psalm 95:1-7 ESV

Seth’s Thoughts


The Old Testament
As we keep plugging away at Jeremiah I saw some great glimpses of gospel this week. Here are a few that hit me:

“Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security.  I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first.  I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.”  Jeremiah 33:6-8

“For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the LORD.” Jeremiah 33:11b

And then a great Messianic promise: “In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.”  Jeremiah 33:15-16

We have come to the point in the story where there is more narrative than prophetic. Many historic details are filled in and give us a better picture of some of the events that took place right before the exile. We don’t usually get many of these stories in Sunday School. I had forgotten that Jeremiah gets thrown into a mud pit and almost dies. And that the king burned up the scroll that was written almost in spite of the message it contained. Eventually we see the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple itself. It was a sad day in the life of the people. I put quite a few frowning faces in the margin of my Bible this week. Another bit of the story that I forgot about was that of those who were left in the country and not taken into exile. I found it very interesting that the Lord promised protection for these people through Jeremiah as long as they stayed in the land. But, like what seems to happen again and again, the people do not listen and head to Egypt for what they think is “safety”. Their self-centeredness was their destruction.

Most of the rest of our readings this week were pronouncements of judgments on the surrounding countries. The Lord will finally punish all the other countries for their unbelief. It is sometimes hard for us to read about all this destruction, but we need to remember that God has every right to punish us for our sins. We need to have a good grasp on this so we can see that the gift of Jesus Christ is so amazing. We are not treated as we deserve. We have been given a wonderful gift in Jesus…you see, I told you this book was Christ centered.

The New Testament
As a pastor I really feel that Paul is talking to me through the words of 1 and 2 Timothy. But just because you are not a “pastor”, does not mean you cannot benefit greatly from these two letters of Paul. I kind of see these letters as letters of encouragement, sort of like Paul is the coach and Timothy is the player. Paul can’t do the work for him but he can give him some great advice. One of the most famous phrases of encouragement comes from 1 Timothy 4, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”  What awesome encouragement! Paul goes on to say, “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.”  Paul also reminds us all, “You can’t take it with you.” We need to learn to be content where God has placed us. In 2 Timothy 2 Paul makes a connection to the Old Testament. He writes, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel”   (2 Timothy 2:8 ESV). This is a flashback to the good old Davidic covenant that we have seen in Jeremiah recently. Once again it all comes back to a story about Christ. I love all the “trustworthy sayings” in these letters. The one on the unity we have with Christ gives me great comfort and hope. “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us;  if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.”  (2 Timothy 2:11-13 ESV) There are some big passages in 2 Timothy for us in our Theology. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV) This passage forms the basis for our belief in Scripture. We believe that the Bible is the only rule and norm of faith. It comes from God, and is useful for all sorts of things regarding our faith. It gets us ready to respond to God in good works as well. This is one of those passages that should be committed to memory!!! The end of 2 Timothy shows us some of the humanity of Paul. He is stuck in Rome, under arrest, and many of his followers have left him. Only Luke remains. Paul asks for Timothy to come to visit with him. It shows us that Paul not only cares for his good friend and partner in ministry but he misses him terribly and desires his companionship. I hope you have good friends like this; I have been blessed with many of them.

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We will finish up Jeremiah this week and move on to the book of Lamentations followed by the book of Ezekiel. Here are the vital stats for the books:

LAMENTATIONS
PURPOSE: To teach people that to disobey God is to invite disaster, and to show that God suffers when His people suffer.
AUTHOR: Most likely Jeremiah
DATE WRITTEN: Soon after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
SETTING: Jerusalem had been destroyed by Babylon and her people killed, tortured, or taken captive.
KEY VERSE: “My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city.” (2:11)
LAW THEMES: The Lord pours out His anger against the kingdom of Judah; Judah finds no comfort; she cries, mourns, weeps, and laments the siege and exile.
GOSPEL THEMES:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; great is His faithfulness; wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord; he has redeemed you.
KEY PEOPLE: Jeremiah, the people of Jerusalem
KEY PLACE: Jerusalem
SPECIAL FEATURES: Three strands of Hebrew thought meet in Lamentations—prophecy, ritual, and wisdom. Lamentations is written in the rhythm and style of ancient Jewish funeral songs or chants. It contains five poems corresponding to the five chapters.

EZEKIEL
PURPOSE: To announce God’s judgment on Israel and other nations and to foretell the eventual salvation of God’s people
AUTHOR: Ezekiel—the son of Buzi, a Zadokite priest
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The Jews in captivity, in Babylonia, and God’s people everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: Approx. 571 B.C.
SETTING: Ezekiel was a younger contemporary of Jeremiah. While Jeremiah ministered to the people still in Judah, Ezekiel prophesied to those already exiled in Babylonia after the defeat of Jehoichin.
KEY VERSES: “For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all you idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (36:24-26)
LAW THEMES: Death and God’s wrath come to Israel by the sword; Israel has not walked in God’s statutes; in anger, God withdraws His glory and blessings; idolatry as spiritual adultery; defilement; exile; famine and pestilence.
GOSPEL THEMES: God keeps His covenant; new hearts; gift of the Spirit; the Good Shepherd; cleansing; restore the fortunes; God’s glory returns; the new temple.
KEY PEOPLE: Ezekiel, Israel’s leaders, Ezekiel’s wife, Nebuchadnezzar, “the prince”
KEY PLACES: Jerusalem, Babylon, and Egypt

The New Testament
Here are the vital stats for the next three books we will read in the New Testament:

TITUS
PURPOSE: To advise Titus in his responsibility of supervising the churches in the island of Crete
AUTHOR: Paul
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Titus, a Greek, probably converted to Christ through Paul’s ministry (he had become Paul’s special representative to the island of Crete), and to all believers everywhere.
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 64, around the same time 1 Timothy was written; probably from Macedonia when Paul traveled between his Roman imprisonments.
SETTING: Paul sent Titus to organize and oversee the churches on Crete. This letter tells Titus how to do this job.
KEY VERSE: “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I direct you” (1:5)
LAW THEMES: Be above reproach; rebuke; the pure and the defiled; submissiveness; devotion to good works.
GOSPEL THEMES: Election; soundness; God’s grace; redemption; washing and renewal; justification.
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Titus
KEY PLACES: Crete, Nicopolis
SPECIAL FEATURES: Titus is very similar to 1 Timothy with its instructions to church leaders.

PHILEMON
PURPOSE: To convince Philemon to forgive his runaway slave, Onesimus, and to accept him as a brother in the faith.
AUTHOR: Paul
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Philemon, who was probably a wealthy member of the Colossian church, and all believers.
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 60, during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, at about the same time Ephesians and Colossians were written.
SETTING: Slavery was common in the Roman Empire and evidently some Christians had slaves. Paul does not condemn the institution of slavery in his writings, but he makes a radical statement by calling this slave Philemon’s brother in Christ.
KEY VERSES: “Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good—no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord (verses 15-16)
LAW THEMES: Usefulness; imprisonment; service; debt; partnership
GOSPEL THEMES: Comfort/refreshment; reconciliation; forgiveness.
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Philemon, Onesimus
KEY PLACES: Colosse, Rome
SPECIAL FEATURES: This is a private, personal letter to a friend.

HEBREWS
PURPOSE: To present the sufficiency and superiority of Christ
AUTHOR: Paul, Luke, Barnabas, Apollos, Silas, Philip, Pricilla, and others have been suggested because the name of the author is not given in the Biblical text itself. Whoever it was speaks of Timothy as “brother” (13:23)
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Hebrew Christians (perhaps second-generation Christians) who may have been considering a return to Judaism, perhaps because of immaturity, stemming from a lack of understanding of Biblical truths; and all believers in Christ.
DATE WRITTEN: Probably before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70, because the religious sacrifices and ceremonies are referred to in the book, but no mention is made of the temples destruction
SETTING: These Jewish Christians were probably undergoing fierce persecution, socially and physically, both from Jews and from Romans. Christ had not yet returned to establish his kingdom, and the people needed to be reassured that Christianity was true and that Jesus was the Messiah.
KEY VERSE: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (1:3)
LAW THEMES: Retribution for disobedience; slavery to death and the devil; and unbelieving heart; rebellion; obligation to sacrifice; repentance from dead works; crucifying Jesus again; the living God’s vengeance; struggle against sin; discipline; obedience to leaders.
GOSPEL THEMES: God spoke through Jesus; purification for sins; inheriting salvation; our High Priest and Mediator; sanctification; God’s promises; Melchizedek; sprinkled and washed; assurance of faith; the founder and perfecter of our faith; the great Shepherd.
KEY PEOPLE: Old Testament men and women of faith (see chapter 11)
SPECIAL FEATURES: Although Hebrews is called a “letter” (13:22), it has the form and content of a sermon.



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