Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bethany Bullet - March 27, 2012

Wanting to be with Jesus is a good thing correct? Desiring to be found in Jesus’ company in glory is good, right, and salutary – Amen? Jesus Himself said, “Knock and the door will be open to you.” Mark, for his part, concluded chapter 9 and began chapter 10 with 5 stories about entering the kingdom. Longing to enter the kingdom, aching to be with Christ in eternity is a result of spiritual maturity, is it not?

Asking Jesus to ‘grant and give’ as well as ‘to provide and produce’ is in keeping with His instruction - true? “Ask and it will be given you.” Having confidence and conviction that you can address the Lord with a question is worthy of commendation, right? In fact, John and James had seen this in action; in both chapters 9 and 10 individuals (courageous enough to come forward) approach Jesus with a request. They are seeking what only He can give – a miracle. Trusting that Jesus will listen and welcome a supplication goes hand-in-hand with faith, right?

Wanting to be recognized as one of His is more than appropriate – accurate? Immediately before our text Jesus had just told His followers that those who have left family, property, community, and duty for His sake will be given 100 times as much in the kingdom. So wishing to be identified as one of His is a response of faith, right?

So with all that being said and having established that…

· Wanting to be with Jesus,

· Willing to make requests of Jesus

· Wishing to be known as one of Jesus’

Is a solid summation of faithful devotion…then, why is it that when James and John display such – they are rebuked?

“You don’t know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:38) Make no mistake about it, those words are a rebuke. Why is it given?

Perhaps we need to begin with the question, James and John recognized Jesus would be in glory and they wanted to be there. They saw in Christ the ability to grant a request and so they asked without doubt. Their desire included the longing to be seen as one of Jesus’. So they asked, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

It is at that point that the 10 become indignant with the pair. Many a preacher, commentator, and author have commented on this indignation. Often what is preached, postulated, and penned is the opinion that said indignation was partially due to the fact that the pair had beat them to the punch; as they too would have liked to make the same request. ‘Power grabs’ always tug at the human heart.

The real issue at stake in our text is not wanting to be with Him, to be seen as His and being willing to request such; James and John sought to elevate themselves over their brothers in the faith and such is an insult to the church and Her Lord. For the aim of discipleship is serving Him not ruling for Him but serving like Him!

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, March 26, 2012

The One Year Bible- March 26th

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

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

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

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

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

Right after the Shema, Moses then gives some instructions to the people regarding education. The LORD wanted to make sure that the following generations would hear the stories and know of the love and mercy of God and his statutes and teachings for His people. “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6: 6-9 NIV).

Mark Braun continues in his commentary:

“God wanted education in the faith to be a family thing. God didn’t want his people confining it to Sabbath days, leaving it to the religious professionals to conduct. Moses’ words in verses 7-9 were probably meant in a figurative way; parents were to talk about their relationship with their Savior God and they went about their day-to-day lives. Many later Jews, however, took these versed literally. Jewish males, thirteen and older, tie phylacteries on to their foreheads and their left arms—two little black boxes containing tiny parchment scrolls on which are written four passages of the Hebrew Scriptures. Observant Jews also fasten mezuzoth to the door frames of their homes and public buildings—small wooden or metal boxes that hold two scrolls on which are written this verse and Deuteronomy 11:13-21. The Jewish teacher Maimonides said that those who look upon the mezuzoth and the phylacteries as lucky charms are ignorant, yet by obeying Moses’ words literally, many Jews many have found these outward symbols served as strong reminders of their faith. Crosses or pictures of Jesus serve a similar purpose in our homes.”

Jesus makes mention of this practice in Matthew 23 when he says, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and

do everything they tell you...

Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'” Jesus points out that although the Pharisees seem to be doing the things on the outside right, they are not right on the inside. They need to do what Moses intended. The word must come out through our actions (tied to our hands) and should be always on our minds (tied to our foreheads).

Here are some pictures of phylacteries and mezuzoths that may help:

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

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

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bethany Bullet - March 20, 2012

Have you ever felt snake bit? That period of life filled with misfortune or inability to succeed. But Jesus is a haven to the ostracized for all those who feel snake bit in life.

For the past few weeks our texts have involved water. But our text from Sunday (John 3:14-21) seems to be dealing with snakes.

CBS.com published the following headline on February 11, 2009- Woman Dies After Snakebite in Church.

Does that make you nervous? Anyone care to check under your seat? Are you a bit rattled? Now, I am not going to ask you to handle snakes this morning, but humanity has been dealing with snakes since the beginning.

Both our Old Testament Lesson and our Gospel lesson describe the same event. Salvation comes when one is lifted up.

It was in the wilderness, the people of Israel grumbled and complained, then rebelled. The sentence had been cast, the verdict was certain, punishment was on the way.

This time punishment came in the form of venomous snakes and many died. Contrition and repentance followed and then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put in up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” (Numbers 21:8) Their shelter… was a stick.

Our Gospel lesson comes from the words of Jesus to a Pharisee named Nicodemus who had come to Jesus at night. Going back a little bit in chapter 3 we see that Nicodemus was listening to Jesus, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.” (John 3:3-5 NLT)

And there is the H20. Our water connection is new birth in water and the Spirit. This new life comes to us when Jesus is lifted up, and it personally comes to us when water and word come together in Baptism and we are called a child of God.

But why did Jesus have to be lifted up?

Jesus continues his message to Nicodemus from our Gospel lesson, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15)

The truth is you have been snake bit; not by one that coils and strikes, but by one who contradicts, and lies.

It was in the garden, the serpents sly words enticed Eve. As she bit, she was bitten, and so too Adam and every one of their offspring since, have felt the venomous poison of the deceiver coursing through our veins.

To use a legal term, we have been remanded. To be remanded is to be kept in custody until a trial or to return to be sentenced in a court of law.

The Israelites were remanded when the grumbled and complained. They were sentenced to punishment.

You have also been remanded. Sin keeps you in custody. You have been sentenced to death because of your disobedience. Sin has sentenced you to separation from the savior. The venom of that first sin still courses through your veins and all too often you have given in to the serpent’s lies. We all have been snake bit and ostracized from God.

  • Is your life filled with misfortune?
  • Are you finding it hard to succeed?
  • Is the venom of sin destroying your body or desensitizing you to the evil of the world?
  • Do snakes surround you?
  • Are you feeling rattled?

In the immortal words of Doctor Indiana Jones, “Snakes? Why did it have to be snakes?”

Paul said it this way:

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:1-3)

Jesus is a haven to ostracized, a refuge for the remanded, anti-venom for rebellion.

  • Jesus takes our condemnation upon himself.
  • Jesus is sentenced to die.
  • Jesus is remanded for our sins.

In the wilderness, the snakes came to condemn the people of their sin, but listen to the words of Jesus, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)

As Jesus was lifted up, we have been given life. The shelter? A stick! Not just any stick, but the cross of Calvary. And when he burst forth from the tomb we were guaranteed new life forever with him. Now by water and word we have been born again and given refuge.

It might have been St. Patrick who banished the snakes from Ireland, but it was Jesus who crushed the head of the serpent and has banished sin from affecting those who have been born of water and the Spirit.

Jesus IS a haven for the ostracized a refuge for the remanded!

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

The anti-venom is yours, poured out in the blood of Jesus and coming to you again in bread and in wine as his body and blood is freely given to you, for you, to save you.

Jesus our haven comes to you today to bring you new life. When you feel remanded, remember that you have been set free, and, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, March 19, 2012

The One Year Bible- March 19th

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

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bits and Pieces

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

PURPOSE: To remind the people of what God had done and encourage them to rededicate their lives to him 

AUTHOR: Moses (except for the final summary which may have been written by Joshua) 

TO WHOM WRITTEN: Israel (the new generation entering the promised land) 

SETTING: The east side of the Jordan River, in view of Canaan 

KEY VERSE: “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. (7:9)

KEY PEOPLE: Moses and Joshua

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bethany Bullet - March 13, 2012

John 2:7-22

Jesus has just worked another water wonder. This time He turned the water into wine.

S It didn’t heal a body (but it kept intact a reputation)…

S It neither calmed at His voice stirring many a question nor held up under His weight leading to a grand demonstration…

S It simply aided in a joyous celebration.

Now the water was just water, nothing special in it or from its source, but that which held it – now that is something else entirely. Jesus performed the miracle of turning water into wine while the water was being held in jars used for ceremonial cleansing and ritual purification.

Of course, the people living at the time of Jesus didn’t call the Old Testament, the Old Testament; they called it the Bible. It was what they had. So for them, the ceremonial commands declared that there were certain actions, situations, and conditions that could render one unclean. Therefore, making them unable to join in the company of God’s people and perhaps un-presentable to God. These ceremonial commands are fulfilled in Christ and unnecessary for the church today; for example, when was the last time you put a pair of doves in the offering plate? Yet for the people in John’s account, it was part and parcel to their life of faith.

The solution to said action, situation, and condition was a ritual purification via ceremonial washing.

Other than Jesus and His disciples, John doesn’t tell us who else is on the guest list of the reception in question. I can assure you that…

Ø Had they been the guys who were upset that Jesus’ disciples ate with unwashed hands (yes, those guys) or

Ø Had they been those people who were distraught that Jesus would heal during a service on the Sabbath (yes, those people);

Ø Had any or all of these been in attendance at this reception and if they had known that the water wonder Jesus worked, was worked with water held in such a container…They would have been furious!

Jars intended to contain water for making one holy being used to hold wine intended to make people happy, well…that frivolous act would have roused their fury. Who are those people? They are the religious ones!

Actually, perhaps we ought not to use the word religious – but the word, religiosity. These people were in church (temple) on every holiday and in synagogue every Saturday. These people we are talking about are the church folk of Jesus’ world; those who worshiped, studied, served, and gave (the core of any congregation in Jerusalem, so to speak). They were (and still are), the kind of people that a congregation needs (they are us).

Yet, somehow their perspective (and for them) the WHAT’s of worship had superseded the WHO of worship. For them, the HOW one acted was elevated above the WHO one was to act for. For them, the WHEN one came to church and the WHAT they offered took priority over the WHY they had come in the first place.

In the temple of Jerusalem religiosity had run amuck. Everything was about the operation of the church structure, not the invocations of the churched attendees, let alone the glorification of the churches Master.

The implications of this text are hopefully obvious to us.

ü When style becomes more important than substance…

ü When letter becomes more important than spirit…

ü When structure is alleviated over attendee and Master…

ü When conformity, continuity, or policy are raised above ministry…

We religious folk have allowed ourselves to be mastered by religiosity.

Good is the News that Jesus is a refuge for the religious; for in the safe haven of Christ we find all we need to regain our proper perspective. The Lord Himself comes to turn over our religiosity. Once again, Jesus claims His proper place – front & center, one & only, AND heart & soul of His people’s hope, faith, and lives.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, March 12, 2012

The One Year Bible- March 12th

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

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

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

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

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

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

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

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

The New Testament

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

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

Have a great week!!

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