Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bethany Bullet - March 29, 2011

Something OLD and something NEW confronts us in worship weekly. During the season of Lent we will explore how these two texts intersect. (Open your Bibles or click on the scripture reading to link to the text.)


Water is life in the middle of the desert or in the heat of the day. In both the desert of sin (Exodus 17) and on the sands of Samaria (John 4) we find folk who thirst and also believe that they are stranded.

The Hebrews sought a drink because they were parched. The Samaritan woman headed to the well because it’s her chore. Jesus asked for a drink so that He could “pour out” on the woman at the well the LIVING DRINK (who has plenty of water in her bucket but at the same time is wilting within). God has poured this before; it flowed from Him on those in the Exodus account.

The Hebrews on that trip began to doubt what God had said, “A good land flowing with milk and honey? We were better off in Egypt. Why bring us out here to die.” The Samaritan on the other hand disregards what God has said, “You all say the best place to meet with God is in Jerusalem, but our people say this mountain is better.” Both are looking for a detour. The first pilgrims want to return to slavery in Egypt. She wants to distract the Lord because she has returned to the jail of juggling men over and over again. Her lifestyle itself is a prison. Both those of OLD and she of NEW are living a lie and desperate for LIFE.

So in the OLD… God instructs Moses to strike the rock and water flows out for all to quench their thirst. For a time that is, they will get thirsty again. Moses will return to this trick – but that is a different story. For now, Moses will strike the rock, God will provide the flood and the people will get their fill.

Then in the NEW, it will be God’s turn. Previously He instructed Moses to do the striking this time God Himself will strike The Rock, Jesus Christ. It may be the hands of the temple guard striking across The Rock’s face; it may be the strikes of the hammer by Pilate’s men pinning The Rock to the tree – but make no mistake about it the stroke which lands the hardest is the Father’s. Hear the hymnist, “Tell me, all who hear him groaning was there ever grief like this? Friends through fear his cause disowning, foes insulting his distress; many hands were raised to wound him none would intervene to save; but the deepest stroke that pierced him was the stroke that justice gave.”

No sooner had the blow landed when LIVING WATER flows to saturate all. NEVER shall they thirst again. In Christ, all that stands between you and God has been washed away. All that holds you in your own prison – be it slavery to sensuality, Sinicism, or success – has been washed away and swept out into a Sea of Grace.

-->Slavery to sensuality – even though in our free land we can put up billboard’s advertising a convention for it; it doesn’t mean it can’t cost you your freedom.

-->Slavery to Sinicism – even though it is funny to watch Seinfeld master the art of it; it doesn’t mean that it can’t master you, your opinions, views, and reactions.

-->Slavery to success – even though the boss will encourage it, the bottom line will enjoy it, and the shareholders will demand it; it doesn’t mean that you can’t be enslaved by it.

Each of us has our own prison cell – the fetters of fear, futures, or maybe fears of the future. The prison bars we return to over and over again – the bonds of bigotry, bellyaching, and blabbering about ourselves, or our own desires & disappointments as well as desires & disappointments of others.

Such prisons, such bars, and such bonds are broken. Such fetters are loosed only by God. He is the Master escape artist, able Himself to burst out of the prison of death. He has come to set us free – the tool of His craft is water – LIVING WATER. LIVING WATER is flowing. For Jesus Christ, The Rock and LIVING WATER was poured out on you in Baptism. It is poured out on you anew in His word even as you read these words.

God comes to saturate us with LIVING WATER that He might liberate us from all that holds us captive: sin, Satan, and self alike. For now too, as in days of OLD, in this NEW day, God would fill us with LIVING WATER, that He might spill us on a thirsty world.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, March 28, 2011

The One Year Bible- March 28th

When I was in high school, I played on the basketball team. My first year I warmed the bench for the freshman “A” team. I would have liked to actually play on the “B” team but my coach was great and wanted me on his team. My sophomore year was a blur and I think I played a total of three minutes but I loved being part of a team. My junior year I got cut from the team and I poured my heart out to the coach and asked to just be able to practice with the team. He said “no” but the varsity coach put me back on the team, (I think there is a story of redemption there but that is not where I am going). Needless to say I played a total of zero minutes that year, but I never missed a practice and I worked my tail off. My senior year I made the varsity team and was encouraged by a great coach. Gene Campbell will always have a place of honor in my heart. He not only put me back on the JV team the previous year, he gave me shot as a senior. His pre-game speeches were amazing. Our team was picked by the local paper to come in last in the league; we were small, un-athletic, and inexperienced. That did not stop Coach Campbell from giving us confidence and inspiring us to be more than we were told we could be. We finished the year in fourth place out of ten teams. We missed the playoffs but made everyone stop and notice us. I see Moses as that type of person for the people of Israel. If the paper did a story on them, they would be picked last among the people in the area, they were small, un-athletic, and very inexperienced, but Moses had confidence in them. As he stands at the boarder of the Promised Land, he recounts the history of the people and gets them ready and pumped up for the battle ahead. This is how I view the book of Deuteronomy. Keep this in mind as you read the rest of the book. On to the rest of the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

I want to spend some time this week talking about one of the most important passages in the Hebrew Bible. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 NIV). Mark Braun in his commentary on the book of Deuteronomy says the following:

“Israel did not worship a pantheon of gods; their God was one, undivided. Because of that, God wanted them to give him undivided loyalty. The Baals of Canaan were manmade pictures of the various forces of nature, but Israel’s God was one. “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one” is the deepest statement of God’s nature as one Lord. For centuries the Jews have called this their Shema, from the first Hebrew word of this phrase. Observant Jews still say the Shema twice each day, as part of their morning and evening prayers, yet it is not so much a prayer as a statement of faith.”

This idea of one God is known as monotheism. It was a distinctive feature of the Hebrew religion. Many ancient peoples believed in many gods, or pantheism. But the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God of the whole earth, the only true God. This was an important insight for the nation of Israel because they were about to enter a land filled with people who believed in many gods. God reminds the people over and over again before they enter the land, not to have anything to do with these other gods. We shall so

on see that this is a bit of foreshadowing, as the gods of the land of Canaan are the cause of many problems and eventually captivity and exile for the people.

Right after the Shema, Moses then gives some instruct

ions to the people regarding education. The LORD wanted to make sure that the following generations would hear the stories and know of

the love and mercy of God and his statutes and teachings for His people. “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when y

ou sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6: 6-9 NIV).

Mark Braun continues in his commentary:

“God wanted education in the faith to be a family thing. God didn’t want his people confining it to Sabbath days, leaving it to the religious professionals to conduct. Moses’ words in verses 7-9 were probably meant in a figurative way; parents were to talk about their relationship with their Savior God and they went about their day-to-day lives. Many later J

ews, however, took these versed literally. Jewish

males, thirteen and older, tie phylacteries on to their foreheads and their left arms—two little black boxes containing tiny parchment scrolls on which are written four passages of the Hebrew Scriptures. Observant Jews also fasten mezuzoth to the door frames of their homes and public buildings—small wooden or metal boxes that hold two scrolls on which are written this verse and Deuteronomy 11:13-21. The Jewish teacher

Maimonides said that those who look upon the mezuzoth and th

e phylacteries as lucky charms are ignorant, yet by obeying Moses’ words literally, many Jews many have found these outward symbols served as strong reminders of their faith. Crosses or pictures of Jesus serve a similar purpose i

n our homes.”

Jesus makes mention of this practice in Matthew 23 when he says, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat.So you must obey them and do everything they tell you...Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'”

Jesus points out that although the Pharisees seem to be doing the things on the outside right, they are not right on the inside. They need to do what Moses intended. The word must come out through our actions (tied to our hands) and should be always on our minds (tied to our foreheads).

Here are some images of phylacteries and mezuzoths:

The New Testament
We continue our journey in Luke and there are some amazing passages from this past week’s readings. I like the quote from Jesus, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Luke 5:31 NIV). We are all definitely sick because of sin. We are all in need of a doctor and the great physician; Jesus himself is there for us. You may have wondered about this “Son of Man” reference that Jesus keeps making reference to. I could write a book about it but the short answer is that he is most likely making reference to Daniel 7 where a “son of man” comes in glory from the clouds to rule. This was what Jesus was on earth to do. I will try to remember to talk about that when we get into Daniel (in November).

Jesus’ teachings on loving your enemies should make us all a bit uncomfortable. Do we really have to love them? Remember that because of sin we are enemies of God. He still loved us so much that he sent Jesus to die in our place for us. How many of you would die for your friends let alone your enemies. Just amazing. To a Jew the heart was the center of the emotions, as well as all reason and intellect. When Jesus talks about the good things and the evil things that come from our hearts would really hit home. He is not just talking about emotions here. This is the whole shootin’ match. What you say flows from what is in your heart. So that begs the question, what is in your heart? Is it sin or is it love. If it is sin how can you get rid of it? If it is love, how did it get there? The only way the sin will be removed is through what Jesus did for us. Because of his death he has removed that sin and has put in it’s place love. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bethany Bullet - March 22, 2011

Something OLD and something NEW confronts us in worship weekly. During the season of Lent we will explore how these two texts intersect.

I have always been fascinated with the OLD Testament character, Abraham. From the Sunday school stories I learned as a child, to a deeper understanding of his character after a study of Genesis. Abraham is fascinating.

Abraham grew up as Abram which means “exalted father” most likely a reference to God who is our exalted Father. In our text (Genesis 12:1-9) from Sunday, God the exalted Father speaks to Abram and lays the groundwork for His plan of setting a people apart for Himself.

In the OLD Testament we don’t get much back-story as we are introduced to Abram. We know that his father’s name is Terah, they used to live in the city of Ur and he had two brothers. His brother Haran was the father of Lot and Haran passed away while they were still in Ur. Abram was married to a woman named Sari who was barren. Terah took the family and moved from Ur to Haran (not Abram’s brother) and they settled there.

While in Haran the LORD speaks to Abram. If this conversation were to take place today, perhaps it would go something like this:

“Abraham, this is God speaking. I want you to leave everything and go to the land I will show you.”
“Where’s that?”

“If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me.”
“Try me.”

“Its 1500 miles from here in a place called Canaan.”
“Never heard of it.”

“I know, and guess what else?”

“I’m going to make you the father of a great nation.”
“That’s impossible. I don’t have any children.”

“Don’t worry.”
“What do you mean, don’t worry?”

“Just trust Me.”
“Let me see if I’ve got this straight. You want me to leave everything, travel across the desert to someplace I’ve never heard of, and become the father of a great nation.”

“Is this some kind of joke?”

“What am I supposed to tell my wife?”

“That’s your problem.”

Well, perhaps a bit of poetic license but I think you get the idea. If this were me, I would have bristled at the notion to pack up and go! But not Abram, he left as the LORD ad told him with his nephew Lot, his wife Sari and all his stuff…and by the way he started this journey when he was 75 years old.

The NEW Testament writer to the Hebrews gives us a bit more to the story: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8)

Abraham leaves his home to go to the promised land of Cannan with an impossible task. Become the father of a great nation with a barren wife and no land to call his own. But soon the plan would start unfolding, there would be a new name, Abraham, which means “father of many,” a miracle baby, and the testing of faith, a life lived as a messenger to the nations. This all started because the LORD said GO!

It was not without problem or incident but Abrahams descendants were indeed blessed and all people on earth are blessed through the family of Abraham.
That was something OLD…Now for something NEW. Abraham is not the only character in the Bible who left his home.

+ Abraham left the life of comfort to go to the Promised Land.

+ Jesus left the Promised Land of heaven to bring the comfort of life.

The Prophet Isaiah speaks of the coming Messiah:
Shout for joy, O heavens;
rejoice, O earth;
burst into song, O mountains!
For the LORD comforts his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
(Isaiah 49:13)

Hearing the call of His exalted Father, Jesus leaves the glory of heaven and takes on the frailty of the flesh. He heard his Father say GO…and He went. It seemed to be an impossible mission to redeem a nation great with sin and barren of morality. But soon the plan would start unfolding, a miracle baby, the gathering of the faithful, wonders performed, and new life given.

Why? We heard the reason in our Gospel lesson from Sunday, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)

It was not a life without problem or incident. Jesus faced the problem of sin head on. There were incidents of doubt and disbelief from those near to Him but as an offspring from the family of Abraham, Jesus brings blessings to the nations and indeed the world.

Jesus’ journey ends in the Promised Land as well, and all are blessed as Jesus is nailed to the tree. His life is a message to the nations that sin has been vanquished, death is no more.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
(2 Corinthians 5:17)

What about us? We are at home and comfortable in our sin aren’t we? Like Abraham and all those who have come before us, we have been called to leave it.

We enjoy the status quo, we relish doing what we want, and when we want it. Many sins are comfortable and common and often times we don’t want to hear the Lord’s call. We may think we have it all together; we come to church each week, even twice in Lent. We read our Bibles, we pray for the suffering in Japan, and we think we have it all figured out. Many believe that if they do enough good, they will be part of the family of Abraham but in the long run Abraham’s blood is not enough, you need Jesus’.

+ It is not in being connected to the blood of Abraham, but by being contacted by the blood of the Savior.

And today the LORD calls us as well and tells us to GO. As Jesus stood on the mountain about to return to the exalted Father, He says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

+ Unlike Abraham, we are not called to be a great nation but to bring greatness to the nations.

+ Unlike Abraham it is not our name that will be great, but the great name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit that comes to us in Baptism that brings blessings to the nations.

It may seem like an impossible task, but we too have been called to be witnesses to all the nations. It started for many of us as a baby in the miracle of Baptism. Even in our great sins and barren morality, God has chosen to call us to GO. If God can use an aging man and a barren woman to make a great nation, he can use you!

It will not be a life without problems or incidents. There will be struggles, Jesus said as much, “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.” (Luke 6:22) But Jesus promises to never leave you.

So now too, as in the days of OLD, in this NEW day, God would use us to bless the people of the world. Want to know how to start? I would suggest following the advice of the Psalmist:

Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Look to the LORD and his strength;
seek his face always.
Remember the wonders he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
O descendants of Abraham his servant,
O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones.
He is the LORD our God;
(Psalm 105:1-7a)

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Bethany Bullet - March 15, 2011

Something OLD and something NEW confronts us in worship weekly. During the season of Lent we will explore how these two texts intersect.

Please read in your Bibles the verses below, or click on the verse to link to that passage:

These passages present us with the same antagonist, the OLD foe, the devil himself. Whether wrapped about a tree in the most succulent of all places (Eden), or resting on a rock in the barren wastelands (the Judean wilderness in his natural form), the enemy is the same. The devil’s targets are equally to be prized, the first man/woman - cast in the image of God and the perfect man - who is the image of the invisible God, (Philippians 2), Jesus.

The first couple faces this enemy on God’s turf. This is where He takes His evening constitutional and walks with His creation in the cool of the day. God is manifestly comfortable here, He chats with people in intimate relationship. In the NEW day, the Only Begotten Son faces the devil on the “devil’s turf”, so to speak. God, in Jesus, has given up comfort. The sun is high and hot, He who is the Light is Himself without shelter and without food or drink. This is the barren wilderness, a land forsaken; therefore it is no surprise this is where the devil sets his trap.

In both the OLD and the NEW the devil rings the bell. He wasn’t invited. He wasn’t sought out. He just popped right in and spoke right up. The foe begins by seeking to sow doubt in the first couple. “Did God really say?” The first targets weaken. The venom of the serpent coursing through their veins; Adam and Eve in the end rely on their own words in addition to that which God has spoken. “We can’t even touch it!”

Not so, in the NEW. Now if either target had the right to offer new information clearly it was the later as it is His word that created and informed the former. Yet, rather than speak on His own authority, rather than offer His own correction and commentary; Jesus simply voices the words of the prophets: “It is written!” In the OLD, their weapon of choice was their own voice; Jesus’ was the Word of the LORD not just once but thrice.

The OLD Satanic foe worked his dreadful woe and Adam and Eve ate.
  • Why? Was it because like the Son of Man they were hungry? Doubtful, look around, fruits abound in the garden and they are free to eat.
  • Why? Is it because the fruit of that tree was better than any other? Doubtful, while it was pleasing to the eye and some fruit may be more attractive than others it is all fairly pleasing to the eye when hanging from a limb correct? This isn’t like what hangs on the fridge vs. what hangs in the Louvre correct!
  • Why do they eat? IT WAS DESIRABLE for gaining wisdom. They desired to gain wisdom and they desired to be like God.

In the NEW the same OLD foe is on the prowl once again. This time his prey - prays and fasts. Jesus fasts precisely because He has become one of us. Fasting is associated with repentance. Jesus is not repenting. He has neither sin nor guilt personally, but He will associate Himself with those, like Adam & Eve, and you & me who do. Jesus will take on Himself the role of resisting temptation before He takes on the role of suffering for our failure to resist.

Adam in the garden (God’s turf) falls, Jesus in the wilderness (the “devil’s turf”) stands firm. When it comes to resisting temptation the “Upper Hand” is NOT WHERE you stand but WHAT you stand on: God’s Word and Strength.

So now too, as in days of OLD, in this NEW day, God grants us strength to flee temptation in His Word.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, March 21, 2011

The One Year Bible- March 21st

As I have been driving around this past week I have noticed that many of the trees are starting to leaf out. It is an exciting time of the year when we see blossoms on plants, the days getting longer and the temperatures climbing. Spring is in the air and I think it is kinda neat that during this season we celebrate Easter. Now, I know I am getting ahead of myself since we are still a few weeks away and Lent is still in full swing, but as we look to the changes that are taking place on the earth, new life and new growth, I can’t help but think about the new life that has been given to all of us because of Jesus’ victory over death. When you see the new life springing from the ground, think about Jesus and the new life granted to us and guaranteed by what he did on the cross and his wonderful resurrection. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
Numbers is a strange book. It combines the narrative with some rules and regulations and then the “numbers” of counting and census taking. It can be hard to keep track of the story. I found myself turning back the pages a few times to remember what we read (this is not such a bad idea to do once in a while). A few things stuck out for me this week. The name of Baalam comes up again in the New Testament book of Revelation. I don’t know how much you know about the book of Revelation (and we don’t have time here to discuss in detail) but at the beginning of the book, Jesus gives John a message for seven churches. One of the letters warns of holding to the teaching of Baalam. This is the only place in the New Testament that makes reference to this story. Baalam knew about Yahweh but he took money from king Balak to give a curse against the people of Israel. Baalam gave in to the money and compromised his faith for the sake of material gain. I think that many in our world have compromised their faith or their beliefs for monetary gain as well. We outwardly worship the Lord but our hearts lust after wealth. This is the main message of the story. This lesson is important enough for John to mention it in the book of Revelation. Baalam ends up dying at the hands of the Israelites a few chapters later (31:8).

Another amazing event takes place in chapter 31. As the Lord commands the people to take revenge on the Midianites, they completely destroy them with the Lord’s help. This is amazing in and of itself but what really got to me was the fact that when the generals and captains gave a report to Moses they said, “Your servants have counted the soldiers under our command, and not one is missing.” (31:49 NIV) How amazing is that!!! They go to battle and no one is killed?? No friendly fire, no accidents, not even one lost battle. This should have been a sign to the people to trust in God, but as we shall see, the people will start to trust in themselves and not in God and things go wrong. In chapter 33 we have a very important task and warning from God. As the people are on the edge of the Promised Land, they get a command from God, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you and destroy all their figured stones and destroy all their metal images and demolish all their high places. And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it... if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. And I will do to you as I thought to do to them.” We will see that this is one of the main problems for the Israelites in the Promised Land. God told them what to do and they didn’t quite get the job done.

As we begin the book of Deuteronomy this week, don’t be puzzled by the fact that Moses retells almost the entire story of the history of God’s chosen people. I will have more to say about that next week, but I like to think of this book as Moses’ pre-game speech to the team led by Joshua. They were about to engage the enemy in battle and standing on the eastern bank of the Jordan, Moses encourages and motivates the people to do what God has been preparing for a long time. They were on the verge of taking possession of the promise that was given so long ago to Abraham. It is an exciting time, and time filled with some fear and expectation as well.

The New Testament
Luke is a great storyteller. He weaves a wonderful story together. Luke tells of three “songs” in the beginning of the book; Mary’s song, Zechariah’s song and Simeon’s song. All three of them are wonderful examples of praising God. Mary gives glory to God for the gift she has been given, Zechariah praises God for his mercy, and Simeon thanks God for the fulfillment of his promises through the Christ Child. These “songs” give a depth of emotion not found in the other Gospel accounts. If you grew up in a Lutheran Church that used the old 1941 hymnal you probably know Simeon’s song by heart (by the way it has made a comeback in the new Lutheran Service Book p.p. 199-200). I love that song. I will admit as a child I liked that song because that meant the service was almost over, but as I grew older that song and the words had an impact on me. Those of you who know the tune can sing along:

Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace
according to Thy word,
For mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation:
which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people.
A light to lighten the Gentiles
and the Glory of Thy people Israel.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be
world without end AMEN.

After his baptism and a list of his earthly ancestors, Jesus’ ministry begins in earnest. He first is tempted in the desert and rejected in Nazareth. I could just imagine the scene in the synagogue where Jesus gets up to read for the service and at the end hearing him say “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” I think that would be one of the most exciting times for those who believed that the Messiah was coming soon. Was this guy the one that was promised? Could he be the Messiah that we have been waiting for? Can we like Simeon, now die in peace? For some this guy was a blasphemer and a troublemaker. I hope I would know that this is the Christ the son of the living God. Soon we see that the Pharisees start looking for ways to get rid of Jesus. They see him forgiving sins, and healing on the Sabbath.

One other interesting point Luke makes is that he sets the story in a historical context. One of the knocks on the Bible is that it is just some fanciful story that was made up by the writers. One way Luke gives some credibility to his book is that he places it within the frame of history. This makes the document have more legitimacy outside of religious circles because of the verifiable evidence of history. At the beginning of Chapter 3 Luke writes, “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,...” All of these people can be verified to have existed using extra-biblical sources. Luke wants to let his readers know that he is not just making this stuff up. This was a very important point in the third century when the formation of the New Testament was happening. The inclusion of this information (as well as other factors) gave Luke a solid historical footing for inclusion in the New Testament.

Bits and Pieces

We will start the book of Deuteronomy this week. Here are the vital stats for the book:

PURPOSE: To present the renewal of the Sinai covenant for God’s people before they entered the Promised Land.
AUTHOR: Moses (except for the final summary which may have been written by Joshua)
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Israel (the new generation entering the promised land)
SETTING: The east side of the Jordan River, in view of Canaan

LAW THEMES: Devoted to destruction; hard-hearted; laws of the covenant; snare of idolatry; cursing

GOSPLE THEMES: Redemption; “I am the LORD your God”; inheritance; righteousness by God’s Word; promises of the covenant; God’s love and calling; atonement; faithfulness; blessing.
KEY VERSE: “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. (7:9)
KEY PEOPLE: Moses and Joshua

Monday, March 14, 2011

The One Year Bible- March 14th

With Lent in full swing and our calendars filling up quickly, it may be time to reevaluate your reading plan. About every three months or so it is good to do a little check-up. Have you been able to keep up with your daily readings? If not, do you know why? What can be done to tweak your routine to find time to read? I settled into a routine about a two years ago and it has worked for me. My weekends are quite busy so I have been doing two readings a day on Monday through Thursday and taking a break Friday through Sunday. This plan gives me one day of wiggle room in case I really get bogged down with other things. The important thing is to find a time that works and stick to it. Soon it will become habit. Please let me know if I can help out in any way! On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

As we have said before, the book of Numbers has a general them of grumbling and complaining by the people. Time and time again God tries to show the people his love but the people don’t seem to get it. The phrase that God uses over and over to show is Grace is, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God.” (Numbers 15:41 NIV). This is almost the same phrase God uses when he gives the law with the Ten Words (Ten Commandments). God reminds the people that the relationship he has with them is based on Grace. That being said, God is still a jealous God, who is Holy (meaning without sin and hating sin), therefore he cannot just turn a blind eye to the grumbling and disobedience of the people. A few examples to illustrate my point:

Their first complaint resulted in God sending a fire to destroy the people. Moses prayed to God and the fire left. One verse later the people start complaining again! Now they want meat. They were sick of this manna stuff and they longed to be back in Egypt. Moses even gets agitated with the people. But God, in his mercy, gives them meat to eat. So much meat that they get sick of it. Moses then selects 12 men to go into the Promised Land to check it out and when they return, 10 of the men say that Israel should not go in because the people are giants. Only Joshua and Caleb give a true account. They trust in God’s promises. So the people started complaining again. They even wanted to kill Caleb and Joshua. God gets fed up with this group and tells them that none of them will even enter the Promised Land.

Chapter 16 tells the story of the rebellion of Korah. This story serves as a lesson to all those who do not trust God. All those who followed Korah were either killed by fire or swallowed up by the earth. Then God wants to destroy all the people, but God in his mercy hears the cry of his people and spares them. (Do you see a theme here?) Surely this will put an end to the complaining. But as soon as they run out of water they rebel again. But God in his mercy hears the cry of his people and provides for them.

Then Moses gets into trouble by not giving credit to God for providing the water from the rock and he finds out that he will not enter the Promised Land. So the people start complaining again in Chapter 21. So God sends snakes to kill the people. But God in his mercy hears their cries for help. He tells Moses to put a snake on a pole and those who look at it will live. This is a foreshadowing of Christ, because those who look upon Jesus (on a pole a.k.a. the cross) will be saved (“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up” –John 3:14). Our readings for this week ended with the people looking for safe passage through some of the lands near Canaan. They get themselves into trouble by trying to fight when God said not to.

Then comes the story of Baalam. This is a story that tells about the power of God. Baalam knows the true God, but Baalam was not always faithful. King Balak wants Baalam to curse the people but Baalam will not because the Lord (Yahweh) is with them. God also shows his power by making Baalam’s donkey talk. God will use any means necessary to get his message across.

I hope you can see that our God is a God of mercy. He showed that mercy ultimately in the person of his son Jesus Christ who was the ultimate sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.

The New Testament

We finished up Mark’s Gospel and it was a quick journey. It is believed that Mark was the first account of Jesus that was written. And it ends just as it begins, with action. In quick succession we have the Last Supper, the time in the garden, the trial, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and Mark’s version of the Great Commission. Like Matthew, Mark mentions the Temple curtain being torn in two. This was very significant. Remember from our readings in the Old Testament that there was a curtain that separated the holy place from the most holy place and that only the high priest could enter it and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement. When that curtain tore, it showed that we no longer need a human person to go to God for us. Jesus has restored our relationship with the father and now we can approach him because of Christ. The book of Hebrews really drives this point home. It is also interesting that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all say that it tore from top to bottom. Thus signifying this was from God. There is an interesting bit of text at the beginning and end of the book that serve as bookends for Mark. In Chapter 1 he writes, “The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God”. Then in Chapter 15 verse 39 we read this that came from the mouth of the Roman centurion, “Surely this man was the Son of God”. Everything in between these two verses tells us all about the ministry of Jesus. Now of course the resurrection was coming but that was just more proof as to who Jesus is. One other textual note, I am sure that you noticed that at the end of Marks Gospel there was some note saying something like “The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20”. That is not to say that they are not Biblical. The translators want the reader to know that there are some textual problems with these verses. For the most part the problems do not go so far as to place a great deal of doubt in these verses but theologians do not generally use these verses as proof texts for doctrine.

As we begin the book of Luke I want you to notice the different style that Luke uses as compared to Mark. Luke seems to take more time in the story telling and uses “songs” to show some of the emotion behind the stories. Many have said that Mark is the Gospel for guys and Luke is for the ladies. I know that is stereotyping but I hope that helps you see the difference in the books.

Have a great week!!

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