Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bethany Bullet - June 26, 2012

Today is Summer Christmas.  Even as the Nativity of our Lord is celebrated at the beginning of winter so the nativity of his cousin and forerunner is celebrated at the beginning of summer.   Christmas is synonymous with the name of Jesus, “God Saves.”  In Christ, whose birth is celebrated at the anniversary of His nativity, God has come to save us.  So too, Summer Christmas is synonymous with the name of John, “God is Gracious.”  Through John, whose birth is celebrated at the anniversary of his nativity, the news is proclaimed that God is a God of Grace.

John made such a proclamation by…
1.       Revealing who Jesus was, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”;
2.       Admitting who he (John) was not, “I am not the Christ. I am the voice calling in the wilderness, prepare His way.”
3.       And finally by…“A man can receive only what is given him, He must become greater and I must become lesser.” 

While our births might never be celebrated by the church at large, they can certainly be lived to impact her mission greatly; as we too declare and share God’s graciousness in Jesus by…
1.       Revealing who Jesus is and what He means to us;
2.       Admitting who we are not: perfect, better than, or more worthy, but just sinners forgiven/restored through Christ; 
3.       And finally by living selflessly as we seek to make decisions about the day to day as well as major life ones.

And in doing so, not merely through wishes, whims, and wants but by the will of Him who formed us in our mother’s wombs to be voices calling – in this case along the So Cal coast, “Prepare the way for the Lord.”
-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, June 25, 2012

The One Year Bible- June 25th

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

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

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

Kings of Judah and Israel

Kings Before Division of Kingdom
· Saul: First King of Israel; son of Kish; father of Ish-Bosheth, Jonathan and Michal.
· Ish-Bosheth (or Eshbaal): King of Israel; son of Saul.
· David: King of Judah; later of Israel; son of Jesse; husband of Abigail, Ahinoam, Bathsheba, Michal, etc.; father of Absalom, Adonijah, Amnon, Solomon, Tamar, etc.
· Solomon: King of Israel and Judah; son of David; father of Rehoboam.
· Rehoboam: Son of Solomon; during his reign the kingdom was divided into Judah and Israel.

Kings of Judah (Southern Kingdom)
· Rehoboam: First King.
· Abijah (or Abijam or Abia): Son of Rehoboam.
· Asa: Probably son of Abijah.
· Jehoshaphat: Son of Asa.
· Jehoram (or Joram): Son of Jehoshaphat; husband of Athaliah.
· Ahaziah: Son of Jehoram and Athaliah.
· Athaliah: Daughter of King Ahab of Israel and Jezebel; wife of Jehoram; only queen to occupy the throne of Judah.
· Joash (or Jehoash): Son of Ahaziah.
· Amaziah: Son of Joash.
· Uzziah (or Azariah): Son of Amaziah.
· Jotham: Regent, later King; son of Uzziah.
· Ahaz: Son of Jotham.
· Hezekiah: Son of Ahaz; husband of Hephzi-Bah.
· Manasseh: Son of Hezekiah and Hephzi-Bah.
· Amon: Son of Manasseh.
· Josiah (or Josias): Son of Amon.
· Jehoahaz (or Joahaz): Son of Josiah.
· Jehoiakim: Son of Josiah.
· Jehoiachin: Son of Jehoiakim.
· Zedekiah: Son of Josiah; kingdom overthrown by Babylonians.

Kings of Israel (Northern Kingdom)
· Jeroboam I: Led secession of Israel.
· Nadab: Son of Jeroboam I.
· Baasha: Overthrew Nadab.
· Elah: Son of Baasha.
· Zimri: Overthrew Elah.
· Omri: Overthrew Zimri.
· Ahab: Son of Omri; husband of Jezebel.
· Ahaziah: Son of Ahab.
· Jehoram (or Joram): Son of Ahab.
· Jehu: Overthrew Jehoram.
· Jehoahaz (or Joahaz): Son of Jehu.
· Jehoash (or Joash): Son of Jehoahaz.
· Jeroboam Il: Son of Jehoash.
· Zechariah: Son of Jeroboam II.
· Shallum: Overthrew Zechariah.
· Menahem: Overthrew Shallum.
· Pekahiah: Son of Menahem.
· Pekah: Overthrew Pekahiah.
· Hoshea: Overthrew Pekah; kingdom overthrown by Assyrians.

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bethany Bullet - June 19, 2012

As we pause to honor fathers (Sunday, June 17), I can’t help but thinking of my own dad.  My dad was a simple man from southern Indiana who heard the Lord’s call to be a pastor at a young age.  He grew up in a family that grew most of their own food in their garden.  The Holy Spirit sent this country boy way out west after seminary.  My dad tells a story of his first months in his new parish when he was invited over to a members house for dinner. In the course of the evening my father learned that the member was an engineer.  My dad said that he had not met any engineer before, and that was that. 

He soon learned that quite a few members in the church were engineers.  He was puzzled by this new information.  He had no idea that so many people in southern California, worked in the railroad industry.  He had no idea what an engineer really did.

You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy; a truth that exhibited itself in the fact that we always had a garden in our backyard.  I spent many hours with my dad, pruning and planting, caring and tending. I gained an appreciation for God’s living creation and how under the right conditions growth and the yielding of a harvest were possible.

That time spent in the presence of my dad, I gained a deeper appreciation for growth.  It takes just the right amount of water, sun, and tender care for growth.  Too much water, or too little, both could stunt growth and the vital component was the sun. 

For all of you biology people out there, you know the equation for growth.
Photosynthesis is the chemical process, necessary for life, creating sustenance in the sweetness of glucose, a sugar. 

This is a process which God initiated back in the first garden, Eden.  A perfect place filled with “trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.” (Genesis 2:9a)

Photosynthesis changes simple carbon dioxide and water into a complex sugar capable of sustaining life as we know it.  Without the sun it would be impossible.  With the sun a change takes place.

Before photosynthesis can happen a seed must be planted. 

The Bible is filled with stories, metaphors, and parables; about seeds and growth, life and abundance.  Two of them come before us today, our Old Testament lesson from Ezekiel and our Gospel lesson from the book of Mark.

From our Old Testament Lesson, “I will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it…it will produce branches and bear fruit.” (Ezekiel 17:22, 23)

And from our Gospel lesson, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like…It is like a mustard seed…when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants.” (Mark 4:30, 31, 32)

All growth is the result of the actions of another.  A seed planted in the ground, the tender hand of the gardener, watering and caring for the seed. 

It was just a few verses earlier in Mark 4 that Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower and He explains that the seed is the Word of God.  That seed is spread liberally on the earth and falls to the ground to sprout to life. But one of the most interesting things in creation is that for life to spring from the earth, the seed has to die.  With water and sunlight new life bursts forth and soon growth accompanied by the yielding of fruit is a result. 

This is a pretty good image for our life in Christ, and I think that is just what our text was getting to. 

The seed of faith was planted in you at some point in your life.  Perhaps it was the day God, our gardener watered the seed of faith as you were claimed in the waters of Baptism, or perhaps it was the moment the Word was sown into the soil of your heart as you heard the message of Jesus for the first time.  It was at that moment that you were changed, your sinful nature was drown and died, and new life sprung forth. 

This is a result of another death, that of Jesus, who was buried in the ground and who burst forth to bring life eternal to the world. 

Like growth in the natural world, the vital component for our spiritual life is the SON, the Son of God - Jesus Christ.

We too are called to yield in the presence of the Son.  Not yield as in to give way, but to produce, as we spend time in the Son’s presence. 

Spending time in the presence of the Son is necessary for life, He provides the sustenance in His body and blood, given and shed for us, and the sweet message of salvation that is found in no one else but Jesus, the Son of God.

The Son changes simple carbon beings into complex organisms capable of sharing the sweet sustenance of God’s Word.  Without the Son it would be impossible.  With the Son a change takes place.

The Apostle Paul reminds us of this fact in our New Testament lesson for today, “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

We yield under the tender hand of the Gardener, God almighty as he waters us with his word, as he prunes and plants us.  It may not always be easy, but it is for our good so that we might grow in him and yield a bumper crop of fruit for the benefit of others. 

It is not really a complex equation, and like a seed, we must die to sin, and rely on the living water poured over us and the food provided by the soil of the church and the food of His meal.

God calls us to yield in the presence of the Son so that others may benefit from our fruit and know the sweetness of the Savior.

It is what the season of Pentecost is all about.  There is a reason for the color green, it serves as a reminder that we are to grow in faith and that growth will yield a bumper crop that will be a blessing to others.  Even as we get to the 27th Sunday after Pentecost, do not lose hope, but continue to grow for the harvest is almost here.

On this Father’s Day, I am reminded of my own father who worked in the garden in our backyard which yielded fruit for our family, but more importantly I am reminded of his tireless efforts tending the garden of the church where he would yield in the presence of the Son to serve his Lord and he serves as an example to me today. 

So if you are feeling parched, come to the presence of the Son and experience the sweetness of Jesus who will produce in you abundant fruit.
Let us pray…

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, June 18, 2012

The One Year Bible- June 18th

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

Seth’s Thoughts

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

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

Bits and Pieces

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

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

Have a great week!!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bethany Bullet - June 12, 2012

Every year our Parish Theme must come to an end.  So too will this one; yet I wonder is this the end of “The Story?” Well, before we ponder that, ponder this:  How could “THE STORY…HIS STORY” be a Parish Theme to begin with? The Scripture is far too profound, far too deep, and far too complex to turn into a theme, right?  Well, when you think about it, The Story is really the compilation of a vast amount of “short stories.”

Beyond a shadow of a doubt the shortest story in The Story is a one word story that we find sprinkled throughout Scripture. The one word story… “AMEN.”  Amen means, “So be it!”  It is the shortest story of The Story.  
·         When God speaks these words it means, “What I have spoken is true! This promise shall come to pass.” 
·         When God’s people speak these words they mean, “Thus we believe and thusly we shall behave.” 

THE STORY itself ends with a pair of Amen’s! (Revelation 22:20 & 21):
·         “I am coming soon says Jesus. Amen!” 
·         “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with us. Amen!”
“Behold I am coming soon.  AMEN”, says Jesus; verily – verily – truly!  So shall it be. 

“This promise shall come to pass.” Behold I am coming soon and God Himself says to that AMEN.” 

We’re not only coming to the end of another Parish Theme, the end of a school year, the end of an NBA season, and the end of an NHL season; no we are drawing to a close of something far more significant - the end of the age!  Things as we know them to be.  Sorrow and sighing, pain and loss, grief and guilt, and death – the old order is passing away.   All things soon shall be new; for, “Behold He is coming soon.”  How soon?  “…In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” 

Behold He is coming soon.  AMEN!

“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.” writes the elder and the church says, “Amen!” 

When we say Amen to the declaration that Jesus is Lord, we affirm that Jesus is God among us and as one of us. Amen means, “Thus we believe.  

We believe that Jesus Christ is:
V  The One - Who is, Who was, and Who is to come. 
V  The Second Person of the Eternal all knowing (Omniscient), all powerful (Omnipotent), and ever present (Omnipresent) Triune God.
V  The Alpha and Omega
V  Our Lord (who though God is also man and who though man is also Divine).  
V  The Name above all names and the only One by which we might be saved

His grace be with us.  Grace, undeserved favor, mercy extended where it is undeserved.  And we say, AMEN

THUS we believe that Jesus came to earth and lived a perfect holy life. On our account, though guilty of no crime and innocent of all transgression, He suffered and died in our place, not merely experiencing the pain of death but the rejection of the Father Himself.  AMEN?  AMEN! 

THUS we believe that though dead, He came back to life on the third day and now LIVES forever. He reigns and rules in heaven. He will (at the time set beforehand) return once and for all to end things as they are now and usher in an eternity where sorrow, tears, and death are no more. God is all and all.  Amen? AMEN!  WE BELIEVE THUS!

AMEN means not only “Thus we believe” but also “Thusly shall we behave.”

Thus we shall behave:
As those who know that though we do not deserve it, we are the favored of God.
Amen? AMEN!

Thus we shall behave:
As those who know that there is no one any guiltier before God than we are. 
Amen?  AMEN!

Thus we shall behave:
As those who know that no one is beyond God’s love.  
Amen?  AMEN!

Thus we shall behave:
As those who know that we have not somehow earned and merited that which others cannot!  
Amen?  AMEN!

Thus we shall behave:
As those who have been called to a life worthy of the name Christian; that means we will seek through the Spirit’s power to live in a manner that is pure and holy to glorify Him. 
Amen?  AMEN!

Thus we shall behave:
As those who have failed to live a life worthy of the calling, but having repented of the same, will seek the Spirit’s power once again to do just that. 
Amen?  AMEN!

So is this the end of the Story?  Well, I think until THE ENDING this makes it just THE BEGINNING! 
Amen?  Amen!

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, June 11, 2012

The One Year Bible- June 11th

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

Seth’s Thoughts

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

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

Have a great week!!

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Bethany Bullet - June 5, 2012

It should go without saying that Trinity Sunday is a feast day dedicated to God’s very nature.  However, this day often finds the historic Christian Church confessing the faith through a Creed named after - not God - but a man, Athanasius.  St. Athanasius was born in Alexandria, Egypt, around the year 296 AD. 

In St. Athansaius most famous work he wrote:

“That mystery the Jews traduce, the Greeks deride, but we adore; and your own love and devotion to the Word also will be the greater, because in His Manhood He seems so little worth. For it is a fact that the more unbelievers pour scorn on Him, so much the more does He makes His Godhead evident. The things which they, as men, rule out as impossible, He plainly shows to be possible; that which they deride as unfitting, His goodness makes most fit; and things which these wiseacres laugh at as "human" He by His inherent might declares divine. Thus by what seems His utter poverty and weakness on the cross He overturns the pomp and parade of idols, and quietly and hiddenly wins over the mockers and unbelievers to recognize Him as God.”

St. Athanasius is one of the most important fathers of the Early Church because through his efforts the church retained the Biblical doctrine and faith concerning the Nature of God (the Trinity) and the two Natures of Christ (perfect God and perfect man).  This troubled period of church history that led to the Council of Nicaea was one struggling to contend with what is known as the Arian heresy.  Arius was a contemporary of Athanasius who denied Jesus' equality with the Father.  

Even as we have Lutheran mottos such as “SOLA Scriptura, Gratia, Fide” so the Arians had a motto too we know well, “There was when HE was NOT!”  Arius taught that Jesus was not co-eternal with the Father.  That He was the FIRST thing created.  That in fact He was NOT God as we understand God. 

While we might think that this false teaching was rejected outright, the truth is, it almost won the day and doomed the early Christian Church from departing from the historic Biblical teaching of the person of Jesus. 

From human perspective, the Council of Nicaea was prevented from departing from the Biblical teaching of Jesus and produced the Creed we know and confess to this day. All because a young monk named Athanasius stepped forward and declared, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God!” (John 1).  This would continue over and over again as he was dismissed, returned, and proclaimed the Word…and on and on until finally the word about the Word spoken by Athanasius won the event.  The Council would declare (and future ones concur) that Jesus is “God from God, Light from Light, very God from very God, begotten not made being of ONE SUBSTANCE with the Father by Him all things were made.” 

Not only a history lesson is this - for in every age people of faith are called upon to take their stand on the Word in face of opposition so that in all things To Him belongs the Glory.” 
-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

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