Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bethany Bullet - June 30, 2010

“As if!”

According to the slang dictionary the term “As if!” has its origins in 1980 Southern California. The term “As if!” is a sarcastic exclamation to an impossible declaration or a foolish and ridiculous offer.

St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians uses Abraham as a great “As if!” There were those who said, Jesus plus ones keeping of the Old Covenant laws is what secured your place in God’s family. As if! Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Before Abraham was kosher eating and Sabbath keeping - God had declared him righteous through faith in the promise of God.

The means by which we are reconciled to God are His great “As if!” Some might think it impossible or outlandish, but this “As if!” is not sacred sarcasm but Divine declaration.

God the Father views Jesus Christ as if He is guilty of every sin ever committed. Every transgression from your past and every failure yet to come, God sees Jesus as if He is guilty of each. From the most minor infraction (white lies and scoffing glances) to the most heinous of atrocities (genocide and infanticide) Jesus bears them all. Then, through faith God the Father sees us as if we are pure & holy and blameless & perfect; that which Christ possesses the Father credits to us through faith, as if it is ours innately.

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree. He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the spirit.” -Galatians 3:13-14

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, June 28, 2010

The One Year Bible- June 28th

I have gotten in the habit of writing smiley faces or unhappy faces in the margins of my One Year Bible to indicate a good story or a bad one. Usually they about equal each week. This week however, I had way more unhappy faces. I wrote one for each time someone killed another person or events that were displeasing to God took place. Looking back, it makes me appreciate even more the love God has for us. As a group, people keep messing up. I do every day. But God loves us and sent his son for us. It is just amazing when you stop to think that Jesus was sent to this earth in spite of and because of people like Ahab and Jezebel. On to the study.....

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

A couple of stories I want to mention today that have parallels in the New Testament. First of all, there is a miraculous conception with the woman from Shunem. It reminds be of the story of Abram and Sari in Genesis but it also points forward to both Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and Mary, the mother of Jesus. Like Jesus, this child died and was brought back to life again (after he sneezed seven times…that is funny). Now I don’t want to press the text too much, but it does set a precedent that God is a powerful God and he can bring people back from the dead. Then there is the story of the poisonous stew. Elisha made sure the stew was O.K. to eat and in a fashion similar to the feeding of the 5,000 everyone ate and was satisfied and there was food left over. In an of themselves these stories show the power of God, but I think they also are a set up for what was to come in the person of Jesus Christ. Then there is the story of the ax head the floats in the water. What was that all about? Again it shows the power of God and points to who Yahweh is. One more… after Elisha dies and is in his tomb the people need to bury another person. Now in those days the dead were buried in shared tombs like caves. The Moabites start a raid on the people so they just throw the body in the tomb. It bumps into Elisha’s bones and the guy comes back to life! Now that is awesome!! God is still using Elisha to show is power long after Elisha died. I wish there was more to this story but the text just goes on to another story. Sometimes the Bible does that. It does not mean that it is not part of scripture but sometimes there is nothing else about the story. One thing that I found in reading this week was trying to keep the kings straight in my mind. What I did was look for some sort of a list and here is what I found. I hope it is helpful:

Kings of Judah and Israel

Kings Before Division of Kingdom

· Saul: First King of Israel; son of Kish; father of Ish-Bosheth, Jonathan and Michal.

· Ish-Bosheth (or Eshbaal): King of Israel; son of Saul.

· David: King of Judah; later of Israel; son of Jesse; husband of Abigail, Ahinoam, Bathsheba, Michal, etc.; father of Absalom, Adonijah, Amnon, Solomon, Tamar, etc.

· Solomon: King of Israel and Judah; son of David; father of Rehoboam.

· Rehoboam: Son of Solomon; during his reign the kingdom was divided into Judah and Israel.

Kings of Judah (Southern Kingdom)

· Rehoboam: First King.

· Abijah (or Abijam or Abia): Son of Rehoboam.

· Asa: Probably son of Abijah.

· Jehoshaphat: Son of Asa.

· Jehoram (or Joram): Son of Jehoshaphat; husband of Athaliah.

· Ahaziah: Son of Jehoram and Athaliah.

· Athaliah: Daughter of King Ahab of Israel and Jezebel; wife of Jehoram; only queen to occupy the throne of Judah.

· Joash (or Jehoash): Son of Ahaziah.

· Amaziah: Son of Joash.

· Uzziah (or Azariah): Son of Amaziah.

· Jotham: Regent, later King; son of Uzziah.

· Ahaz: Son of Jotham.

· Hezekiah: Son of Ahaz; husband of Hephzi-Bah.

· Manasseh: Son of Hezekiah and Hephzi-Bah.

· Amon: Son of Manasseh.

· Josiah (or Josias): Son of Amon.

· Jehoahaz (or Joahaz): Son of Josiah.

· Jehoiakim: Son of Josiah.

· Jehoiachin: Son of Jehoiakim.

· Zedekiah: Son of Josiah; kingdom overthrown by Babylonians.

Kings of Israel (Northern Kingdom)

· Jeroboam I: Led secession of Israel.

· Nadab: Son of Jeroboam I.

· Baasha: Overthrew Nadab.

· Elah: Son of Baasha.

· Zimri: Overthrew Elah.

· Omri: Overthrew Zimri.

· Ahab: Son of Omri; husband of Jezebel.

· Ahaziah: Son of Ahab.

· Jehoram (or Joram): Son of Ahab.

· Jehu: Overthrew Jehoram.

· Jehoahaz (or Joahaz): Son of Jehu.

· Jehoash (or Joash): Son of Jehoahaz.

· Jeroboam Il: Son of Jehoash.

· Zechariah: Son of Jeroboam II.

· Shallum: Overthrew Zechariah.

· Menahem: Overthrew Shallum.

· Pekahiah: Son of Menahem.

· Pekah: Overthrew Pekahiah.

· Hoshea: Overthrew Pekah; kingdom overthrown by Assyrians.

The New Testament

We are in the middle of hearing about the missionary journeys of Paul. I hope you found a good map to help you follow along. A couple of things about these readings. First of all Paul is following his pattern of going to the synagogue first (remember this pattern from last week?). Then he heads out to the streets and in Acts 14 we have a very famous sermon. It is referred to as the sermon on Mars Hill. Paul argues using Greek ways to the philosophers about this person called Jesus. Later on Paul uses one of the statues of the “gods” and says that this “unknown god” is indeed Jesus. Of course this gets Paul into all kinds of trouble and they people try to kill him so he flees the area. Acts 15 records a big debate on whether or not Gentiles have to become Jews first (i.e. through circumcision) before they can be Christians. Paul has a great line in the debate that seems to set the church on the right path, “But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” (Acts 15:11 ESV) Then James gets up and makes the decision to have a compromise and he says, “Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those who turn to God.” (Acts 15:19 ESV) I think these are some wise words that we need to be heard today. Of course, because of the message, Paul and Silas end up in prison, but God turns it into a positive thing when they were able to share the message of Jesus with all in the prison, including the jailer. We find out that they all get baptized and became followers. There is a lot more to say about this week’s readings but we don’t have time here.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bethany Bullet - June 22, 2010

Thomas Edison knew something about work. As a prolific inventor and one of the foremost scientific minds America ever produced, he is known for some famous quotes:
  • “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”
  • “There is no substitute for hard work.”
  • “Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

In many ways it is Thomas Edison who has instilled the modern American work ethic. And at times I think this has been to our detriment spiritually. Don’t get me wrong, hard work is a good thing, but when we rely on work for our salvation, we misunderstand scripture. It has been an easy transition for many to make the connection between our hard work in society and working to make ourselves right with God.

It is not just Americans who have struggled with this. This same problem threatened to split the church almost from its inception. The Galatians’ church was struggling with this same thing. Paul begins chapter two of Galatians explaining his relationship with the other apostles and establishing his authority in matters of faith.

There was a group connected with the early church who believed that all of the Old Testament Laws were still valid and were required of all who would follow Jesus as the Messiah. Rules and regulations began to supplant Christ and the cross.

Paul opposes Peter in this regard and this is the context of our text from Galatians chapter 2, “We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:15-16)

If there was anyone who could place confidence in the works of the Law it was Paul. Listen to his own words from his letter to the Philippians, “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” (Philippians 3:4b-6) But where did it get him? He was in the company of those whom Jesus opposed and said, 25"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” (Matthew 23:25)

Attempting to follow the entire Law is an impossible task. It places salvation in the hands of sinful humans, not the strong hands of Jesus; in our work, not Christ’s. As long as we do all that is required, and do not fail in any particular way, we will be accepted by God and will be justified by “the works of the law.” In so doing we have forgotten the cross.

This has been the religion of humanity for centuries. It is the fundamental principle of every religious and moral system in the world today except Christianity. It is popular because it is flattering. It tells us that all we have to do is pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and try a little bit harder, we will succeed in doing anything, including obtaining our salvation.

But it is a fearful delusion and a dangerous misconception. It is the biggest lie of the biggest liar the world has ever known, the devil, whom Jesus called, “The Father of lies.” (John 8:44) Nobody has ever been justified by the works of the law, for the simple reason that nobody has ever perfectly kept the law. We may keep some of the law’s requirements outwardly, but no one except Jesus Christ has ever kept them all.

While it may make sense in our own minds that we must do some sort of work, this is not what the scriptures say. To be right with God, to be justified, is not something that we can do.

It was Martin Luther who said, “If the article of Justification is lost, all Christian doctrine is lost at the same time. This doctrine is the head and the cornerstone of the church. It alone forms, nourishes, builds, preserves and defends the church of God; and without it, the church of God cannot exist for one hour…This is the heel of the promised Seed that opposes the old serpent and crushes its head. That is why Satan, in turn, cannot but persecute it.”

We are made right with God not by our works, but by the work of Christ. It was 100% His perspiration as He carried our burdens to the cross. He is the substitute for our sinful works. It was an opportunity not missed because it was dressed in the flesh of humanity and raised to life for our salvation. Our works mean nothing.

This is the truth! Remember Paul’s words from Galatians chapter 1, “I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” Paul is not making this stuff up.

There are three things I want you to remember from our time in Galatians 2 today:

  1. Justification is a pronouncement, not a process. It occurs outside of us and in spite of us. It is not found in our works. It was pronounced through pounding nails on Golgotha. It was pronounced as the stone was pushed aside. It continues to be pronounced in the pages of scripture and through pastors and people in places all over the planet.
  2. Justification comes through faith. Faith is the free gift of our heavenly Father. It helps us hold fast to the work of Christ. Faith is not a feeling but our foundation to understanding forgiveness. Faith holds on to Jesus, the Founder and Perfector of our faith.
  3. Good works are the effect, not the cause of Justification. Because we have been made right with God we find ourselves doing good works. I quote from Luther again, “Faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing. It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done them, and is constantly doing them.” We are engaged in good works - not for salvation and not even for ourselves but for others. No matter what your station in life, we find ourselves engaged in good works that point to Christ.

Perhaps, United States Congressman James D. Richardson, a contemporary of Edison had it right when he said, “If hard work were really a virtue, then mules would be saints.”

As we honor fathers, as we reflect upon all of their hard work, we must not forget the work of our heavenly Father and the sacrifice He gave in giving up His only Son so that we could be His forever. As we look at the work of our Heavenly Father, it should give us a thrill to watch what He has done in Christ and that because of His work, we are forgiven and will one day feel His warm embrace as He welcomes us to our heavenly home.

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, June 21, 2010

The One Year Bible- June 21st

The NBA, and NHL crowned champions this past week, the baseball season is in full swing and the World Cup has captivated world, but the most exciting contest was in our readings this week. Many people in the world live and die through sports. In most of the world soccer is like a religion. National holidays are called to watch a match played half way across the globe. Employers close shop because everyone is fixated on the match. Many become so obsessed that their very existence hinges on the outcome of a game. In 1 Kings we have another contest that captured the attention of a nation. When Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal the nation was transfixed on the outcome. God used this opportunity to remind the people of who God was and that he had complete power. God used this match to bring the focus of the people back to God. We all have times where our focus is not on God. I am reminded of these words from the book of Hebrews, “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 12:2 NIV) I hope your Bible reading helps to focus your eyes on Jesus Christ. On to the study....

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
The time of the kings was not a glorious time for the people of God. After only three kings (Saul, David, Solomon) the nation divides and there is almost constant war. “There was continual warfare between Rehoboam and Jeroboam.” (1 Kings 14:30 NIV) There was also lots of murder and other vile behavior from both sides. Don’t forget to keep the kingdoms straight in your head as you read. When you read Israel, think northern kingdom ruled from Samaria, and when you read Judah, think southern kingdom ruled from Jerusalem. In this section of scripture every time Israel is mentioned it is always in reference to the northern kingdom and not to all the people. Almost every king we meet is bad and we will read over and over again, “He did evil in the eyes of the LORD and followed in the ways of.........” There are a few exceptions to this. Make sure you spot the good ones and remember what they did. 1 and 2 Kings make mention of a few source materials. The Book of the History of the Kings of Israel, and The Book of the History of the Kings of Judah, have never been found but they are mentioned here. Most kings had a scribe who wrote down everything that happened during their reign. It was a common practice and just because we do not have these books today does not discount the validity of the scriptures. We saw the beginning of the history of bad blood between Jerusalem and Samaria this week. Remember in Jesus time, the Jews hated the Samaritans. The history of this rivalry goes back to the divided kingdom. The Samaritans of Jesus day were a bit different because of the exile and other factors, but this is the beginning. God’s prophet Elijah has a big role in the kingdom of Israel. He spends a lot of time trying to convince the Israelites that they have turned away from YAHWEH. His challenge of the prophets of Baal and the sending of fire to consume the king’s messengers are two big ones. A quick note on the challenge on Mt. Carmel; one thing that makes the scene even more dramatic (if it wasn’t already) is the fact that Baal was the god of the weather and he rode on the clouds. If you remember that right after the challenge on the mountain, Elijah says that it is going to rain and it does, in buckets. That was a big “In Your Face!” to the prophets of Baal. I also like the fact that Elijah was given “super strength” as he ran ahead of Ahab’s chariot. I don’t have time here to talk all about Ahab, but suffice it to say that he was a scumbag. He was terrible and I think his wife was even worse. Most of the kings of Israel will be compared to him and eventually he and his wife will become synonymous with evil. “There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the LORD drove out before Israel.” (1 Kings 21:25-26 NIV)

The New Testament
Many people believe that in the early church Peter did ministry only to the Jews and Paul did ministry only to the Gentiles. But when you start looking at it, it becomes obvious that this was not the case. In Acts 10 Peter clearly is called and sent by God to the house of a Gentile. Not only does God give him a vision that this is OK, Peter also baptizes Cornelius and his family! This is Peter doing ministry to the Gentiles. Peter got into some trouble with this, but he was convinced saying, “Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.’” (Acts 10:34-35 NIV) Acts 12:24 marks a transition from Peter’s ministry to Paul’s. Even though Paul is known as an apostle to the Gentiles (he even said it himself) Paul’s first destination when he goes into any town or city is the synagogue. If he is to bring the message to the Gentiles, why start in the synagogue? The quick answer is that Paul had a desire that all come to know Jesus and that all would be saved. He himself was a Jew (and a Pharisee to boot) and his desire was also for his own spiritual family. The standard process for Paul and his companions was this: They would start in the synagogue and would preach with success until they encountered hostility. They would then go out to the streets and find some success until they were persecuted and then they fled the city. (My seminary professor had us memorize this as S.S.Hos.S.S.P.F. which stands for synagogue, success, hostility, streets, success, persecution, fled) So both Peter and Paul brought the message to all people everywhere. One thing that is very interesting to note is the list of early church leaders at the beginning of chapter 13. This was a very multicultural group. From the beginning the church has been multi-lingual and multi-cultural (remember Pentecost?). I think we can learn from this model. If we look to Acts as our guide we need to find ways to break the church away from a mono-cultural Western mindset. (Now I am rambling so I will move on.) One neat thing that we find in Acts is the many Old Testament references. The early church used the Scriptures to help teach the truth of Jesus Christ to those waiting for the Messiah. We will see even more of this later.

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We started the book of 2 Kings yesterday so here are the vital stats:

PURPOSE: To demonstrate the fate that awaits all who refuse to make God their true leader
AUTHOR: Unknown. Possibly Jeremiah or a group of Prophets
SETTING: The once-united nation of Israel has been divided into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, for over a century.
KEY VERSES: “The LORD warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and seers: ‘Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees, in accordance wit the entire Law that I commanded your fathers to obey and that I delivered to you through my servants the prophets.’ But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their fathers, who did not trust in the LORD their God.” 2 Kings 17:13-14
KEY PEOPLE: Elijah, Elisha, Shunammite woman, Naaman, Jezebel, Jehu, Joash, Hexikiah, Sennacherib, Isaiah, Manasseh, Josiah, Jehoiakim, Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar
SPECIAL FEATURES: The 17 prophetic books at the end of the Old Testament give great insights into the time period of 2 Kings.

Have a great week!!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bethany Bullet - June 16, 2010

Christianity is the only religion, faith system, spiritual community that is tied to historical acts and source verification. Paul himself states that if Jesus is not raised from the dead our faith is futile. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul encourages source verification: “The gospel I preach is not something man made up.” Galatians 1:11 “His” (that is Paul’s) gospel is the message that we are justified through faith, by grace, for Christ’s sake, apart from works of the law. Paul goes on to say in this first chapter that you don’t have to take his word for it; this isn’t his invention, you can check other sources, specifically those who knew and accompanied Christ in His earthly ministry.

In vs. 18, Paul mentions Peter and James and then in chapter 2 vs. 8-9 he mentions John as well. All three of these individuals, interestingly enough, wrote letters after Paul’s letter to the Galatians. John wrote 5 books; Peter wrote 2 and was instrumental in Mark’s gospel and James’ own epistle. If what Paul was saying was a lie, if in fact he was making up the gospel, and using their names to validate his false claims they had plenty of time to correct the record. Yet they too proclaim the same thing, that “Christ gave himself for our sins to rescue us.” Gal. 1:4

Of course, the first chapter of Galatians not only attests to the historicity of Jesus’ work and the validation that “Paul’s” gospel was the same as Peter’s, James’, John’s and thus Jesus’ - it also leaves us with two very practical points of application.

Paul willingly reveals his past. “He tried to destroy the church.” vs. 22-24. If God could use Paul, it is a sure bet that there is no one who is too damaged to make a difference. I know there may be a voice at times in your head or sometimes a tug in your heart that cries, “I know my past. I know my thoughts. I know what I did. How could God possibly use someone like me?” Remember at such times - Paul. If God could use Paul as his chosen instrument, a former persecutor of the church, as the apostle to the Gentiles He can certainly use you. Maybe you are apostle to the soccer team or class room, the guy next door, or the gal in the other cubical?

In Paul testifying that God came to him therefore, shows us that there is no one who is too far gone for Him to go to, to be His instrument as well. If God could journey to Paul, to those reading this Bullet, or to the one who wrote it, how can we say someone’s lifestyle, behavior, world view, past action or present condition bars them from Gospel proclamation?

There is no one who is too far gone to go to!

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, June 14, 2010

The One Year Bible- June 14th

Have you ever read a book and about half way through, not known the main storyline? Maybe you missed it, or possible it is not there, but it is never fun reading a book without a point. Some people get that when they read the Bible. For many it seems like a bunch of disconnected stories that do not seem to fit together. One way to see the big picture is to take the time and read through the whole thing. If you are like me, there is no way I could just sit and read the Bible straight through, starting at page one and going to the end. Some people have the ability to read a book in a weekend or even in a day. The only time I have ever done that was for a class. But when you start digging into scripture and the big picture is revealed, the whole Bible starts to make sense. This happened to me a number years ago when I was teaching an Old Testament class. Our textbook was the Bible, and for the first time in my life, it started to make sense. In this weeks readings we have seen some of the connections. Lets look at them today....

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
This week’s readings had some great connections. The people of Israel now have peace under King Solomon. Things are looking up for the people. The author of 1 Kings gives us a bit of a flashback to Abraham when he writes, “The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy.” (I Kings 4:20 NIV) The promise that was made to Abraham has come to pass. Solomon then undertakes the building of a permanent home for Yahweh. Solomon sends a message to king Hiram of Tyre to make an order for building supplies. Tyre is in what we call Lebanon today. Tyre had (and still has) a great natural resource in timber. It was the best timber around, and only the best was used for the temple. It took seven years to build the temple. I don’t know if you have been part of a building project, but a seven-year building project must have been stressful. When the day came for the dedication of the Temple the priests were sacrificing away and then they had to stop. “When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the Temple of the LORD (remember all caps = Yahweh). The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the LORD filled the Temple.” All of the promises of God to Abraham had been fulfilled!!! Without studying this beforehand one would not understand the gravity of this time. Remember back when we were reading in Genesis and I mentioned the three fold promise that was given. God promised to make Abraham a great people, to give them land, and to have a relationship with them. All three have now officially come to pass. The people are more numerous then the sand on the seashore, they are living at peace in the land, and Yahweh has come down to have a relationship with them in his earthly home. This is no light matter. Solomon speaks of the PLR promise in his prayer of dedication as well. This is the high point of the Old Testament. At this point all seems to be going well, everyone is happy and prosperous. There was so much gold that silver had no value. I especially like this verse, “The king had a fleet of trading ships at sea along with the ships of Hiram. Once every three years it returned, carrying gold, silver and ivory, and apes and baboons.” (1 Kings 10:22 NIV) Why did Solomon need apes and baboons (or peacocks if you are reading the ESV)? Who knows, but when you have money you will find new things to buy just because you can. But sin is still in the world and bad times are just ahead of the people. Soon after this great event even wise Solomon starts to fall away. His wives and their “gods” start to distract him and the country divided in two. Solomon’s son will not be king over a united kingdom. The LORD will provide consequences for sin. This ushers in a time of great suffering and troubles that will last for many years to come. We also see a new literary pattern when the kings are introduced, “So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done.” (1 Kings 11:6 NIV) Look for this pattern as we continue to read about the Kings of Israel and Judah. The rest of 1 and 2 Kings will be filled with sin, sin, and more sin. We will see a few bright spots, but it seems now that the promises of God are far from being fulfilled. It may be helpful to read the rest of the Old Testament narrative with this verse in mind, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes” in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV) The promise will be fulfilled in Jesus who, as a descendant of David, will sit on his throne forever. This is the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant. Jesus will be the one who will make us his people through his suffering and death, Jesus will give us land in heaven, and he promises to be with us forever.

The New Testament
As we continue in the book of Acts we see that the Word of the Lord continues to grow and spread as the church begins, but there were some rumblings of discontent. The Apostles address this concern and start to delegate some authority. This is a good thing that we can all learn from. One verse really struck me from Chapter 6, “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7 NIV) Wow!! Some of the priests hear the Word and become believers of Jesus. That is powerful! The big connection this week to the main story is that of Stephen. He was commissioned to help pass out the food in Jerusalem and there he is preaching the message of Jesus Christ. He gets arrested and then has a marvelous speech. In this speech he mentions the PLR promise that was given to Abraham! How awesome is that? We just heard about it from Solomon and now we hear it from Stephen. His message gave a great summary of the Old Testament and he even mentions David and Solomon and the temple. What a great connection. He goes on to say, “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men” (Acts 7:48 NIV). Jesus was the temple. He even said so himself, “Jesus said ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days,’” (John 2:19 NIV) Jesus was talking about himself. Stephen becomes a great witness to Jesus and because of his death the word of the Lord was spread. One thing of note here is that there is a Pharisee named Saul who was in favor of killing Stephen. We will meet Saul again in a minute. One of the other people commissioned to pass out food was Philip. We see him later preaching and baptizing, not just passing out food. I think both Stephen and Philip tell us a lot about our vocation. We have been called to do certain things, but we all still preach, teach, and share Christ every day in every way. We saw the spread of the Gospel to Samaria in chapter 8 when Peter and John travel up to bring the Holy Spirit. This is a big deal because any good Jew hates anything Samaritan. Both Peter and John not only go to Samaria to see what was going on, but they also stopped and preached the Good news at many Samaritan villages. Philips meeting with the Ethiopian brings the message to Gentiles!! This is the beginning of something big. At the end of our readings we see this Saul character again. He was one bad dude. He hated the believers of the way and would do anything to stop them. But God had other plans. He called him on the road to Damascus and changed his life forever. We will spend more time talking about Saul (a.k.a. Paul, his Greek name) later. One quick thing: God does not change his name, he just goes by Saul when he is with Hebrew speakers and Paul when he is with Greek speakers, but more on him later.

Have a great week!!

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