Monday, September 24, 2012

The One Year Bible- September 24th

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. I will post some of the connections in an upcoming post.

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 urge God’s people to turn from their sins and back to God
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).
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)
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).
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 18, 2012

Bethany Bullet - September 18, 2012

“Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil and he will FLEE from you.”  
-(James 4:7)

A few weeks ago our Bethany Bullet highlighted the reality that, “God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent.” That means God knows all things, can do anything and is everywhere; the devil is none of those things! Today we find out not only is the devil not omniscient, omnipotent, or omnipresent he isn’t even “omnivaliant”; that word I made up. However that word (omnivaliant) does reveal a truth James proclaims which decrees - the devil is not so brave that there is nothing that can cause him to retreat. In fact, there is something that can make the devil FLEE.  The very word, FLEE (that James uses) means to run in the other direction, to make haste, and depart from what is before. Same word is used by the other Apostles about the Christian who is to FLEE immorality, temptation, and evil desires. The word doesn’t simply indicate avoidance; it carries with it the resonance of escaping certain doom. There is something that can make the devil FLEE! The Gospel reading for the 16th Sunday after Pentecost portrays that it isn’t the presence, performance, or power of the disciples.  (Mark 9:14-29) *Click on the text to read the scripture passage.

That same text tells us what it is that will cause the devil to flee. It is the presence and performance of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ when He comes in power and pity for those He loves.  “Where God draws near, the devil doesn’t want to be there” 

Remember the temptation in the wilderness? I do not believe that it is a coincident that the devil leaves Jesus in the wilderness of temptation after the topic of worship arises. Mind you, the Lord allows the devil to tempt Him. This is part of Jesus’ state of humiliation.  Jesus humbles Himself and identifies Himself with us and, in so doing; He also renounces fully; using all the power He possesses all of the time. He is God, God in human flesh; True God and True Man, perfect God and perfect man in ONE person. He is the uncreated Creator; the devil, crafty and cunning, and capable as he is, he is still a creature. And the Lord enters temptation wilderness willingly.  He draws near to that barren place where He knows the serpent is slithering.  “Turn rocks to bread, jump and we’ll see if you’re dead.” The Lord refuses to heed either; but it is when the devil asks Jesus for his allegiance that we need to hear what the Christ says, “Worship the Lord and serve Him only; away from me you evil one.”  Jesus has been fasting, and suddenly speaks of feasting; He has been alone but now talks of worship and walks into His Father’s presence.  It is as Jesus draws near to the heart of God, He that commands the devil to go, and go he does. Where God draws near, the devil doesn’t want to be there.

One of the primary reasons that the Bethany Blueprint identifies worship as one of our core values…is in God’s House, in worship, through Word and Sacrament and the assemblage of His people gathered round the same – our Lord promises to be present in a way He is present nowhere else. God has promised that in worship He is present in power and pity for His people.  

Worship is the one place where more than any other we can draw near to the God who has already drawn near to us in Jesus of Nazareth. In worship, the Christ who came globally for all comes personally to you. 
V  Jesus comes to you and yours as we draw near to worship;
V  Jesus comes to you and yours in words we hear and read, and pray and sing together;
V  Jesus comes to you and yours in water through which His name flows down upon us and in bread and wine through which He feeds us and fills us with Himself;
V  Our Lord comes to us as nowhere else and when God comes near, the devil doesn’t want to be there.   
-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, September 17, 2012

The One Year Bible- September 17th

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.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bethany Bullet - September 10, 2012

Yesterday in worship our ‘Children’s Message’ involved a blessing of backpacks and more importantly a blessing of backpack bearers.  I for one am very glad I no longer need to lug around a backpack. In all honesty I’m not sure that mine were ever as heavy as the ones I’ve seen my kids (and yours) wearing on their way to class each morning. Perhaps that is because school is more strenuous or could it be that I was less studious?  Whichever the case, the truth is we’ve all seen our children, grandchildren, or ourselves fighting to bear up under the weight of a stuffed backpack. In fact, many of us who’ve been out of school for years picked one up every morning. Somewhere between the first step on the floor and the last step out the door we grab a pack, get it loaded up, and get ourselves loaded down.

A backpack of burdens, a duffle-bag of doubts, weighed down by worries, or lugging around loneliness we’ve got grief tucked under here and fear tucked under there and we are weighed down.  Yet, in Christ, we hear God say, “Come to me, all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28)  There are two things in here for us to unpack! Two realities in our text that we need to digest if we are to find rest.

First, God invites us to come to Him!  In fact Bethany’s Parish Theme this year, “An Invitation to a Holy Conversation” is based upon this text where we learn that our Lord desires that we approach the Throne of Grace and find help for our time of need. God wants to engage us in conversation. Now you’re gonna read a dozen or so Bullets revolving around this theme – so let’s do a little ground work here.  There is a world of difference between a conversation and a lecture or even a speech. There is more of a difference between a conversation, a monologue, and/or a diatribe than there is between how much information a backpack can hold and how much information an I-pad can hold.

Conversation does not prohibit the possibility that one of those engaged therein might be “wrong” and another “right.” Nor does it mean that every opinion shared is equally valid or every thought is just as true.  God was in conversation with Moses, but Moses’ words didn’t carry the same gravity as that of the One who created gravity. Yet, at the same time, conversation does mean that everyone engaged therein is equally welcomed to participate and everyone engaged therein is equally valued. God welcomes and values conversation with us and that begins today with the second item to unpack from our text, an honest admission that at times we fear or are at least tempted to fear that God must not be listening because He isn’t lightening our load enough. 

Whether on our campus or another, I am sure you have seen kids come out of classroom and then pass their loaded down backpacks into a parents arms; arms that are longing for rest. Of course the next morning it goes back on and the next afternoon it might even be fuller than it was the night before – as a student you can’t always avoid the burden of a heavy pack.  The same can be said for the Christian. We can’t always avoid burdens, we can’t always choose that which is assigned us, nor can we simply pretend it doesn’t exist.  Yet, we can choose to take our burdens to the Lord trusting that He longs to listen and He promises to lighten. “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

There are those we know who have experienced this in dramatic fashion. Like Abraham, they’ve been burdened and have come to God in conversation. The patriarch was weighed down by worry that God’s wrath would wipe out Lot and his family along with the rest of the citizenry of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Pondering God’s plan he opined, “You won’t destroy the righteous with the wicked will you?  You won’t wipe out an entire community without regard for the personal purity of a few will you?”   

Abraham gently queried and finally boldly sought; God listened and “lightened”. All the while Sodom and Gomorrah were no more – Lot and his family was spared.

Still there are others among us who are thinking, “I’ve inquired of God more times, than I can count. I’ve talked to God more than I care to recount; I’ve pleaded with God till my face was covered in tears and I’ve yelled at God till it turned blue. The simple truth is that while I am sure He’s listening, I am just as sure He ain’t ‘lightening’.” 

That is probably how St. Paul felt for a time. The concern he ferried was a thorn in the flesh. We don’t really know what the thorn was formed of. Perhaps physical ailment, maybe regret, or guilt over past acts maybe disgruntlement with current co-workers in the kingdom, bitterness about present conditions – we aren’t told.  What we are told is that Paul pleaded with God to remove it. Mind you the way in which Paul writes indicates that his plea was made with the willingness to be submissive to God’s will.  “Lord this is a load I don’t want, it is too heavy for me, take it from me please, if it be Your will – lighten this load.” 

The Lord we desires His people to come to Him, opened the way for Paul to do so.  The Apostle to the Gentiles did just that and God listened with compassion and love to Paul’s plea to be set free, yet the thorn remained. 

Why?  Paul said he believed it was to keep him from becoming conceited. Maybe you think you’re just being kept from being completed or contented or comfortable. But are you being ignored? Could it be, like the thorn bearing saint, the Lord has chosen to lighten your load by listening to you and letting you know that His all encompassing grace is yours and He will carry you even as you continue to bear said burden.

If you look at the text closely, Jesus never promises to take away that which wearies or the burden that weighs but He promises to grant us rest.  It may be His will, as in the case of Abraham, that our conversation ends with our weight being lifted as our request is answered as it was offered.  It may be His will, as in the case of Paul, that our conversation ends with our request being met with an answer other than the one we desired, but our weight being lifted none-the-less as we are promised that He is with us and His is for us and that will do us!  For His grace is sufficient for us.
-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

The One Year Bible- September 10th

This is my 8th year in a row reading through The One Year Bible.  Each time I do it I see new things and my routine of reading is a bit different.   Most days I have been pretty good about reading in the mornings right when I get to the office.  As soon as I get in I close my door, and vow not to turn on the computer or listen to voicemail until I have done my reading.  This has worked pretty well.  I hope you are finding a time and a routine that is working for you.  It is amazing how God continues to speak to us through his word every day.  I hope you are finding that being in the word has been a blessing to you and your life with Christ.  On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
The book of Song of Songs is unique to scripture. It my mind it is like a Broadway Musical (but rated at least PG-13). We have the lovely song of the young woman, with a response from her true love. The chorus comes in on occasion to fill out the story. I love the point, counterpoint of the verses and the overarching theme of love. On the surface this book is all about young love. Going a bit deeper, there is another story at work. A frequent image in the Old Testament of the relationship between God and Israel is that of husband and wife. God loves his chosen bride, Israel and would do anything to keep that relationship in tact. God continues to care for Israel no matter what. But Israel is unfaithful. She goes off and does he own thing. She gets into trouble and turns her back on God. But God’s love is amazing. It continues to love in all circumstances. This theme will be played out in the book of Hosea as well. This relationship is also seen in how Jesus relates to his bride the church. When all is going well, love abounds and beautiful music is made. But often times we, as the church, mess things up. We fall away and become unfaithful. The moral of all the stories is God is faithful no matter what. His love endures to the ends of the earth and conquers time and space.

The book of the prophet Isaiah is considered by many Biblical scholars to be the theological textbook of the Old Testament. Many key doctrines and themes that form the foundation of faith and relationship to God are found within its pages. Martin Luther says that the, “chief and leading theme of all the prophets is their aim to keep the people in eager anticipation of the coming Christ.” Isaiah is an amazing book. Let me give you a few of my personal insights and some key themes this week. We will have plenty of time to talk about this most wonderful book. First of all Isaiah did not sit down and write the book in one sitting. This is more like a journal of the prophet and his dealings with God and the kingdom of Judah. The events take place over the entire life of the prophet. It is important to have this perspective when reading. There is a marked division in the book. Chapters 1-39 are directed to the time of Isaiah. Chapters 40-66 are a vision of the future captivity in Babylon. The second part is filled with figurative language as Isaiah struggled to relate his visions to his contemporaries. I find it interesting to note that there are 39 chapters in the first part and 27 chapters in the second part of Isaiah. Remember there are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. Pretty cool, huh?? Some have even called Isaiah “The Bible in Miniature”. Now I would not press the analogy too far but it does make one stop and think. One other thing of note is the mention of “The Holy One of Israel”. Most theologians agree that this term makes reference to the Messiah. This is the one who will deliver the people from oppression and bring about an eternal kingdom. When you come across this term, spend some time looking at the context and see if you can see Jesus there. I will have a lot more to say in the next few weeks.

The New Testament
We will finish up 2 Corinthians this week, and what a finish. Paul gives some great instruction right at the end. One thing we have heard here at Bethany is the idea of “my stuff is not my stuff”. Paul tells the Corinthians just this same thing in Chapter 9. Giving to God comes from the heart. In chapter 10 Paul spends some time on boasting. He says that boasting about what has happened within the boundaries of the work of God is a good thing. We must rejoice in what God is doing, and we can boast in Him at all times. In Chapter 11 Paul gives his defense for being an apostle. Paul lays it all out on the line and asserts that his message is valid and useful. Paul’s over all theme here at the end is about being proud and arrogant. He gives us a glimpse into his personal life when he admits to some sort of “thorn in the flesh”. We are not sure what this was. Speculation ranges from an ulcer, to a mental disability, to a physical deformity. What is was is beside the point, the fact is it has kept him humble and focused in service to his Lord. Paul wraps it all up in Chapter 13. I love his closing words, Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”  (2 Corinthians 13:11 NIV). In just a few sentences, Paul summarizes what it means to live the Christian life.

Bits and Pieces
The Old Testament
Remember to read Isaiah like you just picked up the journal of the prophet. This week we will read entries that contain prophecies against Moab, Damascus, Cush, Egypt, Babylon, Edom, Arabia, Jerusalem, and Tyre. Isaiah will enter some songs of praise to God and deliverance of Israel. There will be woes to Ephraim, David’s city, the obstinate Nation, and to those who rely on Egypt. Chapter 36 begins a section of prose and gives some of the historical context for the prophecy. Keep looking for “The Holy One of Israel” as you read.

The New Testament
We move on to the book of Galatians this week. Here are the vital stats for the book:

PURPOSE: To refute the Judaizers (who taught that Gentile believers must obey the Jewish Law in order to be saved), and to call Christians to faith and freedom in Christ
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The churches in southern Galatia founded on Paul’s first missionary journey (including Iconium, Lystra, Derbe), and Christians everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 49 from Antioch, prior to the Jerusalem council (A.D. 50)
SETTING: The most pressing controversy in the early church was the relationship of new believers, particularly Gentiles, to the Jewish laws. This was especially a problem for the converts and for the young churches that Paul had founded on his first missionary journey. Paul wrote to correct this problem. Later, at the council in Jerusalem, the church leaders officially resolved the conflict.
KEY VERSE: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (5:1)
LAW THEMES: The threat of subtle false teaching; hypocrisy; works cannot justify; the Law’s curse; works of the flesh; the Law of Christ.
GOSPEL THEMES: One saving Gospel; God’s gracious call; justified through faith in Christ; the gift of the Spirit; adoption as God’s own sons; freedom in Christ.
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Peter, Barnabus, Titus, Abraham, false teachers
KEY PLACES: Galatia, Jerusalem
SPECIAL FEATURES: This letter is not addressed to any specific body of believers and was probably circulated to several churches in Galatia.

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