Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bethany Bullet - November 29, 2011

Matthew 14:24

The disciples found themselves in the middle of the sea tossed by the waves. Change a word here and there and we have found ourselves in the same situation haven’t we?

  • In the middle of life tossed by a crisis…
  • In the middle of a relationship tossed by pressure…
  • In the middle of a divorce tossed by guilt or regret…
  • In the middle of a school year tossed by an overload…
  • In the middle of a ‘Bullet’ tossed by a wandering mind…

The disciples did what sailors do - they battened down the hatches, trimmed the sails, bailed and bailed…and then bailed some more.

Then they saw something more terrifying than the storm they were fighting, a figure walking toward them on the water. As we discover it is Jesus, we respond with the same reaction as the fishermen - the center of the storm is the last place you expect to see God.

We know we will see Him in Word & Sacrament and in Christmas concerts & Easter services. Where His Word is read and prayers are said, we expect to see Him. And for good reason, for there, He has promised to be! It is His presence, in those places, He has bound Himself. It is our faithful experience and participation in them as well, that enables us to see Him where others least expect Him, the center of the storm.

Yes, we learn what the first disciples did, in the chaos and tumult of life is where our Lord does some of His finest work.

That is why He can say to ALL in the middle of *____________ tossed by *____________,

(*fill in the blanks)

“Take courage; don’t be afraid, it is I!

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, November 28, 2011

The One Year Bible- November 28th


The Holiday season is in full swing and now more than ever your Bible reading time may be impacted. With so many things to do and gifts to buy it is easy to forget your readings for the day. If this happens don't worry. First of all you may need to be even more deliberate in your planning for time in the word and if you fall behind remember my easy rule, just read two a day until you catch up. Don't kill yourself trying to get all the readings done in a day. Maybe you can take your Bible to the mall and take a shopping break and do some reading. This could be a great witness of your faith and may even spark a discussion with someone else. You can tell them about the real meaning of the season. Speaking of shopping, this may be the time to think about next year and your Bible reading habits. Perhaps you want to do this again but this time read a different version. I will be doing this same study in 2012 so you can do it again with me if you would like. Here is another idea. Ask a friend of yours to read with you. You can look at each week’s study and then talk about it over coffee or lunch or even via email. There are many ways to continue this great habit you have begun. You could also look at reading a book like “The Story” that uses just the narrative of the Bible text to tell the chronological story found in Scripture. I will keep trying to motivate you as we hit the stretch run and push on through to 2012 but for now, on to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
We finished up the last part of Ezekiel with the end of the vision of the New Jerusalem and Ezekiel gave a reminder to the people of God's commands including the keeping of the Passover. Ezekiel makes reference again to the three fold promise that was given to Abraham when the land was again divided among the tribes. Ezekiel ends with a sense of hope and looking forward to the return of the remnant back to Jerusalem. But it doesn't stop there. The hope of a continued future for God's chosen people goes beyond the return and into the future where there will be an even greater Jerusalem. I think we talked about this before but I will say again, to remember this vision of Jerusalem, because we will see a very similar one in the book of Revelation.

The book of Daniel once again picks up the narrative story of the people of Israel in captivity in Babylon. We see four important characters right away, Daniel, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego). These were all young healthy men that were put into the service of King Nebuchadnezzar. They all had special gifts from God, "To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds." (Daniel 1:17 NIV). The story reads like a novel and is easy to follow. There are some great Sunday School stories in its pages as well. One thing that struck me this time was that the story of Daniel has a lot of parallels to that of Joseph. Both of them were sent to a foreign country under duress. Both interpreted dreams. Both became important political members in their new country. Many of the other stories are familiar to us such as the fiery furnace, the hand writing on the wall and Daniel and the Lions Den. Each story seemed to point to the fact that God was still involved and cared about his people. He was active in creation and wanted the whole world to bow down and worship him.

The New Testament
So many great visuals to use when reading 1 and 2 Peter; for example the living stones (1Peter 2:5) reference really hits home with me. We are all just one piece of the puzzle that is part of the spiritual temple that is the church. We may look different and have different strengths and weaknesses but we are all important. Peter likes to use many references from the Old Testament in his letters. He uses them in great ways. Peter reminds us that we are aliens and strangers (1 Peter 2:11 NIV) and we are to conduct ourselves in a manner that will honor God. We must always love on another and not worry when we suffer, and we will suffer. Peter makes the connection between Noah and baptism in 1 Peter 3. This is important because it gives us an Old Testament story to describe a New Testament activity. This gives more substance to the teachings of the New Testament. The book of 2 Peter talks a lot about our response to God’s promises (2 Peter 1:5). As Christians we are not called to static, stoic lives. We are called to action in response to what God has already done for us. We must now work hard in the life we have been given, knowing that God will take care of us. Peter also gives us a glimpse of the spiritual war that rages beyond Earth. In 2 Peter 2 he references hell where the angels that sin were sent to. We never get a full picture of this struggle, but we know it was bad and nothing we want to be a part of. One of the greatest parts of 2 Peter is when he writes, But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8-9 NIV). There were some in Peter’s day (and in our day as well) that can’t seem to wait until Jesus returns. They think he should have come back a long time ago. Peter wants to tell these people that it is not that God has forgotten; it is just that he wants as many people to be saved as possible. The longer he waits the more people will be in heaven. How long will he wait? Only he knows. Praise God for his patience!!!

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament

We will finish up Daniel this week and move on to the book of Hosea. We will really start getting through the books in a hurry coming up. Here are the vital stats for Hosea:

PURPOSE: To illustrate God’s love for his sinful people

AUTHOR: Hosea son of Beeri (“Hosea” means “salvation”)

TO WHOM WRITTEN: Israel (the northern Kingdom) and God’s people everywhere

DATE WRITTEN: Approximately 715 B.C. recording events from about 753-715 B.C.

SETTING: Hosea began his ministry during the end of the prosperous but morally declining reign of Jeroboam II of Israel (the upper classes were doing well, but they were oppressing the poor). He prophesied until shortly after the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C.

KEY VERSE: “The Lord said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another adultress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods.’” (3:1)

KEY PEOPLE: Hosea, Gomer, their children

KEY PLACES: The northern kingdom, Samaria, Ephraim

SPECIAL FEATURES: Hosea employs many images from daily life—God is depicted as husband, father, lion, leopard, bear, dew, rain, moth, and others. Israel is pictured as wife, sick person, vine, grapes, early fruit, olive tree, woman in childbirth, oven, morning mist, chaff, and smoke to name a few.

The New Testament

We will read through 1 John and get into 2 John this week. First the vital stats on 1 John:

PURPOSE: To reassure Christians in their faith and to counter false teachings

AUTHOR: The apostle John

TO WHOM WRITTEN: This letter is untitled and was written to no particular church. It was sent as a pastoral letter to several Gentile congregations. It was also written to all believers everywhere.

DATE WRITTEN: Probably between A.D. 85 and 90 from Ephesus

SETTING: John was an older man and perhaps the only surviving apostle at this time. He had not yet been banished to the island of Patmos, where he would live in exile. As an eyewitness of Christ, he wrote authoritatively to give this new generation of believers assurance and confidence in God and their new faith.

LAW THEMES: Sin; walking in darkness or light; God’s commands; hatred; death; deceit; antichrist(s); love one another; lawlessness; deceivers; wicked works; imitate God, not evil.

GOSPEL THEMES: Christ, the atoning sacrifice; our advocate; eternal life; God perfects His love in us; light; born of God; children of God; truth; fellowship; reward; abiding in Christ’s teachings; Christ has come in the flesh.

SPECIAL FEATURES: John is the apostle of love, and love is mentioned throughout this letter. There are a number of similarities between this letter and John’s Gospel—in vocabulary, style, and main ideas. John uses simple words and brief statements, and he features sharp contrasts—light and darkness, truth and error, God and Satan, life and death, love and hate.


And here are the vital stats for 2 John:

PURPOSE: To emphasize the basics of following Christ—truth and love—and to warn against false teachers

AUTHOR: The apostle John

TO WHOM WRITTEN: To “the chosen lady” and her children—or possibly to a local church, and all believers everywhere.

DATE WRITTEN: About the same time as 1 John around 90 A.D. from Ephesus

SETTING: Evidently this woman and her family were involved in one of the churches that John was overseeing—they had developed a strong friendship with John. John was warning her of the false teachers who were becoming prevalent in some of the churches.
LAW THEMES; see above

GOSPEL THEMES: see above

KEY VERSE: “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love” (verse 6)

Monday, November 21, 2011

The One Year Bible- November 21st


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

Seth’s Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Bits and Pieces

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


PURPOSE: To give a historical account of the faithful Jews who lived in captivity and to show how God is in control of heaven and earth, directing the forces of nature, the destiny of nations, and the care of his people.
AUTHOR: Daniel
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The other captives in Babylon and God’s people everywhere.
DATE WRITTEN: Approximately 535 B.C., recording events from about 605-535 B.C.
SETTING: Daniel has been taken captive and deported to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 B.C. There he serves in the government for about 60 years during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus.
KEY VERSE: “He [God] reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him” (2:22)

LAW THEMES: Babylon holds Judah captive; Judah has failed to obey God’s voice and has violated God’s covenant; open shame; apocryphal events, including the profaning of the temple and the abomination that makes desolate; God’s final judgment of mankind; everlasting contempt.

GOSPEL THEMES: The Most High God rules the kingdom of men; He keeps his covenant; mercy for the oppressed; His Anointed One will rule a kingdom that shall never be destroyed; an everlasting dominion; everlasting life.
KEY PEOPLE: Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, Shadrach, Mexhach, Abednego, Balshazzar, Darius
KEY PLACES: Nebuchadnezzar’s palace, the fiery furnace, Belshazzar’s banquet, the den of lions.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Daniel’s apocalyptic visions (chapters 8-12) give a glimpse of God’s plan for the ages, including a direct prediction of the Messiah

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

PURPOSE: To warn Christians about false teachers and to exhort them to grow in their faith in and knowledge of Christ
AUTHOR: Peter
TO WHOM WRITTEN: To the church at large, and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 67, three years after 1 Peter was written, possibly from Rome
SETTING: Peter knew that his time on earth was limited (1:13-14), so he wrote about what was on his heart, warning believers of that would happen when he was gone—especially about the presence of false teachers. He reminded his readers of the unchanging truth of the gospel.
KEY VERSE: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and goodness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (1:3)

LAW THEMES: Exhortations to virtue; warnings against false prophets; ignorance; nearsightedness; forgetfulness; fiery judgment; destruction of the ungodly.

GOSPEL THEMES: God’s sure Word; the Spirit’s work; Christ cleansed us from our former sins; eternal kingdom; God promises new heavens and a new earth; God does not wish any to perish.
SPECIAL FEATURES: The date and destination are uncertain, and the authorship has been disputed. Because of this, 2 Peter was the last book admitted to the canon of the New Testament Scripture. Also, there are similarities between 2 Peter and Jude.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The One Year Bible- November 14th


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.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Bethany Bullet - November 9, 2011

It was week 12 of the 2010 NFL season. The Buffalo Bills were hosting the heavily favored Pittsburgh Steelers. On paper, this match up shouldn’t have been close. But they don’t play games on paper, do they? For almost three quarters the Buffalo Bills were out played and outscored. But then, a furious comeback, and with less than one minute on the clock, the Bills kicked a tying field goal to send the game into overtime. In the extra period, the Bills continued their momentum and on a first down play from the Steelers 40 yard line, Bill’s quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick found a wide-open Steve Johnson in the end zone. Just one problem, the ball bounced right out of Johnson’s hands and to the turf. The Bills would never recover and a few minutes later the Steelers scored the winning field goal to send Buffalo home losers for the 9th time of the season.

Click HERE to watch highlights from the game.

If unable to open the link, please copy/paste this to your browser:

http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2010112801/2010/REG12/steelers@bills#menu=highlights&tab=recap

After the dropped catch, Johnson was inconsolable. "I had the game in my hands and I dropped it," Johnson said. He added, "I'll never ever get over it, ever!" Johnson didn't stop at blaming himself for the drop, but he went to twitter to blame the Almighty.

Johnson's tweet read "I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! I’LL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!!..."

Memories of dropped passes fade slowly. They stir a lonely fear, a fear that we have disappointed people and that we have let down the team; that we have come up short. A fear that, when needed, we didn’t do our part, that others suffered from our fumbles and bumbles. Sometimes, we even try to blame others or even God.

Of course, some of us would gladly swap our blunders for Johnson’s; if only we’d merely disappointed a football team.

All too often, our failures have more drastic consequences; a ruined marriage, angry kids, self-inflicted liver disease, job loss, delayed retirement, rising debt, and unhealthy habits.

Can God ever forgive me?

  • He gave me a wife; I blew it.
  • He gave me kids; I blew it.
  • He gave me a good job; I blew it.
  • He gave me good health; I blew it.

Failures are a part of life but we need to remember that Jesus came for people like us. His sweet, life giving words quench the dryness of our souls and are found in this place.

I am guessing that many of you have come here parched, feeling the weight of sin, needing the life giving water found in Jesus. Many of you were here just a week ago, but once again you come, longing for refreshment and filled with fear. The parched soil of fear needs steady rain.

Do you fear that you have finally out sinned God’s patience? Have you given in to the lie that God’s grace must have a bottom to it? Our common sense and logic dictates that we can only request forgiveness so many times. Cash in too many mercy checks, and sooner or later one is going to bounce!

If the devil can convince us that God’s grace has limited funds, we will draw the logical conclusion: The account is empty, God has locked the door to forgiveness, and there is no use in coming to church.

If we give into this lie, our sinful minds open a beehive of concerns. We are orphans, unprotected and exposed. Heaven—if there is such a place—has been removed from the itinerary. This is a scary place to be, and this fear has teeth.

But Christ has forceps. Jesus, in His ministry did some serious de-fanging. His words from Matthew, “Take courage; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2). Notice how Jesus places courage and forgiveness of sins in the same sentence. Might bravery begin when the problem of sin is solved?

Jesus spoke these words to a person who could not move, “a paralytic, lying on a mat…” The disabled man couldn’t walk the dog or jog the neighborhood. But he did have four friends who loaded their companion on a mat and went to see the teacher. An audience with Christ might bode well for their buddy.

In this encounter with Christ, we hear the unexpected, “Take courage; your sins are forgiven.” It seems that given the man’s condition other words would be more appropriate: “Take courage, your legs a healed, your paralysis is over, sign up for the triathlon you’ve always dreamed of.”

The man had limbs as sturdy as spaghetti, yet Jesus offered mercy, not muscles. What was He thinking? Once again, Jesus knows what we really need; He sees our deepest fear, He sees our sin. Before Jesus heals the body (which He did), He treated the soul. “Take courage; your sins are forgiven.”

In many ways we are the paralytic, not lying on a mat but sitting on a pew. Our strength is as strong as spaghetti, our efforts never good enough, our failures many, our fear real.

Because of the sinful state of humanity, many have avoided coming into God’s house. You’ve heard the excuses; perhaps you have made the excuses “I’m not going to church. If I do I will surely be struck by lightning.” Others come to this place masking their fear and never really hearing the life that is spoken in the Word and offered in the meal. I am sure that many here today would admit that they are not filled with courage, but full of fear.

Our lives are me-focused, not God-focused. It’s been that way from the beginning. Prior to sin, Adam and Eve lived in a fearless world. They were one with creation, one with each other, and one with God. But then the serpent came, sowing seeds of doubt, and offering a sweeter deal. “Has God indeed said…,” he questioned (Genesis 3:1) “You’ll be like God,” he offered. (Genesis 3:5)

Just like that Eve was afraid. Some say she was pride filled, defiant, disobedient…but wasn’t she first afraid?

  • Afraid that God was holding out, that she was missing out?
  • Afraid Eden wasn’t enough?
  • Afraid God wasn’t enough?
  • Afraid God couldn’t deliver?

In the moment, they mishandled fear, and fear did them in. Adam and Eve did what fear-filled people do; they ran for their lives and hid.

Fear mismanaged leads to sin. Sin leads to hiding. Since we’ve all sinned, we all hide, not in bushes but in 80-hour workweeks, temper tantrums, and religious business.

Many people hide from church thinking that God can’t see them away from this place, convinced that if I don’t think about it, God will forget about it. In reality, we all live in fear.

As one philosopher once said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering.” Master Yoda from Star Wars was not talking about our life in Christ, but this quote describes the slippery slope that happens when live in fear. Perhaps President Franklin D. Roosevelt said it best, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

But the same words spoken to the paralytic so many years ago, are spoken to you today and perhaps they too are unexpected, “Take courage; your sins are forgiven.” In this place—in worship—is where sin is solved, fear is finished and failure forgotten.

We have been called to worship faithfully, and in this place we find courage and forgiveness. It is the devil’s lie that tries to convince us to stay away, to give in to fear, to believe that staying away from this place is better than walking through the doors.

Nothing fosters fear like an ignorance of mercy. Bravery begins when sin is solved, and here sin is solved, completely, totally, and utterly.

In his letter, John reminds us, “perfect love drives out all fear.” (1 John 4:18) If God loved us with an imperfect love, we might have high cause to worry. Imperfect love keeps a list of sins, but God keeps no list of our wrongs. His love casts out our fear because; in this place he casts out our sin!

One day we won’t have to worry about fear. Like the Saints that have gone before us, we will worship without fear in the very presence of Jesus. As we remember the Saints this day, we also rejoice that they too have heard the wonderful words that their sins are forgiven and they are worshiping with all the Saints in heaven.

So, take courage; your sins are forgiven. The past is behind you. Jesus has healed your greatest fear, stand up and walk, in his love. And take heart, when Jesus sets you free, you are free indeed. And when you need to hear the message again, our Lord invites you back to this place, an audience with Christ might bode well for you, to worship faithfully, to find courage in forgiveness, and to be fearless.

-Pastor Seth Moorman


Free Hit Counter