Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bethany Bullet - January 29, 2013

The sole desire of the Borg was to eradicate any distinctiveness and to assimilate all other life forms into its “collective.” Once “assimilation” was accomplished, individuality vanished.  Not familiar with this Star Trek analogy? Click HERE.

*If you are unable to open link, copy/paste this into your browser to view the YouTube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZEJ4OJTgg8

In some way, shape, or form we’ve all been assimilated; more than likely our assimilation has been willingly, though subtle, many factions would seek to get us to embrace ‘group-think’ even without our knowing. But most often we assimilate willingly and quite naturally. We join the club, pay the dues for membership in said association and attend rallies in support of the party; and all intentionally. I, for instance, am a member of the Steeler nation, Cenation and the Hughniverse. 

Though as we learned last week in the 12th chapter of St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians we are all equal in Christ, that is, in this BODY we are not independent from one another. There is no segment in the body that is not in need of the other members of the Body.  There is to be no segregation of some part as lesser nor elevation of other members as great. Yet that reality is not a denial of our individuality.

Before the Borg successfully assimilated their prey the haunting chant was heard, “resistance is futile.” In that body, the body of the Borg, elimination of individuality was the priority and the collective is all that mattered. 

As we work through Paul’s letter, on this Life Sunday, I believe that we need to understand that the removing, denying, or ignoring individuality is a priority to successfully assimilate a people into a mindset that denies the sanctity of life. Think about it. It is much easy to accept abortion as an option when we erase the individuality of the particular child in question and place him or her into the collective vocabulary of unplanned or unwanted. If instead of speaking about the unborn personally the talk focuses on medical terminology.  Same is true on the opposite spectrum of the life cycle too.  It is harder to resist the idea that there is some form of compassionate merit in terminating life when we speak of quality rather individuality, focus on the terminal over the individual, or physical tragedy instead shared humanity.  

When prophet or psalmist speak of God knowing and forming, “in the womb” those words are more than declarations about creation! They are testimony to individuality. You are a unique, distinct creation of God.  And while God loves everyone, while Christ came for the entire world, He also loves and comes for you personally (individually). Martin Luther once said, “Had all the world remained free from sin but me, God would have done it the same way.”   YOU, (individually) are known to God and cherished by God. 

In The BODY God grants gifts to His people (people plural everyone is gifted; people singular, you have gifts given by God).  God grants gifts in The BODY so that we, collectively and individually, might bless the Body collectively and its members individually.  

Not sure what your gifts are or how to use them?  Take look at the SHAPE Online Academy, click HERE.

*If you are unable to open link, copy/paste this into your browser to go the SHAPE webpage: http://bethanylutheran.org/587234.ihtml

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, January 28, 2013

The One Year Bible- January 28th

Congratulations on finishing one month in the journey of reading the Bible this year!!  I have been thinking about the over arching story of the Bible.  As we journey in the Bible this year we will see narrative sections as well as prescriptive sections.  The narrative portions get the big billing since they tell the “story,” but don’t just skip past the other sections.  There is some good stuff in there.  Just over 40% of the Old Testament is devoted to telling the narrative story.  The following Old Testament books are largely or entirely composed of narrative material: Genesis, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Jonah, and Haggai.  Also, Exodus, Numbers, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Job contain substantial narrative portions.  People like stories, and the stories in the Bible are important.  They are purposeful stories that tell the historical events of the past and are intended to give meaning and direction for a given people in the present.  There is a difference in the Bible’s stories for they tell God’s story.  As the book How to Read the Bible for all Its Worth says, “The Biblical narrative tells the ultimate story—a story that, even though often complex, is utterly true and crucially important.  Indeed it is a magnificent story, grander than the greatest epic, richer in plot and more significant in its characters and descriptions than any humanly composed story could ever be.” (How To Read the Bible for All Its Worth, p. 90)  Enjoy the stories and remember to try to see the overarching story of God’s love for his creation and his desire to save us from sin.

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
Exodus is a well written book that is foundational for the faith of both Christians and Jews; within its pages lie some of the key elements of our faith (the Passover, the 10 commandments a.k.a. the 10 words). A reading of this book is not complete without seeing the awesome wonder and power of God. One of the key words in the Old Testament is translated as “remembered”, as in God remembered his people, the people are to remember to celebrate the Passover etc. This is a theologically significant word in that it shows God’s grace and his love for his people. This theme will be carried out to completion as God “remembers” his people once again as they are slaves to sin and provides redemption through his son. Before we get to the Passover lets take a closer look at one of the most famous sections in the book, namely the plagues. Much has been made of these events in movies and other media but they show how God works in systematic ways. One thing to remember is that even when God showed his mighty wonders, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. He said the right things but went back on his word. I think at times we are all a bit like Pharaoh. We like to have things our own way and when things are going badly we will promise everything. Things ease up and we go back on our word. Eventually this will end up badly for us. But I am getting off track, so back to the plagues...

Before the first plague Moses and Aaron have a confrontation with Pharaoh and his magicians. We see here that Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them. By looking at the first nine plagues in groups of three we can see some interesting things.

The Plagues:

1. Blood (7:14-25)
2. Frogs (8:1-15)
3. Gnats (8:16-19)

4. Flies (8:20-32)
5. Animal Disease (9:1-7)
6. Boils (9:8-12)

7. Hail (9:13-35)
8. Locusts (10:1-20)
9. Darkness (10:21-27)

In each series the first and second plagues are announced to Pharaoh in advance. The third is given without previous warning. The series of 3 x 3 leads up to a climax in number 10—the number that is the symbol for completeness. Within the plagues themselves there is a progression, an increase in severity. The last three are especially severe and destructive. The Egyptian magicians vie with Moses in duplicating the first two plagues. At the third they try but no longer succeed in their magic arts. They must confess, “This is the finger of God.” Beginning with the second group of plagues (4,5 & 6) a distinction is made between the Israelites and the Egyptians. The land of Goshen where the Israelites live is spared. The first nine plagues deal with phenomena that have to do with nature. Since the Egyptians worshiped the powers of nature, what more effective way could God display his power over all things, which they looked upon as deities? The tenth plague was the plague of the firstborn. With this plague all the first-born were to be killed. But the angel was to “pass over” the homes of the Israelites.

The Passover presents to us one of the most important Old Testament types of the Savior Jesus Christ. As we look at the directions for preparing the Passover meal, we see step by step how the entire ritual points to Christ, our Passover lamb. The Passover lamb was to be a year-old male. John the Baptist tells of the Messiah who was to be the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." In Corinthians, Paul says, “For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.” God directed that this Passover lamb was to be “without defect.” Peter wrote that we were redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” The Passover lamb was to be slaughtered as a sacrifice. Paul reminded his people “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”. The writer of the book of Hebrews repeatedly refers to Christ as an “offering” and “sacrifice”. “Do not break any of the bones.” This was direct foreshadowing of Jesus. The Israelites were to “take some of the blood and but it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses.” God said, “When I see the blood I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” This points to the teaching that we are redeemed from the power of sin, death and Satan with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. God tells the people that they are to remember the Passover for “generations to come”.
I hope you can see how the Passover celebration is important to our understanding of who Jesus is and how he is the culmination of Gods redeeming work on earth. It is no coincidence that Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples the night before he was betrayed. Again it is no coincidence that Jesus instituted another celebration that is to be celebrated for “generations to come” as he gave his disciples the first communion feast. 

The New Testament
I want to spend a little bit of time talking about parables this week since we have seen so many of them in the book of Matthew and we will see more as we go through the Gospels. In my seminary classes on the New Testament we spent quite a bit of time on parables because of their wonderful content and use for us not only as preachers but also as Christians. Today I would like to share with you some material from an article written by Dr. Erich H. Kiehl who was a professor at Concordia Seminary St. Louis for many years. He wrote an article titled “Why Jesus Spoke in Parables” in which he said:
A parable may be defined as “a story with a puzzling quality which confronts the hearer with the need to make a decision for or against Christ through the Spirits work.” Perhaps the most helpful is the more usual definition: “A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly (spiritual) meaning” with the addition “in the sense that it confronts the hearer with the need to make a decision for or against Christ through the Spirits work.”
An analysis of the content of the Gospels indicates that about one-third of the Gospel accounts are parables. Aside from their theological importance, parables shed much light on life in the New Testament era. Except for the Egyptian papyri, which emphasize life in Egypt, the parables are the best source of information about life in the Near East in the New Testament era. They reflect the innate love of graphic, pictorial speech and the great delight in a story, which is still true of life there today. Jesus’ parables demonstrate everyday experiences and events in the world of nature.
Since Jesus’ hearers would not listen to him on his terms, that is, the true meaning of the kingdom of God as revealed in Scripture, Jesus then began to speak to them in parables. His hearers had an innate love for graphic stories and pictorial speech. Jesus used this appealing parabolic approach to catch their attention and to seek to get them to ponder the true meaning of what he said. As people wondered and pondered what Jesus was telling them in his parables, the Holy Spirit could work in their hearts, seeking to lead them to the proper Biblical understanding of His message. In time, as the Spirit penetrated the hardness of the heart, hearers could grow in understanding of the true meaning and nature of God’s kingdom and of life in the kingdom. Crucial in this was the Spirit leading them to understand who Jesus truly is in His ministry and teaching as the fulfillment of the prophecies in his person and work, and its decisive implications for their life as members of God’s covenant people.
From The Concordia Journal July 1990 p.248-249.

Dr. Kiehl continues in his article to develop the skills of determining what Jesus actually meant when he told his parables. He warns us not to try to put our own meaning into the parables but to strive to find the true meaning, the one that Jesus meant for us to have. This is no easy task, especially when Jesus does not explain the meaning of the parable. Don’t worry too much if some of this flies over your head. The main point is not to force our own thoughts and insights on the text and miss the true point of the parable. When in doubt, pray, meditate, or ask your pastor if you don’t fully understand.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Bethany Bullet - January 22, 2013

On June 1, 2012 David McCullough Jr. a teacher at Wellesley High School in Massachusetts delivered one of the most honest commencement addresses in recent memory.  In speaking to the senior class he said,

You are not special. You are not exceptional.  Contrary to what your under 9 soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you… you’re nothing special.”

The same could be said here, to this audience today, “You are not special! You’re not!!”

You may have heard it a thousand times, you may have said it to your kids or grandkids, you may have even read a book that tried to convince you, but it is a fact…you are NOT special.

Now, hold on pastor, wait a minute, I’ve read my Bible, I know that God has created me to be unique, it’s right there; take a look at Psalm 139 won’t you? 

OK, I will agree that you are a unique child of God, but Scripture also proclaims that you are not special.

From Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, the 12th chapter, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:12)

Last week we celebrated the Baptism of Jesus and this week Paul reminds us that we were all baptized into one body.  That is our theme for the next three weeks, you can see it on the cover of your worship folder and today we proclaim the truth that you are not special, you don’t stand out in the crowd, you are no better than anyone else in here.

Still a little on edge?  In the eyes of the law we are not special either, in fact we are anything but special.  As Paul wrote to the Romans, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)  “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  All have turned away…there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12)

You are not special.  You have not earned favor with God. There is nothing inside of you that makes you stand out.  All are equally guilty.

Paul goes on in our text from 1 Corinthians, “14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?” (1 Corinthians 12:14-17)

Paul uses the analogy of the body to make his point.  Even in Paul’s day, there was understanding of the complex system of organs and parts that were combined to make the human body function.  But this was more than just a biology lesson. Paul has a theological lesson to impart. 

Some of us in this room have a foot and ear complex.  Foot and Ear Complex happens when individuals give in to the lie that they do not have worth, or that they don’t belong. This happens in our lives when we start comparing ourselves to others, wishing we had what they have. Comparison can lead to complacency which ends in corruption.

Paul goes on, 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.” (1 Corinthians 12:21-22)
Others in this room have an eye and hand complex.  Eye and Hand Complex occurs when individuals believe that they don’t need anyone else.  This is the home of pride and a myopic outlook of reality.  Everything is about me, no one else matters.  Selfish ambition reigns and the needs and cares of others are forgotten. 

Both of these maladies splinter the body and render it unhealthy and unable to do even the simplest of tasks.
Back to our text, 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:18-20).

It is a very interesting picture that Paul paints here.  Paul describes God’s actions here like that of an artist mixing elements and items, colors and contrasts to create a work of art.  All of the pieces are important, none are trivial each one valuable and all necessary and in the end, all must cooperate and compensate especially in crisis and in the end, there is one unit, one masterpiece, ONE BODY.  It is truly fitting to say the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. 

But indeed there is a crisis at hand, an epidemic that has afflicted the church, the body of Christ.  All too often the church suffers from an overabundance of feet and ears, eyes and hands at the expense of the health and virility of the body as a whole. 

But the antidote for this all comes down to ONE BODY, a body that was cradled in a manger, whose feet walked this soil, who heard the cries of humanity, whose eyes looked upon us with mercy and whose hands were pierced so that we might be healed, so we might be ONE. 

That ONE BODY prayed for us.  Near the end of His earthly ministry, after praying for His disciples, Jesus said these words to His Father, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (John 17:20-21)

There is equality in Jesus.  He took on all our diseases and infirmities and placed us all on equal footing to stand as one, redeemed and forgiven in the site of God. 

By His death and resurrection we have been healed of foot and ear complex, and eye and hand complex has been eradicated by the hands of the Savior. 

In the sight of the Law we may be equally condemned, but by the blood of Jesus we are equally saved.  You might think you are weaker, you might think you are indispensible; the truth is we are all equal in this ONE BODY.

Back to the text, “there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:25-27)

No matter what your gift or role in this ONE BODY you are as important as anybody. People with what we might call “spectacular” gifts are not to be given special honor. People with what we might call “ordinary” gifts are not to be counted as less.

But if this ONE BODY is to survive and thrive we are to have equal concern or have the same care for one another.

The diversity of the body does not suggest inferiority and this unity does not mean unvarying uniformity.  No part of this ONE BODY is redundant or unnecessary.  God doesn’t make junk. 

You may not be “special” but you are vital. Here in this body, we suffer together, we rejoice together; we pray together, we kneel at the rail together.  For in the sight of God we are equal, and together we are ONE BODY!

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, January 21, 2013

The One Year Bible- January 21st

We are almost one month in to our year-long journey in the Bible and this week we finished up the first book of the Old Testament. This is no small accomplishment. Genesis is a long book, filled with important stories that serve as important pieces to the overall story of the Bible. We will make reference to many of these stories and events as we go along. Each time we reach a milestone in our journey we should celebrate. As well as finishing the book of Genesis we will also finish one month in the word. Give yourself a pat on the back and you should feel good for your accomplishments. I also want to encourage you to keep going. If it is not already, your daily reading will become habit and spending time in God’s Word is one of the best habits you could ever have. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
We will finish up the story of Joseph this week. It has been a longer story than most and there is good reason for it. First of all, this is the back-story for the most important event in Jewish history, the Exodus. The Exodus tells of God’s love and mercy for his chosen people and how he redeemed them from slavery in Egypt. As a New Testament Christian this story foreshadows the story of how Jesus redeemed us from the slavery of sin. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As we read the Old Testament we see many similarities between it and some stories in the New Testament. I believe that this is one purpose. Theologians call this Biblical Typology.

I found this description of typology in a resource I have entitled “Fellowship With God” written by Rev. Henry F. Fingerlin:“The Bible is an amazing book. But something not too commonly know is that the Bible contains a unique kind of prophecy that no other book contains or could contain, namely, Typology. In Romans 5:14b St. Paul says that “Adam...was a type of the one who was to come.” (That is Adam was a type of Christ). In I Peter 3:21 Peter tells us that Baptism “corresponds” to Noah’s ark in which 8 persons were saved through water. The word translated “corresponds” in the Revised Standard Version is antitype in Greek. There are many such “types” and “antitypes” in the Bible. For example the Passover Lamb and the scapegoat, who bore the sins of the people, are types of Jesus; and the work of the High Priest in making sacrifice for the sins of the people is a type of his saving work. Types, copies, shadows, miniatures, scale model, partial, earthly, temporal, limited, imperfect—these are the people, observances and events of the Old Testament. Fulfillment, spiritual, eternal, perfect, unlimited—these are the realities, the completion, the fulfillment brought into being through Jesus and the New Covenant. This is the way Jesus and the Apostles understood the Old Testament and its fulfillment in the New. Only God who knows the future and also brings it to pass, could so thoroughly detail through prophecy and types all that would transpire through John the Baptist, Jesus, and the beginning of the New Covenant.”

There is much to say about Biblical typology but one thing to remember is that Old Testament Biblical types are always less than the New Testament antitype. As Paul writes in Colossians 2:17, “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”  How does this relate to the story of Joseph? Some theologians see Joseph as a “type” or Christ. Here are a few examples:
- Joseph is the “beloved” son of his Father(Gen. 37:3)—Jesus is the Father’s “beloved” son (Matt. 3:17
- Though innocent, Joseph is sold for silver (Gen. 37:28)—Jesus is betrayed and sold for silver (Matt. 26:15)
- Joseph finds himself in prison with two other criminals (Gen. 40)—Jesus suffered death (a kind of prison) between two criminals (Luke 23:32-33)
- Joseph foretells death to one prisoner and release and restoration of the other (Gen. 40:9-19—Jesus tells one of the thieves that he will be with him in paradise while the other dies in his sins (Luke 23:42)
- Joseph is freed from prison by a decree of Pharaoh (Gen. 41:37-41)—Jesus is freed from the prison of death by the Fathers decree of Life, Resurrection, for His Son (Acts 2:24)
- Joseph is exalted at Pharaoh’s right hand and given a name that is above all names (Gen. 41)—Jesus is exalted to his fathers right hand and given a name that is above every other name (Phil. 2:9-11, Acts 2:33-36)

There are others that we could talk about but these are the big ones. I will be highlighting some more typology as we go this year. Let me know what you think about typology. Remember you can't always say that something is a “type” of Christ, but if you see something that you may think is let me know and I will do some investigating for you.

The New Testament
We read a few more parables of Jesus as well as read about some miracles including the feeding of the 5,000 and just as amazing, the feeding of the 4,000. One of the most powerful passages we read came in Ch. 16. Peter’s confession of Christ is a powerful witness to the divinity of Jesus and his claim to be the Messiah. After hearing Jesus preach and witnessing his miracles he boldly professes, “You are the Christ (Messiah) the Son of the living God." Either Peter was crazy or he was convinced that this simple man from Nazareth was the promised Messiah.

Bits And Pieces

We will dive into the book of Exodus this week and here are the vital stats:

PURPOSE: The Lord reintroduces Himself to Israel, rescues them from Egypt, and gives them a covenant of laws and sacrifices.
KEY PEOPLE: Moses, Miriam, Pharaoh, Pharaoh’s daughter, Jethro, Aaron, Joshua
KEY PLACES: Egypt, Goshen, Nile River, Midian, Red Sea, Sinai Peninsula, Mount Sinai
LAW THEMES: Plagues against unrepentant Egypt; God gives the Ten Commandments and requires an oath to fulfill the Law.
GOSPEL THEMES: God remembers and fulfills His promises to the patriarchs; atonement through sacrifice.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Exodus relates more miracles than any other Old Testament book and is noted for containing the Ten Commandments

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Bethany Bullet - January 15, 2013

The assigned reading from the Old Testament for the Baptism of our Lord is from Isaiah 43.  There are times in which the prophet’s role was to declare to the people who God is: Holy & Righteous, Almighty & Judge of all.  There are other times in which the prophet’s role was to remind the people who they were.  This is especially true in times of sorrow, loss, grief, or fear when one needs to hear they are loved, that they belong.  Isaiah calls to mind the journey through “water and river” that proclaim who Israel is.  

While we’ve not gone through the Red Sea or the Jordan, we have gone through the water - the river called Baptism.  Though we’ve gone through the water, like our forefather’s we know what it is to wander and wonder.  We’ve experienced sorrow and loss, grief and fear and we too need to hear that we are loved and that we belong.  The water’s of Baptism crash loudly with such affirmation and in its wake the prophet reminds us who we, the Baptized children of God, are.

Through the waters we come to know that we’ve been chosen BY Him. True it was our parents, or as a result of our own action that we came to the Baptism fount.  Yet, in Baptism it was God who was acting. He, through His Word and Spirit, also made the join to the fount and at it HE did the real declaring; just as He did at Jesus’ Baptism. He declared us to be His beloved child with whom He was pleased. In Baptism we know we are chosen by God in Christ

Though slaves to sin, captive to death and the devil, and prone to wander from the shepherd of our soul we are never-the-less precious TO Him.  He created us and formed us.  From the foundation of the earth He loved us and in our mother’s wombs He knit us together.  Then in the waters of Baptism through which we pass He re-created us as He forgave what the fall had left in its wake. He reformed us as His new creation drowning that which had distorted His original creation.  Through the waters it’s been proven that we are precious to God in Christ

Though we ought to have been left adrift in guilt our God would bring us back safely to His side of the shore, so to speak. Such action would come at a price and with a cost.  In exchange for our lives He gave His own, the life of Christ given in exchange for ours as a people redeemed THROUGH Him.  Our misery became Jesus’ and His mercy and merit became ours through the waters for we have been redeemed through God in Christ.  

Having come through the waters we exit no longer just Kevin, or Karen, or Justin, or Mary Ann (insert your name here) when we passed through the water we were given a new name: CHRISTIAN for through the water we’ve been named FOR Him

So when all seems against you, when the news is fraught with doom and dread remember who you are Baptized child of God!  You are one who has been chosen by Him, because you are precious to Him and redeemed through you and named for Him. 
-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, January 14, 2013

The One Year Bible- January 14th

In seminary I took a class called Biblical Theology and Exegesis. Don’t get too impressed. I am convinced that theologians want to sound smart, so they use technical names for most of the classes. For example, other seminary classes I have taken include Hermeneutics, Homiletics, and Old Testament Isagogics. In regular English that means I took Bible study, preaching, and Old Testament history (I hope I didn’t give away any company secrets). Anyway, part of Biblical Theology and Exegesis is seeing the whole story of the Bible. My textbook gave this definition, “Biblical theology is principally concerned with the overall theological message of the whole Bible. It seeks to understand the various parts in relation to the whole.” This is exactly what I try to do each week with our studies. I guess I didn’t even know that I have been teaching a class in Biblical Theology every week on the internet for over six years. Well, I hope that through these studies you will start to see the whole picture and the overall theme of God’s Word. At the end of the first chapter of my textbook it says, “The Bible is about humankind falling into sin, and God’s determination to put things right. It is about salvation, God’s rescue plan for human beings under judgment. It is about the worship of the one true God and the rejection of the gods that fail.” Lets all try to keep this in mind as we journey in God’s Word together.
Seth’s Thoughts
Old Testament
The opening stories of the Old Testament revolve around what we call the Patriarchs. This includes Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph. The first week of the year we sped through many generations as well as many years but this week we have been focusing on one family. This family has some issues. Jacob is encouraged by his mother to pretend to be his brother so that Isaac will give him the family blessing. If this sounds dysfunctional you are right. We will see plenty of dysfunctional behavior in the Old Testament. Remember the Old Testament is setting the stage for the coming of the Messiah, the one that was to save the people. Just wait until we get into the book of Judges and then we will see some real dysfunctional behavior. That PLR (people, land, relationship) promise that we talked about last week comes back (in whole or in part) quite often. We saw it multiple times this week. Each time I read it I put the letters PLR in the margin. I hope you begin to see that this is an important promise. This becomes the foundation for all the other promises that God will make in the Old Testament, including the coming of the Messiah. We read about Jacob and his rather strange relationship with his father-in-law, and then his odd relationship between him and his bickering wives. Once again we see some facets of dysfunctional behavior, but we also see that God will be faithful and keep his promise. The story of Joseph is one of the longest stories in the Old Testament. I will have more to say about this story later. For now be sure to catch all the details and see if they remind you of any other stories in the Bible. Perhaps some of you are familiar with the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical called Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. This musical is a pretty faithful rendition of the story and if you get confused you may want to rent the movie version. It stars Donny Osmond (don’t let that scare you) and has an appearance by Joan Collins (well…that might scare you).
New Testament
In our readings from this week we find that Jesus still continues to teach, and heal and now he is starting to generate some interest. John’s disciples start to question him about things and we get a deeper glimpse into the ministry of Jesus. Chapter 10 has some interesting things to say about going out and speaking about Jesus, but remember that Jesus was speaking to 12 Jewish men in Israel almost 2000 years ago. It can be dangerous to make a one for one comparison with these teachings and today. One very interesting section in our reading is found in chapter 12:13. Jesus uses some Old Testament stories to bring light to his earthly ministry. He gives us some clues about the end of his earthly ministry as he compares himself to Jonah. This is a fascinating passage for theologians as it sheds light not only on the work of Jesus but also the reason that the book of Jonah is in the Old Testament. For those of you at Bethany, we will be studying the book of Jonah this Lenten season. In that study we will explore this relationship ever further. Jesus also says that he is greater than Solomon. This was a big claim because no one was a wise as Solomon especially in the eyes of a Jewish person. It is also another place that shows the relationship between the Old and New Testaments.
Bits and Pieces
One thing I think I forgot to mention last week. Every time you read the word LORD (in all capitals) in the Old Testament, the translators are saying this is the proper name Yahweh. It is God’s personal name. Remember that Moses is the one writing the first five books and he was the one to whom God revealed that name. So it makes sense that he uses it in his writing.
Another thing I want to point out to you is the use of names. Names are important in the Bible. Like I just said above LORD is translated from Yahweh which means “I Am who I Am”. It sounds rather nebulous to us but how could you try to contain God in a few letters no matter what language it is in. On to my point, we have seen quite a few names, the names of people and places. If you are reading through the NIV or the ESV you will notice that every time we encounter a new name there is a footnote. If you follow those footnotes you will find some more information about the name. For example, when Isaac was born we read in the footnote that Isaac means, “he laughs”. Some of these names have some theological significance. The name Jacob means, “he grasps the heel” which is an idiom for someone who deceives which is just what he does to his brother twice. Later in the story we will get to Joshua. His name means “the LORD saves”. This is the same name that is translated as Jesus in the New Testament. Makes sense doesn’t it. The phrase Jesus Saves is almost redundant. I will try to point out some of these names when they come up but feel free to follow the footnotes to get some more information.
That is about all for now, but one word of encouragement. If you get behind in your reading don’t try to catch up all at once. Just double up your readings each day and soon you will be back on track. The other option is to just let some of the readings go, like water under the bridge and just pick up on the current day. Either way you are still in the Word, and that is a good thing. Have a great week and look for a new post next week!!

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