Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bethany Bullet - September 27, 2011

It was the summer of 1987 and at the box office fans were lining up to see Beverly Hills Cop 2, Predator, The Untouchables, and Dirty Dancing. In the midst of the summer blockbusters, a movie was promoted with what has become one of the most famous promotional lines in cinema, “This time, it’s personal.” The movie? Jaws: The Revenge. The fourth in the Jaws saga and by some, one of the worst movies ever produced. Since that summer that phrase, “This time, its personal” has been used and abused over and over again.

Now I am not condoning this movie, in fact according to the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes, this movie gets a 0% on their ‘Tomato-meter’ their lowest ranking. It was not very good.

Revenge, it’s always personal! The scenes play out on the big screen and the small screen, in our daily life and in our spiritual life. This time, it’s personal.

I’m sure you have felt the feeling before.

  • Someone has betrayed you, this time, it’s personal.
  • Your position has been eliminated, this time, it’s personal.
  • The bills are past due and now they are charging you a late fee, this time, it’s personal.
  • You go in for a check up and leave with a diagnosis, this time, it’s personal.

If you are reading The Story along with us this year; we see that in the beginning, God was getting personal. As the Spirit of God hovers, His voice speaks and creation springs forth, and it was good. On the sixth day, God does something special. God gets His hands dirty and forms the crown of His creation and in so doing reveals His personal character. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them.” This time, it’s personal.

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”

Every time we look into the mirror we get a bit of the personal story of God. As we carry the image of God with us we see a bit of self disclosure from the Creator of the universe; our reason, our compassion, our ability to love and nurture - all a gift from the image of God.

But that image is broken, shattered into a million pieces by one act of treachery. Giving in the words of the tempter, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her and he ate it.” NOW IT’S PERSONAL.

God has been betrayed. The personal relationship that was forged in creation has been reduced to a pile of rubble. God would have all rights to seek revenge, but what does He do? He seeks the couple in the garden as they cower in fear. This is the act of a personal God who desires a relationship with His people. We have a God who wants to dwell with His people.

In spite of our sin, in spite of our rebellion, in spite of the countless times we have disobeyed and run away, God continues to pursue his people. To Him IT’S PERSONAL!

We start to understand the personal nature of this rescue event in our Old Testament text for today. From Exodus Chapter 3, “God called to Moses from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’…God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.’”

Did you catch it? In an event familiar to believers, the voice of God emanates from a burning bush and He shares something personal with Moses. For the first time in Scripture, God Himself reveals His personal name. In Hebrew it is YAHWEH. A name that sounds like the breath that once gave life to Adam now rings in the ears of Moses. YAWEH! THIS IS PERSONAL!

Even in the ups and downs of the people of Israel, YAHWEH never leaves. He comes as a pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud. His presence rests on the tabernacle. He remembers His people in exile and restores a remnant so that His most personal work could begin.

In Jesus we see how personally He takes this story. The God of creation comes to us in a helpless babe; the almighty lying in a dirty manger. The only begotten Son of God, the Messiah, mingling with the masses; it doesn’t get any more personal than this…or does it.

Jesus Christ, True Man and True God, takes it to another level. He did not just come to be a role model, a mentor, or a humble minister. He comes as the Mighty Messiah so that you might have life.

It was personal for Jesus! It was His life on the line and in an amazing display of love He willingly takes your rebellion, your betrayal, and your self-centeredness and nails it to the cross. In so doing He also takes away your pain, your fear, and your inability to do the right thing. And He announces, “It is finished!” This time it’s personal!

I hear you, “The Bible is filled with stories about people from long ago. It has nothing to do with me. Don’t get me wrong, there are some good things in the Bible, but most of it just doesn’t apply to me.”

What about this, “But wait a second pastor, you don’t understand. God can’t be personal. I just don’t buy that the Creator of the universe wants anything to do with lowly me.”

Or this, “Enough of all this mushy stuff, let God be God, I will just be me, don’t rock the boat. I don’t want to hear of all this personal stuff. I got things figured out pretty well on my own, thank you.”

In reality, just like Adam and Eve, we are engaged in a personal rebellion against God. We are at odds with our Creator and it is because of our actions, not just some event in history. We have become blind to the truth found in HIS Story.

The pages of the Bible may tell a personal story but it is not distant. His Story is intertwined with our story…in fact this story is HIS story. HIS Story is not just a far away historical event that has no bearing on today. It is a present tense reality that has eternal implications FOR YOU!

Martin Luther once said, “The Bible is the cradle which brings us Jesus.” This personal story is evident every time we open the pages of Scripture, every time we hear the word of God proclaimed and in a deeply personal way we see it as once again the babe of Bethlehem comes to a lowly manger. This one not built by hands, but made of hands when we come to the communion rail. Like that first manger it is undeserving of such a guest, filled with dirt and grime. Defiled by disobedience and fractured since the fall. But he comes to bring fullness and forgiveness.

Like God in the garden, searching for His wayward children, the Word of God comes all the way to us so that He could restore what was lost so long ago. In (the body and blood of) Jesus we see a Savior who desires to be with us. Who spoke His personal name to his servants, has engraved our names upon His hands, and forgives us our sins. Who holds us when we are down and whispers His name into our ears and says, “I LOVE YOU.” This time it is personal.

The pages of Scripture tell a profoundly personal story that finds its climax with you, not in burning bush but in flowing fount as you too were called by God and His personal name was shared with you in water and word.

I invite you to pick up your Bible, to get a copy of “The Story” and come face to face with the most personal story ever told. Share it with your kids, tell it to your co-workers, and shout it from the mountain tops. This story is His Story and it is very good, and this time it’s personal.

Let us pray…

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, September 26, 2011

The One Year Bible- September 26th

A number of years ago I was introduced to a form of devotion and reading called Lectio Divina. In short it is a tool to use when you are reading God’s word. Here is a quick definition: Lectio Divina is Latin for divine reading, spiritual reading, or "holy reading," and represents a method of prayer and scriptural reading intended to promote communion with God and to provide special spiritual insights. It is a way of praying with Scripture that calls one to study, ponder, listen and, finally, pray from God's Word. The past few weeks I have used this tool to stop and spend some time just chewing on God’s word and praying through what we have been reading. I have stopped in various places including parts of Isaiah, Ephesians and especially Psalms. I encourage you to give it a try. One thing you have been doing without even knowing it is something called Lectio Continua which is Latin for continuous reading. It is the discipline of reading the entire Bible without omitting anything. Both Lectio Continua and Lectio Divina can bring some depth as well as breadth to the study of God’s Word. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

I think I could write a novel on what we found in Isaiah this week. I think I told you that I am putting a star in the margin of my Bible each time I read “The Holy One Of Israel”. Remember that this is a term that points to the coming Messiah, Jesus. One thing to keep in mind is that you need to remember who the “I” is in some of these passages. Sometimes it is Yahweh, other times it is Isaiah. Make sure you know who is talking. This will go far in helping you understand some of the significance of the passage. Some general thoughts; we have entered the second part of the book of Isaiah and we will start to see much more of a prophetic message. Isaiah’s audience has changed from the people living in the Promised Land, to the exiles living in captivity. Here we see a message of hope and promise. Chapter 40 begins the new section with such a message, “Comfort, comfort my people says your God” (Isaiah 40:1 NIV). The people are in need of comfort because of what has happened. The people have been exiled. They are living in a foreign land and they need to hear the comforting words of their God. Chapter 40 gives a hope filled message and ends with a verse near and dear to my heart, “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 NIV). This verse is my confirmation verse given to me by my father. It has been a source of comfort and hope for me for most of my life. I know that God is right there beside me giving me the strength I need to do his will. He promises to be with me when all other things seem to go wrong. Chapter 41 continues this same theme. Some of the most controversial parts of the book of Isaiah come from the sections where he mentions a character named Cyrus. He is called a shepherd, and one who will fulfill the purpose of God. He is also called an ally of God. Some translations use the Hebrew word Messiah to describe him. Cyrus was not a follower of Yahweh, he was the king of Persia, and a Gentile. He was used by God to bring the remnant back to the Jerusalem. Many believe that this name was inserted in later years to make Isaiah look good. There is no proof of this, and we should be careful to say that God was not the one who inspired Isaiah to write about this king. Many years later it would come to pass that King Cyrus would issue a decree that would allow many Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city and more importantly the temple. Isaiah also spends much time on the topic of monotheism. There are so many references to the Messiah in Isaiah it is hard to mention them all. Keep on looking for things that seem familiar to the life of Christ.

The New Testament

We finished up Galatians and now are in Ephesians. One of the main themes in Ephesians is “The Body of Christ” and the church. One key idea to keep in your mind while reading is one of Paul’s presuppositions of the book, namely that we are “In Christ” and apart from Christ we can do nothing. We are part of Christ by what he did on the cross and by claiming us as his own in baptism. We have been adopted into the family and now we can celebrate with all the rights and privileges as heirs of salvation. This is an amazing gift of God. This idea of “gift” is huge in Ephesians. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV). What a wonderful message. It is not up to us. If it were, I know I would be in trouble! I think I could just give quote after quote from Paul for this post. I have underlined so much in my Bible this week. Here are some of the best in my mind. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13 ESV). “For he himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14 ESV). “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19 ESV). “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 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 ESV). “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 ESV). I could go on and on, but you get the point. This book is a deep rich read, filled with so many good things. Don’t just skim over these things. Meditate on them, let them sink in, roll them around you head for a while. You will be blessed by doing so.

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament

We will finish up Isaiah this week. I will have a lot to say next week about it. This week we will start the book of Jeremiah. Here are the vital stats:

PURPOSE: To call Judah to repentance, announce the Babylonian exile, and prophecy the new covenant.

AUTHOR: Jeremiah

TO WHOM WRITTEN: Judah (the southern kingdom) and its capital city Jerusalem

DATE WRITTEN: During Jeremiah’s ministry approx. 627-586 B.C.

SETTING: Jeremiah ministered under Judah’s last five kings—Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. The nation was sliding quickly toward destruction and was eventually conquered by Babylon in 586 B.C. (see 2 Kings 21-25). The prophet Zephaniah preceded Jeremiah, and Habakkuk was Jeremiah’s contemporary.

KEY VERSE: “’Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and relize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the LORD your God and have no awe of me,’ declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty” (2:19).

LAW THEMES: The nations plucked up, broken down, destroyed, and overthrown; punishment of Judah by sword, famine and pestilence; faithless shepherds; turn in repentance; forsaking the Lord and His covenant; idolatry; Judah cursed like Sodom.

GOSPEL THEMES: The nations built and planted; healing; the Lord will relent; the remnant will return; a righteous branch to sit on David’s throne; new covenant; new hearts; God’s steadfast love and mercy; judgment of nations.

KEY PEOPLE: Judah’s kings (see list above), Baruch, Ebed-Melech, King Nebuchadnezzar, the Recabites

KEY PLACES: Anathoth, Jerusalem, Ramah, Egypt

SPECIAL FEATURES: This book is a combination of history, poetry, and biography. Jeremiah often used symbolism to communicate his message.

The New Testament

We will finish up Ephesians, read Philippians and start on Colossians this week. Here are the vital stats for Philippians:

PURPOSE: To thank the Philippians for the gift they had sent Paul and to strengthen these believers by showing them that true joy comes from Jesus Christ alone.


TO WHOM WRITTEN: All the Christians at Philippi and all believers everywhere

DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 61, from Rome during Paul’s imprisonment there

SETTING: Paul and his companions began the church at Philippi on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:11-40). This was the first church established on the European continent. The Philippian church had sent a gift with Epaphroditus (one of their members) to be delivered to Paul (4:18). Paul was in a Roman prison at the time. He wrote this letter to thank them for their gift and to encourage them in their faith.

KEY VERSE: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (4:4)

LAW THEMES: Suffering, uncertainty, and physical sacrifice; rivalry over the Gospel; growth in humility and right-mindedness.

GOSPEL THEMES: Joy in Christ; Jesus’ exaltation after the cross; righteousness through faith in Christ; heavenly citizenship.

KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus, Euadia, and Syntyche

KEY PLACE: Philippi

Here are the vital stats for the book of Colossians:

PURPOSE: To combat errors in the church and to show that believers have everything they need in Christ.


TO WHOM WRITTEN: The church at Colosse, a city in Asia Minor, and all believers everywhere

DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 60 during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome

SETTING: Paul had never visited Colosse—evidently the church had been founded by Epaphras and other converts form Paul’s missionary travels. The church, however, had been infiltrated by religious relativism, with some believers attempting to combine elements of paganism and secular philosophy with Christian doctrine. Paul confronts these false teachings and affirms the sufficiency of Christ.

KEY VERSES: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (2:9-10).

LAW THEMES: Threat of false teaching and self-made religion; Satan’s domain; struggle to fulfill God’s calling; God’s coming wrath; the old self; admonish one another; God’s order for families and labor.

GOSPEL THEMES: Gospel growth; the Son’s kingdom and reign; mystery: Christ dwells in you; Baptism, the new circumcision; the new self; the Lord’s inheritance.

KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Timothy, Tychicuys, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Mark, Epaphras

KEY PLACES: Colosse, Laodicea

SPECIAL FEATURES: Christ is presented as having absolute supremacy and sole sufficiency. Colossians has similarities to Ephesians, probably because it was written at about the same time, but it has a different emphasis.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bethany Bullet - September 20, 2011

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Ever notice how sometimes our TRUE stories grow over the years or include new/exaggerated details that help us grow in influence or importance? Like Jesus inventing the HIGH FIVE…

So, you have actually caught a fish. You set the hook, reeled, landed, consumed or released this fish; but over the years that trout began to sprout and what once was…

…when it was caught, is now…

It is the “glory days” story – when it actually happened, you did score the winning touchdown. The ball was fumbled in the end zone, you fell on it, and your team won the game. However, by the time it is retold at the 25th High School Reunion…you now have the ball handed to you at midfield, you’re breaking tackles left/right, and you have scampered into the end zone for the victory!

Here’s another…In their classroom they are bright fine students, with a paint brush their works of art are pleasant enough, and when at the keyboard you can actually identify the song they are playing. Yet, when grandma recounts their acts/activities they are now Einstein, Michelangelo, and Bach all rolled into one!

God never needs to exaggerate to communicate His great love and desire to relate to us.

From the stories start to the stories heart, God is simply proclaiming the Truth of His love for us. When He does so, He never lies. Each and every story – creation’s story, Israel’s story, redemption’s story, and the early church’s story – they are all true.

Sometimes our stories are not just exaggerations sometimes they are fabrications.

God’s Story, however, is always a verification of what happened:

  • Who He is
  • What He did,
  • What He is doing,
  • And what He will do!

The Scripture records the Truth of God:

  • His love for us,
  • His desire for a relationship with us,
  • His redemptive actions on our behalf.

The Scripture records the Truth of Humanity:

  • Its original creation in God’s image,
  • Its corruption and fallen nature due to rebellion from God,
  • Its fate and doom if not forgiven,
  • Its hope found in Christ alone.

Every word of His is true, every word inspired by His Spirit.

“ALL SCRITPURE is God-breathed and useful for teaching rebuking correcting and training in righteousness so that the person of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

-II Timothy 3:16

The Story…His story is the very foundation of who we are, what we believe, and how we are called to live – so we will allow ourselves to be taught, rebuked, corrected and trained by it – and that is how Jesus wants it – true Story.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, September 19, 2011

The One Year Bible- September 19th

There is an art to discipline. Being a classroom teacher for many years always reminded me that for every student there is a way of dealing with his or her behavior. Sometimes they need to be yelled at, other times they need to feel loved. But there is always that one child where nothing seems to work. No matter what you say, they still make poor decisions; they still put their foot in their mouth. While reading through Isaiah, I get the feeling that he tried everything to get the people to listen. He used harsh words, he used loving words, and nothing seemed to work. His message was very important for their well being. If they would listen, they would be saved. At times it seems like Isaiah (and the other prophets as well) is just repeating himself. What else could he do? He was called by God to be His mouthpiece. Sometimes it comes down to being faithful to the calling you have received and not worrying about how the message is received. That’s my two cents for the day. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
The major theme of Isaiah is the proclamation of what will happen to those who do not put their trust in Yahweh. Isaiah has a simple message for all the countries: you will be destroyed. This same message is for Israel as well, with one caveat; there will be a remnant. This faithful remnant will return to the Promised Land ready for the coming of the Messiah. One neat thing I read this week revolved around the idea of applying the book of Isaiah to our lives in the 21st century. The book was not initially written to us, but it is preserved for us. The question is why? Many things come to light when answering this question. First of all, Isaiah’s warnings should ring true for us today. The same warnings he gave to Israel, we should heed today. We must put God first, and look to him for wisdom and strength. Second, Isaiah is preserved because of its wonderful Messianic prophecy. Can you imagine Christmas or Easter without quotes from Isaiah? A third thing I read, and I am still digesting, is the idea that just as Israel needed to watch its alliances with other countries, because of the problems that can develop (think about Isaiah’s warnings about Egypt), we also need to watch what things we ally ourselves with. We need to watch who we hang out with and spend time with. We must be careful of those close to us and their influence upon us. Chapter 36 begins a narrative section that gives some insights on the events from the reign of King Hezekiah. This is a neat section that shows how even when all seemed doomed, God rescued his people. Even after this, a few years later Jerusalem is destroyed and the people are taken into captivity.

The New Testament
I love Paul’s letter to the Galatians!! Many Bible scholars see the wonderful theology of Romans in an infant form in this smaller letter. Galatians shares many of the same themes and analogies as the longer letter to the Romans. Remember that Paul was not writing to one church. This letter went to all the churches in the area that Paul founded on his first missionary journey. I am sure Paul had fond memories of his very first mission trip and the people he saw and taught. These were memories he would cherish his whole life. I will never forget my very first class of students as a teacher. Some of the other years are a bit fuzzy at times but that first class will always be with me. Paul has some strong emotions for what he has heard from the believers in Galatia. Right from the get-go Paul tries to snap them out of the influence of a group known as the Judaizers. This group of people demanded that to become a Christian, one first had to convert to Judaism. The person must fulfill all the requirements of the law before being allowed to become a part of the community of believers. Paul was strongly opposed to any such group. He believed that these people were taking the free gift of God and turning it into a work. This was quite contrary to the message of Jesus Christ. The argument was settled by the church at the first Jerusalem council where it was agreed that one did not have to first become Jewish before believing in Jesus as the Messiah. The balance of the letter addressed this same issue. In Chapter one Paul lays it down, But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!(Gal. 1:8-9 NIV). Strong words from a passionate man. Paul goes on with saying that faith in the Law is worthless. Trying to gain salvation by the Law is hopeless for sinful people. Paul reminds the people of Abraham, the father of the promise. The Jews considered Abraham to be one of the big guys and we now live according to that same promise because of Jesus. In one of the best passages in all of Paul’s letters we find this, But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” (Gal 4:4-7 NIV). I could probably write a dissertation on these verses!!! To me they spell out the clear message of salvation. We were slaves, but Jesus adopted us as sons and we now enjoy all the blessing of being his own. I can’t imagine better news!!! Most of the rest of the letter spells out the difference between following the law and the ideas of the Judaizers in contrast to living in the Grace of Jesus Christ. One quick note on the fruit of the spirit; notice it does not say fruits (plural), it says fruit (singular). The Holy Spirit produces all of these things in our lives!!

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We will be finishing up the first part of Isaiah and start the second (remember the divisions from last week). The second part, which starts at chapter 40 is more focused on future events. Isaiah will be writing about things that will happen beyond his own lifetime. There will be a lot said of Israel’s salvation and savior. The return from exile will be a major theme with an emphasis on redemption. Isaiah will still give warnings but his audience has changed and so has his message.

The New Testament
We will finish up Galatians this week and jump right into Ephesians. Here are the vital stats for the book of Ephesians:

PURPOSE: To Strengthen the believers in Ephesus in their Christian faith by explaining the nature and purpose of the church, the body of Christ


TO WHOM WRITTEN: The church at Ephesus, and all believers everywhere

DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 60, from Rome, during Paul’s imprisonment

SETTING: The letter was sent with Tychicus to strengthen and encourage the churches in the area. Paul had spent over three years with the Ephesian church. Paul met with the elders of the Ephesian church at Miletus (Acts 20:17-38)—a meeting that was filled with great sadness because he was leaving them for what he thought would be the last time. Because there are not specific references to people or problems in the Ephesian church and because the words “at Ephesus” (1:1) are not present in some early manuscripts, Paul may have intended this to be a circular letter to be read by all the churches in the area.

KEY VERSES: “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” (4:4-6 NIV).

LAW THEMES: Rivalry between believers; grieving the Spirit through unfaithfulness; marital unfaithfulness; spiritual warfare.

GOSPEL THEMES: Baptism; election by God’s grace; justification by grace alone; the mystery of Christ revealed; unity in Christ’s body.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Several pictures of the church are presented: body, temple, mystery, new man, bride, and soldier. This letter was probably distributed to many of the early churches.

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