Monday, August 29, 2011

Bethany Bullet - August 30, 2011

The last 13 chapters of the Book of Genesis form the narrative for one of the longer stories we find in the pages of the Bible. The main character? Joseph. And the story begins with the favored son of Jacob tending the flock in the fields with his brothers. Joseph’s brothers hated him and secretly plotted to kill him. Eventually, Joseph is thrown into a pit, sold as a slave, and taken to Egypt. The boys claim Joseph has been killed and his father is distraught and inconsolable. His favorite son was gone.

Things don’t get much better for Joseph in Egypt. Sure, he does well at first, ascending to prominence in the house of one of Pharaoh’s officials. But soon he is accused of misbehavior with the woman of the house and thrown into prison where he is almost forgotten. Eventually, he is released after interpreting a dream for Pharaoh himself and becomes second in command in the country of Egypt.

After famine strikes the land, his brothers make the trek to Egypt to find food. In a moment of divine providence the brothers stand before the one they had sold to slavery. Eventually Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. You would think there would be hard feelings or a desire for revenge but hear the words of Joseph from Genesis 50, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)

Job, a man of sorrows, his loved ones killed, his body ravaged by disease, a man whose own wife told him to “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9)

A man who was taken to the edge of sanity, who was tempted beyond most, a man who in the face of horrible circumstances, filled with grief, experiencing excruciating pain, cries out, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.” (Job 19:25)

Just two of the many stories found in the pages of Scripture of God’s calling, and seeing that in all things God works for the good.

Have you ever experienced anything like the things Joseph went through? Have you ever been betrayed by those close to you? Have you been accused of something you didn’t do? Have you been forgotten and left on your own?

Can you relate to Job? Have you ever felt like you just can’t catch a break? Does the world seem to be crumbling around you? Have you suffered the effects of disease, the pain of separation, or the sting of death?

Perhaps these situations do not describe your experience. And if so, praise be to God. But have you ever known pain, or disappointment? Have you ever felt that God could never use you?

In the midst of unbelievable circumstances, Joseph confesses that God was working in the middle of his painful story. Job cries out “I know that my Redeemer lives!” in the middle of pain and loss.

In all of these situations God is working and God is calling.

From Romans chapter 8 starting a verse 28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

In all things, God works for the good!

It doesn’t take long for one to understand that not everything that happens to us is good. But Paul tells us that all things contribute to our good. You see, God uses our experiences to make us more like Him.

In all things, God works for the good!

How many of us have not heard "God is good all the time/all the time God is good"? It is something that rolls off our tongues pretty easily, but are we just saying words or do we really believe that God is good all the time? It's easy to believe God is good when your life is free from trials, but do you believe God is good when your life is in turmoil? No matter what life throws your way Scripture tells us that in all things, God works for the good.

When I was about 12 years old my mother began suffering from an undiagnosed neurological disorder. She began to forget things and her motor skills were quickly deteriorating. Her speech became slurred and she could no longer work as a Lutheran educator. Soon she could not take care of the house or herself. We made the hard decision to move my mom into a nursing facility. I was 17 years old and had to help my father choose a place for my mom to live. Talk about growing up fast.

Watching your mom deteriorate from a jubilant, fun loving, vibrant mother to the shell of a person she became was devastating. Mom missed so many milestones, my high school and college graduations, my first days as a teacher (boy I wish I could have picked her brain about that), and she missed my wedding day.

I often prayed that God would just take her home. But there she was, alive, but not living. Finally the Lord called her to his side but she never got to meet my kids, or celebrate my ordination, or just be there for me to cry on her shoulder.

In all things God works for the good? That was a hard sell to me.

Perhaps you have said the same things:

  • “If God is so good, why do I hurt so bad?”
  • “If God is really there, why am I here?”
  • “What have I done to deserve this?”
  • “Why are believers in God persecuted?”
  • “It’s just not right!!”

In all things God works for the good?

God knows about persecutions. He cares about inequities and hunger and prejudice. And He knows what it is like to be punished for something he didn’t do. He knows the meaning of the phrase, “It’s just not right.”

  • For it wasn't right that people spit into the eyes that had wept for them.
  • It wasn't right that soldiers ripped chunks flesh out of the back of their God.
  • It wasn't right that spikes pierced the hands that formed the earth.
  • And it wasn't right that the Son of God was forced to hear the silence of God.

…For while Jesus was on the cross, the Father turned His back. He sat in silence as the sins of the world were placed upon His Son. And he did nothing while a cry echoed in the black sky, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

The silence was broken on that first Easter. God once again works for the good. In a world of injustice, God once and for all tipped the scales in the favor of hope as Jesus defeated death.

I am not sure I have fully understood all the reasons my mom got sick, or why the Lord had her live for more than 20 years in a nursing home. But I know many of them, and that experience has shaped me to be the person I am today.

In all things God works for the good.

It was in the middle of that experience that God called me. He called me according to His purpose to work for Him: To trust in Him, to put my faith in Him, even when I didn’t understand what He was doing.

You too have been called. Think God can’t use a person like you? Think you don’t have it all together? Are your shortcomings too great, or your situation to messed up? Think about this:

Jacob was a liar, Peter had a temper, David had an affair, Noah got drunk, Jonah ran from God, Paul was a murderer, Gideon was insecure, Miriam was a gossiper, Martha was a worrier, Thomas was a doubter, Naomi was a widow, Sarah was impatient, Elijah was moody, Jeremiah was depressed, Moses stuttered, Zaccheus was short, Timothy was too young, Abraham was too old, and Lazarus was dead....

But in all things God works for the good! You see, God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the CALLED! And in Christ you have been qualified, chosen and redeemed. And as Paul reminds us, “those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8:30)

Let me close with what Paul wrote earlier in the Book of Romans. From Chapter 5, 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us.”

In all things, God works for the good!

-Pastor Seth Moorman

The One Year Bible- August 29th

There was a time in my life when I was out of the house by 5:45 every morning. My wife and I would go to Starbuck’s and engage in some good conversation with other teacher friends of ours. Often times the topics of discussion revolved around school; what was going wrong, what was troubling us, etc. This conversation was very cathartic. It helped us gain some perspective on our jobs and our lives. I wonder if that was what it was like for Job and his friends. I think that conversation can be so beneficial to help think out problems. I worry at times that we are losing the art of communication because of technology. That is one reason I like blogs. They create conversation and allow for feedback between people. I hope this study helps you to work out any problems you are having in your reading. If not, then lets talk. Feel free to leave a comment or give me a call. On to the study for today...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
There are so many different interpretations of the book of Job that it can be rough trying to figure out what this book is all about. I could give you my two cents from my studies but I came across the following passage in a commentary on the book of Job and I want to share it with you all toady.

Rudolph E. Honsey, in his commentary on the book of Job says the following:

In order to understand and profit from a study of Job, we must come to grips with the question: “What is the theme?” Many suggestions have been given. A common one is “Patience in Suffering.” A more specific theme is “Why Does a Righteous God Permit a Good Man to Suffer So Intensely?” One can also see a three part theme (1) God is worthy of love even apart from the blessings He bestows; (2) God may permit suffering as a means of purifying and strengthening the soul in godliness; (3) God’s thoughts and ways are moved by considerations too vast for the puny mind of man to comprehend.

All of those themes are prominently set forth in the book of Job. Job surely suffered severely, and the troubles he experienced must have taxed his patience to the limit. But we must not overlook the important conversation between God and Satan in the two opening chapters of the book. When God commended Job and referred to him as a God-fearing man, Satan challenged him and asked permission to test him to the limit with severe afflictions. God consented to allow Satan to afflict Job, but added the condition that he must spare his life. God was confident that Job would not loose his faith in him even though he would be severely tried. Job’s faith in God might frequently falter and waver, but in the end it would stand up even against the strongest assaults of Satan.

We must not forget that in the opening verse Job is described as a man who was “blameless and upright” and who “feared God and shunned evil.” In his great suffering and pain Job said things he should not have said and would not have said under other circumstances. He spiritual condition had its ups and downs. But in the end Job humbled himself before God and submitted to his will. He was truly a man of faith and God later blessed him more richly than he had earlier blessed him.

Although Job’s message was originally proclaimed centuries ago, it is a message that continues to fit the conditions of mankind. We can benefit from reading and rereading this book.

Ever since our first parents fell into sin in the Garden of Eden, sin has been very much a part of our experiences. Sin has brought with it many consequences: misunderstandings, troubles, grief, pain, sickness, and death. All of us as sinners are inclined to be judgmental and to point a finger at other as did the three friends of Job. Like them we may be tempted to draw the conclusion that great suffering is a direct consequence of some special sin, which is not necessarily the case. All of us are tempted to make ourselves look better by making others look worse. While it is often true that a person who commits a certain sin may have to suffer the consequences (for example, a drunken driver who has an accident and maims or kills himself), it is also true that God uses troubles and afflictions to test and strengthen the faith of a Christian. That was pointed out by the young man Elihu, who spoke after Job’s three other fiends had stopped speaking.

For Christians today as well as for Old Testament believers the afflictions that God permits us to endure are not punishment but wholesome chastisement, a disciplining exercise to strengthen our faith.

There is more to the book of Job than the story of a good man who suffered many things and engaged in a prolonged dialog with three friends who actually did more harm than good in their attempts to comfort him. This book also has a Messianic content in a number of passages that point to the coming Savior, Jesus Christ. The most notable of these is the great “Redeemer” passage (19:23-27). [See also 17:21]

The book of Job, as does all the Old Testament, points forward to Jesus Christ, who not only frequently quoted from the Old Testament but also stated that those Scriptures testified of him (see John 5:39). Apart from God’s love for us in Jesus Christ we will be unable to grasp the real message of this book. The real contents of the book of Job is the mystery of the Cross: the Cross on Golgotha is the solution of the enigma of every cross; and the book of Job is a prophecy of this final solution.

It is our hope and prayer that God the Holy Spirit will work in our hearts as we read this precious book, a book that is not read as thoroughly or as frequently as it deserves to be read. The apostle Paul’s words about the Old Testament are true also of the book of Job: “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

From: The Peoples Commentary Bible: Job, Rudolph E. Honsey, Concordia Publishing House, p.p.6-9.

What a great way to end our look at Job this week.

The New Testament
I will try to keep this section short since we are heading to a long post already. In our readings this week Paul continued talking about the resurrection of the dead and his words provide confidence that not only has Jesus been raised from the dead, we too will conquer death because of Jesus. Paul quotes from the prophet Hosea when he writes, "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" (1 Cor. 15:54b-55 ESV) What a great gospel message for us. We tend to read this passage at Easter, but its effects are for every day of the year. Thanks be to God!! Just a few other things; I like the encouragement we read from Paul in chapter 16. It reminds me of what was said by Moses to Joshua in the Old Testament, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” ( 1 Cor. 16:13-14 ESV). Thanks for the great words Paul. Verse 21 of that same chapter is pretty cool. It was the custom in Paul’s day to have a professional scribe write your important and official letters. Paul does the same thing but in 16:21 Paul takes the pen and gives a greeting in his own handwriting. I would love to have seen it. This is a very personal touch and shows the love Paul has for this Church. I also found it quite interesting that we read at the beginning of 2 Corinthians about comfort in our troubles. It would have been nice to share this with Job, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God”. (2 Cor. 1:3-4 ESV). Paul spends some time talking about the “Old Covenant”. This is not a simple reference to the Old Testament. It is more about the newness that is in Christ. Many Jewish believers had a difficult time letting go of the Law. To them it was what saves. Paul tells them that even though the Law is good, the new covenant in Christ is much better. I once again thought of Job in the reading for today. Paul’s words give me hope, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Cor. 4:8-10 ESV). WOW!!!! That is some AWESOME stuff. AMEN!!!!!

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We will finish up Job this week and then head on into Ecclesiastes. Here are the vital stats for the book:

PURPOSE: Life without God (i.e., “under the sun”) is empty; the only rescue from such emptiness comes from God as He brings us to fear, love, and trust in Him and His word.

AUTHOR: Solomon

TO WHOM WRITTEN: Solomon’s subjects in particular, and all people in general

DATE WRITTEN: Probably around 935 B.C., late in Solomon’s life

LAW THEMES: For natural man, life and success have no real significance; foolishness hastens destruction; life is dissatisfying.

GOSPEL THEMES: Favoring us on account of Christ, the Creator graciously provides for us in every season and time; by bringing us to fear, love, and trust in Him, He gives us true wisdom.

SETTING: Solomon was looking back on his life, much of which was lived apart from God

KEY VERSE: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13 NIV).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bethany Bullet - August 24, 2011

Romans 8:26-27- Grown as we Groan

You are walking through a hallway and come to a door. At the end of the hallway you turn the knob and you find yourself in front of an audience, you are on stage, and everyone is looking at you.

Is this a nightmare, or a challenge?

It has been said that one of the most nerve-wracking things to do is to speak in public. It is the rare individual that will willingly stand up in front of a large group to communicate. Gratefully it does not bother me, but I too have the occasional nightmare of standing in front of a congregation with nothing to say. I know that’s nearly impossible, because I always have something to say, but even to a person who doesn’t mind speaking to a group, it can still make me nervous.

If speaking to an audience gives you the chills, how about speaking to an audience of one? How are your personal communication skills?

Does the topic matter? Does it change if the subject matter is politics? What about faith?

Does it change if that audience is God?

Is this a nightmare or a challenge? Intriguing or debilitating?

Let’s face it; talking to the Creator of the cosmos, the Almighty, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, and Omniscient God should scare the living daylights out of you. But in His Word, we are called to do it.

Jesus’ disciples wanted to know how to do this as well, so He told them, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father” (Matthew 6:6)

Sounds easy enough, right? Now, what do you say?

Jesus then gave them the words we know as the Lord’s Prayer. A great start, but if you are like me, at times you are at a loss of what comes next. “Now I lay me down to sleep??…Come Lord Jesus, be our guest???…”

Fortunately the Apostle Paul has our back. Our text today from Romans gives us some more help, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” (Romans 8:26-27)

Our text begins, “In the same way…” and to understand the context we need to ask, “The same way as what?”

We have to go back to verse 22. Paul writes, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth...” Skipping ahead a bit, “…we ourselves…groan inwardly.”

We groan all the time don’t we? We groan when the alarm clock goes off on Sunday morning. We groan when we see the brake lights on the commute to work. We groan when people let us down. We groan when things don’t go our way. We groan, and complain, and lament.

Groaning is something humans have been doing since the fall. There have been groans in the delivery room and the boardroom. Groans have been heard from sandy shore to the trading floor.

We groan at the test scores and the box scores. We groan about the things of the past and what the future might hold. All of creation groans. But God hears the groans of His people.

Peter writes in his letter, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

What do you groan about? (Ask for answers)

You are in good company. God has heard the groans of his people for years.

As God’s servant Moses was walking in the desert working for his father-in-law, hiding from his family in Egypt, the Lord comes to him and asks him to go to Pharaoh and speak.

Almost at once we hear the groans of Moses, “What if they won’t believe me or listen to me? What if they say, ‘The Lord never appeared to you’? O Lord I am not very good with words…I get tongue tied and my words get tangled…Lord, please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:1)

It was not long before the people the Lord sent Moses to, were the ones groaning as well. “Moses, did you bring us out into this desert to die? It was better back in Egypt where we had three squares and a place to sleep.”

But God heard the groans of the people. You know the story…the story of redemption in the desert.

It was groans of another kind, begun in a garden, and then amplified on the cross that were also heard by the Lord.

As Jesus, groaned under the weight of our sins, as His groans served to bring creation back, we see a picture of a God who hears the groans of His people. It was creation that groaned in the sound of an earthquake three days later that announced an end to all groaning, and the beginning of new life for all who believe in Him.

In the groans of Jesus, we see the defeat of sin, death, and groaning forever.

So, back to our bedroom prayers…in this life we are still subject to sin, our weakness is evident. All too often we are at a loss for words.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

Paul realizes that we are not capable to pray for what we need. We have been crippled by sin, but in our weakness, the Spirit, sent from the Lord groans our requests to God. When life is overwhelming, when you don’t know what to say, the Spirit groans for you above anything words could ever express.

We have a God who hears the groans of His people.

I know it can be hard. It was just last week, Jill and I were having a discussion with our oldest girl about some of her issues with following the guidelines and in the conversation she told us, “I am so upset!” I asked for some clarification and she said, “I am so mad at Adam and Eve, they messed it up for all of us. They made it so hard to obey.”

I couldn’t agree more! But even in our weakness, the Spirit helps, groans, and intercedes for us!

In our groans we are grown. We grow in faith. We grow in our trust of God’s will for us. We grow as we share our faith, as we go to Him in prayer, as we hear his word, as we come to his table.

In our groans, we are grown.

Do you have a fear of public speaking? Do you struggle at sharing the faith that you have? Go into your room, close the doors, and groan away…and in so doing you are being grown into the person God wants you to be. And he has invited us to groan.

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, August 22, 2011

The One Year Bible- August 22nd

When I was in fourth grade I was in a school musical called “Esther and the King of Persia”. Now I was only in the chorus, but I had a ball. It was my first time on stage and the first time I remember hearing about the story of Esther. I remember an eighth grader named Johnny, who played to part of the king was awesome and I was scared of the guy who played Hamen. Since that day I have loved the story of Esther. I can still recall many of the songs we sang and some of the hand motions too. It was great to read an entire book in just a few days this week. This will happen again when we get into some of the smaller books of the Old and New Testaments. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

Like I mentioned last week, the events in the book of Esther take place before Nehemiah. This book was hotly contested when it was time to determine what books were in and out of the scriptures. In about 200 BC, Esther was almost taken out of the scriptures by Jewish theologians. There is no mention of YAHWEH or overt mention of God at all. Many believed it to be a secular historical account of the beginnings of the festival of Purim. One of the big things in the book of Esther for me is the idea that God is moving in history. By His guidance, both Esther and Mordecai were in the right place at the right time. They were used by God to bring about the deliverance of the chosen people and made for sure that the remnant would return. This took place so that prophecy about the Messiah would be fulfilled. Esther gives us insight into how God continues to act in this world for His will to be done. A lasting event from the story of Esther is the celebration of Purim. I found this on Wikipedia:

Purim (Hebrew: פורים Pûrîm) is a joyous Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of Persian Jews from the plot of the evil Haman to exterminate them, as recorded in the biblical Book of Esther. It is characterized by public recitation of the Book of Esther, giving mutual gifts of food and drink, giving charity to the poor, and a celebratory meal (Esther 9:22); other customs include drinking alcohol, wearing of masks and costumes, and public celebration. Purim is celebrated annually on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar. As with all Jewish holidays, Purim begins at sundown on the previous secular day.

We started the book of Job this week as well. I will spend more time in the coming weeks on this book. The one thing I want you to watch out for is you need to know who is speaking. At times it is Job but other times it is his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar or others. Make sure you know who is speaking while you read. We did read about why Job is the way he is. He was a rich man with a big family and a good life. In one day all of that is taken away. This was not by chance, but by a character named Satan (the accuser). Satan talks with God and gets the O.K. to test Job. In Job 9:33-35, I wonder if Job is thinking of Jesus. Read it and let me know what you think. I don’t want to give away too much today but pay attention to how Job reacts at the beginning and how he reacts towards the end of the book.

The New Testament

In our readings from 1 Corinthians, Paul addressed some big issues. Paul warns the church about the divisions that are in it. He mentions that the meal that they share together (called the Lord Supper here) is causing divisions. It is unclear if this was a full-blown meal that the believers shared or if it was just communion. It seems as if Paul thinks it is a full meal. Paul tries to set them straight by reminding them what the Lord’s Supper is all about. He tells of its importance and it is not something to be done lightly. Paul then continues on answering the questions that the church has brought to him. Paul then spends a lot of time talking about spiritual gifts. I think the key comes in when Paul writes, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7 NIV). That is indeed what they are for. They are not to show that one believer is better than another. They are all useful. To show his point, Paul uses the analogy of the human body. This would have worked well for the Greek thinkers in the Church. Like the parts of the body, we all have our place, our unique function within the whole. But most importantly, we need to have love. 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most famous passages in the New Testament because of its content. Love is the key to how we live our lives. It was what drove Jesus to the cross, and what motivates us today. Two more things Paul addresses: speaking in tongues and the resurrection of the dead. It seems like the Corinthians had some sort of obsession with the gift of tongues (some in the church today to as well). In one of the best one-liners in the New Testament, Paul lays out his belief on the subject, “But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (1 Corinthians 14:19 NIV). Way to go Paul!! I can’t agree more. On to the resurrection of the dead; it seems that there was some influence from either the Sadducees or some Greek thinkers who do not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Paul tackles this issue with some good logic. “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.” (1 Corinthians 15:13-15 NIV). Good point Paul.

Bits and Pieces

The New Testament

We will finish off the book of 1 Corinthians and move on the 2 Corinthians. Here are the vital stats for the book:

PURPOSE: To affirm Paul’s ministry, defend his authority as an apostle, and refute the false teachers in Corinth.


TO WHOM WRITTEN: The church in Corinth, and Christians everywhere

DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 55-57, from Macedonia

SETTING: Paul had already written three letters to the Corinthians (two are now lost). In 1 Corinthians (the second of these letters), he used strong words to correct and teach. Most of the church had responded in the right spirit; there were, however, those who were denying Paul’s authority and questioning his motives.

LAW THEMES: Divisions in congregations; false apostles; human frailty; poverty in sin; generosity; suffering; self-examination.

GOSPEL THEMES: Comfort in Christ; restoration through forgiveness; reconciliation; wealth in Christ; God’s sufficient grace.

KEY VERSE: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20)

KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Timothy, Titus, false teachers

KEY PLACES: Corinth, Jerusalem

SPECIAL FEATURES: This is an intensely personal and autobiographical letter.

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