Monday, April 25, 2011

The One Year Bible- April 25th

When I was in college I worked at Arrowhead Lutheran Camp for many summers as a counselor. Right out of college I was hired to be the program director at the camp. I was just a young kid but I had quite a bit of experience working with children. As a counselor I always struggled with finding ways to get my campers to go to sleep. Some other counselors told ghost stories or scary tales but those freaked me out too much. Quite by accident one night I began to read stories from the book of Judges. I started with Gideon. That took about two nights then I went to Ehud, Samson, Deborah and others. My young boys really enjoyed the blood and guts stories that weren’t too scary. I liked them because they also taught that God was in control. Some people have a tough time with the book of Judges because of its violent nature and that is fine, but if you look at the stories through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy you might get some understanding. The key thing to remember is that God has mercy on his people and shows his love to them by sending a judge. Not a judge that comes to condemn, but one that comes to save. Sounds kind of like Jesus doesn’t it? On to the study for this week……

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
As I have alluded to in the opening the book of Judges is all about God’s mercy. It seems like it is about his wrath with some blood and guts thrown in for good measure but when you really look at it you see a familiar pattern emerge with all the judges. We see this same pattern when Jesus is sent as the final Judge. Why was it necessary for the Judges to come anyway? Didn’t the people promise that they would be faithful to God? What happened to the promises they made? In the first part of the book we get the answer. “The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots.” (Judges 1:19 NIV) The story was the same with the other tribes. Reading a bit further, “The tribe of Manasseah failed to drive out the people….” Then the tribe of Ephraim failed, then Zebulen failed, then Asher failed, then Naphtali. Then Yahweh (LORD in all caps) sent his angel (some think this may be the pre-incarnate Christ) to talk to the people. Judgment was to be upon the people. “Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.” (Judges 2:3 NIV) This sums up the problems that the people will encounter the rest of the Old Testament. The people living in the land and their gods will cause major problems for the people. Remember this as we read the rest of the story this year. But the LORD (Yahweh) in his infinite mercy shows love to the people and sends help. The account of each Judge has a similar pattern. It usually begins with, The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, He turned them over to their enemies for so many years. Then the LORD raised up a Judge. The people followed this Judge and were saved. The land had peace for so many years. The Judge dies and the people return to their old ways and do evil in the eyes of the LORD. Get familiar with this pattern. This is some foreshadowing of the New Testament story of Jesus. We don’t have time to discuss each Judge (we will spend more time with Gideon next week) in detail so let me give you some highlights. Ehud is my favorite. He is left-handed. Why does the writer of Judges tell us this? He was able to smuggle his dagger into the presence of the king because, being left-handed he drew it from his right side. Most people carry their dagger or sword on the left side because they are right handed. Ehud was able to get close to the king and kill him because he was left-handed. You see, God uses all things for his good purposes. I also think it is funny that Ehud escapes through the outhouse in the kings chambers and the attendants are so embarrassed to disturb the king when he is in the bathroom. Some commentators even suggest that the king was actually sitting on “the throne” (the one in the bathroom) when Ehud stabs him (you see why young boys like this story?). The account of Deborah is good to show that God works through women as well. God raised her up as a Judge and she led the people in battle. In the story it was another woman, Jael, who took care of the evil Sisera. Talk about girl power (both the boys and some of the girls like this story). The story of Gideon is a bit longer and has some interesting insights for us. We will talk about him next week.

The New Testament

In our readings for this week we begin the story of the Passion. Luke makes an interesting comment about all the praise that Jesus is receiving on Palm Sunday. Some of the Pharisees tried to get Jesus to stop the celebration and Jesus says, “If they keep quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!” (Luke 19:40) This is an amazing statement. We have read in the Psalms that all creation praises the Lord, but here is proof that it can happen. Can you imagine if no one would praise God and then the rocks start to cry out? What a sight that would be!

Luke does a good job keeping the action moving in the story but there are some rather significant things to see when you dig a bit deeper. When Jesus is before the high priest and is asked point blank if he is the son of God he says, “I am”. OK you say? No big deal? But, the words Jesus used are very important. When he says “I am” not only is he answering in the affirmative, he also is using the name God used when talking to Moses in the burning bush. Remember that God said his name was, “I am”. No wonder the High Priest and the others wanted Jesus dead after he had said this. Jesus goes in there and uses the name of God that the Jews to this day will not even use! Jesus was saying in no uncertain terms that he was the Christ, the promised Messiah. When we get to the Gospel of John we will see seven big “I am” statements from Jesus. Remember them when you read and pour into them the Old Testament meanings.

Bits and Pieces

We will finish the Gospel of Luke this week and we will start the Gospel of John. As a quick note, the first four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are grouped together and are referred to as the synoptic Gospels. The basically have the same form and tell the same story. They probably leaned on one another for source material. John is its own animal all together. John is the only Gospel that mentions three different Passover celebrations, which is where we get the three-year ministry of Jesus. John does not have a standard birth story. John begins with creation, but more on all this next week. John also makes heavy use of metaphor. We will see Jesus referred to as the door, the lamb, the good shepherd, the gate, the way the truth the life, and others. Here are the vital stats for the book of John:

Purpose: To prove conclusively that Jesus is the Son of God and that all who believe in him will have eternal life.

Author: It is never actually mentioned but most agree that it is John the apostle, son of Zebedee, brother of James, called a “Son of Thunder”

To Whom Written: New Christians and searching Non-Christians

Date Written: Probably between A.D. 85-90

Setting: Written after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and before John’s exile to the island of Patmos

Key Verses: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:30-31

Key People: Jesus, John the Baptist, the disciples, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Jesus’ mother, Pilate, Mary Magdalene

Law Themes: Darkness; slavery to sin; condemnation; demand for signs; death; fleshly desire; unbelief; Judas’ example; spiritual blindness; unclean; command to love; the world’s hatred

Gospel Themes: Light; grace; truth; Baptism; Lamb of God; born or the Spirit; life; resurrection; Jesus’ flesh and blood; the Shepherd’s care; clean; forgiveness; God’s love; sanctification.

Key Places: Judean countryside, Samaria, Galilee, Bethany, Jerusalem

Special Features: of the eight miracles recorded, six are unique (among the Gospels) to John, as is the “Upper Room Discourse” (chs. 14-17). Over 90 percent of John is unique to his Gospel. John does not contain a genealogy or any record of Jesus’ birth, childhood, temptation, transfiguration, appointment of the disciples, nor any account of Jesus’ parables, ascension, or Great Commission.

Have a wonderful week!!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bethany Bullet - April 19, 2011

Was Jesus ‘green’ before ‘going green’ was in? Palms are nature’s ticker-tape so to speak. Yet, Jesus was never green with envy. He was content to take the praise that was given. But I am left to wonder was that the best we could do? By “we”, I mean humanity. Jesus, the King eternal, God in human flesh was entering the city of Jerusalem. The very city in which God promised to manifest His presence to all who enter the temple in which He promised to “dwell.” Now, in the person of Jesus Christ, God is walking the streets of Jerusalem. Palm branches are cool but couldn’t we have done better? He seems to have received it in delight. He is so humble; I am not sure I would have been.

If it were me I might have asked, “What, no key to the city?” Why was there not a statue being commissioned in His likeness or a street, park or plaza being named after Him? In fact, when you listen to the text (Luke 19:28-40) more closely you realize that actually He was cited for improper permitting – “Master tell these kids and your disciples to keep quite.”

When you think about it, shouldn’t it have been raucous? Trumpets, criers, and heralds sound appropriate don’t they? Spot lights, angle sky writers, and a red carpet certainly due Him. Yet, He is so humble!

Humble enough to ride a borrowed donkey. Have you seen the cartoon with Jesus atop a donkey the animal thinking, “They really like me?” We take any chance for self-promotion, not our Lord. He is so humble, humble enough to ride a borrowed donkey when surely He should have a stable of stallions at His command! Couldn’t Elijah have returned that fiery chariot to Jesus so He could use it? After all He was the one who sent it for Elijah in the first place. How much thought would that had taken to send it back? Yet, Jesus took it in stride – literally in stride, as he rode a borrowed beast of burden. He is so humble!

And the whole thing appears to have just kind of happened; shouldn’t there have been a press release, fans assembled ahead of time? After all, His Father is in the business of sending prophets and messengers’ right? Couldn’t He (who sent someone to prepare His way) have put a little more prep into this day? Yet, our Lord is oh so humble.

Jesus wasn’t humbled because THEY thought less of Him; He was humble because He thought less of Him-self. Jesus thought less of His dignity than your destiny. He thought less of His pride than your pain. He thought less of His disgrace in the eyes of the people than your embrace in the arms of the Father. He thought less of His rejection by God than your reception in heaven. He thought less of His dying on the tree than your living eternally! Jesus humbled himself so that we, who have nothing to be proud of before God, might be exalted and raised up. Forgiven in Christ, through Faith in His humble suffering and death, heaven itself now lauds and cheers our path in life. Every morning is our own triumphant entry – into the kitchen to get stuff ready for the family for the day, into school to learn or teach and shape and form a future, into the office to use talents and skills and bless coworkers and customers alike, into a study or a service to humbly come before Him and then be empowered to go and live like Him in true humility. For true humility is not thinking less about yourself, but thinking about yourself less and your God, His children and His church more.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, April 18, 2011

The One Year Bible- April 18th

I am not sure if I have mentioned this before, but I have been a big fan of the book of Psalms for many years. Remember, the book of Psalms was like the hymnal for the people of Israel. Unfortunately the tunes have been lost to history but the words are still there. I wish we had more time to dive deep into the Psalms and perhaps someday I will do just that, but every once in a while I want to highlight something that we have read during the week. This week I want to go back to Psalm 86 (April 17). This is a Psalm of David and has some great words of comfort and also can serve to refocus us when things seem to going wrong. In verses 11 & 12 we read, “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.” I think that reading through the Bible from cover to cover is one way that God teaches us His way so that we might walk in the truth. There is just so much to learn from His word.

Lets get going....

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

This week’s readings left the narrative story behind and we received a geography lesson. If you are like me it did not make much sense since the geography of the Holy Land is a bit of a mystery to me. The list of landmarks did not help me much. Please don’t get frustrated at this. The best thing to do is go to a map. You may have one in the back of your Bible. For me this visually shows what we have been reading this week.

Click here for a map.

The geography of the Promised Land will be important later in the story. Eventually this land will become a kingdom under the rule of Saul. Things go well for a while but eventually the land is divided in two. The Northern Kingdom will have ten tribes, and the Southern Kingdom will have the other two (Judah, and Benjamin). Simeon will go with the North. This will be important later because the Northern Kingdom will be taken into exile never to return. A few years later the South will also be taken but some will return. This story points to Christ in so many ways but we don’t have the time to discuss this now. Trust me; we will discuss it later this year. One other note, the tribe of Dan will complain about their land and they will move out and head north to a city known as Dan. This is important because the city of Dan is in the far north of the kingdom and is part of a phrase we will see a number of times. When an Old Testament writer uses the phrase, “From Dan to Beersheba” they mean the entire land, since Dan is in the north and Beersheba is the city furthest south. Both places are on the map.

The New Testament

Jesus seems to talk a lot about money in this week’s readings. To Jesus, money is something that can be used for good but it can also be used as something to be worshiped. Jesus said, "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate (remember our discussion of hate from last week?) the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (Luke 16:13 NIV) This was a direct attack on the Pharisees who loved money. The point is that God wants us to be faithful with the monetary blessings that we have been given but they are not to rule us and in reality become an idol that we worship. When Jesus talks to the rich young ruler, money is again an issue. Jesus tells him to sell everything he has and give the money to the poor. This man was not ready to give up his money. We all struggle with money. How much should we give away? How much is too much etc. Many of us are afraid if we do not save money we will not be able to survive. We sometimes forget the wonderful words of Jesus, "What is impossible with men is possible with God." (Luke 18:27 NIV) God will take care of us, we should not have to worry about money because we can focus on money and it will rule us if we are not careful.

Bits and Pieces

We will finish up the book of Joshua this week and begin the book of Judges. Here are the vital stats on the book of Judges:

Purpose: To present Israel’s declining spiritual state and the Lord’s mercy, by which He forgave them and held them together.

Author: Unknown, possibly Samuel

Setting: The land of Canaan, later called Israel. God had helped the Israelites conquer Canaan. which had been inhabited by a host of wicked nations. But they were in danger of losing this Promised Land because they compromised their convictions and disobeyed God.

Law Themes: Israel’s failure to conquer the Promised Land; transgression of the covenant; cowardice; idolatry; unfaithful Levites; doing what is right in one’s own eyes.

Gospel Themes: The Lord provides saviors and judges; the Lord answers Israel’s cry for help; the angel of the Lord; the Spirit of the Lord.

Key Verse: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” (17:6)

Key People: Othniel, Ehud (my favorite Judge), Deborah, Gideon, Abimelech, Jephthah, Samson, Delilah Special Feature: Records Israel’s first civil war

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bethany Bullet - April 12, 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 and read the Scripture passages or click on the scripture for the weblink.)

& Something New: The 11th Chapter of John

Let me be up front and tell you that what connect these passages are death and the absolute finality that it brings. Ezekiel is confronted with a valley filled with death, the dried bones of those gone before. Mary and Martha are filled with the grief death brings and are confronted with the Savior who seemed to arrive too late. Death is something that connects all of us doesn’t it. There is not one person here who has not been touched by death in some way, shape or form. Death has a way of creeping into our lives, confronting our senses, jarring us from the norm. Ezekiel wasn’t necessarily looking for it. Our text begins, “The hand of the LORD was upon me and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.” And then the LORD asks him a question, “…can these bones live?” And Ezekiel replies in a polite way, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” I am not sure Ezekiel is convinced that the bones can live. He puts the best construction on the situation, puts his faith in the Almighty and hopes to leave it at that. But that was not the end of the adventure for Ezekiel, after some instruction from the LORD, Ezekiel speaks, “Hear the word of the LORD.” Some rattling of dry bone against dry bone, and soon the glory of God was evident in that valley; tendons and flesh appeared and the breath of life filled the once dry bones; their graves departing, His Spirit abiding, and life residing. Mary and Martha were not looking for it either. Their brother Lazarus, a man from Bethany, was ill. It is most likely that he was already dead before the messengers even reached Jesus. Jesus says, “This sickness will not end in deathand Jesus remained where He was for two days with the goal of waking Lazarus up from death. Upon His arrival, Martha is convinced that Lazarus is gone. Even after the comforting words of Jesus, “Your brother will rise again,” Martha is not convinced that the bones of her brother will live and has no idea what was about to happen. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Mary too acts as one with no hope, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Even as Jesus begins the process of raising the dead, both Mary and Martha have objections and disbelief, “But Lord, by this time there is a bad odor.” A head bowed in prayer to His Father and then a shout, “Lazarus, come out!” Once again lifeless bones are renewed by the Word of the Lord and the breath of life fills deflated lungs. The stench of death had been defeated. The glory of God was made evident that day. And there stands the man from Bethany, Lazarus, his grave departing, his spirit abiding, and life residing. In both stories, death comes so that God can be glorified. We don’t look for death either, but it finds us none the less. The sin that clings to us, that so easily entangles puts us on a path that is destined for destruction. Our bones are a good as dry; the stench of sin permeates our person. Like Ezekiel, Martha and Mary we are not convinced that life will ever return. “Can these bones live?” In reality all of humanity is dead in sin. And Jesus came to this valley of dry bones and to a stinking grave to bring life. You see, God doesn’t always stop death. In the valley of dry bones, many faced death. Why did God have to wait for death before He rallied an army in that valley? Why did He have to use a bunch of skeletons? Isn’t God more powerful than that? In the town of Bethany Lazarus died, but why couldn’t Jesus take the short journey to prevent his death? Why did his friend have to face the stench of the grave? Why do we have to face death? Why doesn’t God just zap us up to heaven with Him? That would make more sense wouldn’t it? Doesn’t God have the power to do that? But that is not how God operates. He has decided to defeat death with death…the death of His Son. God uses death to bring life. Why doesn’t God stop death? It is because we have a God who is in the resurrection business. Unlike those in our text, Jesus came to face death and resolutely set out to confront it. Although Jesus reversed the curse of death for a few individuals in the Bible it was only short term, his main objective was the cross. In His death, death itself is defeated long term and God is glorified. At His word, God opens the graves of His people. By His Word made flesh, all graves are opened. The dry bones in the valley and Lazarus’ grave both are opened by the Word of the Lord and He is glorified. Soon enough Jesus Himself will find Himself in a grave and He will be sealed behind a stone in our place. Three days later He will open it, in glory and bring life to the lifeless. He will stand in victory, His grave departing, His Spirit abiding, life residing, death destroying, sins absolving, spirit promising, life giving, return guaranteeing. Left in our sin, we are as good as dead. We are all in need of a miracle. Our sins have put us in the grave. Our lifeless bones are useless on their own. But at the Word of God life returns - It was the Word spoken over you; over you at the waters of Baptism where these dry bones were moistened, where the smell of sin was replaced by the aroma of Christ and God was glorified. It is the Word spoken in this place; lifeless bones, renewed by the Word of the Lord. It is this same Word that comes to you in your darkest day, to bring you from death to life. Hear the Word of the Lord, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” The resurrection business is powerful. It brings life and hope to those who need it. The Word, written and proclaimed once again fills this dead man with life, and the Word will fill you as well so that the Lord may be glorified. Jesus promises that when our days on this earth are complete and we have been put into our tombs, He will open them as well and we will stand with Him in victory, our graves departing, in His Spirit abiding, and life residing. So, now as in days of old in this new day, God calls us to the hope of resurrection.
-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, April 11, 2011

The One Year Bible- April 11, 2011

When I was in second grade our class was scheduled to sing in church. The song we sang was called “Everywhere I Go.” Why do I remember such a thing? Well, this song had a big impact on my life. It has a catchy tune and great words and I latched on to this song and sang it everywhere I went. I started singing this song every time I was scared or though I was in trouble. I sang it a lot while riding my bike. This song gave me comfort and security because even as I child I knew that God was there with me. This song came to my mind this week while reading the story of God’s people as they entered the Promised Land. I am sure many of them were scared and fearful of the future. But Moses and Joshua reminded the people that God was with them everywhere they would go, and to be strong and courageous. As we begin today, don’t forget that the same God is with you as well. We begin with the words of that song:

Everywhere I go the Lord is near me

If I call upon Him He will hear me

Never will I fear, for the Lord is near

Everywhere I go.

Everywhere God is there

Tending all in loving care

He is with me everywhere I go

On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

Let me set the stage for you once again. The people are on the edge of the Promised Land. Moses has gathered the people together to give them a pep talk and remind them of the promises of God and his continued faithfulness. Moses will not be joining the people because of his own disobedience but he is still God’s prophet. At the end of the pep talk he breaks out into song. This last bit of instruction for the people served as a reminder and a comfort for them. Just before Moses gets a glimpse of the Promised Land, he introduces Joshua as the new leader. We see in just a few short verses the phrase, “Be strong and courageous”. This is an important phrase, as the people will be doing some difficult things in the next few years. Moses as well as the Lord tells Joshua and the people to, “Be strong and courageous” at least six times. Indeed the Lord will be with them; and indeed he was. The Lord caused the Jordan river to stop as the people crossed it.

In the next few days we will see that the Lord delivered the fortified city of Jericho into their hands. The Lord blessed them, but true to form the people disobey. After Jericho was destroyed someone took some of the plunder that was to be devoted to the Lord. This caused a military defeat of the people and doubt started to creep in. It was just one small action that had big consequences. It seems that is what happens in our lives as well. Just one seemingly small sin causes us big problems. Even after the pep talk from Moses, the people disobey. This will be a theme we will see over and over again. When we look at the world today we see the same theme. We have heard what we should do, we know the right things be we find ourselves doing the opposite or not even listening to God. For the people of Israel this caused problems. Later we will see how sin begins to spiral out of control and eventually the people will be lead off to exile. We are in the exile of sin as well and we are in need of rescue. God sent his son Jesus to rescue us from our sin. Because we could not do it, Jesus did it all for us. Jesus fulfills the requirements of God and we get all the benefits. The Old Testament once again points us to Christ the author and perfector of our faith.

The New Testament

A few things jumped out at me as I read through the readings from Luke this week. After our readings in the Old Testament about washings, the section at the end of chapter 11 (readings for April 6th) where Jesus really blasts the Pharisees makes more sense to me. Jesus really lets them have it for only worrying about the outside things. He tells them in no uncertain terms that God looks at the inside as well and they need to get their act straight. In Luke 7 Jesus says some hard things. Jesus tells us that if we want to be his disciple we need to hate other things. I have always struggled with this statement. In one of my seminary classes we talked about the word “hate” and how it is used in the New Testament. This is another word that we translate the Greek literally but it has some Hebrew meaning. In Hebrew the word we translate as “hate” means that we prefer one thing over the other but not necessarily at the expense of the other. In the Old Testament we read that Jacob “hated” his wife Leah, but he still cared for her, he had children with her and he provided for her. This does not sound like the “hate” we think of. Now it is true that Jacob preferred Rebekah, but he did not “hate” Leah as we see it. I hope this sheds some light on this passage for you. We are to prefer following Jesus over all others. We will still need to carry our cross and count the cost and that will only be possible with the help of the Holy Spirit.

One quick comment from one of our readings this week: In Psalm 78:41 (April 7th) a reference to the “Holy One of Israel” is found. We will see this term often when we get into Isaiah and some of the other prophets. This term refers to the promised Messiah and when you see it you can be certain that this is talking about the coming of Christ.

Have a great week and remember that God is with you everywhere you go!!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Bethany Bullet - April 5, 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 from your Bible these passages or click on the passage for the online link.)

In the ancient world there was no cure for being born without sight or for being stigmatized for being born last. In both readings the central character is not spoken of by his name but by his pain. In fact on seven occasions in John 9 when this man is spoken of he is referred to by his blindness. “He was born blind,” and “He was blind from birth.” The only time he is identified for something other than being blind, is when they call him a beggar, “For he used to sit at the temple and ask for alms.” In the end, we never learn his name.

The individual in 1 Samuel 16 is also unnamed at first. After Jesse’s sons have passed by Samuel (each named mind you) and God has passed over on any of them being the king; we learn of his other son. The one not important enough to invite in the first place: the youngest, the runt, the shepherd boy. As a matter of fact, we do not learn his name until we witness his anointing, “From that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power.”

How often have you been known by your pain instead of your name? How often have you been known by that which ails you rather than by that which your folks first hailed you?

-->She’s got cancer.

-->He lost his job.

-->Oh, they are having problems.

-->You know… the widow, the addict, and/or the teacher’s pet.

Both David (the king who wrote much of the Old Testament and of whom much Scripture is written) and the unnamed blind man (written of only in this one passage from John) were each blessed to see themselves in a new light. They were equally blessed to reveal the Light of God in Christ through their new identity; for both it began with an anointing.

If you are known by your pain rather than your name, if you tend to see yourself for what you lack - you need a different perspective. You need to understand that there is something far more important to know about you than your pain - it is your anointing. God’s Spirit has come on you in power, not oil or spit, but it was still wet. In the Waters of Baptism, God’s Spirit fell on you and you gained a new identity. An identity that is graced and beloved by God. Like David, you are now free to sing of His deeds and wonders. Like the man once blind you are now free to worship and adore Him, Jesus the Christ. Like David and the blind man, through you, others may be blessed to see a God that sees the internal, can change the external, and grants the eternal.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, April 04, 2011

The One Year Bible- April 4th

We are a couple of weeks into the season of Lent and I thought I would share some words from a Lenten resource from Lutheran Hour Ministries with you. This is a portion of the devotion from Ash Wednesday and can help give us some perspective as we continue our journey to the cross this Lenten season:

Our Lenten season begins in the darkness of winter and by the end of our nearly seven week journey the darkness will have given way to the light of spring. This battle between darkness and light is the theme of the Gospel of John. Chapter 1 begins with the Christmas story; John tells us the Word of God became human and entered our world. But immediately John hints at the struggles our Savior will face: "The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." Satan, the prince of darkness, use many instruments in his efforts to snuff out the Light: fanatical crowds, treacherous enemies, a disciple's kiss, a high priest's oath, a Roman official's fear, a whip, thorns, nails, a dead tree and a huge stone. All of us struggle with the power of darkness in our lives, the darkness of fear, doubt, dread and anxiety. We see it in our health problems, financial struggles and our strained relationships. We see it in the darkness of our own struggles within. In this season of Lent, the Holy Spirit calls you to gather with His people in church where He will shine His glorious light into the darkest corners of our sin-filled hearts and minds. The ashes of Ash Wednesday remind us of the death that darkness has brought to all. But it also reminds us our Savior took our death upon Himself, giving us His life and forgiveness.

On to the study…

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
In the midst of a lot of do’s and don’ts this week a few things caught my attention this week and I wanted to make mention of them. Remember the scene here. Moses is giving a pep talk and history lesson to the people on the eastern side of the Jordan River. The people are about to enter the land of the promise under the leadership of Joshua. Moses cannot enter because of his actions in the wilderness. The dietary restrictions of the people serve a two-fold purpose. First of all, God was setting these people apart to be special in doing so he has selected their diet. This was a health thing. Many of the foods that were unclean were also potential health hazards. These animals carried diseases and God was making sure the people were healthy. Secondly, these restrictions served as a way for the people to be obedient to God. They could show their willingness to follow by adhering to the dietary restrictions. Most Jews still practice many of these laws and they have been expanded and interpreted in many ways. You can find kosher foods in most stores now days. If you look for the kosher label (a circle with a K inside) you can be sure that this product is made under the strict standards of modern Jewish law. The question remains, why don’t we all follow these guidelines? A complete answer is complex but the short answer is that we have freedom in Christ. We live under the new covenant of Grace and we no longer are subject to all the rules and regulations of the law, part of which is dietary restrictions. Does this mean we can do whatever we want? Well, yes, and no. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “Everything is permissible for me—but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me—but I will not be mastered by anything.” More about this when we get to that section of the New Testament.

Another thing that jumped out at me was this: What is God’s deal with blood? He seems to have a fascination with blood. In our society and culture blood has become taboo. It carries disease and it reminds us of death and many get squeamish around it. I think this was probably the case for many back in the Old Testament as well. For the Israelites, blood means life. In fact the word for blood is sometimes used as a synonym for life. The life of the organism is in its blood. Blood was a key part of the sacrifice. God required punishment for sins and he accepted the life (i.e. blood) of an animal in our place. This concept gets further expanded when the blood of Jesus is shed for us. His life (and blood) were given for us for our forgiveness. Now in communion his blood (i.e. life) is offered for the forgiveness of sins. So the blood thing may gross you out but it is vitally important to understand the sacrificial system and how Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice.

On April 1st we read from Deuteronomy 18:15, “The Lord you God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him”. The same day we read from Luke 9:35, “A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him’”. I don’t think the compilers of the ONE YEAR BIBLE knew that these to passages would be read on the same day but it is pretty cool how they are connected. Jesus is the final prophet that Moses was talking about in Deuteronomy 18. The voice of God confirms it when he says, “Listen to him”.

The New Testament
A few books could be written regarding our reading for the past week in Luke. Just two things I want to touch on today. In Luke 9, right after the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus takes some time out with his disciples. They get away from the crowds and pray. This is just a short interlude, a mini-retreat if you will. But in this time we have some very profound events. Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say I am?” In the moment Peter gives a wonderful confession of faith, “You are the Messiah”. This was a big step for most Jews. They were waiting for the Messiah to come and when Peter gives this profession of faith he is saying that he now believes that the Messiah has come and that he is right in front of him. Jesus goes on to describe his mission on the earth, to suffer, be rejected, and to be killed, but be raised again. This was not at all the kind of Messiah the Jews were expecting. The key here is the profession of faith by Peter.

The other passage that I found interesting this week is in Chapter 11. Jesus talks about the sign of Jonah. What is Jonah doing here in the New Testament? Matthew records that Jesus talked about Jonah as well. You remember the story. Jonah was the prophet who was sent to Nineveh but he didn’t want to go. God made sure he got there by sending a storm and then a big fish swallowed up Jonah. Jesus uses this common story to describe his ministry. “But the only sign I will give them is the sign of Jonah. What happened to him was a sign to the people of Nineveh that God had sent him. What happens to the Son Of Man will be a sign to these people that he was sent by God.” Jonah is seen as a “type” of Christ. And his three days in the belly of the fish parallel the three days that Jesus will be in the belly of the earth. Very interesting stuff indeed.

Bits and Pieces

We will finish the book of Deuteronomy this week and start the book Joshua. Here are the vital stats for the book of Joshua:
PURPOSE: To present the renewal of the Sinai covenant for God’s people before they entered the Promised Land.
AUTHOR: Joshua, except for the ending, which may have been written by the high priest Phinehas, an eyewitness to the events recounted there
SETTING: Canaan, also called the Promised Land, which occupied the same general geographical territory of modern-day Israel

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

GOSPEL 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: “Go through the camp and tell the people. ‘Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you for your own.’” (1:11)
SPECIAL FEATURE: Out of over a million people, Joshua and Caleb were the only two who left Egypt and entered the Promised Land

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