Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Bethany Bullet-Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What six words do you suppose Luther would use to define the Reformation? “Before God we are all beggars.” Those were his dying words and certainly present the core truth of the Reformation. We don’t come into God’s presence with pride nor applause; we don’t bring with us a list of accomplishments nor a treasury of merits. Before God we can but bow in humility and confess that we deserve nothing. We can open our hands to receive His gifts of mercy, forgiveness, and righteousness without which we are indeed lost.

Ask a Luther scholar for six words and you’ll likely get a host of responses. “Here I stand, God help me.” After all, it was with those words that the reformation really began in earnest! Luther was called to recant or face penalty but said, “Unless I am shown from Scripture where I am wrong, I can’t recant. Here I stand, God help me.” Luther was convinced that:
• Scripture alone was the source of truth,
• God saved by His grace alone, apart from the works of man,
• And through faith alone did one apprehend God’s promises.

Scripture Alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone - Those six words might be the offering of some scholars; few would suggest our parish theme verse for this month of “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices.” They would be wise not to offer these words, unless they had previously explained Six Just Words that led to this Just Six Word response. We have. “By grace you have been saved.” We covered those six words and the September 30th bullet reviewed the teaching. God has done the saving! He has done so through the sacrifice He has offered, “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood.” (Romans 3:25) God, who demanded a sacrifice, has offered the sacrifice which He demanded, and now God invites us to offer a sacrifice as well. “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices.”

NOW, these six words might indeed be good ones to define the heart of the Reformation. With the certainty that God has saved us through the sacrifice of Christ, we offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God. That he might work through us to bring the good news of Christ to our places of work and leisure and to our homes and schools.
• Offering our bodies as living sacrifices means understanding that the allotment of our days (our time),
• The abilities of our being (our talents),
• And our assets under management (our treasures)
These are all His as are our very lives. So in Reformation fashion we proclaim, “Here we go! God use us.”

Monday, October 27, 2008

The One Year Bible- October 27th

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 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. I 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 move on to the book of Lamentations this week and begin the book of Ezekiel. Here are the vital stats for the books:


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)

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.


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)

KEY PEOPLE: Ezekiel, Israel’s leaders, Ezekiel’s wife, Nebuchadnezzar, “the prince”

KEY PLACES: Jerusalem, Babylon, and Egypt

The New Testament

We will read two books in their entirety this week (Titus & Philemon) as well as start another (Hebrews). Here are the vital stats on these three books:


PURPOSE: To advise Titus in his responsibility of supervising the churches in the island of Crete


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)

KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Titus

KEY PLACES: Crete, Nicopolis

SPECIAL FEATURES: Titus is very similar to 1 Timothy with its instructions to church leaders.


PURPOSE: To convince Philemon to forgive his runaway slave, Onesimus, and to accept him as a brother in the faith.


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)

KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Philemon, Onesimus

KEY PLACES: Colosse, Rome

SPECIAL FEATURES: This is a private, personal letter to a friend.


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)

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.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Bethany Bullet-October 21, 2008

In mathematics there is a ‘law’ that states since 2 + 5 = 7 that 7 – 5 must = 2. This law is called the inverse operation. If this law can work for words as well as for numbers maybe nowhere is it more true than Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:21, “where your treasure is there your heart will be.” The inverse operation would state that the corollary is also true, “where your heart is there your treasure will be.”

At the very heart of original sin is the conviction that our treasures are our own, that our stuff is our stuff and that God is a withholder of His stuff! When Adam and Eve reached out to lay hold of forbidden fruit they no
longer received life in the garden as gift, but something to be made their own. Their focus shifted from what they had been given, Paradise, Purpose and a Partner to what they did not have – the Produce of that one tree. Suddenly they were no longer receivers but takers, not stewards but owners.

Since that time personal ownership has become rather important to us; and we are quite accustomed to making claims of ownership. Can you hear, however, the words, “Mine, ALL Mine!” coming from the mouth of God? In the creation account He declares just that. God is the creator and owner of everything. Every animal of the forest and the cattle of a thousand hills belong to him. Every filling in every tooth, every ounce of toothpaste you can squeeze from the tube, every decimal point in your paycheck, every penny of your allowance, every inch of your waist and every hair on your head, all the cloths in your daughter’s closet and every toy on your son’s floor belong to God. The Redwoods and Niagara Falls are all His. “It’s all mine”, says God. Presidents and presidential hopefuls, your little sister and big brother, “all mine”, says God.

The heart of stewardship is to echo God’s words back to God. The statement, “My stuff is not my stuff”, is nothing more than an echo of the words of God that says, “It’s all mine.” Will you for a moment consider everything that you have in your name, everything you claim ownership over and everything in your possession; imagine God saying of it, “Mine, all Mine!” for that is whose it truly is.

That is not all God says in terms of ownership for He has also said, “What’s mine is yours.” And then He gives us His Son. God has said, “I am yours.” “I am yours in Christ and therefore all I have belongs to you. The inverse operation goes to work at this point and we respond ALL WE HAVE BELONGS TO HIM.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The One Year Bible- October 20th

It has been a very busy couple of weeks for me so not much of an opening today but I did want to encourage you to keep up the good work and remember that we are almost done with the book of Jeremiah. After this book we have 14 more books to read in the Old Testament and 8 weeks to do it. Needless to say the books will be coming fast and furious the last few weeks of the year. We are in the home stretch, but stay strong. On to the study…

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

I hope you have been enjoying digging through Jeremiah and finding the nuggets of grace. There were quite a few this week. We continue to see that even with the oncoming disaster, God has mercy and promises to save the remnant and bring them back. We also read some prophetic words about the Messiah as well, more on that later. There were a few other things that hit me this week and I would like to share. First of all there was mention of the Davidic covenant in a few places this week. We first met this covenant back in 2 Samuel chapter 7. God promised to David that, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16 NIV). Now of course you remember that the earthly kings of Israel are long since gone. They were in their twilight in the time of Jeremiah. But this covenant had much more than just earthly meaning. Like many of God’s plans, they are much deeper and more amazing than we think. The true line of David would be fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus was the one who was born of the house and line of David who now sits on the throne of the universe. This is a big deal! Jesus reigns at the right hand of God today!! Even when we think God does not fulfill his promises, we find out that not only is this not true but it is even better than we imagined. Speaking of Jesus, in my digging for nuggets this week I came across a passage in Jeremiah that speaks of the coming Messiah. Chapter 23:5-6 again mentions David’s line as well as a king who will, reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.(Jeremiah 23:5 NIV). This person is called, “The LORD is our Righteousness.” This is most definitely a reference to Jesus as the Messiah.

In Chapter 30 Jeremiah gives some practical advice to the people. In short, he says for the people to “Bloom where they are planted”, be that in Israel or in exile. He tells the people that the exile will last for 70 years so keep doing what God wants. Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." (Jeremiah 29:5-7 NIV). In this context comes one of the more famous passages from Jeremiah, For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV). I hope I am not sacrificing any sacred cows in your world with my next statements. This passage was not written for us to use at graduations or for people who are going through hard times. This passage has been pulled out of context so often many have forgotten what it really means. When we look at this verse we have to remember the original context in which it was written. This verse was written to give the people hope in a time of great despair. It was a message of grace in a time of punishment. We must remember that God was talking to a stubborn people who had consistently gone against his will. These people deserved to go into exile. Even in the midst of this, God gives grace and mercy. Now, that being said, can we apply this verse to our lives today? Sure! But don’t forget the original context and remember that we are not living in that same context today. It is a stretch to use only this verse and make major applications to us today. If you plan on using this verse make sure you put it in context and then related it to the current situation.

The other big thing in our readings this week is the idea in Chapter 33 about the New Covenant. Remember there was nothing really wrong with the old covenant. It simple, as Jesus summarizes it when he says, “Be perfect”. That’s all, no big deal!! (please sense the sarcasm here) The Old Covenant was not broken by God, but broken by man and the sinfulness that we bring to the table. We are incapable of following what God desires. This New Covenant was not to be sealed in the blood of animals but in the blood of Jesus Christ. This New Covenant would transcend space and time and even Abraham would live under the New Covenant (even though he never knew it, see the book of Romans) I would like to spend more time on this but I fear that if I continue I will either confuse you or bore you with the details. If you have questions, please let me know.

The New Testament

I feel that if I go where I want, this post will be way too long, so I will try to keep my comments brief. I want to take a look at parts of all three letters we have read from this past week.

1 Thessalonians

At the beginning of the book, Paul and his companions try to validate their ministry. They do so relying on Jesus and their track record of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus. After getting on some firm ground and giving some positive encouragement, Paul gets to the point. He tells the Thessalonians what will happen when Jesus returns. It will not be some secret event. And all those who have already died in the faith will be raised back to life. It will be a wonderful time. In the mean time Paul has some advice, And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14-22 NIV)

2 Thessalonians

The main thing to remember about this book is to not be idle in your journey of faith. We do not know when Jesus will return so we must keep working so as many people here the message as possible. Paul tells the people not to think that Jesus has already come and they somehow missed it. Paul mentions a character called “the man of lawlessness”. This person is often called the Antichrist. It is the work of the Devil in the world today. Paul says that he is at work right now in the world. He will win some battles but he will be destroyed by the power of Jesus. Paul gives a great word of hope in Chapter 2, So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15-17 NIV). Great words to end on for this book.

1 Timothy

This is Paul’s instruction to young Timothy. There are some great instructions for all who serve in the church in this letter. Paul states his purpose right at the beginning, The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5 NIV) There are many “trustworthy sayings” in this letter that should not be ignored. They all read like little sermons for Timothy. One thing that has caused much confusion is the definitions of what an elder is and what a deacon is. They seem to be quite similar but Paul treats them as two different things. Theologians have spent countless hours trying to figure this one out and we don’t have time to get into all the details but in my humble opinion, both sets of requirements are useful for anyone who does work in the church. They are the standard that we should strive for, but we must remember that forgiveness must fit into this somehow, someway. More about this book next week...

Bits and Pieces

The New Testament

We will finish up 1 Timothy and move on to 2 Timothy this week. Here are the vital stats on 2 Timothy:

PURPOSE: To give final instructions and encouragement to Timothy, pastor of the church at Ephesus


TO WHOM WRITTEN: Timothy, and all Christians everywhere

DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 66 or 67, from prison in Rome. After a year or two of freedom, Paul was arrested again and executed under Emperor Nero.

SETTING: Paul was virtually alone in prison; only Luke was with him. Paul wrote this letter to pass the torch to the new generation of church leaders. He also asked for visits from his friends and for his scrolls, especially the parchments—possible parts of the Old Testament or other Biblical manuscripts.

KEY VERSE: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2:15 NIV).

KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Timothy, Luke, Mark, and others.

KEY PLACES: Rome, Ephesus

SPECIAL FEATURES: Because this is Paul’s last letter, it reveals his heart and his priorities—sound doctrine, steadfast faith, confident endurance, and enduring love.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Bethany Bullet-Tuesday, October 14, 2008

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord, not for men.”
(Colossians 3:23)

Martin Luther spent time writing and preaching about the idea of vocation and the talents we employ on a day-to-day basis. In Luther’s day (and the same could be said today) many believed that the only occupations that were “godly” were those within the context of church work. But Luther had a different idea. He once said, “Being a good and honest butcher or shoemaker was as holy a vocation as being a priest of the church”.

You see, our talents are employed as we are employed be that at work or home, public or private sector, AND as we are engaged in volunteering our time be that in congregational life or community organizations.

“Wait a minute here! You mean to tell me that my 9-5 job behind a desk or a drill, in front of a class or a computer is godly work?” YES!! Many who think there is no God in their work try to make up for it by volunteering their time at church in order to get their “God time” in. Some even start to become resentful of their “regular” work as it is something that must be done to make ends meet and to pay the bills. This is just what Jesus was warning us about in Matthew 6 when he said, “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Divided loyalties end with disappointing results.
(Six words)

If our vocation is to carry on the work of God—then the physician who performs a heart transplant and the orderly who wheels the patient back to his room have the same spiritual significance. The custodian, carpenter, and CEO are on equal ground because they have the same calling. The concept of Christian vocation liberates us from bondage to a value system, which measures worth according to educational degrees and earning power. We are ALL called. Every one of us is God’s person in and for the world.

Now, in reality, God does not need people to help Him make the world work. He does not need the butcher or the farmer to keep the world fed. He could make bread fall from the sky. He does not need doctors and nurses to keep his people healthy. He could heal people all by Himself. God does not even need men and women to make babies. He could speak them into existence. But he chooses to include us in His work so that we are His hands in feeding and healing His people. God is at work in every aspect of our lives. Every legitimate human occupation (paid or unpaid) is some dimension of God’s own work: making, designing, doing chores, beautifying, organizing, helping, bringing dignity, and leading. Somehow we have lost the idea of being at work for God in our occupations.

But let’s be real. The truth is that our occupations have come under the occupation of sin. Our lives get occupied with the things we want to do and sin takes up residence and soon we live under the rule of an occupied force. We become so occupied with sin that our occupations no longer bring glory to God. It is a struggle that all believers find. But vocation goes beyond occupation. Vocation belongs to our situation between baptism and final resurrection—a situation where there are two kingdoms (heaven and earth), two contending powers (God and Satan), and two antagonistic components within each Christian (the old self and the new self).

We struggle because of sins occupation.
(Six words)

When we struggle, the best place to turn is to Jesus, who defeated the occupation of sin once and for all. His vocation was done by the work of his hands, as he was willingly nailed to the cross for you and for me. He gave up His life, His hands became lifeless so that our hands could be freed from the occupation of sin and released for vocations that bring glory to God. The talents and abilities that we have been given by God find their strength, their beginning, and their purpose in the work of Jesus on the cross and in His resurrection. The hands that broke bread, gave sight to the blind, and healed the sick performed the most loving act of service—they went to the cross and defeated death. “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.” (Mark 10:45)

All we have, including our talents come from Him so that we can cry out:
Where, O death is your Victory? (Six words)
Where, O death is your Sting? (Six words)

Take a look at your hands…Jesus had hands just like yours. You have been created for a purpose. That purpose is to live for Him in all you do, in all you say, and in all you are. Jesus’ work was the salvation of mankind but it was done with a set of hands. What have your hands been created to do? Perhaps you know, perhaps you don’t, and perhaps it will change, but I will remind you once again of the words of Paul, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”

Max Lucado in his book, Shaped By God writes the following, and I want to use it as our prayer today:

Ah, to be your instrument, O God,
like Paul to the Gentiles,
like Philip to the eunuch,
like Jesus to the world…to be your instrument

To be like a scalpel in the gentle hands of a surgeon, healing and mending.

To be like a plow in the weathered hand of a farmer, sowing and tending.

To be like a scythe in the sweeping hand of a reaper, gathering and using.

To be…an instrument for noble purposes.

To be honed and tuned, in sync with your will, sensitive to your touch.

This, my God, is my prayer. Draw me from your fire, form me on your anvil, shape me with your hands, and let me be your tool. AMEN!

Monday, October 13, 2008

The One Year Bible- October 13th

Last fall I started teaching a class here at Bethany called “See Through the Scriptures” which studies the overarching themes found in scripture and how the Bible tells one story of salvation. If you have not had a chance to attend this class I would highly encourage you the next time it is offered (sometime next spring). One of the lessons is about the prophets of the Old Testament. In our text book the author, Rev. Dr. Harry Wendt, gives some good info that we can use as we study the prophets.

The prophetic books constitute one-third of the Old Testament, or one-quarter of the Bible. They empower people today to hear, in astonishing ways, the passionate proclamations of those to whom the LORD revealed his truth and will. To understand the message and mission of Jesus the Messiah, we must understand the ministry of Israel’s ancient prophets. After all, Jesus was that expected Final Prophet (see Deuteronomy 18:15, Mark 9:7)

To really understand Jesus we need to understand the prophets, and when we understand the prophets we will fully understand the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts
The Old Testament
This week I have been searching for the nuggets of grace in Jeremiah. All too often we get bogged down with the repeated message of the coming doom and destruction. I hope you can start seeing the nuggets of grace as well.

“’But even in those days, declares the LORD, I will not make a full end of you..”—Jeremiah 5:18 ESV

Here Yahweh gives some hope to his continued message of exile and punishment. This faithful remnant would return to the Promised Land and set the stage for the coming of the Messiah.
“‘But let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD..’”—Jeremiah 9:24 ESV

Yahweh describes his true character in this verse. Even though punishment is coming (and it is deserved) he still is full of love. The exile showed his justice. It was not a good time for the people but it was to benefit them as a whole and again make way for the Messiah.

“‘Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit..’”—Jeremiah 17:7-8 ESV

God is the one who has planted us; his living streams water us. When we stay connected to this living water we continue to grow and we have nothing to worry about. When we think we can go on our own, we start having problems.

I have said it before and I will say it again now, don’t get discouraged by hearing all the gloom and doom news from Jeremiah. Try to mine the gems of good news.

The New Testament
In my studies this week I found some great information in “The Peoples Commentary Bible” by Harlyn J. Kuschel. The following paragraphs are from that book:

Only two of the thirteen letters of the New Testament authored by Paul we addressed to congregations he had not founded and most of whose members he had never met. One was Romans the other was Colossians. About four or five years after the founding of the church in Colosse, its pastor Epaphras came to Rome to visit Paul. Why would he make the 1300 mile journey just to see Paul? There were some problems with the church in Colosse. They were being influenced by some ideas that mixed Judaism, Pagan religions, and Christianity. Thier message included a belief in self-salvation. This was a danger to the true teaching of Jesus. Epaphras wanted to discuss this with Paul personally. In the letter Paul does not directly address those who are teaching falsely in the church. He simply overwhelms their errors by confronting the Colossians with the full riches of the Gospel of Christ. Throughout the letter there is constant emphasis on the greatness of Christ. Paul knew that the more thoroughly the Colossian believers understand the person and work of Christ, the better equipped they will be to recognize and reject errors like the one seeking to win its way into their congregation.

From the time that this epistle was written to our own day the clear message of the gospel and salvation by grace through faith in Christ has been obscured by many false teachers. In Colossians Paul cuts through all the confusion of human laws and ideas and simply and directly points us to Christ. Christ is sufficient for our eternal salvation, and he is sufficient for our day-to-day living as his children.

One of the things that struck me this week as I was reading through Colossians is the wonderfully clear view of Christ it presents. We see that Jesus was fully God and fully man. He was the Messiah and salvation comes only through him. His ministry was one of love and caring so that “Christ is all, and in all.” (ESV) or as the New Living Translation says, “Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us” (Colossians 3:11b NLT).

Chapter 4 has one of the best messages of evangelism in the entire New Testament. “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4: 5-6 NIV). We all should live our lives in such a way.

I know we got into 1 Thessalonians a bit this week too but I will hold my comments on it until next week.

Bits and Pieces

We will finish 1st as well as 2nd Thessalonians this week. We will also start on 1 Timothy. Here are the vital stats on 2 Thessalonians:

PURPOSE: To clear up the confusion about the second coming of Christ
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The church at Thessalonica, and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 51 or 52, a few months after 1 Thessalonians from Corinth
SETTING: Many in the church were confused about the timing of Christ’s return. Because of mounting persecution, they though the day of the Lord must be imminent, and they interpreted Paul’s first letter to say that the second coming would be at any moment. In light of this misunderstanding, many persisted in being idle and disorderly, with the excuse of waiting for Christ’s return.
KEY VERSE: “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance” (3:5)
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Silas, Timothy
KEY PLACE: Thessalonica
SPECIAL FEATURES: This is a follow-up letter to 1 Thessalonians. In this letter, Paul indicates various events that must precede the second coming of Christ.

Here are the vital stats for 1 Timothy:
PURPOSE: To give encouragement and instruction to Timothy, a young leader.
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Timothy, young church leaders, and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 64, from Rome or Macedonia (possibly Philippi), probably just prior to Paul’s final imprisonment in Rome
SETTING: Timothy was one of Paul’s closest companions. Paul had sent Timothy to the church at Ephesus to counter the false teaching that had arisen there. Timothy probably served for a time as a leader in the church at Ephesus. Paul hoped to visit Timothy, but in the meantime, he wrote this letter to give Timothy practical advice about the ministry.
KEY VERSE: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” (4:12)
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Timothy
KEY PLACE: Ephesus
SPECIAL FEATURES: First Timothy is a personal letter and handbook of church administration and discipline.

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