Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bethany Bullet - November 30, 2010

Regardless of creed, this is a season of getting things ready.

  • When someone is balancing precariously on the ladder affixing the lights on the highest part of the roof line or tree top, taking their life into their hands; they are getting things ready.
  • As shoppers hit the mall at 4:00 a.m. for door buster deals and taking their lives into their hands; they are getting ready.
  • When the house smells like a bakery, your favorite radio station sounds like a hymnal, and light poles along city streets/parking lots suddenly dawn candles, trumpeters, or an occasional angel; it is all because things are getting ready.

This is a season for we who are the body of Christ to get ready as well. What is it that we are getting ready for? We are to be ready to greet the Lord ourselves and ready to present the Lord to others; such is the “ready-ing” that needs to occur this Advent season.

+ It is time to be ready to once again greet the Lord, as in years gone by, as the humble newborn babe of Bethlehem resting on the hay.

+ It is time to be ready to greet the Lord as never before, the triumphant all-powerful Ruler of the universe and Judge of mankind riding on the clouds.

+ Advent is a time for us to get ready to greet our helpless Brother laid in a manger and as our Almighty Father ruling on His throne.

Yet, Advent isn’t only about being ready to greet Him ourselves but also being ready to present Him to others.

  • Whether as divine messengers such as prophets and angels,
  • Whether as in bit-part scene players like shepherds and Magi,
  • Whether as mom, dad or cousin (i.e. Mary, Joseph, & John the Baptist),
  • Whether as a complete stranger (i.e. Simeon and Anna),
  • Or whether as dearest friends (i.e. Peter, John, & Paul);

God presents Himself, His appearing, His arriving, His ADVENT – to the world through the church. More plainly put, God presents the message about His presence, love, and purpose to the people of this planet through HIS people on this planet – that being us!

So, be ready to greet Him, yourself, again and anew (Romans 13:11-12) and be ready to present Him to others (I Peter 3:15).

Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, November 29, 2010

The One Year Bible- November 29th

The Holiday season is in full swing and now more than ever your Bible reading time may be impacted. With so many things to do and gifts to buy it is easy to forget your readings for the day. If this happens don't worry. First of all you may need to be even more deliberate in your planning for time in the word and if you fall behind remember my easy rule, just read two a day until you catch up. Don't kill yourself trying to get all the readings done in a day. Maybe you can take your Bible to the mall and take a shopping break and do some reading. This could be a great witness of your faith and may even spark a discussion with someone else. You can tell them about the real meaning of the season. Speaking of shopping, this may be the time to think about next year and your Bible reading habits. Perhaps you want to do this again but this time read a different version. I will be doing this same study in 2011 so you can do it again with me if you would like. Here is another idea. Ask a friend of yours to read with you. You can look at each weeks study and then talk about it over coffee or lunch or even via email. There are many ways to continue this great habit you have begun. You could also look at reading a book like “The Story” that uses just the narrative of the Bible text to tell the chronological story found in Scripture. I will keep trying to motivate you as we hit the stretch run and push on through to 2011 but for now, on to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

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

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

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

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KEY PEOPLE: Hosea, Gomer, their children

KEY PLACES: The northern kingdom, Samaria, Ephraim

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

The New Testament

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

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

AUTHOR: The apostle John

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

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

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

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

And here are the vital stats for 2 John:

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

AUTHOR: The apostle John

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bethany Bullet - November 23, 2010

As a Bethany Bullet reader there is a pretty good chance you’ve read, heard, and even said these words before. Therefore, most likely you can finish the sentence for me, “My stuff is not …..” that’s right, “…my stuff.” That being said, let’s admit that this very sentence might move beyond the generous and push towards the presumptuous at best or the ridiculous at worst. Reality, experience, and personal practice do dictate that - your stuff is your stuff - even as my stuff is my stuff. I am typing this Bethany Bullet on my computer, while sitting in my chair at my desk in my office; this Bullet will have my name on it as the author, even as the computer and the office door bear my name.

Of course your name is written, engraved or embossed on any number of items that are yours, too! The law is clear on this matter, our stuff is our stuff and the last thing we want is someone else laying claim to it as if it were their stuff.

In terms of our relationships with one another: brother, sister, neighbor, or stranger…you would be right on the one hand to declare that “My stuff is my stuff.” To say your stuff is your stuff does not void the very words I have tried to incorporate into my personal life and disseminate in my professional life, “My stuff is not my stuff.” After all, we do have Commandments assigned to keep “your stuff” as your stuff. Others ought not to covet your goods (i.e. “your stuff”); Commandments 9 and 10 deal with that. Nor are others permitted to steal that which belongs to you (i.e. “your stuff”); as the 7th Commandment dictates. In his Small Catechism regarding the meanings of these Commandments, Martin Luther writes, “In regard to your possessions (i.e. “your stuff”) others need to recognize that it is indeed yours to the extent that they ought not acquire your things (i.e. “your stuff”) in a dishonest way nor entice it away from you, but actually even help you to improve and protect your possessions (i.e. “your stuff”) so that you can keep that which is yours.” - That would be “your stuff.”

No one can lay claim to your possessions because your stuff is your stuff. Not even your pastor can lay claim to your stuff – your Master on the other hand, that is a different matter all together isn’t it!

Jesus said, “If someone wants your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” Make no mistake about it; the Commandment still applies to the “someone” who “asks.” They are forbidden to take because…your stuff is your stuff. The fulfillment of Jesus’ call to freely give is not directed to the one who wants your stuff, but the one who has your stuff – that’d be you. Your stuff is your stuff, and certainly it is not their stuff – ULTIMATELY, your stuff is HIS STUFF and therefore it is true to say, “Your Stuff is NOT Your Stuff!”

In his letter to the Colossians Paul writes, “Jesus is the image of the invisible God.” Now follow along with me and every time we come to the words ‘ALL THINGS’ please read that with me, ok.

“Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him ALL THINGS were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; ALL THINGS were created by him and for him. He is before ALL THINGS, and in him ALL THINGS hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in ALL THINGS he might have the supremacy.”

All things – this is not Christ assuming for Himself that which is not truly His nor is He interposing Himself in the midst of that which is yours, rather the words “all things” put Christ in His rightful place. He is the source of ALL THINGS in heaven or on earth! Hence He is the source of ALL THINGS in our closets and garages; He is the provider of ALL THINGS in our wallets and safety deposit boxes. Therefore, ALL THINGS we have find their source in Him and are a resource for Him.

+ All things are His…whether thrones, recliners, or dinette sets for that matter;
+ All things are His…powers, as well as pocketbooks, rulers, futures, and toasters too.
+ All things are His…from our authorities to our assets; they are all His!

Saying, My Stuff is Not My Stuff is no different than saying ALL THINGS belong to Him. ‘All things’ is an affirmation that Christ has priority - first place; from the hours in your day to the talent in your fingers to the bucks in your wallet. Your stuff is not your stuff – means that ALL OF IT His.

Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, November 22, 2010

The One Year Bible- November 22nd

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

Seth’s Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Bits and Pieces

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

PURPOSE: To give a historical account of the faithful Jews who lived in captivity and to show how God is in control of heaven and earth, directing the forces of nature, the destiny of nations, and the care of his people.
AUTHOR: Daniel
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The other captives in Babylon and God’s people everywhere.
DATE WRITTEN: Approximately 535 B.C., recording events from about 605-535 B.C.
SETTING: Daniel has been taken captive and deported to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 B.C. There he serves in the government for about 60 years during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus.
KEY VERSE: “He [God] reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him” (2:22)
KEY PEOPLE: Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, Shadrach, Mexhach, Abednego, Balshazzar, Darius
KEY PLACES: Nebuchadnezzar’s palace, the fiery furnace, Belshazzar’s banquet, the den of lions.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Daniel’s apocalyptic visions (chapters 8-12) give a glimpse of God’s plan for the ages, including a direct prediction of the Messiah

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

PURPOSE: To warn Christians about false teachers and to exhort them to grow in their faith in and knowledge of Christ
TO WHOM WRITTEN: To the church at large, and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 67, three years after 1 Peter was written, possibly from Rome
SETTING: Peter knew that his time on earth was limited (1:13-14), so he wrote about what was on his heart, warning believers of that would happen when he was gone—especially about the presence of false teachers. He reminded his readers of the unchanging truth of the gospel.
KEY VERSE: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and goodness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (1:3)
SPECIAL FEATURES: The date and destination are uncertain, and the authorship has been disputed. Because of this, 2 Peter was the last book admitted to the canon of the New Testament Scripture. Also, there are similarities between 2 Peter and Jude.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The One Year Bible- November 15th

If this is your first year reading through the Bible you may be tempted at the end to do what you do with a good book. Some people like to take a weekend or a slow evening and finish it up in one sitting or in a few hours. It is tempting to do, especially when you see that there are just a few pages left. Some days I feel like that with our Bible readings but I want to give you some advice. If you want to finish reading the Bible in the next couple of days, do so. You will feel very accomplished, but then go back each day and review the readings. I kind of like to think that Bible reading is kind of like eating cheesecake. It is really good in small doses. If you try to eat the whole cake in one sitting you will get a tummy ache. It is way too rich and complex to try to digest all at once. If you can’t help yourself, go ahead and indulge. It really can’t hurt you, but you will get more out of your readings when you pace yourself. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

We keep plugging along in Ezekiel. This week’s readings seemed to be more “normal” than last weeks. Just your run of the mill judgments on Israel and the other countries (note the hint of sarcasm in my voice). I found one of the best nuggets of grace this week. At the end of Chapter 18 we read, Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!.” (Ezekiel 18:31-32 NIV) Remember our discussion a few months back (I don’t exactly remember) when we talked about repentance and confession? This passage goes into that category. By this I mean that repentance and confession occur because of what God has already done for us. It is God who turns us by his word, and his Spirit. Another thing that I did not mention before is that God refers to Ezekiel by the phrase, “Son of Man”. Most scholars believe that when Jesus starts using this same term in reference to himself he was giving us an indication of his own character. By saying he [Jesus] was the Son of Man, he was saying that he is human. He has a human nature in addition to the divine. This is the same usage as God uses it in reference to the man Ezekiel.

One other thing we saw this week and we will see again before the end of the book is the idea of “The Day of the Lord”. Whenever you see this phrase you should think: Judgment. This almost always refers to what will happen after the patience of God runs out and his punishment comes. Ezekiel was using in Chapter 30 in reference to what will happen to Egypt, but later it will be used in reference to the whole world. The New Testament picks up this same idea in Revelation.


A quick note here; did you catch that reference in Psalm 110 to Melchizedek? Like we talked about last week, this is a reference to the Messiah. Note the difference between LORD and Lord in this chapter. If LORD is Yahweh then Lord (at least in this chapter) could be the pre-incarnate Jesus. Neat stuff!!!

The New Testament

Where do I start? So much here, I want to talk about it all, but I do not have the time or the space to do it. So let’s start with the idea of the High Priest. I know we talked about it last week but here is some more info. When we teach children and new believers about the Faith we usually end up talking about the “offices” of Jesus. By this we do not mean the corner office in the company, we mean his jobs. We often say that he is prophet, priest, and king. The last two are very evident in the book of Hebrews. As a Jew, your only hope of forgiveness of sins lies with the High Priest. He is the only one that could go to God on your behalf and offer a sacrifice for the forgiveness of your sins. Jesus is now our high priest. He went to God for us and offered himself as the sacrifice. The author of the book of Hebrews really hammers this point home by discussing it over and over. This would have been a huge deal to a Jewish person. They are hard-wired to accept the idea of sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. Many Jews struggle with the idea that the Temple is no longer standing. Quite literally, in their view, they have not been able to have forgiveness of sins since 70 A.D when the Romans destroyed the temple. Jewish Christians can find comfort in the fact that the sacrifice has been done in the person of Christ and this is once for all! It does not need to happen over and over again. The destruction of the temple would have been a very convincing argument for the writer of Hebrews so many scholars feel that this book was written before that. Another thing to mention is the idea of shadows here on earth and the real temple being in heaven. This is rather Aristotelian as far a philosophy goes (no time to get into that here) but we can all try to understand what that means. Temple worship on earth was never meant to be “the-be-all-end-all” of the life of faith. It served to foreshadow what was to come. All good books have some foreshadowing. What is present on earth will be fulfilled and completed in the heavenly realms. It ends up being a matter of Faith, which is what comes next in the book. Chapter 11 of Hebrews is often called “The Faith Hall of Fame”. It tells of the accomplishments of many of the saints that have gone before and tells how they too believed in the promise of the Messiah. They did not know about the person of Jesus but they did know about the promised Messiah. Their actions to keep faith alive were credited to them as righteousness from God. The obeyed even though they never saw, heard, touched, or experienced the Messiah. How much more should we hold on in faith since we know all about Jesus and he promised he would be with us always. We get to spend some intimate time with him each time we partake in communion. We know him and he knows us!! Let us then hold firm to the faith we have been given!! Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV).

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament

We will continue in Ezekiel and we will get to the famous dry bones story as well as the description of the new city of Jerusalem which has some parallels to Revelation; a lot to say about these in a later post.

The New Testament

We will read through the book of James this week as well as start 1 Peter. Here are the vital stats on James:

PURPOSE: To expose hypocritical practices and to teach right Christian behavior

AUTHOR: James, Jesus' brother, a leader in the Jerusalem church

TO WHOM WRITTEN: First-Century Jewish Christians residing in Gentile communities outside Palestine, and all Christians everywhere

DATE WRITTEN: Probably A.D. 49 prior to the Jerusalem council held in A.D. 50

SETING: This letter expresses James's concern for persecuted Christians who were once part of the Jerusalem church

KEY VERSE: "But some will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do" (2:18 NIV)

And here are the vital stats for the book of 1 Peter:

PURPOSE: To offer encouragement to suffering Christians


TO WHOM WRITTEN: Jewish Christians driven out of Jerusalem and scattered throughout Asia Minor, and all believers everywhere

DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 62-64, possibly from Rome

SETTING: Peter was probably in Rome when the great persecution under emperor Nero began (Eventually Peter was executed during this persecution). Throughout the Roman empire, Christians were being tortured and killed for their faith, and the church in Jerusalem was being scattered throughout the Mediterranean world.

KEY VERSE: "These have come so that your faith...may be proved genuine and may result in priais, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1:7 NIV)

KEY PEOPLE: Peter, Silas, Mark

KEY PLACES: Jerusalem, Rome, and the regions of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia Minor, and Bithynia

SPECIAL FEATURES: Peter used several images that were very special to him because Jesus had used them when he revealed certain truths to Peter. Peter's name (which means "rock") had been given to him by Jesus. Peter's conception of the church- a spiritual house composed of living stones build upon Christ as the foundation- came from Christ. Jesus encouraged Peter to care for the church as a shepherd tending the flock. Thus it is not surprising to see Peter use living stones (2:5-9) and shepherds and sheep (2:25; 5:2,4) to describe the church.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Bethany Bullet - November 9, 2010

What did you do on your 18th birthday? For some, it involved a lottery ticket or a cigar, for others it was a draft notice and kiss goodbye from your mother. At 18 our society sees you as an adult. You have the right to make your own decisions, and be held accountable for them. You are able to fight for our country, to scratch a lotto ticket, to vote. But are you really all grown up? You might have been driving for a few years, but you can’t go to the bar. It is an interesting time. Some who are 18 still go to school, while others work full time. Some live at home with mom and dad, while others have struck out on their own. So, what is it? At 18 are you a child or an adult? The fact remains that before you are 18 you are not your own.

Ask an 18 year old and they will tell you, they are an adult. They can do anything they want, until they hear their father say, “As long as you are living under my roof, you will follow my rules!” The fact remains that until you are an adult you are under the legal supervision of someone else. Children desperately want to grow up. Last week many children dressed up in costume and pretended to be what they want to become, a fireman, a doctor, a race car driver, a professional athlete. Many children are in a hurry to grow up to be on their own and often times it ends poorly. An interest in alcohol turns into substance abuse. Struggles in school leads to drop outs, a desire for relationships and intimacy leads to unwanted pregnancy, and the list goes on.

From 1 John 3: 1, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

God calls believers by various new names: we are His servants, a nation, His royal subjects, priests, soldiers. But the dearest term of all is that He calls us His children. And that is not just an honorary title—He has literally adopted us into His family, making us brothers and sister of His Son, Jesus, through Baptism.

He calls us His children, we belong to Him, we are not our own; but it was not always so. When we first entered this world, it was as God’s enemies. God had other adjectives to describe our first status—foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved. The dominant emotions that govern the lives of sinful rebels are malice, envy, and hatred (Titus 3:3).

The truth is, we desire to live our spiritual lives if we are our own. We want to decide when we pray, how often we worship, how much we give in the offering plate, and when to volunteer; but He calls us His children.

What wonderful news, we ARE God’s children. This is not a patronizing term—the point is not to make us feel like babies. The point is to make us feel loved, important, and secure. God the Father has solemnly obligated Himself to do for us what all good fathers do for their children—provide for our daily needs, protection, and guidance. He provides us with a sense of being worth something, of being precious. He is there for us in emergencies just as good fathers bail their children out of trouble.

When we need help, when we pray, we don’t have to feel as though we are approaching a stranger. We are talking to our Father! We can call on a relationship that He initiated—it was His idea, His doing, and His adoption, not ours. He stooped down to us since we couldn’t climb up to Him.

A group of young adults were enjoying a party, and someone suggested that they go to club to continue the fun. “I’d rather you took me home,” one girl said to her date. “My parents don’t approve of that place.” “Afraid your father will hurt you?” one of her friends asked sarcastically. “No,” she replied, “I’m not afraid my father will hurt me, but I am afraid I might hurt him.”

She understood the principle that a true child of God, who has experienced the love of God, has no desire to sin against that love.

It was the generous life of Jesus that even makes this conversation possible. It is because of what Jesus did on the cross and through the open tomb that we can even be called children of God. Once we were enemies of the Father, but through Jesus we are His children. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

Because we are now wearing Christ’s holiness, we have everlasting life in us already. We don’t know exactly what life in heaven will be like, but we do know that Jesus is there preparing a place for us. One day we will be welcomed by the Father into the place prepared for us from the foundations of the world. It will be a grand and wonderful day. We will then fully experience the great love the Father has lavished upon us.

For now, that Father-child relationship is not visible to the rest of the world. To our earthly eyes, we don’t look like heavenly royalty; but we are assured that the saints who have gone before us are experiencing that relationship fully today.

In our reading from Revelation we hear these fantastic words from John as he witnessed the multitude of saints in heaven,
“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7:15-17)

Not only does God wipe the tears away from the eyes of the saints, but from our eyes too. As we can’t help but remember the shepherd of this flock who was called heavenward this week, our Savior wipes away our tears and reminds us of the great reward of the saints. We know that today Pastor Loesch is singing at the top of his lungs in heavens choir.

In reality, the saints in heaven are not their own. They have been washed in the blood of Christ. They worship at this throne. Their actions are for Him. This is the lavish love of the Father, the overabundance of His grace and mercy poured out in Christ for all. It is not a trickle, not a sprinkle, not a smidge or a smattering, this is LAVISH love. As Paul writes in his 1st letter to the Corinthians, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20)

We may desire to be our own, we may want to grow up, but God reminds us that we are His children, washed in His Son’s blood, possessing the gift given to the saints. One day we will not be wearing a costume, looking forward to the future but will be clothed with Christ and singing loud in His presence for eternity. As we remember the saints who have gone before us, let us remember that we are not our own, we live a generous life, gifted by our loving Father and as we have been called to faith in Christ, moved by the love of God the Father and empowered by the Holy Spirit in this life we are committed to:
• Worshiping Faithfully
• Forming Spiritually
• Serving Passionately
• Giving Proportionately
• Sharing Intentionally
It is OK to be called a child, His child, His holy one. Let’s not be so quick to grow up.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

-Pastor Seth Moorman

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