Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bethany Bullet - October 26, 2010

It was Thursday, August 5, 2010 and Luis Urzua left his house for work. Little did he know it would be quite some time before he would see his family again? Luis, a mine foreman, and 32 of his fellow miners descended into the San Jose copper and gold mine in northern Chile for a regular day of work. For the miners, every day is filled with danger and this day was no exception. During their shift the mine experienced a collapse; this one was major. About 700,000 tons of rock shifted underground cutting off the 33 miners from escape. No amount of work from the miners would be able to free them. Their only hope of rescue would have to come from the outside. As the news of the collapse spread, so did fear. After two weeks of searching, hope was waning. Many presumed the miners were dead. Then, 17 days after the collapse, hope was restored. A note had been attached to a drill bit taken to the surface, it read, "We are fine in the refuge, the 33 of us." The men were alive. All of them! Soon the families of the trapped miners gathered near the mine at a place now dubbed Camp Hope; to wait for their loved ones, to pray for their safety, and to hope that they would be made right.

While the world stood transfixed on the events taking place on a hillside and under the ground in Chile, many were reminded of a similar story that took place centuries ago and still plays out to this very day.

The New Testament reading for last week from Romans 3 begins to tell the story, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away; they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

And from our reading today, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

The prison not made of rock, but of disobedience traps humanity under a weight that cannot be moved by our actions. Because of sin we are not right with God. Because of sin we are trapped without hope of escape, cutoff from the LORD.

The miners could have tried to dig their way out. What is 700,000 tons of rock anyway right? They would not have been successful. The miners could have given up. It is hopeless, we are trapped, and there is nothing I can do; but the miners did neither. Instead they showed faith, in the face of the impossible, they held on to hope.

The foreman, Luis Urzua organized the men. Facing sweltering heat, lack of sunlight, and limited rations, the men survived for 17 days before they were given a lifeline from the outside. They were divided into three crews, each with a different task all with the same goal…survival. The men continued to work.

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:21-22)

We live in a world that is not right, a world in which separation from God is a reality.
  • Some believe that they can escape on their own merit: as long as I do enough, or pray harder, or go to church more often then God will provide for me.
  • Some have given up hope. Since there is nothing that can be done, or since there is nothing to look forward to, I will just do whatever I want.

Both viewpoints have no hope. If freedom depends on us, we are doomed to be trapped forever.

+ However, righteousness is a gift, given by grace, apprehended by faith, and apart from our works.

+ Sin has imprisoned us, but Jesus has freed us. Our works are nothing – His work is everything for us.

Jesus willingly descended to us. He took on the entrapments of the flesh and the shortcomings of this sinful world. He took on the work of making us right with the Father. It was a plan that was hatched in the infancy of sin, born out of the love of the Father who could not bear to see us trapped forever in the confines of sin.

It was on another hillside, not in Chile, but outside of Jerusalem, where the world stood transfixed at the events taking place. The One, who had come to save, willingly descended to the prison of sin. Jesus Himself was trapped behind a stone. Jesus was sealed behind a rock; but Jesus had a plan of salvation. His work was to defeat the prison of sin and make us right.

Jesus came down so that we could rise. He came not because of what we have done, but because of His love. You see, nothing you can do can cause Him to love you anymore, and nothing you have done could cause Him to love you any less.

When we stop trying to save ourselves can we understand that being made right is by God’s action not ours? As we read in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Martin Luther once said, “We must receive before we can give; before we show mercy, we must receive it from God. We do not lay the first stone. The sheep does not seek the shepherd; the shepherd seeks the sheep.”

The trapped miners in Chile were saved, not by their own efforts, but they did not stop working. As they continued to do the tasks of the day they kept holding on to hope and relying on their faith. Included in the supplies sent down to the miners were Bibles. Even in the darkness of their reality, they were able to hold on to the light of Christ found in the scriptures. The men gathered at noon and at 6 PM daily for prayer and a reading from scripture. They were sent a copy of the Jesus film to watch.

Like the trapped miners, we are called to keep working. We continue to do work, not for salvation but to give glory to God and to point others toward Jesus.

By some estimates more than a billion people watched the first miner be lifted to the surface. As Florencio Avalos stepped from the capsule name Phoenix he was wearing a tan t-shirt that many of his co-workers would also wear on their journey to the light. It read, “Gracias Senior!” “Thank you God.” And on the back were words from Psalm 95, “In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him,” followed by the phrase, “To God Alone be the Honor and Glory.”

Mario Sepulveda, the second miner to reach the surface said of his time in the mine, “I was with God and I was with the Devil, but God won!” What a true statement, a statement of faith, a witness to the world and a true statement for all who live on this world.

We continue to be about the business of Christ, supplied with gifts from heaven to meet our needs. Someday our time in this prison filled with sin will be over. Like the miners in Chile, we will be taken from the darkness into the light. We will rise, clothed in Christ, and God will win.

Just over 24 hours from the start of the rescue, Luis Urzua climbed aboard the rescue capsule and was taken to the surface. He was greeted by the president of Chile Sebastian Pinera with the words, “Bienvenidos a Vida!” Welcome to life! Then he told him, “Your shift is over.”

Some day we will hear our Savior say those words to us, “Welcome to life! Your shift is over.” As He wraps His arms around us and welcomes us to heaven where there is no darkness, no sin, no sadness ONLY life eternal. Our work will be done. The work of Jesus will be complete. We are made right.

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, October 25, 2010

The One Year Bible- October 25th

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. It was a sad day in the life of the people. I put quite a few frowning faces in the margin of my Bible this week. Another bit of the story that I forgot about was that of those who were left in the country and not taken into exile. I found it very interesting that the Lord promised protection for these people through Jeremiah as long as they stayed in the land. But, like what seems to happen again and again, the people do not listen and head to Egypt for what they think is “safety”. Their self-centeredness was their destruction.

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

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

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament

We will 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 19, 2010

Bethany Bullet - October 19, 2010

Made Right: Through Faith

This is the second of a four-part series. If you missed the first-part see last week’s Bullet.

Genesis 32

Jacob is a dirty, rotten scoundrel! If you are unfamiliar with his story let’s do a quick review of how we got here in the first place. He fooled his father Isaac, by wearing Esau’s (his brother) shirt and disguising his body so that he had the feel and smell of Esau. Jacob presented himself as Esau to their blind, elderly father and thus obtained, by deception, the blessing that rightly belonged to Esau. After fleeing from this situation Jacob finds himself in a similar position. Jacob has slyly amassed a huge fortune for himself at the expense of his brother-in-law’s families. At least in their estimation he was less than honest in the way in which he procured his substantial and strong flocks and herds i.e. at the expense of theirs.

Now, Jacob who fled from his big brother earlier is fleeing from his new brothers, by marriage. As we arrive at our text he is between the two offended parties. Is he caught in his own trap? Before we can even answer the question an adversary comes rushing down the canyon and Jacob is engaged in a confrontation.
  • Is it his big brother, Esau, coming to get his revenge?
  • Or is it his new brothers coming to reclaim what they think are rightly theirs?

NO, his opponent is not the one who is related to him but ONE who has created him. God Himself is wrestling with Jacob.

Before we begin to see what this text means for our lives of faith; let me ask you to ponder this… How can Jacob (a dirty rotten scoundrel) who is afraid of his big brother and new brothers, by marriage, possibly hope to hold down the omnipotent God?

Now it goes without saying that the author of this Bullet is neither divine nor omnipotent. However, he is, at least for a little while still, stronger than his sons. Yet, for years I have found myself on the losing end of wrestling matches: be they thumb wrestling, arm wrestling, Greco-Roman or WWE style affairs. How is it that any dad, let alone this one, can get pinned over and over again by those he outweighs by hundred plus pounds and by those he can out lift by the same?

Jacob couldn’t possibly hope to out wrestle God. The disadvantage between him and his Creator is far more than that between any earthly father and his earthly sons. My doubt in regards to Jacob is not based upon Jacob’s past - being a guy who is a little too slick for his own good. Rather my opinion is based solely upon his competitor - God is God! No one, NO ONE, can hope to out grapple the omnipotent God and hold onto Him unless God is willing and desires to be held.

Yet, there is no denying that our text records Jacob’s refusal to let go of his hold on God. He simply refused to let God go! In the end Jacob is blessed and given a new name, Israel, one who struggles with God. There is simply too much here to go over in a Bethany Bullet. If you want the whole scoop get the full message on this text from our website as a pod cast. For now here are two points for you to hold on to:

  1. Faith doesn’t mean you won’t struggle. In fact, this episode is synonymous with faith. Clinging to God is an image of faith. No matter what anyone else, your own emotions and feelings say, being a person of faith doesn’t mean you won’t struggle. Perhaps it is the loss of a loved one, a relationship or a job? Maybe because of the state of the state or your state of mind you are left wrestling with what else can go wrong? From personal pains to global concerns maybe you are left to grapple with why God hasn’t finally, once and for all, put this or that in a sleeper hold?
  2. Yet, as one of faith, don’t let go. Cling to His certain and sure promises all kept in Jesus Christ - Crucified and Risen. And know that He desires you to cling to Him and that He Himself intends to never let you go!

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, October 18, 2010

The One Year Bible- October 18th

I have a lot on my plate this week 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 in my tone.) 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 want to take a look at parts of all three letters we have read from this past week. There is no way to cover all of the material, so if you have any specific questions, please feel free to email me or use the comment section on this blog.

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 12, 2010

Bethany Bullet - October 12, 2010

We’ve all heard (or said), “They just don’t make them like that anymore.” Generally, this statement is made in regards to a perceived lack of modern craftsmanship or degradation of materials. Materials and craftsmanship considered being of lesser quality of those once used thus resulting in the speaker’s opinion that something is not “made right.” If there were a schematic for salvation or if we spoke of how forgiveness is fashioned and forged we might choose the wording:

By Grace - Through Faith - Apart from Works -
For the Sake of Christ…We are made Right by Grace.

+ + +

You may want to read II Kings 5 before you continue reading this Bethany Bullet.
+ + +

At this point in Biblical chronology, King David has been dead and buried for roughly 150 years. The great prosperity, power, and influence that Israel enjoyed under David and then under his Son Solomon’s reign was gone. In fact, the kingdom was no longer intact and by now divided into two sister nations: Israel to the north and Judah in the south. By the time we get to our reading, Aram (the nation of Israel’s border we know as Syria) was asserting itself as a player in the region. It had forced Israel into treaties and skirmishes were commonplace.

Following one such skirmish, the forces of the “Syrian” Army had taken an Israelite girl captive and in turn she became a slave in the household of Naaman, a general of the Aram army. That’s the back ground of our text. That is the reason the king of Israel is so alarmed.

Put yourself in the king’s place, “Not only is he asking too much from me, I am not a doctor, he doesn’t deserve that for which he asks. He is the leader of the army that opposes my own. He is holding captive a citizen of my kingdom.” Is it possible that the king was thinking, “I can’t heal him, and if I could, I don’t know that I would do so?” As much as we could conjecture about the king’s thoughts, I’d prefer to discuss that which I am more certain of.

Let’s be honest, Naaman is a wretch. I’m not talking about the condition of his skin (though leprosy is the case); I am, however, referring to the state of his soul. This guy is in the loop of human trafficking. And while “everyone” did it in his day that doesn’t make me feel any more kindly disposed towards him. I don’t care how nice he treated the Israelite girl. I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say the treatment must have been fair since she is the one who told him about the prophet Elisha but that doesn’t change the fact of what Naaman did - not for me. Does it for you?

There are other details of his life that we know much about. He lived on the border of Israel. Someone who lived under his roof was faithful to the LORD…whether it was through the Israelite girl (listen to her words carefully, she said, “Go see the prophet”) or through others (Naaman even knew God by His revealed name, YAHWEH.) Read through it again, you will find Naaman is the only character in the account that calls God by His name. When you read LORD in your Bible it means the speaker has used God’s name, YAHWEH. So what? Well, I believe this means we can’t look at Naaman as someone who had the misfortune of not growing up in Israel. This isn’t a guy that we can say had some rough breaks or grew up somewhere with no concept of right and wrong, etc. This guy was acquainted with God by name; shouldn’t that up the ante just a bit?

Naaman, lived on the edge of the kingdom, was familiar with the LORD of all life and creation, and ventured into God’s neighborhood (so to speak), ONLY to get things for HIMSELF – be it menial help or medical attention.

As if that in and of itself isn’t a deal breaker – How about his arrogance? Listen to what Naaman says again, “I thought surely he would come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over me and cure me.” (II Kings 5:11) In other words, “God, how dare you not act with fanfare and fireworks on my behalf?”

Something within Naaman wants restoration to be more complicated than it is! So, he even goes so far as to question God’s ration, reason, and decision. Does this guy really deserve healing? You know who this guy reminds me of?

Let’s be honest, Naaman is a wretch…like me! My spirit is as rotten as his flesh. I too have been in war against God. Like Naaman, I have skirmished with the Lord’s will. I know what it is to want to keep His rule and reign o’er me at a safe distance. Close enough (mind you) that I can make a request when needed, far enough away that I can keep it like a prisoner or servant when I choose. I am inclined to live like a guy on the edge of the kingdom; able to venture into the confines of the king when I want to get things for MYSELF.

As if that shouldn’t be a deal breaker – there is the arrogance. I often tell God what and how He should do His thing. I have often been sure that His choice is not the best way to go. In fact, I have gotten angry that He has chosen not to consult me in His plan of action.

Is it just me and Naaman? This much is also certain, there is something within each of us that thinks restoration should be more complicated – if not for ourselves, at least for the Naaman’s of this world – at least THEY shouldn’t be allowed to simply be washed and cleansed, right? We even go so far as to question God’s ration, reason, and decision:
--> Does Naaman deserve healing?
--> Do they?
--> Do I?
--> Do you?
That is why it is called – GRACE. GRACE means God’s undeserved favor.

GRACE was exerted when Naaman was cleansed. Naaman was MADE RIGHT because of God’s action, not his own.

In fact, in spite of Naaman’s own actions and atrocities as well as the ones that we have already catalogued here today – we are all cleansed. While we might protest at the cleansing of a Naaman, especially since most of us would only admit to lesser charges on earth; yet, before the throne of heaven we are no less guilty than Naaman.

The diagnoses of our condition is easy enough for any young child to figure out – leper no, sinner yes. And allow the young child of our text to speak to you… there is NOTHING you can do on your own to get the healing you need and do not deserve – you need THE PROPHET; NOT JUST ANY PROPHET, the One who is also a Priest and King – Jesus Christ.

In Him and only in Him is there healing for your condition.

Though you are not worthy, have not earned it, do not deserve it, are an enemy of God by nature, and are one who reveals your condition by your actions. You and I are much like Naaman. Grumbling with God’s decisions, living on the border of His kingdom (a safe enough distance to ignore His will when we so desire and yet close enough to seek His assistance when needed), and frustrated that He doesn’t do His thing with fanfare and fireworks.

GRACE is yours in Jesus Christ.
+ Not earned, not deserved, but MADE RIGHT in Jesus.

For Naaman that meant the flesh of a leper became like the body of a baby. For us it means the guilt of a sinner is cast away so that God sees us as those as pure as Jesus through Faith. Know that like Naaman - your own cleansing and restoration has come solely by GRACE.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, October 11, 2010

The One Year Bible- October 11th

A few years ago 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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