Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bethany Bullet - June 28, 2011

St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans has been considered by many theologians, from many traditions, and over many centuries to be the diamond of the New Testament epistles. Martin Luther was so moved by St. Paul’s letter that he called it, “The daily bread of the soul” and said, “Every Christian should know it word for word by heart.” Whether or not we memorize it word for word by heart, this summer we will seek to know more deeply its teachings, truths, and concepts. We will spend our Sunday mornings hearing, reflecting, and proclaiming this “purest gospel.” (All quotes are from Luther’s Works, volume 35:365)

How do you know what you know? What we know is a result of what we have seen or what we have been taught. Observation and information via conversation is the source of our knowledge. St. Paul begins with the former and moves to the latter. Verse 20: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” God the Creator, who by the way is still at work in nature and in history, has given witness to His existence and even now attests Himself to men. The invisible God is visible to the mind of man through the works of God.

I don’t know if you heard about the events at the 2011 U.S. Open Golf Tournament and the editing of the Pledge of Allegiance or not, but during their telecast NBC edited out the words “under God” from its coverage.

My goal is not to engage in a discussion about the wisdom of this or the history of the Pledge but rather to reflect upon how humanity is prone to deny or capitalize on that which we know. Take for instance this story, NBC edited out ‘under God’ from the Pledge in its coverage. I am willing to bet you that in regards to its coverage, contractually for things it is and is not responsible for it has not edited out “acts of God.” You can deny Him, try to suppress Him, or simply use Him as a concept when convenient, but you do so by ignoring that which is clearly seen.

There is a difference however between knowing that God is and knowing who God is! God is most clearly known through His self-revelation made in Jesus. Paul did not always accept the revelation of God’s goodness and love in Jesus. Perhaps that is one of the reasons he begins this chapter’s main premise with a negative. Verse 16: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Why start with a negative? Why start with, ‘I am not ashamed?’ Clearly Paul knew what it meant to be shamed. The past persecution of the church at his hand and under his command was clearly shameful. Yet, Paul also knew how the revelation of the Gospel “looked” to eyes not opened in faith.

“The Jews stumbled over a crucified Messiah and called Jesus accursed. The Greeks shrugged off the message of eternal life through the death of a substitutionary sacrifice as foolish. Paul would meet both Jew and Greek in Rome. He is not ashamed because the Gospel is not a product of Judaic dreams meant to satisfy Judaic hope and pride; nor is the Gospel a philosophical design of plausible system of thought to compete with other philosophical systems for which the Greeks were famous. This Gospel is not the invention of men; it is the revelation of God.” - Romans a Commentary by Martin Franzmann pg. 32

This revelation from God is for the “Salvation” of mankind. I suppose in our world the word salvation or it’s more common form ‘save’ has been all too normalized. Save, it is what happens when we put a penny in the piggy bank, or by taking a coupon to the store, or when Mariano Rivera takes the pitcher’s mound. (P.S. as one who despises the Yankees it really hurts to record that truth.) The truth being recorded in the biblical recording of the word salvation is that of, “radical deliverance out of a desperate situation.”

Take Luke for instance - not the author but the pilot, not the guy who knew about the Magi but the one who wanted to learn the way of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker. He was done for, though he was in striking range his wing men were lost, the evil Lord Vader was about to claim victory and the movie was going to end with the good guys losing. Only intervention from on high could save him - then in came Han Solo.

Click on the Youtube link:
Star Wars Episode IV

Or copy/paste this web address to your browser:

If you prefer biblical analogies there was Moses. He and the Hebrews were cut off - Pharaoh and his chariots behind them, a big deep body of water before them, without hope unless there is a miraculous intervention from above. Then in came God “solo” – alone that is – God and God alone could help and He did. Not with blasts or staffs the salvation of which Paul speaks miraculously descends to us. Through the holy blood, innocent suffering, and death of Jesus; God has miraculously intervened and salvation has come to us.

Our situation was no less desperate than Moses’ or Luke’s. What is the desperate situation in which we find ourselves? Verse 18: “The wrath of God is being revealed against all the godlessness and wickedness that suppress the truth.”

What “godlessness and wickedness” is Paul speaking about? The rest of the chapter describes this. Paul begins by identifying idolatry, adultery, and depravity.

Idolatry, adultery, and depravity are quite a three-some. Quite often we give more press to certain things that put others in desperate situations while ignoring our own perilous position.

Notice that Paul doesn’t stop at what we might call the ‘biggies.’ Nor does His list present a hierarchy of sins. By the time you get to the end those are the ones that don’t really alarm God nor put us in need for deliverance. After those big three, Paul goes on to include greed and gossip to name a few. Some sins are not so serious right; especially ours?

With idolaters and adulterers, Paul includes the arrogant and disobedient. Those who boast about what they’ve accomplished cannot be equated with those who have kept quiet about what they’ve done with ones they ought not to have done it, can they? Those who replace the true God with an image or item to worship can’t be equated with those who’ve replaced their parent’s directions with their own decisions can they? Next to the idolater and the adulterer Paul places the rumor spammer (whether online, face to face, or in the courtyard - it is still wrong) and the kid who refused to clean up his/her room as told. Why?

Observation tells us that we are better than many and worse than others. This revelation, however, declares that before God we have nothing to offer and are in the same desperate situation as everyone else. Only when we see ourselves carrying the same deep disease; only when we see that in the “gossip” we share so freely, lays the same disease that has led others to share partners so freely, can we comprehend our need for deliverance and receive the gift God brings in Jesus.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mission Alaska 2011

Follow the adventures of our Alaska Missionaries this week by following the following link:

The One Year Bible- June 27th

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

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

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

Kings of Judah and Israel

Kings Before Division of Kingdom

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

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

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

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

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

Kings of Judah (Southern Kingdom)

· Rehoboam: First King.

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

· Asa: Probably son of Abijah.

· Jehoshaphat: Son of Asa.

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

· Ahaziah: Son of Jehoram and Athaliah.

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

· Joash (or Jehoash): Son of Ahaziah.

· Amaziah: Son of Joash.

· Uzziah (or Azariah): Son of Amaziah.

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

· Ahaz: Son of Jotham.

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

· Manasseh: Son of Hezekiah and Hephzi-Bah.

· Amon: Son of Manasseh.

· Josiah (or Josias): Son of Amon.

· Jehoahaz (or Joahaz): Son of Josiah.

· Jehoiakim: Son of Josiah.

· Jehoiachin: Son of Jehoiakim.

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

Kings of Israel (Northern Kingdom)

· Jeroboam I: Led secession of Israel.

· Nadab: Son of Jeroboam I.

· Baasha: Overthrew Nadab.

· Elah: Son of Baasha.

· Zimri: Overthrew Elah.

· Omri: Overthrew Zimri.

· Ahab: Son of Omri; husband of Jezebel.

· Ahaziah: Son of Ahab.

· Jehoram (or Joram): Son of Ahab.

· Jehu: Overthrew Jehoram.

· Jehoahaz (or Joahaz): Son of Jehu.

· Jehoash (or Joash): Son of Jehoahaz.

· Jeroboam Il: Son of Jehoash.

· Zechariah: Son of Jeroboam II.

· Shallum: Overthrew Zechariah.

· Menahem: Overthrew Shallum.

· Pekahiah: Son of Menahem.

· Pekah: Overthrew Pekahiah.

· Hoshea: Overthrew Pekah; kingdom overthrown by Assyrians.

The New Testament

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bethany Bullet - June 21, 2011

I have never been very good at math. Ask any of my teachers and they would tell you that I did not do well:

I struggled to subtract
My multiplication was a monstrosity
I couldn’t do didley with division
I was awful in algebra
My geometry was grotesque

My idea of real and imaginary numbers were far from what the teacher wanted. For all I cared, all numbers were imaginary. Now…negative numbers that I understood; only because they described my checking account for years. I remember how frustrated my father was that I could not get it. Studying theology, I thought I could get away from numbers, but in one of the fundamental doctrines of the faith…we find numbers.

From the Old Testament- “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4)

From the New Testament- “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)

OK, I can handle ‘one’…

From the Nicene Creed- “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty…We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ…”

Now hold the phone…is God one, or not?

From our Gospel lesson- Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of Holy Spirit.”

OK, is it 1 or 3?

From the Athanasian Creed- “We worship one God in three person and three persons in one God, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.”

Well this person is confused.

On this Trinity Sunday, we dive in and we attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible. This day we confess with the writers of the Athanasian Creed, “Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped.”

For all you math people out there, that is 1 + 1 + 1 = 1!!

It turns out you don’t have to be good at math to describe solid theology.

Although the word ‘trinity’ or ‘triune’ never appear in the pages of Scripture, the idea of the Triune God is evident from the beginning. In our Old Testament Lesson we catch a glimpse, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

John, in his Gospel, gives us some more information about creation, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

These two passages tell us that God, in three persons always has been.

Let me be clear, this side of heaven we will never fully understand the Triune God. As Martin Luther once wrote, “This article is so high above human understanding and language that God, as a Father, will have to excuse the stammering and lisping of His children when we do the best we can, if only that which we believe is pure and right.”

Even on my best days, I can only stammer and stab to grasp the Trinity in Unity. But our loving Father is full of mercy, love, and grace…not a bad role model for our fathers.

Many have tried to explain the Triune God:

  • God is like the three parts of an egg, the shell, the yolk and the white…

  • God is like an apple, the skin, the fruit, and the seeds…

  • God is like a totem pole, one pole and three faces…

  • God is like the states of water, solid, liquid, gas…

Don’t feel bad for using them, I have and will probably again, but in reality our feeble minds and limited vocabulary can never do justice to describe the Trinity in Unity.

It is important to remember that this is something we are called to believe, even if it is not something that we are able to understand completely. We can believe it because God has revealed it in His Word. In Scripture we find two truths: there is only one God and that one God exists in three persons.

I am sure many of you remember the days when on Trinity Sunday we would stand and recite the Athanasian Creed in its entirety. You may want to review it again today and you can find it on p.p. 319-20 of the hymnal. Now there is some merit in doing it, but often times it just creates more confusion.

Why? Because of sin! Sin has corrupted our minds and made us incapable of understanding God. Try as we might, we will never understand the three-ness and the oneness of God. Even in the body of believers, sins grip holds tight. At times doubt creeps in and Satan begins to feed us the lie that if we can’t understand it, it must not be true.

But in the face of things we can’t understand we are called to hold on by faith. Faith is that gift, given to us by God that enables us to hold on to the truth when we desire to give up. Have you been there? Have you doubted the goodness of God? Have you wondered if all of this is true? Has your sinful nature fooled you into lethargy?

Today, I remind you to look to the cross. When everything else seems to be topsy-turvy, when you can’t make heads or tails out of the situation you are in, look to the cross:

+ At the cross we see a Father’s love.

+ At the cross we see a Son’s sacrifice.

+ At the cross we experience the Spirit’s power.

The cross is the place where we find forgiveness. At the cross we find peace and grace and access to God. The cross is where our God leads us in times of trouble to produce perseverance and character and hope. Our triune God brings us joy by bringing us to see our Savior and His wonderful work for each of us. That work is being done right now through the Holy Spirit working in God’s Word.

My dad may have been frustrated with my inability to understand math, but our heavenly Father is not frustrated or flabbergasted, but filled with love even when His children struggle to understand. As we celebrate fathers on Father’s Day, we also look to our heavenly Father who sent His Son who promised the Spirit to be with us to the end of the age.
So if the figures of life just don’t make sense. If doubts have crept in and the numbers don’t add up, come to the table, kneel at the foot of the cross, where Jesus has done all the work...

+ Where sin has been subtracted,

+ The devil has been divided,

+ Where love has been multiplied and

+ The real presence is given for you.

For we have a Triune God who calls us His children, who heals our brokenness and gives us His wholeness. There is nothing imaginary about it. It is real, it is whole and complete, and that is worth celebrating today.

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, June 20, 2011

The One Year Bible- June 20th

The NBA, and NHL crowned champions in past week or so, the baseball season is in full swing and the US Open was thrilling, but the most exciting contest was in our readings this week. Many people in the world live and die through sports. In most of the world soccer is like a religion. National holidays are called to watch a match played half way across the globe. Employers close shop because everyone is fixated on the match. Many become so obsessed that their very existence hinges on the outcome of a game. In 1 Kings we have another contest that captured the attention of a nation. When Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal the nation was transfixed on the outcome. God used this opportunity to remind the people of who God was and that he had complete power. God used this match to bring the focus of the people back to God. We all have times where our focus is not on God. I am reminded of these words from the book of Hebrews, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV) I hope your Bible reading helps to focus your eyes on Jesus Christ. On to the study....

Seth’s Thoughts

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

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

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We will start the book of 2 Kings so here are the vital stats:

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

Have a great week!!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bethany Bullet - June 15, 2011

This past Sunday, Rev. Dr. Loren Kramer reminded us that the Holy Spirit rests ON us. Even as He fell on Jesus as His Baptism so to the Holy Spirit has lighted upon us, brought us to faith, and called us to follow Jesus.

This same Spirit also lives IN us. Jesus breathed on His disciples after His resurrection with the words, “Receive the Holy Spirit” and thus commissioned them with the ministry of the Gospel.

That same breath of life is one we’ve received; that same commission is our commission. We too are blessed to be a part of a Gospel ministry. The Holy Spirit also works THROUGH us.

In this world, the primary way through which Jesus is working and through which people are meeting Jesus is the church, you, and me. Jesus is working through the people of God around the world and here at Bethany through whom the Spirit is connecting Christ to people.

To hear last week’s sermon check out the Bethany website (www.bethanylutheran.org) and our podcasts.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, June 13, 2011

The One Year Bible- June 13

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

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

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

The New Testament

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

Have a great week!!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Bethany Bullet - June 8, 2011


Maybe when you hear those words, you hear the tune by The 5th Dimension


Perhaps you hear the Man of Steel?

There is that sappy love song about relaxing, escaping, and watching the world spin round with an up, up and away cry. Then there is that burst into action cry, “Up, up and away” of Super Man that aims to keep the world from spinning off its axis.

There are some who think of Jesus’ Ascension in a 5th Dimension mode. When they hear one say, “Up, up and away” as Jesus returns to heaven; they are drawn to think of Jesus having accomplished His mission on earth. Remember from His own lips He has said “It is finished.”

There are others who think of Jesus’ Ascension in Superman style. When they hear one cry, as Jesus heads to the sky, “Up, up and away” they are drawn to the passages which speak of Jesus now interceding for us at the right hand of God.

While one’s thoughts could rightly turn to either set of texts…

The words “Up, Up & Aweigh” are not intended to cause you to think of Jesus’ location at His Ascension but ours.

The church, as Jesus Ascends is called to go into the world.
We are told to be ‘aweigh’; to raise anchor and leave the safer harbor of being with Jesus in person and go into the rougher waters of taking Jesus to people.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, June 06, 2011

The One Year Bible- June 6th

June gloom is officially here. For those of us in southern California we know this all too well. Most mornings are gloomy and overcast. It is a strange thing for newcomers to the area to wake up expecting the sun and getting clouds every day. I kind of like this time of year; the Jacarandas are in bloom, the mornings are overcast, school is almost over; it is just a nice time of the year for me. Others don’t like this time of year. It is stressful with the kids being home, its overcast every morning, you still have to go to work even in the summer months, and it’s not that fun. I think we go through these seasons in our Christian lives too. At times things are going well and at others nothing seems to work out. There are seasons in the life of Christ as well. He started his ministry and things seemed to be going well, he was gaining popularity, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, etc. Then he makes his way into Jerusalem where he suffers and dies. The difference here is that it was love that motivated Jesus. It was his love that drove him to the cross. It was his love that broke the chains of death and the power of the devil so we can one day be with him forever in paradise. This is some good news. That will be a great day. No more tears or sadness, no more schoolwork to do, no more work at the office in the summer. This is the reason Jesus came. One day we will all have the ultimate vacation and freedom in heaven. Enough of my rambling.....on to the Study.

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
I am not sure what has happened to the writer of 2nd Samuel. I seemed to notice that the flow of the story was much more difficult to follow this week. It could have been me, but it is true that the literary structure of this book is nowhere near that of the books of Moses. Once again the main point of the story is that problems abound in the house of David. His son Absalom leads a revolt and it does not end well. There were plenty of guts spilling on the ground this week. There were a bunch of murders and stories of warriors. I did find it interesting that there was a guy with six fingers and six toes on each hand (2 Sam. 21:20). That was pretty cool. As the book of 1 Kings opens we see a struggle for power. What usually happened at the end of the reign of a King is that there was a power struggle. Many of the sons would claim the right to be the king. When one obtained the dominant position, he usually tried to kill all the other sons. This is what was going on here. Adonijah and Solomon have a problem with who will be the next king, and true to the house of David, Solomon orders the execution of Adonijah. Even king David from his deathbed orders for the death of one of his enemies. This is the family of the promised Messiah? This is the line of the savior of the world? It just goes to show that God loves us so much and he desires that we are all saved. He loves us so much that even to this sinful family will come the long awaited Christ, the Son of the Most High God. A member of this horrible family will fulfill the promise given to Abraham long ago. God’s mercy endures forever.

On another note I found it interesting that we read of the “mighty men” of David. These were the four warriors that helped David in his battles with Saul and with the surrounding nations. There was also a list of “the thirty”. These guys were almost as good as the “mighty men” but not quite. After reading this in the Old Testament (June 4th) I found an interesting parallel in the reading from Acts from the same day. In Peter’s Pentecost sermon he says, “Men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs...” (Acts 2:22 ESV). If you are reading another version you might not see the word “mighty” but the ESV uses the word. Peter then goes on to quote from David. Was Peter making a reference that Jesus is now the mightiest of the mighty men? I have not done the digging necessary to find out if others think this but it was interesting that we read both of these on the same day this week. Just some food for thought.

The New Testament
There are some great things to talk about from our New Testament readings. The days after the resurrection were filled with sightings of Jesus. We don’t get all the details of the events but I like to think this was a time of joy and preparation; joy for the disciples, knowing the truth of the Messiah and preparation for the work that was to come. We don’t get to hear everything from the mouth of Jesus but when we get into Acts I think we start to hear what Jesus was telling them in his last days on earth. But even with all of this, the disciples still have their problems and doubts. Thomas struggles with not seeing the risen Lord with his own eyes, but when he does he has one of the greatest statements of faith, “My Lord and my God!” If we all could be so bold to shout this with Thomas. John tells us in chapter 20 the reason for his Gospel, 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 20:31 NIV) One other thing in John that astounds me is that we only get a glimpse of the ministry of Jesus. John tells us, Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25 NIV) I am excited to get to heaven and find out the other things that Jesus said and did. A few amazing things happened the first few days of the Christian Church. Can you imagine 3,000 baptisms in one day?? Where would this take place? I had wondered that for years and recently I heard a reasonable explanation. Just outside of the temple was a place where the Jews could wash and become ritually clean before they entered. This was a large complex of pools and basins just south of the entrance to the temple. One of my seminary professors showed us pictures from this location and by seeing it, it would be easy to baptize many people all in one day. This may or may not be true, but it does make sense. We have already seen the disciples get in trouble for their message but the Lord helps them. This will continue throughout the book. More about the book of Acts next week.

Bits and Pieces

Just a few things here for you: First of all if you are reading from the ESV (English Standard Version) this year you may have noticed a new word that pops up now and again. The word is Sheol. The NIV usually translates this word as “the grave”, “the depths”, “the pit” etc. This, indeed is a word that means the place where God is not. The Old Testament writers usually do not develop the idea of hell very far mostly because any place without God would be horrible. The word Sheol is Hebrew and has packaged within it not only a view of what we term hell but also the whole idea of separation from God and all of his benefits (love, mercy, grace, etc.). This is indeed a bad place.

One other interesting thing to note is an idiom that the Hebrew’s use for the anger and wrath of Yahweh. Some of this idiom comes out in translation. When the writers of the Old Testament wanted to describe God’s anger they focused on the face of God and talked about his nostrils flaring or burning (2 Samuel 22:8-9). This meant you were ticked off. There is a related phrase that does not usually get translated it literally says that Yahweh was “long of nose”. This meant that he was patient, loving, gracious, etc. The two phrases are not actual opposites, just a way in which the language was used to try to describe an indescribable God.

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