Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Bethany Bullet-January 27, 2009

Teach us to Pray series, Sermon II:
“Thy Kingdom Come”

Jesus has come to topple tyrants. We as Americans are familiar with tyrant toppling. Our founding generation, our greatest generation, and our latest generation have all done so. Of course, Jesus’ fellow countrymen had not been so successful at tyrant toppling but they longed for such when Jesus spoke these words. They wanted the shackles of Rome removed and the rule of the house of David restored.

Yet, when Jesus teaches us to pray for a coming kingdom He is thinking of something different than what His countrymen and our country have experienced in the realm of tyranny.

Jesus has come to topple tyrants, the Prince of this world who now stands condemned. Jesus has come to topple tyrants, including the ones reading this Bethany Bullet. By nature we are prone to fight for authority, power, and control. This inborn sin is so strong that Martin Luther once said, “If possible we would push God off the throne and take his place.”

Jesus has come to topple tyrants, like you and me, but does so in the most unfathomable of ways. Rather than kick us out of the kingdom He exiles Himself from His Father’s presence on the cross that we might become citizens of the kingdom of heaven. That kingdom is present now, for it is manifested through Jesus. Yet, that kingdom is still to come, in final and complete authority at the end of time.

This tension, this present kingdom yet coming, is what commentators call the “Now Not Yet” of the Christian life. Even know God’s kingdom is here, even now sin, death, and hell are vanquished. However, we do not yet experience the fullness of this kingdom, we still face temptation, we still commit transgression and we will enter the tomb, YET, Christ is King and He is reigning in our midst and lives.

When we pray that the kingdom come, we are praying for two things at the same time:
  1. That Jesus return in power, every knee bow, and every tongue confess he is Lord.
  2. That His reign and rule be manifested through our lives of humble obedience to the King.

In his catechism, Martin Luther says just that, “How does God’s kingdom come? It comes when the heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit so that by his grace we may believe his holy Word and live a godly life, both here in time and hereafter forever.”

Monday, January 26, 2009

The One Year Bible- January 26th

We are almost one month in to our year-long journey in the Bible and this week we finished up the first book of the Old Testament. This is no small accomplishment. Genesis is a long book, filled with important stories that serve as important pieces to the overall story of the Bible. We will make reference to many of these stories and events as we go along. Each time we reach a milestone in our journey we should celebrate. As well as finishing the book of Genesis we will also finish one month in the word. Give yourself a pat on the back and you should feel good for your accomplishments. I also want to encourage you to keep going. If it is not already, your daily reading will become habit and spending time in God’s Word is one of the best habits you could ever have. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
We finished up the story of Joseph this week. It has been a longer story than most and there is good reason for it. First of all, this is the back-story for the most important event in Jewish history, the Exodus. The Exodus tells of God’s love and mercy for his chosen people and how he redeemed them from slavery in Egypt. As a New Testament Christian this story foreshadows the story of how Jesus redeemed us from the slavery of sin. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As we read the Old Testament we see many similarities between it and some stories in the New Testament. I believe that this is on purpose. Theologians call this Biblical Typology. I found this description of typology in a resource I have entitled “Fellowship With God” written by Rev. Henry F. Fingerlin:

“The Bible is an amazing book. But something not too commonly know is that the Bible contains a unique kind of prophecy that no other book contains or could contain, namely, Typology. In Romans 5:14b St. Paul says that “Adam...was a type of the one who was to come.” (That is Adam was a type of Christ). In I Peter 3:21 Peter tells us that Baptism “corresponds” to Noah’s ark in which 8 persons were saved through water. The word translated “corresponds” in the Revised Standard Version is antitype in Greek. There are many such “types” and “antitypes” in the Bible. For example the Passover Lamb and the scapegoat, who bore the sins of the people, are types of Jesus; and the work of the High Priest in making sacrifice for the sins of the people is a type of his saving work. Types, copies, shadows, miniatures, scale model, partial, earthly, temporal, limited, imperfect—these are the people, observances and events of the Old Testament. Fulfillment, spiritual, eternal, perfect, unlimited—these are the realities, the completion, the fulfillment brought into being through Jesus and the New Covenant. This is the way Jesus and the Apostles understood the Old Testament and its fulfillment in the New. Only God who knows the future and also brings it to pass, could so thoroughly detail through prophecy and types all that would transpire through John the Baptist, Jesus, and the beginning of the New Covenant.”

There is much to say about Biblical typology but one thing to remember is that Old Testament Biblical types are always less than the New Testament antitype. As Paul writes in Colossians 2:17, “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

How does this relate to the story of Joseph? Some theologians see Joseph as a “type” or Christ. Here are a few examples:

- Joseph is the “beloved” son of his Father(Gen. 37:3)—Jesus is the Father’s “beloved” son (Matt. 3:17

- Though innocent, Joseph is sold for silver (Gen. 37:28)—Jesus is betrayed and sold for silver (Matt. 26:15)

- Joseph finds himself in prison with two other criminals (Gen. 40)—Jesus suffered death (a kind of prison) between two criminals (Luke 23:32-33)

- Joseph foretells death to one prisoner and release and restoration of the other (Gen. 40:9-19—Jesus tells one of the thieves that he will be with him in paradise while the other dies in his sins (Luke 23:42)

- Joseph is freed from prison by a decree of Pharaoh (Gen. 41:37-41)—Jesus is freed from the prison of death by the Fathers decree of Life, Resurrection, for His Son (Acts 2:24)

- Joseph is exalted at Pharaoh’s right hand and given a name that is above all names (Gen. 41)—Jesus is exalted to his fathers right hand and given a name that is above every other name (Phil. 2:9-11, Acts 2:33-36)

There are others that we could talk about but these are the big ones. I will be highlighting some more typology as we go this year. Let me know what you think about typology. Remember you can't always say that something is a “type” of Christ, but if you see something that you may think is let me know and I will do some investigating for you.

The New Testament
We read a few more parables of Jesus as well as read about some miracles including the feeding of the 5,000 and just as amazing, the feeding of the 4,000. One of the most powerful passages we read came in Ch. 16. Peter’s confession of Christ is a powerful witness to the divinity of Jesus and his claim to be the Messiah. After hearing Jesus preach and witnessing his miracles he boldly professes, “You are the Christ (Messiah) the Son of the living God." Either Peter was crazy or he was convinced that this simple man from Nazareth was the promised Messiah.

Bits And Pieces

We already started the Book of Exodus and I forgot to give you the vital stats for the book so here you go:

PURPOSE: To record the events of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and development as a nation.
WHERE WRITTEN: In the desert during Israel’s wanderings, somewhere in the Sinai Peninsula
SETTING: Egypt. God’s people, once favored in the land, are now slaves. God is about to set them free.
KEY PEOPLE: Moses, Miriam, Pharaoh, Pharaoh’s daughter, Jethro, Aaron, Joshua
KEY PLACES: Egypt, Goshen, Nile River, Midian, Red Sea, Sinai Peninsula, Mount Sinai
SPECIAL FEATURES: Exodus relates more miracles than any other Old Testament book and is noted for containing the Ten Commandments

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Bethany Bullet-January 20, 2009

Have you ever had one of those light bulb moments—a revelation about an event or situation—an epiphany?
  • Perhaps it was in the middle of the night when you figured out the best solution for that nagging problem at work.
  • Perhaps it was sitting in a classroom trying to figure out an algebraic equation and suddenly…CLICK…the light goes on, and you understand.

Light bulb moments come in all shapes and sizes.

  • Perhaps it was in the movie theatre watching the movie Signs, or The Sixth Sense, or Fight Club when all of a sudden you go, “Ohhhhh…I get it!”
  • Perhaps it was at your desk, reading God’s Word and the pieces start falling into place and the Holy Spirit guides you into a greater understanding of who God is.

You may know that Epiphany is the Season of Light but it also is the Season of Revelation. For the people of Israel it took some time. But in the fullness of time the revealing Light of the World, came in the flesh to bring His light to those living in the darkness. Even with the Revelation and Epiphany of God, the light bulb did not click on right away. As Jesus began His ministry many were still walking in darkness.

In Matthew 5, 6, & 7 we find Jesus revealing Himself to a crowd that had gathered on a mountainside. As any good teacher would do, He began to teach in the hopes that there would be a light bulb moment for those in the crowd. In chapter 6, Jesus begins to teach about prayer. Hoping for the crowd and His disciples to have an epiphany He begins in verse 9, “This then is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,”

The opening lines of the Lord’s Prayer show us two sides to our relationship with God. On the one hand we are given the comfort and the knowledge that we have a Father. Although God is infinitely powerful, all-knowing, and encompassing all space and time, we can see Him as our Father.

A kind and merciful Father who loves us so much He was willing to send His Son in the flesh, to die a horrible death, to defeat the power of the grave and sin on Easter. It is a relationship that is intimate and childlike. The Apostle Paul says in Romans 8 that we are to cry out to Abba, Father.

The Aramaic term, Abba is the equivalent of saying daddy. It is the word that small children are taught along with Imma (mommy) when talking about their daddy and mommy.

This idea of speaking to God as our daddy would have been foreign to the people sitting on the hillside with Jesus that day, but Jesus wanted to show them the true character of their relationship to God. God is our daddy that we can cry out to when things are not going right, when we are scared, when we are in need. He is always there. This is the nature of God. He is our daddy!

This relationship may be intimate but it is not casual. It may be childlike but it is not infantile. It is relationship filled with holy tension as the cry of the child gives way to the obligation of the disciple.

After the gracious invitation to call out to Our Father, we pray, “Hallowed be Thy name.” But what does this mean?

Luther says this in his large catechism, “But what is it to pray that his name may become holy? Is it not already holy? Answer: Yes, in essence it is always holy, but our use of it is not holy. For God’s name was given to us when we became Christians and were baptized and so we are called the children of God.”

The holy name of God was placed on us when we came to the water of baptism but because of our sinful nature, our use of that name is not holy. As our loving Father claimed us to be His own in baptism we have a responsibility to be good witnesses to that name.

This was a light bulb moment for me a while back, as I never looked at the Lord’s Prayer in the light of my baptism before. When we begin the Lord’s Prayer we pray that God’s name is kept holy in our lives and in our actions. It is a call to remember our baptisms daily, to ask for God’s name to be holy in all we do for it is the name in which we were baptized.

It probably does not take too much introspection to realize that our lives do not always bear witness to the holy name of God. The light bulb moment here may come with regret, guilt, sadness, and disappointment. For at times we have been casual in our relationship with God our actions have been infantile as we become self centered.

When we ask for God’s name to be holy, we are asking for the Light of His Son to come into our lives, to reveal to us, to give us an epiphany, to purge us of our regrets, guilt, sadness, and disappointment. It is a daily call to remember our own baptism.

Our relationship with God may be intimate but it should not be casual, childlike but not infantile. As we look at the Lord’s Prayer the next few weeks, may your encounters with Jesus be light bulb moments as He reveals to you His wonderful love for you His child and disciple. And may you continually say, “Ohhhh…I get it!”

Abba, Father, daddy mine,

One true God of Gods, divine,

Enthroned above, and in my heart,

Omnipresent, set apart.

Elohim, El Shaddai,

Blessed be your name on high,

Yahweh, ever God the same,

Blessed be your holy name.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The One Year Bible- January 19th

In seminary I took a class called Biblical Theology and Exegesis. Don’t get too impressed. I am convinced that theologians want to sound smart so they use technical names for most of the classes. For example I have taken Old Testament isagogics, hermeneutics, and homiletics. In regular English that means I took Old Testament history, Bible study, and preaching (I hope I didn’t give away any company secrets). Anyway, part of this class involves seeing the whole story of the Bible. My textbook gave this definition, “Biblical theology is principally concerned with the overall theological message of the whole Bible. It seeks to understand the various parts in relation to the whole.” This is exactly what I try to do each week with our studies. I guess I didn’t even know that I have been teaching a class in Biblical Theology every week on the internet for over three years. Well, I hope that through these studies you will start to see the whole picture and the overall theme of God’s Word. At the end of the first chapter of my textbook it says, “The Bible is about humankind falling into sin, and God’s determination to put things right. It is about salvation, God’s rescue plan for human beings under judgment. It is about the worship of the one true God and the rejection of the gods that fail.” Lets all try to keep this in mind as we journey in God’s Word together.

Seth’s Thoughts

Old Testament
The opening stories of the Old Testament revolve around what we call the Patriarchs. This includes Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph. The first week of the year we sped through many generations as well as many years but this week we have been focusing on one family. This family has some issues. Jacob is encouraged by his mother to pretend to be his brother so that Isaac will give him the family blessing. If this sounds dysfunctional you are right. We will see plenty of dysfunctional behavior in the Old Testament. Remember the Old Testament is setting the stage for the coming of the Messiah, the one that was to save the people. Just wait until we get into the book of Judges and then we will see some real dysfunctional behavior. That PLR (people, land, relationship) promise that we talked about last week comes back (in whole or in part) quite often. We saw it multiple times this week. Each time I read it I put the letters PLR in the margin. I hope you begin to see that this is an important promise. This becomes the foundation for all the other promises that God will make in the Old Testament, including the coming of the Messiah. We read about Jacob and his rather strange relationship with his father-in-law, and then his odd relationship between him and his bickering wives. Once again we see some facets of dysfunctional behavior, but we also see that God will be faithful and keep his promise. The story of Joseph is one of the longest stories in the Old Testament. I will have more to say about this story later. For now be sure to catch all the details and see if they remind you of any other stories in the Bible. Perhaps some of you are familiar with the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical called Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. This musical is a pretty faithful rendition of the story and if you get confused you may want to rent the movie version. It stars Donny Osmond (don’t let that scare you) and has an appearance by Joan Collins.

New Testament
In our readings from this week we find that Jesus still continues to teach, and heal and now he is starting to generate some interest. John’s disciples start to question him about things and we get a deeper glimpse into the ministry of Jesus. Chapter 10 has some interesting things to say about going out and speaking about Jesus, but remember that Jesus was speaking to 12 Jewish men in Israel almost 2000 years ago. It can be dangerous to make some one for one comparisons with these teachings and today. One very interesting section in our reading is found in chapter 12:13. Jesus uses some Old Testament stories to bring light to his earthly ministry. He gives us some clues about the end of his earthly ministry as he compares himself to Jonah. This is a fascinating passage for theologians as it sheds light not only on the work of Jesus but also the reason that the book of Jonah is in the Old Testament. For those of you at Bethany, we will be studying the book of Jonah this Lenten season. In that study we will explore this relationship ever further. Jesus also says that he is greater than Solomon. This was a big claim because no one was a wise as Solomon especially in the eyes of a Jewish person. It is also another place that shows the relationship between the Old and New Testaments.

Bits and Pieces

One thing I think I forgot to mention last week. Every time you read the word LORD (in all capitals) in the Old Testament, the translators are saying this is the proper name Yahweh. It is God’s personal name. Remember that Moses is the one writing the first five books and he was the one to whom God revealed that name. So it makes sense that he uses it in his writing.

Another thing I want to point out to you is the use of names. Names are important in the Bible. like I just said above LORD is translated from Yahweh which means “I Am who I Am”. It sounds rather nebulous to us but how could you try to contain God in a few letters no matter what language it is in. On to my point, we have seen quite a few names, the names of people and places. If you are reading through the NIV or the ESV you will notice that every time we encounter a new name there is a footnote. If you follow those footnotes you will find some more information about the name. For example, when Isaac was born we read in the footnote that Isaac means “he laughs”. Some of these names have some theological significance. The name Jacob means “he grasps the heel” which is an idiom for someone who deceives which is just what he does to his brother twice. Later in the story we will get to Joshua. His name means “the LORD saves”. This is the same name that is translated as Jesus in the New Testament. Makes sense doesn’t it. The phrase Jesus Saves is almost redundant. I will try to point out some of these names when they come up but feel free to follow the footnotes to get some more information.

That is about all for now, but one word of encouragement. If you get behind in your reading don’t try to catch up all at once. Just double up your readings each day and soon you will be back on track. The other option is to just let some of the readings go, like water under the bridge and just pick up on the current day. Either way you are still in the Word, and that is a good thing. Have a great week and look for a new post next week!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Bethany Bullet-January 13, 2009

Like many of you, this past week I put “Jesus” in the box. Christmas has come and gone. Epiphany was recognized, the kings had made their pilgrimage to the manger and the nativity went back into its container and “Jesus” was put in a box.

As we celebrate Jesus’ baptism we see John the Baptist put Jesus in a box as well. Not Jesus the figurine nor in a literal box, but John puts Jesus in a box. He says, “I can’t baptize you, you should be baptizing me.” (Kevin Kritzer's paraphrase of Matt. 3:14) John has rightly understood Jesus’ true nature. He is God in the flesh, perfect, holy, pure and not in need of repentance or forgiveness.

The box John puts Jesus in is this one, ‘surely God will work as I think is best.’ In his mind is it possible John thought, ‘Silly God, coming to a baptism of repentance, what is He thinking.’? It wouldn’t be the last time John put Jesus in a box. A short time later, 8 short chapters in Matthew’s Gospel, John sent his disciples to Jesus to ask if He really was the Messiah. (Matt. 11:1-3) What had happened that John went from trying to keep Jesus from being baptized to wondering if He was actually the Messiah? It was in fact the same issue, the same box John had put Jesus in; Jesus wasn’t acting like John thought God in flesh should act. What was going on in John’s mind this time, perhaps something like this, ‘Why isn’t He setting up the kingdom, why isn’t He driving out the Romans, why isn’t He correcting the Pharisees, why isn’t He doing what I thought He had come to do?’

Jesus response was gentle and fitting, not only did He praise John but kindly rebuked him as well. I have come to do what I have come to do and I know what I am doing and people are being blessed even as Isaiah promised. (Kevin Kritzer's paraphrase of Matt. 11:4-5)

“Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” (Matt.11:6) i.e. blessed is the person who doesn’t doubt me because I don’t act nor do what they in their wisdom have assigned me.

It was a box John had put Jesus into, and it is one that we put Him in as well. Oh, that I only put Jesus (the figurine) in a box after each Epiphany! But I’ve had an Epiphany here, a revelation; I seem to put Him in a box after each event that goes contrary to the way I have determined He ought to be working. In good John fashion I too have said, “Allow me to point out that You shouldn’t be doing this Jesus.” Like John, I have sent out feelers as well, “Lord maybe you don’t realize this but I was expecting you to accomplish this and that and here you are doing that and this.” Perhaps I’m not alone.

For all those who have put Jesus in a box, God put Jesus in one as well. Jesus was put in a borrowed tomb, a box, for our forgiveness and to free us from the threat of the ‘box’ forever.

“For don’t you know that all of us who have been baptized in Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” (Romans 6:3-5)

Monday, January 12, 2009

The One Year Bible- January 12th

We are twelve days into the New Year and I hope your reading plan is going well. Each week I will kick off our study with a short thought or some general words of encouragement. This week I want to give you some information about how our weekly studies will be arranged. Each week I will give you my thoughts on the week’s readings. I will not be commenting on all the readings but I will be giving some general comment as well as highlighting passages and trying to make some connections for you. My quotes from the readings will almost always be from the NIV. Please don’t get discouraged if I don’t write about certain parts of the reading. You can always ask me questions via the comment section or via email. If you want some more detailed comment on a particular reading you can visit The One Year Bible Blog (www.oneyearbibleblog.com). I visit this site regularly to get some insight as well. I have also been made aware that the readings for The One Year Bible are in audio form on the internet (the NLT version only). You can download these readings to your ipod or other mp3 player. You can also just listen to them on the net. Information for this can be found at www.bibleonradio.com.

Each time we start a new book of the Bible I will give you some vital stats for it in the Bits and Pieces section of the post. This will help you get your bearings as you begin to read. The most important thing I will say today is that we must remember the context of what we read. The Bible is a Christ centered book and it tells one story. Try to keep that story in mind as you read. My posts will try to help with that as well. Keep up the good work and be ready to let God lead you as you immerse yourself in His Word. On to the study for today…

Seth’s Thoughts:

The Old Testament
Like any good book the Bible begins with some great storytelling and some drama. The reason for the whole book is right there at the beginning. Because of mans fall and the steadfast love of God, a series of events takes place that will have an impact on the world and all humanity forever. In fact, the first promise of a Savior is found in Genesis. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel" (Genesis 3:15 NIV). The story of God’s love continues with Noah. God saw how sinful the world had become so, in his love, he destroyed those who disobeyed yet saved Noah and the promise of his love became more fully known. One of the great Old Testament words we see early on in Genesis and will have great meaning later is the word we translate as “remember”. God remembered Noah, he remembered his promises to Abraham; later in our story God will remember his people in Egypt and in exile. He will remember his promise from Genesis and send a savior for the world.

After God dispersed the people at Babel, he called one man, Abraham and gave him a promise. We will come back again and again to this promise. It is a three-fold promise that I like to call the PLR promise. We first see it in Genesis 13, but it will come back over and over again. The promise is that God will make Abraham into a people, a nation set apart, he will give them land, and he will have a relationship with them (PLR = people, land, relationship). This three-fold promise will not be fulfilled in Abraham’s day. The only piece of land he will ever own is a grave. But this promise will be fulfilled as the story continues with the people of Israel under the leadership of Moses and Joshua. It will be expanded in the New Testament era as we are all called to be God’s people, our land is in heaven, and we have a relationship with Jesus because of the empty tomb.

One thing to keep in mind while reading through the Old Testament narrative is that you need to try to keep the characters straight. Think of it like a program at the ballgame or the theatre. If you need to write down the characters and how they are related that might help out. This brings me to my first point about context. If you missed the fact that Lot and Abraham are related, you don’t quite get their relationship. Abraham loves his nephew so much and that relationship enters in to his decision making process. Also, two times Abraham tells others that Sarah is his sister and at first it looks like he is flat out lying but in Chapter 20 we find the following passage, “Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife” (Genesis 20:12). Now this may seem gross or unthinkable to us but remember we need to read this within the cultural context of the day and this sort of thing was O.K. It can be dangerous to impress our 21st century American culture upon a people and a land far remove in time and place and make judgments. This sort of thing will come up again and we must place ourselves in the culture of the day to understand. We don’t have to like it, heck there are a lot of things in the Bible I don’t really like, but it is God’s Word.

The New Testament
The first thing I need to say about reading the Gospels is that they are not always written in chronological order. I hope I am not sacrificing any sacred cows for you with this but it is difficult to put a time line and chronology together when looking closely at the text. For example, in the book of Luke Jesus seems to be jumping all over the place in Nazareth and Judea. One moment he is teaching by the sea of Galilee, the next moment he is in Jerusalem, and then he is back again. Many scholars (and I agree) tend to see the Gospels written from a thematic point of view. They take the stories and events and use them to not only tell the story but to highlight certain events. Taking a look at the Gospel of Matthew we see that it was written to a Jewish audience. How do we know that? First of all Matthew was a Jew so it makes sense to write to an audience that he knew. Secondly, Matthew places the events of Jesus ministry into an order that the Jews would see as very interesting. First of all Matthew tells us that the baby Jesus was taken to Egypt. Right after the family comes back from Egypt, we get the story of the baptism of Jesus then immediately to the desert for 40 days. A Jew of Matthews day would immediately see the connection to the Exodus story of the people coming out from Egypt and going through the waters of the Red Sea and then into the desert for 40 years. It is no coincidence that Matthew uses this series of events to bring a greater meaning to his Gospel to the Jews. A casual, non-Jewish reader might miss this connection. Matthew also leans on many of the Old Testament prophecies that his audience would be well aware (especially in the birth narrative). As you read in Matthew try to remember his audience of the first century and try to see how we can gain even more understanding by studying the book as a whole instead of taking parts out and studying them in isolation.

Bits and Pieces

Last week I gave you some helpful tips as you begin your journey and I want to repeat them here again. I know that some of you have just started this week and may have missed last weeks post.

Tips for Comprehension
-Begin your time in prayer and ask God to send His Spirit to guide you as you read.
-Find a place to read that is relatively free of distractions.
-Read the passage aloud and slowly if necessary. The goal is not just to finish, but to understand.
-Make some notes in the Bible and underline key verses. Look back at them later.
-Remember the Bible tells one story. That story is about redemption from Sin by the work of Jesus. Keep that in mind as you read.
-Take your Bible to Church and read along to see what comes before and after.
-Keep a journal about what you read and how it has affected you.
-Memorize key verses.
-Look at a children’s Bible storybook to get a mental image of the stories. This is especially helpful for the Old Testament stories.
-Teach what you have been reading to your children. This will help reinforce the stories for you and introduce them to your children.
-Share what you are reading with coworkers or friends who are not Christians. This can happen especially if you are reading during your lunch hour at work. If they are interested in the Bible point them to 1 John and to Mark.
-Use a daily devotional book (Portals of Prayer, Strength for the Day, etc.) in addition to your reading.
-Look at some Bible maps and get a layout of the land. This is important when talking about events in the Old Testament.
-Don’t worry if you miss a few days. Just double up your readings for a while until you catch up. Don’t try to read it all in one day.
-Some questions to ask as you read: What is the Biblical context of this passage? What is the historical context? Who is speaking and to whom are they speaking? How can I use this information today? Don’t worry if you can’t answer all the questions.

Have a great week and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Bethany Bullet-Tuesday, January 6, 2009

“Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When Jesus was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you treated us like this?’” Luke 2:41-48a

The Destination – The family traveled to Jerusalem, a full-day’s journey from home, to celebrate the Passover. This is the celebration of what God had done for His people. “With an outstretched arm and a mighty hand” He worked His wonders and the firstborn of Pharaoh died and through the blood of the lamb, the grace of God and the power of His Word the children of Israel found deliverance from the land of bondage and were brought to the land God had promised on oath long ago to Abraham. For the faithful in the days of Jesus’ this was Christmas and Easter rolled into one. This was a big deal!

The Exasperation – They traveled in the company of family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. The word Luke employed for this company is one which we are, or at least should be, familiar with: ‘synoida’, i.e. Synod. In our church body, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, the term means ‘walking together.’ That definition is derived from this text, the ‘synoida’, the company, traveled together. The holy family was frantic. Jesus was not with them. They had lost their son, God’s Son. You can imagine the exasperation. The church is the holy family of God. How much of the church’s exasperation is based upon journeying to and from religious custom and spiritual duty but leaving that which makes us holy, Jesus, behind?

The Temptation – As soon as they found Jesus they asked, “Why did you treat us like this?” Mary and Joseph accuse Jesus of mistreatment. Their charge, he has acted against their best interests and well-being. Jesus, according to his folks, has betrayed the ‘synod.’ They felt justified in leveling that charge – as do we. We too have asked why God has mistreated us and caused us to lose a child, a marriage, a job, a home, a hope, our health and the list goes on and on. We have just assumed that God would be ‘in tow’ follow our lead, our timing and do what we thought was best.

The Revelation – For the sins of those who raised Him and all of us who have followed Him, for the guilt of His parents and we His children, as a boy Jesus gave answers on Passover, and as a man Jesus became the Passover answer. He is the very Lamb of God. By His blood we have been delivered from sin and opened for us is the Promised Land. What is lost is the power of guilt to threaten, the grave to beckon, and the devil to frighten. For in Christ we have been provided forgiveness and ‘synoida’ – a company with one another and more importantly with God Himself, who in Christ, journeys with us through life into eternity.

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