Monday, December 31, 2012

The One Year Bible- December 31st

Welcome to the last post for 2012, but the first post for our One Year Bible journey for 2013.  For those of you just beginning this journey you are in for a wonderful experience as there is nothing quite like being in God’s Word each and every day of the year.  I welcome back those of you who journeyed with us last year.  The format for this study will be the same as last year.  I will try to give you some insights on what you have been reading and try to connect the dots the best I can. Then I will give you some things to look for in the upcoming reading for the week or some bits of information that I think may be interesting.  This format seems to work well and you can always ask questions by commenting on the blog or by sending me an email. 

Hopefully you have purchased a Bible that says “The One Year Bible” on it.  That is the format that we will be using.  You can also find the assigned readings for the day by going to  There you can find the readings for each day of the year and you can use your own Bible.  You can also download an app for your smart phone or tablet and you can have the readings with you wherever you go.  Just search for “The One Year Bible” in the AppStore or Android Marketplace.

Each day in The One Year Bible you will find a selection from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament, a portion from the Psalms, and a selection from the book of Proverbs. January begins with Genesis, Matthew, Psalm 1, and Proverbs 1. When the year is over you will have read through the entire Bible and have read Psalms twice.

Getting in the Habit
If you are not in the habit of spending time each day in the Word it may be a struggle at first to find time. You will need to experiment and find a time that works for you. For many people, the morning works best, for others it’s after the kids are in bed. Others find that during lunchtime works well. You may want to divide up the reading and do part in the morning and part at night. It will take about 15 minutes to read through the passages for each day. Regardless of the time, you will need to do what works and then do it every day.

Find a Partner
It is always helpful to find someone who is willing to read with you. You can keep each other accountable and bounce questions off of one another as you read. There will also be a weekly on-line study to help keep you on track and to provide a place for questions and comments. Each week (usually Mondays) a new study will be posted at

Tips for Comprehension
-Begin your time in prayer and ask God to send His Spirit to guide you as you read.
-Find a place to read that is relatively free of distractions.
-Read the passage aloud and slowly if necessary. The goal is not just to finish, but to understand.
-Make some notes in the Bible and underline key verses. Look back at them later.
-Remember the Bible tells one story. That story is about redemption from Sin by the work of Jesus. Keep that in mind as you read.
-Take your Bible to Church and read along to see what comes before and after.
-Keep a journal about what you read and how it has affected you.
-Memorize key verses.
-Look at a children’s Bible storybook to get a mental image of the stories. This is especially helpful for the Old Testament stories.
-Teach what you have been reading to your children. This will help reinforce the stories for you and introduce them to your children.
-Share what you are reading with coworkers or friends who are not Christians. This can happen especially if you are reading during your lunch hour at work. If they are interested in the Bible point them to 1 John and to Mark.
-Use a daily devotional book (Portals of Prayer, Strength for the Day, etc.) in addition to your reading.
-Look at some Bible maps and get a layout of the land. This is important when talking about events in the Old Testament.
-Don’t worry if you miss a few days. Just double up your readings for a while until you catch up. Don’t try to read it all in one day.
-Some questions to ask as you read: What is the Biblical context of this passage? What is the historical context? Who is speaking and to whom are they speaking? How can I use this information today? Don’t worry if you can’t answer all the questions.

Some things to help you out:
Here are a few websites that I have run across that help me when I am studying the Scriptures: - You can search on words or phrases as well as finding texts here. -Forgot The One Year Bible at home or even left it at the office? This site will give you the readings for the day. A great help when you don’t have your Bible with you. - Want get some in-depth information for the readings of the day? This is the place. It gives you the readings, some artwork and some commentary specifically on the readings for the day. This is a great site. I almost didn’t want to tell you about it because I get some of my info here.
There is also an app for your iPhone iPad or Android device that will help you.  Just search for “The One Year Bible.”

Seth’s Thoughts

This week I want to give you some of the vital stats for the books that we are starting.  Each time we start a new book I will give you the vital stats to give you a road map of where we are going and to give you some background information that will be helpful in understanding the context and the overall story of the book and how it relates to the rest of Scripture.  Next week I will give you some thoughts to the readings so far and help answer any questions you may have.

The Old Testament starts off in Genesis. Here are the vital stats for the book:

DATE WRITTEN: c. 1446-1406 BC
PURPOSE: To trace the passing of the promise of God’s Savior from generation to generation, to all Israel and to all nations.
KEY PEOPLE: Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Joseph
LAW THEMES: The curse and death that come with sin and disobedience; humankind’s slavery to evil; families divided by sin.
GOSPEL THEMES: The promise of a Savior; God gives blessings, life, and freedom; God’s goodness and covenant promise for the faithful

The New Testament begins with Matthew’s account of the life of Jesus. Here are the vital stats on the book:

AUTHOR: Matthew (also called Levi)
PURPOSE: To proclaim that God’s end-times rule has come in the person and ministry of Jesus Christ.
KEY PEOPLE: Jesus, Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, the disciples, the religious leaders, Caiaphas, Pliate, Mary Magdalene
KEY PLACES: Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Capernaum, Galilee, Judea
LAW THEMES: God’s rule in judgment; repentance; political and religious opposition; authoritative teaching; confronting a brother who sins.
GOSPEL THEMES: God’s rule in mercy; Baptism; compassion; ransom; Lord’s Supper; forgiving a brother who sins.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Matthew is filled with Messianic language ("Son of David" is used throughout) and Old Testament references (53 quotes and 76 other references). This Gospel was not written as a chronological account; its purpose was to present the clear evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior.

AUTHORS: David wrote 73 psalms, Asaph wrote 12, the sons of Korah wrote nine, Solomon wrote two, Etan and Moses each wrote one, and 51 are anonymous.
DATE WRITTEN: Between the time of Moses (around 1440 BC) and the Babylonian Captivity (586 BC)
PURPOSE: To express hope in the Lord God for salvation, using prayers and praises spoken by God’s people at the Tabernacle and Temple or by individuals.
LAW THEMES: Persecutors assail God’s people; suffering brought by personal failures; waiting for God’s deliverance; exile in Babylon.
GOSPEL THEMES: The Lord’s saving righteousness and steadfast love; the Lord provides for and protects His people; prophecies of the Messiah, Jesus; God’s gift of life through the Word.
SPECIAL FEATURES: For the most part, the psalms were not intended to be narrations of historical events. However, they often parallel events in history such as David’s flight from Saul and his sin with Bathsheba.

AUTHOR: Solomon wrote or at least compiled most of the book with Lemuel and Agur contributing later sections.
DATE WRITTEN: Early in Solomon’s reign as king (10th Century BC)
PURPOSE: To bestow God’s wisdom.
LAW THEMES: Because foolishness is rebellion against God, fools condemn themselves to destruction; instruction cubs the misdeeds of fools and guides the deeds of the wise.
GOSPEL THEMES: Christ, God’s wisdom, delivers us from self-destruction and brings forth forgiveness.
SPECIAL FEATURES: This is a book of wise sayings, a textbook for teaching people how to live godly lives through the repetition of wise thoughts.  The book uses varied literary forms: poetry, brief parables, pointed questions, and couplets. Other literary devices used in the book include, antithesis, comparison, and personification.

If at any time you have some questions, concerns or just need a pep talk, feel free to contact me,, or (562) 421-4711 x. 13. May God richly bless you as you embark on this journey and remember: “All Scripture is god-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” –2 Timothy 3:16-17

Monday, December 24, 2012

The One Year Bible- December 24th

We are almost at the end of 2012 so that means this is the last post for the One Year Bible for this year. Next week will be post #1 for 2013 as we start fresh again. I hope you all will be joining us next year as well. If you were at all like me, seeing the end of the book is both exciting and rewarding. It is no small task to read the entire Bible. There are parts that are not much fun to read and there are parts that are hard to relate to. I think the best part for me is seeing how all the pieces fit together. The story as a whole is so much more powerful than some sections taken out of context. I hope that as you hear scripture being read in worship, you can fit it into its context and fill in some of the blanks in your mind to get the whole picture. I have finished my reading so this post will make reference to some things that you may have not read yet. Don’t worry, you can always come back and read the post again. With that, on to the last study of the year...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
This week we spent time in the book of Zechariah. The book of Zechariah is a post-exilic book, meaning it was written to the people who had returned to Jerusalem at the end of the exile in Babylon. It has many interesting and detailed images written in apocalyptic form. It was nice that we were reading from the book of Revelation at the same time since John seems to have used Zechariah for some of his imagery. This is not to say that John plagiarized his book but he did use other sources to help him make sense of what he was seeing. Many scholars have a difficult time with the prophecies in the book because there is no consensus on the historical context of many of the images. We know that some are obviously Christological (The Branch, illusions of Palm Sunday (9:9), looking on the one whom they have pierced (12:10)) and others must have some context in the day that we are too far removed to see. Eric Hartzell has this to say in his commentary on Zechariah: Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai. He too had seen the captivity and had returned. With Haggai, he say the people’s apathy toward building God’s house. He joined in the message of Haggai who spoke for God...”Build my house!” The book of Ezra tells us. “Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them” (Ezra 5:1) There are many striking pictures in the book of Zechariah. Some of them are surrealistic and in kaleidoscopic colors. Some are stark and strange. Zechariah painted with prophetic brush on the imaginations and consciences of his people. We come upon these paintings today and see that over the years the colors have not faded and the images have not been blurred. He painted hell and heaven; he preached God’s law and his gospel. Zechariah was also a prophet who spoke words directly describing the coming Savior. In this book we hear words that we recognize from the Passion History of our Lord. Zechariah knew the Savior by inspiration and by prophecy.

A few more days in 2011 sees the reading of the book of Malachi and the finishing of Revelation.

Here are the vital stats for Malachi:
PURPOSE: To confront the people with their sins and to restore their relationship with God
AUTHOR: Malachi
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The Jews in Jerusalem and God’s people everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: about 430 B.C.
SETTING: Malachi, Haggai, and Zechariah were post exilic prophets to Judah. Haggai and Zechariah rebuked the people for their failure to rebuild the temple. Malachi confronted them with their neglect of the temple and their false and profane worship.
KEY VERSES: “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace...But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall” (4:1-2)
LAW THEMES: Rejection of Edom; condemnation of unfaithful priests; divorce; unfaithfulness in offerings; the day of the Lord.
GOSPEL THEMES: Love for Israel; the Lord’s faithfulness; the messenger of the covenant; deliverance from evil.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Malachi’s literary style employs a dramatic use of questions asked by God and his people.

The book of Malachi is another post-exilic book and has many connections with the book of Nehemiah. Kenneth Barker in the book introduction of Malachi in the NIV Study Bible says:

Although the Jews had been allowed to return from exile and rebuild the temple, several discouraging factors brought about a general religious malaise: (1) Their land remained but a small province in the backwaters of the Persian empire, (2) the glorious future announced by the prophets had not yet been realized and, (3) their God had not yet come to his temple with majesty and power to exalt his kingdom in the sight of the nations. Doubting God’s covenant love and no longer trusting his justice, the Jews of the restored community began to loose hope. So their worship degenerated into a listless perpetuation of mere forms, and they no longer took the law seriously. Malachi rebukes their doubt of God’s love and the faithlessness of both priests and people. To their charge that God is unjust because he has failed to come in judgment to exalt his people, Malachi answers with an announcement and a warning. The Lord they seek will come—but he will come “like a refiners fire”. He will come to judge—but he will judge his people first.

Malachi ends with a warning of the Day of the Lord. As we have discussed before in this blog, this Day is always referring to the Day of Judgment; the day that God will put an end to the wickedness of this world once and for all. It is never a good day for those apart from God, but for those who believe it will be a good day.

The New Testament
It would take me weeks to give you all the info needed to understand the book of Revelation. One of my seminary classes was devoted to this book and we spent hours trying to figure out what it all meant and to try to make some applications for ourselves. For that class I read the biggest book of my scholastic career (almost 700 pages!!). I learned a lot and I am struggling trying to figure out how I can give you the condensed version. I will give you some highlights from my big commentary authored by Louis Brighton:

The book of Revelation is the last book of the Bible. Whether it was written last or not, the church was led to place it at the end of the canon because she saw in it the completion of God’s revelation. Nothing further would be revealed by God until the second coming of Jesus Christ. Revelation is thus the culmination of the entire story of salvation contained in the Bible. It is the end point of all that is written in both the OT and NT. for it draws all of revelation, both prophetic and apostolic, to its final goal: the exalted reign of Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of lords and the fulfillment of the promise of the new heaven and earth. As the last book of the Bible and the completion of God’s revelation to his church, it is the lens through which the entire Scripture is to be viewed. Revelation reveals and confirms that Christ was prophetically promised and that his incarnation, death and resurrection happened so that God’s creation could be restored to its original glory and righteousness. Revelation thus points to the final meaning and the final answer to all that is revealed in the Bible. In addition, as the last book, Revelation puts an official stamp on all of God’s revelation, a final confirmation of the divine truth and origin of God’s spoken and written Word. This finality points to the urgency of the last times, in which all things will be brought to an end—an urgency which reminds the Christian to Hold fast to the faith and which encourages the church to complete her mission.

Brighton goes on to say:
The message of Revelation reveals two ongoing phenomena: the terrifying sufferings and horror on earth, and the reign of Jesus Christ as Lord in his heavenly exalted glory. As these two phenomena are described, God’s people on earth are encouraged to cling in hopeful faith to the eternal heavenly glory that beckons them in Christ. In turn they also are strengthened and encouraged for the work of Christ’s mission on earth. The tribulations and sufferings portrayed lead the Christian not to pessimism and despair but to realism. The adversities and troubles prophesied will come to pass, and Christians will suffer because of and through them, as will unbelievers. Such plagues and distresses demonstrate God’s wrath and judgment for the purpose of motivating the godless to repentance. God’s own people also experience these same sufferings and plagues, for the dragon, Satan uses these sufferings and plagues in his attempt to destroy the church and her witness.

With all this being said, the most important thing to get out of a reading of the book of Revelation is that God is in control, his wrath is coming, it is time to repent, God will be victorious and all those who put their trust in him will have the blessings of eternal life. If this is all you got out of the book, then great. The other stuff is there to help make this point clear.

Bits And Pieces

I think the best way to finish out this study is to quote from the last Psalm, number 150:
Praise the LORD.
Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD.

I cannot say it any better myself. AMEN!!!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Bethany Bullet - December 17, 2012

The texts of the Advent and Christmas season always provide accounts of “God chatter.”  Talk among earth’s residents about heaven’s interaction with the same always ramp up in the assigned texts for this time of year. In our world, “God chatter” always ramps up after tragic and/or evil events take place.  We’ve had no shortage of them as of late. Be it an entire classroom killed in Newton, CT or a couple holiday shoppers in Oregon. This “God chatter”, as opposed to that of the biblical texts, often doubts there is any interaction between heaven and earth; as it denies or decries God’s power and presence (that is His Advent.)   So what do we, the church, say in response to such “chatter”?

Of course, let’s begin with admitting that unfortunately for the Christ follower, familiarity with the mass murder of minors at Christmastide is not new news.  Recall how a depraved heart and a perverse mind compelled Herod to an evil course of action and the infanticide of Bethlehem followed. Baby boys of that village were slaughtered in an attempt of destroying the one Mary bore.

One thing that events remind us of is that God’s Advent, His presence in this world, does not deliver us from all horror, sorrow, and suffering; rather He experiences in His Son’s horror, sorrow, and suffering to deliver us. God, in His Advent (powerful presence) does not come to grant us an earthly experience in which evil is no longer a reality, rather He comes to grant us an eternal experience in which evil isn’t even part of the vocabulary. 

But that still leaves us with what we are to say to those who live during these days.  Fred, aka Mr. Rogers, has been quoted as having said in times of like this to see God one must look for the “helpers.” In other words, look for those who are actively seeking to assist in such times and you will see God’s presence.

The events of Mary’s life teach much the same: Her life is about to change forever, the rumor mill would run wild, her parent’s reputation was at risk and perhaps irreparably, and as she goes to the home of Elizabeth she finds God’s presence and power in this encounter. 

Elizabeth, a real historical person and one of the main characters of this real historical event, also is representative of the church. Her husband a priest, her son a prophet, she “houses” God in whose presence His children “leap.”  Isn’t that a wonderful description of what the church is to be?

Another meeting Mary had was with a man named Simeon who reminded Mary of what was to come, “A sword will pierce your own soul too.”  This man, also a real historical person and main character of this real historical event, is also representative of the church.  He was to be present upon earth until the Lord entered the world in the flesh; while we may be called to heaven long before Jesus’ Second Advent, the church shall remain until He does. 

They both show us who we are to be during “God chatter” occasions; when people are in the midst of times of struggle or sorrow through which some would deny God’s Advent (His presence and power). 

You don’t have to have deep doctrinal knowledge, Elizabeth’s husband went to seminary, but she did not.  You don’t need to be a called worker, Elizabeth’s son was, but she was not. You don’t have to have had a conversation with an angel; Elizabeth’s encounter with such was vicarious via Zechariah. You need not have the ability to speak with profound words; as a matter of fact in our text it was Mary not Elizabeth whose words were more memorable. 

What we learn from these two examples of the church in the Advent texts is that during times of struggle and sorrow (that might even lead some to deny God’s Advent altogether), we bear witness to His power and presence through hearts moved by the Spirit. Arms and welcomes willingly extended to those who are experiencing such struggles and sorrows. Lips that confess what faith believes: that even those facing humanly speaking, life altering, fear producing, and tear causing events are loved by a God who IS present midst suffering and has done His best work by His own.  


May the birth of the Christ child and His promised hope of His “kingdom that shall not end” (Luke 1:33) bring peace and comfort to those who bury their children in these days to come; and all of us who share in their grief and yet cling to this hope.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bethany Bullet - December 11, 2012

You know Gabriel is an angel on the go in Luke’s Gospel. Last weekend, we found Gabriel bringing news to Zechariah of his wife’s impending pregnancy and in this 2nd week of Advent we find him being sent to share the same news to Mary.

I wonder if Gabriel ever wondered as to why? Maybe he even inquired of God as to why He was being sent in the first place?

“Master you’re in charge and it is my delight to do your bidding; but these humans are very predictable. I am wondering if this assignment will be like the others. Zechariah, just as Abraham and Sarah did when told they would have a son in their old age, scoffed at the word brought by the Angel of the Lord.  Barren births seem to get that reaction. I know you’ve opened wombs before, your people ought to recall these incredible events. Rachel and Hannah might be my personal favorites. They, as their husbands, were shocked and surprised to be sure, they had both been barren so long and both wanted a child so bad. They prayed fervently. When it finally happened, after it looked as if it never would, they didn’t question they simply rejoiced. Maybe that’s the better route? A surprise baby they seem to deal better with that than a prophesied one.

You’re smiling LORD….what do you mean it would really be a surprise? Aren’t they all?  When we bring a promise that a barren women shall conceive their husband’s child so late in life their always curious. 

What do you mean the woman you’re sending me to isn’t barren?
Not old either? How big a shock can it be? Young married women have babies all the time.

Not married?

A virgin? I’m going to a virgin?  I’m sorry but maybe I’m starting to understand them because I don’t understand this Lord. How is a virgin going to conceive?

‘The Holy Spirit will come upon her and the power of you Oh Most High will overshadow her.’

May I ask Lord, I know she will, what kind of child will it be? 

Excuse me?

He’s going down there? As one of them? 

‘The one to be born of her is the Holy One, Your own Son?  The time has fully come.  I am the LORD’S servant, May it be as you have said.’”          

Obviously I don’t know, I wasn’t privy to the parlance of eternity and no Scripture records such records.  But I do wonder. Barren births, miraculous as they were, were not a rarity in the Biblical story. Occasionally they took place. Sometimes following God’s verbal promise, sometimes following God’s gracious answer to prayer, but there are several accounts in Scripture. There is however only one virgin birth. Advent so to speak begins in Mary’s womb. 

Through nine months of gestation, and ages of promise upon promise to generations, God Himself is getting ready and preparing to enter the world as a servant in His Son Jesus Christ. I don’t know, maybe the angels wondered if this was the best plan. Was there talk around the cool waters of the river of life, “Did you hear what He is planning. Can you believe what He is going to do? You know how many times I’ve told people to fear not, I fear for what they might do to him.”  Yet, they serve.  He Himself served!  The God of eternity, the second person of the Trinity, He who is holy takes on flesh and joins humanity. 

In Christ Jesus God and man are one person. Equal to His Father in regards to His divinity and yet similar to his brothers and sisters in regards to His humanity, save He is without sin and without a human conception. This He takes on so that, born in the most unlikely of manners, He might serve in the most unlikely manner of all. As the old German hymn puts it,

“To this world of fears he came, to serve as healer, mender; through his death we heaven claim, there to reign in splendor.”  To serve is why He came, in fact He said so himself.  I have come NOT TO BE SERVED BUT TO SERVE and to give my life as a ransom for many. 

Like his boss, Gabriel goes to serve, to serve as prophetic messenger to the woman pledged to marry Joseph; to serve as personal assurer to Mary that God is at work. For her part, Mary like her babe, willingly, humbly, and faithfully offers herself in service to heaven’s purpose. “I am the Lord’s servant may it be to me as you have said.” On the one hand Mary learned about humble willing service when the Creator of the universe who made everything from nothing in just six days would Himself develop in her womb for a period of 9 months. On the other hand the Baby to whom she gave birth and the Man who she helped to raise learned about humble willing service every time He saw His mother and remembered the day she said, “Thy will be done through me.”   

The Character of Advent is service. Service that simply says that which seems most unlikely of all, Lord whatever it is, use me - I am your servant.
-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Bethany Bullet - December 4, 2012

Luke 1:5-25 records the events surrounding the silence that struck Zechariah priest of Israel.  This rebuke was not only for his personal correction it was also for our communal instruction.

Clearly Zechariah was struck silent because he didn’t immediately embrace or accept Gabriel’s message.  That is without question, verse 20 tells us that much.  This personal correction, in the form of a physical rebuke, is never-the-less judgment filled with grace.  Zechariah continued to minister in the temple (vs. 23).  He was blessed to be in the house of the Lord without being able to speak a word. Though silenced by God, God wasn’t silent with Zechariah. He still served, finished out his assigned period of duty, listened and watched, as well as touched and smelled that which was occurring in the temple of the Lord.

It was after this season silence that Zechariah was able to hear God’s word and then affirm and confirm it with his own words.  Read Luke 1:57ff.    

While we often think of Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Simeon, the babes and shepherds, the stars and angels as the characters of Advent and I suppose rightly so another Character of Advent is SILENCE.   ADVENT is a time of recognizing the Lord’s presence and preparing to welcome Him and His message with open arms.  WONDER, as in awe, is the response of the heart that watches the Lord’s work and listens to the Lord’s words; where wonder, as in a question, is the response of the lips that speak before God has fully spoken. Wonder is exchanged for WONDER when God is given voice even if it means His people must silence theirs.
-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, December 03, 2012

The One Year Bible- December 3rd

Growing up the son of a Lutheran pastor has exposed me to some things from an early age.  As a child I was always fascinated by the colors used in church.  For many years I did not understand the church seasons or the church year, but I was always excited when the purple candles would be set out.  To me this meant that Christmas was not to far away.  Being older now I have a greater appreciation for the church year.  Advent is the beginning of the church year and even though many churches have changed from purple to blue for this season, it still gives me butterflies when it begins.  Just as an aside, blue is the color of hope and expectation so it is an appropriate color for the season.  There has been some confusion as to the season of Advent and the following might help:

Advent is perhaps the most confusing season in the church year...Is it an appetizer to Christmas, introduction to the coming event and forward to the birth of baby Jesus?  Is it a few more weeks of end times?  Is this John the Baptist coming and the coming of Christ?  Or is it the conclusion of Ascension- Jesus’ return?  Some of all of the above works it way into Advent.  However, Advent’s ultimate aim is to remind us that He whose birth we are soon to celebrate, the One we shall shortly witness lying humble in a manger, is coming again on the clouds, in full glory with His angels attending Him to judge the living and the dead.  And we on our part are to be prepared and to be “prepare-ers” for that most wonderful event!

On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
We will finish up the Book of Daniel this week and we see some strange visions again. One thing to learn from this section is that when you see a horn in a vision, like on a beast, it almost always refers to some sort of power. So the horns that get divided and grow all relate to power. With that being said, the vision hopefully makes a bit more sense to you. It is always nice to get the meaning to the vision right in the book, and Daniel helps us out on this one. The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth. But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.” (Daniel 7:17-18 NIV). The last vision most likely had its completion in the person of Alexander the Great and those that followed him. Some see this as an addition to the book of Daniel to make him look good and to prove that he was a prophet after his time, but I believe that Daniel was given this vision from the Lord! In Chapter 9 we read the prayer of Daniel and I want to draw your attention to one fascinating line. In verse 18 we read, We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.” (Daniel 9:18b NIV). What a great phrase. Who said there is no grace in the Old Testament? What a wonderful prayer. With the end of Daniel comes the end of what is known as the Major Prophets. With Hosea we begin the section called the Minor Prophets. Minor not in significance, but in scope of ministry and number of words recorded. We will really start flying through books so get ready.

Hosea is a fascinating book that relies on one major point of imagery or symbolism. The marriage of Hosea to the prostitute Gomer describes the relationship between God and his people who have prostituted themselves by worshiping idols. This book needs to be read through this image. We can extrapolate this image further by saying this is similar to the image of the bridegroom Jesus and his marriage to his bride, the Church (a New Testament image). God loved us so much that he would still care for us even when we constantly go our own way and worship other things.

The New Testament
John likes to use imagery himself in his letters. Not unlike his gospel, we see many of the same images that describe our life in Christ (Dark and light, etc.) One theme that is constant in all of John’s letters is love. A bit must be said about love. In English this word has a variance of meaning. In Greek the word we translate as love can be one of four words which all have a range of meaning. Most often when we read the word love in John’s letters, he uses the word agape, which means unconditional love. It is more than just brotherly love, or love between members of your family. It is more than the love of husband and wife. It is pure, unconditional love that God has for us. It is not dependent on our behavior or actions. It is the kind of love Hosea has for Gomer, and what God has for us. Love almost overflows from the pen of John as he writes as he describes God’s love for us and the love we should have, not only for God but for other people as well.

Another thing we need to talk about is what John calls “antichrists”. What he is talking about are things and people who are against the message of Jesus. It is interesting to note that John talks about antichrists (plural) here and the Antichrist (singular) later. Are they the same? Not really. John warns against those whom he calls antichrists. We should be watching out for such people who do not believe in Jesus or show love to their neighbors. He also calls them “false prophets” that we should watch out for.

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We will going through books fast and furious this month so we have a lot to cover. Here are the vital stats for the book of Joel:

PURPOSE: To warn Judah of God’s impending judgment because of their sins, and to urge them to turn back to God
AUTHOR: Joel son of Pethuel
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The people of Judah, the southern kingdom, and God’s people everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: Probably during the time Joel may have prophesied from about 835 to 796 B.C.
SETTING: The people of Judah had become prosperous and complacent. Taking God for granted, they had turned to self-centeredness, idolatry and sin. Joel warned them about this kind of lifestyle and that it would inevitably bring down God’s judgment.
KEY VERSES: “ ‘Even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’ Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and relents from sending calamity” (2:12-13 NIV).
LAW THEMES: Punishment brought by locusts; the day of darkness; fasting and mourning; judgment of the nations.
GOSPEL THEMES: Grace and mercy for the repentant; consecration; the gift of the Spirit; a harvest of blessings; refuge from enemies.
KEY PEOPLE: Joel, the people of Judah
KEY PLACE: Jerusalem

Here are the vital stats for the book of Amos:

PURPOSE: To pronounce God’s judgment upon Israel, the northern kingdom, for their complacency, idolatry, and oppression of the poor
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Israel, the northern kingdom, and God’s people everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: Probably during the reigns of Jeroboam II of Israel and Uzziah of Judah (about 760-750 B.C.)
SETTING: The wealthy people of Israel were enjoying peace and prosperity. They were quite complacent and were oppressing the poor, even selling them into slavery. Soon, however, Israel would be conquered by Assyria, and the rich themselves would become slaves.
KEY VERSE: “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream!” (5:24)
LAW THEMES: The nations condemned; the Lord as a lion; only a remnant; unfaithful worship; the day of the Lord.
GOSPEL THEMES: The remnant; seek the Lord and live; the booth of David; restoration of Israel; the Lord relents.
KEY PEOPLE: Amos, Amaziah, Jeroboam II
KEY PLACES: Bethel, Samaria
SPECIAL FEATURES: Amos uses striking metaphors from his shepherding and farming experience—a loaded cart (2:13), a roaring lion (3:8), a mutilated sheep (3:12), pampered cows (4:1), and a basket of fruit (8:1-2)

And the vital stats for Obadiah:

PURPOSE: To show that God judges those who have harmed his people
AUTHOR: Obadiah. Very little is know about this man, whose name means “servant (or worshiper) of the LORD”
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The Edomites, the Jews in Judah, and God’s people everywhere.
DATE WRITTEN: Possibly during the reign of Jehoram in Judah, 853-841 B.C., or possibly during Jeremiah’s ministry, 627-586 B.C.
SETTING: Historically, Edom had constantly harassed the Jews. Prior to the time this book was written, they had participated in attacks against Judah. Given the dates above, this prophecy came after the division of Israel into the northern and southern kingdoms before the conquering of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.
KEY VERSE: “The Day of the LORD is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head” (verse 15).
LAW THEMES: Pride in security; pillaging; the day of the Lord; fire; exile.
GOSPEL THEMES: The day of the Lord; escape; the Lord’s kingdom.
KEY PEOPLE: The Edomites
KEY PLACES: Edom, Jerusalem
SPECIAL FEATURES: The book of Obadiah uses vigorous poetic language and is written in the form of a dirge of doom.

The New Testament
Three books to go.  Here are the vital stats for 3 John:

PURPOSE: To comment Gaius for his hospitality and to encourage him in his Christian life
AUTHOR: The apostle John
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Gaius, a prominent Christian in one of the churches know to John; and to all Christians
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 90, from Ephesus
SETTING: Church leaders traveled from town to town helping to establish new congregations. They depended on the hospitality of fellow believers. Gaius was one who welcomed these leaders into his home.
KEY VERSE: “Dear friend, your are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you” (verse 5)
KEY PEOPLE: John, Gaius, Diotrephes, Demitrius

Here are the vital stats for the book of Jude:

PURPOSE: To remind the church of the need for constant vigilance—to keep strong in the faith and to oppose heresy
AUTHOR: Jude, brother of Jesus and James
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Jewish Christians, and all believers everywhere
SETTING: From the first century on, the church has been threatened by heresy and false teaching—we must always be on our guard.
KEY VERSE: “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints" (verse 3).
LAW THEMES: The ungodly pervert God’s grace; contend for the faith; God destroys unbelievers; blaspheming; eternal chains; gloomy darkness; stained by the flesh; judgment; eternal fire; way of Cain condemned.
GOSPEL THEMES: Called and beloved by God; Peace; Salvation; Mercy of our Lord; present you blameless; God our Savior.
KEY PEOPLE: Jude, James, Jesus

And the vital stats for the book of Revelation:

PURPOSE: To reveal the full identity of Christ and to give warning and hope to believers
AUTHOR: The apostle John
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The seven churches in Asia, and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 95 from Patmos
SETTING: Most scholars believe that the seven churches of Asia to whom John writes were experiencing the persecution that took place under Emperor Domitian (A.D. 90-95). It seems that the Roman authorities had exiled John to the island of Patmos (off the coast of Asia). John, who had been an eyewitness of the incarnate Christ, had a vision of the glorified Christ. God also revealed to him what would take place in the future—judgment and ultimate triumph of God over evil.
KEY VERSE: “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near” (1:3).
LAW THEMES: Deception of false prophets; call to repentance; beasts; dragon (Satan); God’s wrath; plagues; torment; woe; bottomless pit;  tribulation; Babylon the Great; second death; judgment; call to patient endurance.
GOSPEL THEMES: Word of God; made a Kingdom of Priests; Jesus’ love; Lamb of God; Christ who conquers; tree of life; Bride of the Lamb (Church); God is faithful and true; water of life.
KEY PEOPLE: John, Jesus
KEY PLACE: Patmos, the seven churches, the new Jerusalem
SPECIAL FEATURES: Revelation is written in “apocalyptic” form—a type of Jewish literature that uses symbolic imagery to communicate hope (in the ultimate triumph of God) to those in the midst of persecution. The events are ordered according to literary, rather than chronological, patterns.

Free Hit Counter