Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Bethany Bullet - May 28, 2013

We’re not always able to say, “Always.”

Need proof?

Well…is ‘always’ the first response that comes to mind with the following questions?  
·         Sermons are too short? 
·         I avoid temptation? 
·         God feels so close? 
Did you say ‘always’ to any of them? 

We’re not always able to say, ‘always’; nor are we always able to fulfill the ‘always’ that we speak.
·         Sometimes always means, as long as I am able
·         Sometimes always means, best intentions being what they are
·         Sometime always means, as long as I feel like it

We’ve just celebrated the festival of Pentecost and prior to it the festival of the Ascension. It was immediately before these events that Jesus made this promise, “I am with you ALWAYS to the very end of the age.”  It wouldn’t be long thereafter that the disciples would separate and scatter across the globe. Before long they would face discouragement and isolation, punishment, or execution. Yet with each of them (and to each of them), INDIVIDUALLY NOT MERELY COLLECTIVELY Jesus FORCEFULLY promised His presence, ALWAYS. I will be with you ALWAYS. Jesus is able to say always and able to fulfill the always that He speaks. That means Jesus won’t change His mind or alter His emotions!  And He won’t promise that which He can’t deliver. 

That means you will never hear Jesus say,
·         “Sorry but…” 
·         “Well I did the best I could.” 
·         “I tried.”

That which He says He’ll do, He’ll do!  ALWAYS!  He is with you always in all ways.  Whether in the delivery room or the operating room, whether welcoming a new member to the family or burying the patriarch thereof, at graduation or promotion – in failure or a firing, whether you get the word your finally cured or you receive the news that there is nothing else that can be done; in ALL WAYS he is with you ALWAYS. 

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, May 27, 2013

The One Year Bible- May 27th

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I want to remind you today of the main purpose of reading the entire Bible. The Bible has one story and that is about Jesus Christ. There are many, many detours along the way but in some way shape or form the message stays the same. Why bring this up now? First of all we need to be constantly reminded of the reasons to read and study God’s word. Secondly, in today’s study I make some direct references to Jesus in the Old Testament story of David. There is an old adage that says, “Keep the main thing the main thing”. We need to do that with the Bible at all times. That is not to say we need to press every word and make them proclaim Christ but the overarching story is the story of Salvation, which has its completion in the person and work of Jesus. Here is a quote from a great book:

“At the heart of all doctrine is the biblical truth that we are justified by grace through faith in Christ alone. All other teachings relate to this one. God has revealed his truth to us so that we will know and receive salvation in Christ Jesus. All other doctrines prepare for this, reveal this, convey the benefits of Christ to us, and respond to his gracious work. His saving work is the very heart of Scripture and of all true theology.” (p. 22, Called to Believe, Teach and Confess, Edited by Steven Mueller)

Do not forget to keep Christ in mind as you read all parts of the Bible. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
The over arching theme for this week in the life of David is once again DRAMA!! That guy is just a lightning rod for trouble. He never seems to catch a break, and when he thinks things are going well, he does something stupid and gets himself into trouble (sounds a bit like us doesn’t it??). The prophet Nathan is there to try to keep the king in line, but he is not always successful. We do catch a glimpse of the good side of David in his dealings with Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth. David loved Jonathan and he missed his best friend very much. David found out about Mephibosheth and wanted to show him kindness. Now Mephibosheth was crippled and needed help. If David is a type (remember typology) of Christ, as some theologians suggest, then the relationship that David has with Mephibosheth is similar to our relationship with Christ. He seeks us out to show kindness to us and we are the crippled ones in need of help. Because of the kindness of David, Mephibosheth eats at the banquet table of the king. The same will happen for us one day; we will eat at the heavenly banquet table prepared for us.

The rest of the story could be the plot of a bad Lifetime movie or a daily Soap Opera. We have incest and rape, rebellion and fornication, murder and treason. Hollywood does not have to look far to find some shady storylines. I think one of the overlooked points of the story is that because of sin there will be consequences. David sinned when he had an affair with Bathsheba. He sinned when he had Uriah killed. These were just a few of the sins of David. Nathan comes to confront David and David realizes his sin and asks for forgiveness. This is the occasion when David penned Psalm 51. If you don’t remember it, look it up right now and read it before you continue on with the study..... seriously........read the Psalm.................O.K. now that you are back you read that David asked for forgiveness and God has promised to forgive those who repent and ask for forgiveness. So, David is a forgiven man but why do all these bad things still happen to him? Well there was a little caveat from the Lord, “This is what the LORD says: 'Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. (which happens later in the story, YUCK!).... But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die’” (2 Samuel 12:11, 14 NIV) There are consequences for sin. We should not fool ourselves in believing that just because we are forgiven, our lives will be without problems. We will constantly struggle with sin and its consequences until the day we are taken to heaven.

The New Testament
Two things to highlight this week; first of all, Jesus spends a lot of time talking about sending the comforter or advocate after he leaves. This is a direct reference to the Holy Spirit. Since we just celebrated Pentecost, now is a good time to dig a bit deeper with what this all means. The Greek word is parakletos. In my Greek dictionary I found this definition:

Summoned, called to one's side, esp. called to one's aid, one who pleads another's cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant, an advocate, one who pleads another's cause with one, an intercessor, of Christ in his exaltation at God's right hand, pleading with God the Father for the pardon of our sins , in the widest sense, a helper, succourer, aider, assistant, of the Holy Spirit destined to take the place of Christ with the apostles (after his ascension to the Father), to lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth, and give them divine strength needed to enable them to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom.

This is a pretty deep word and John is the only New Testament writer who uses it. You might be familiar with the Latin version of this word, paraclete. There is a Catholic high school in Lancaster by that name and it is the preferred word in a Catholic Bible. Jesus spends a lot of time with this word because when he is gone, he wants to assure His disciples (and us too) that we are being looked after. This is a source of comfort for us.

Second thing this week is the continuation of the “I Am” statements. I hope you are not getting sick of reading about these, but I find them so fascinating. The big one comes when Judas brings the guards into the garden to arrest Jesus. Jesus asks them who they are looking for and they tell him that they are looking for Jesus. And then he drops the bomb.......”I AM he” and note what happens next, “When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground.” (John 18:6 NIV) Why did they fall on the ground? What was the reason? It could only be that they were taken aback by the power of the name of Yahweh. And they retreated in respect of at least the name and possibly the person speaking. Jesus says it three times (most likely symbolic by John), and then all heck breaks out. Peter cuts off an ear. Another follower (possibly Mark) runs away naked....it is just a mess. It is interesting that John does not record that Jesus healed Malchus, the high priests slave. I am not sure why but the scene moves quickly to the high priest. We finished up with the passion of Jesus and his death on the cross. We have been over the big issues of this part of the story before, but if you have any questions please let me know.

One thing I want you to look for this week. When Jesus says, “It is finished” from the cross he uses a word that has a meaning of completing the goal. Not the end of something but the completion of a task. Jesus reached the goal of atoning for our sins with his death. His resurrection is then proof of his power. I know that is sort of a tease but this word is the climax of the salvation story.

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We will be finishing up the book of 2 Samuel this week, move into the book of 1 Kings and we will see the end of David’s reign and beginning of Solomon’s reign. Here are the vital stats for 1 Kings:

PURPOSE: To show that the Lord of history executes the threats and keeps the promises of His holy covenant.
AUTHOR: Unknown. Possibly Jeremiah or a group of prophets
SETTING: The once great nation of Israel turned into a land divided, not only physically but also spiritually.
KEY VERSE: “As for you, if you walk before me in integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said ‘You shall never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel’” (9:4,5)
LAW THEMES: The Lord condemns the evil deeds of Israelite and Judean kings who violate the covenant, especially by instituting idolatry.
GOSPEL THEMES: The Lord establishes David’s household through Solomon’s line, from which would come the Messiah’s everlasting kingdom; promised mercies are delivered through the temple services.
KEY PEOPLE: David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Jeroboam, Elijah, Ahab, Jezebel
SPECIAL FEATURE: The books of 1 and 2 Kings were originally one book

The New Testament
We will also be finishing the Gospel of John and we will get into the book of Acts. Here are the vital stats for the book:

PURPOSE: To link the Gospel of Jesus and the service of the 12 apostles with the missionary work of the apostle Paul.
AUTHOR: Luke (a Gentile physician)
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Theophilus and all lovers of God
DATE WRITTEN: Between 63 and 70
SETTING: Acts is the connecting link between Christ’s live and the life of the church, between the Gospels and the Letters.
KEY VERSE: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judean and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (1:8).
LAW THEMES: Kingdom of God; way of God; call to bear witness; repentance; devotion to the Law; turn to God; call to preach; condemnation of lying; magic; simony; and superstition; resisting the Spirit; persecution; generosity urged.
GOSPEL THEMES: Kingdom of God; way of God; God’s promises fulfilled; resurrection; filled with the Spirit; salvation; Jesus’ name; forgiveness; fear of God; grace; Gospel proclamation.
KEY PEOPLE: Peter, John, James, Stephen, Philip, Paul, Barnabas, Cornelius, James (Jesus’ brother), Timothy, Lydia, Silas, Titus, Apollos, Agabus, Ananias, Felix, Festus, Agrippa, Luke
KEY PLACES: Jerusalem, Samaria, Lydda, Joppa, Antioch, Cyprus, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Caesarea, Malta, Rome
SPECIAL FEATURE: Acts is a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. Because Acts ends so abruptly, Luke may have planned to write a third book, continuing the story.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bethany Bullet - May 21, 2013

What a difference a day makes. On Sunday, the celebration of Pentecost, we saw what resulted with the “sound like the blowing of a violent wind that came from heaven.” It was the bestowing of the Spirit and the birth of the church. Of course, 24 hours later, we saw another violent wind blow resulting in death and destruction and the depositing of sorrow and loss.  Yet that same Spirit who came at Pentecost comes again through the loving care in action of the church, the people on whom the Spirit rests, to those who find themselves in times of sorrow and loss.   Those loving actions of care come in the form of prayers, financial gifts and hands-on actions.  -Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Lutheran Church Charities and the Northern Illinois District and Beyond Respond to Tornado Devastation in Moore, Oklahoma

Early reports of many fatalities, injuries, and severe damage are coming in from Moore, Oklahoma where a massive tornado cut a two-mile wide path through this town of 56,000 people.
The best ways to assist with devastation on this scale always takes time to sort out. At this time only approved emergency responders are permitted to enter Moore. No specifics have yet been shared on what needs to be done and the process through which help will be received. However, the most immediate need is cash assistance.
Lutheran Church Charities - working through the District President of the Northern Illinois District - will be collecting money to help Pastor Mark Muenchow from Messiah Lutheran Church in Oklahoma City minister to the families in the community who have suffered loss. All donations for this disaster...dollar for dollar...will be directed to the most pressing needs as determined by Messiah Lutheran.
We will continue to monitor the situation for additional help that they may need, stay in contact with our churches in Oklahoma, and share updates as they become available.
The LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs have received an invitation from Pastor Muenchow and Messiah Lutheran Church, and are on standby and will deploy to Oklahoma as early as tomorrow. We are waiting for word when it is safe to enter the area. Please keep all in your prayers.
LCC never charges those we serve and we rely on donors to help cover our expenses. Click here if you would like to help cover travel expenses for our K-9 Comfort Dog team.

How to Help

1.     Pray - for those who have lost loved ones, for those who lost property and belongings, for the Pastors, relief workers, volunteers, and all others serving those who have been displaced by the tornadoes. 
2.     Pray - Pray for Messiah Lutheran Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Thank you for Making A Difference in the name of Christ to those suffering loss.

Tim Hetzner
Lutheran Church Charities

Monday, May 20, 2013

The One Year Bible- May 20th

In September of 1990 PBS aired the miniseries “The Civil War” by Ken Burns. It was 11 hours in length and an estimated 40 million viewers watched the premiere episode. More people watched the premier episode of “The Civil War, than watched this season’s finale of The Office!! The Ken Burns film was a hit! It is still one of the most popular shows in the history of public television. Why bring this up? Well the story of David and Saul is a story of Civil War. It is a time where brother fought against brother and many died. The events surrounding the end of Saul’s reign and the beginning of David’s are filled with intrigue and action. I am not sure that 40 million people would tune in to watch it as a miniseries but countless millions have read it and have seen the events unfold in the pages of Scripture. At times there are things that we read that don’t seem right. Some of the stories we find in the Bible are disturbing but we must remember that they are still the word of God and we need to dig to try to find what they mean. That is one of the reasons for this study. I hope that you can start to put it all together as you read. Without further ado, on to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
The saga of David and Saul continues in our Old Testament readings this week. The story has its climax towards the end of 1 Samuel. I think that David and Saul had a very co-dependent relationship. They both hated and loved each other and this made things very confusing. One moment they want to kill each other, the next they say how much they love and respect one another. We see some interesting things about David’s character in this story too. David is revered as one of the best kings that Israel ever had. But his record is not spotless. In fact he is not the nicest of guys at all. David often took the high road (i.e. not killing Saul in the cave) but equally as often he took the low road (i.e. taking multiple wives and the fiasco with Bathsheba). David is an interesting king for sure. I think that remembering that David took the low road at times is something we cannot forget. Even after all the bad things that he did, God still loved him and promised that his kingdom will last forever in the person of Jesus. A couple of other things from this week that I want to make note of: I have always liked the story of Saul going to see the medium at Endor. For those of you who are fans of the Star Wars movies you would remember that George Lucas called one of the planets in the Star Wars universe by the same name. It was on a moon of Endor that the final battle in “Return of the Jedi” took place. Did George Lucas know his Bible or did someone feed him that name, I don’t know. It is just another example that things from the Bible are everywhere. That story has another point. Saul has lost his trust in God. He seeks the advice of a medium to try to get information. The LORD has left him and is now with David and that makes Saul angry. Finally during a battle Saul is injured and falls on his own sword and dies. It was a bad day for the house of Saul. “So Saul and his three sons and his armor-bearer and all his men died together that same day.” (1 Samuel 31:6 NIV) This starts another Civil War and eventually David becomes king. I find it odd that the first thing that David builds in the new capital of Jerusalem is a palace for himself. He does not build a place for God or for the Ark. We will see why a bit later.

The New Testament
In the story of the death of Lazarus, Jesus says “I am the resurrection and the life.” What a great analogy and given at the right time. It is by the power of Jesus that Lazarus was raised from death to life again. We see a glimpse of the human side of Jesus, showing love in the shortest verse of the bible, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) Confirmation students often want this to be their verse given at confirmation since it is so short. I hope no teachers have used it in that context but nonetheless it is still a powerful verse. Jesus shows his emotion and his love for his friend Lazarus, and it is that same love he has for us. He died not only for Lazarus but for us as well. Our resurrection will not be in this world but will be in heaven on the last day. What a great comfort. Jesus shows that love a few verses later when he washes the disciples feet. That was a tender act of love that shows the servant heart of our Lord. Just after this we have another great “I Am”. “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He.” (John 13:19 NIV) This “I Am” statement is a direct pointer to the name Yahweh. Jesus was again telling them who he was and what he was all about. There is a lot more in this section of scripture, but I don’t have the time to dig into all of it. If you have any questions please let me know.

We will start reading Psalm 119 this week and I want to make a few comments. First of all, it is the longest Psalm in the Bible; secondly the Psalm is a giant acrostic poem. There are twenty-two stanzas in the Psalm, one for each successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Each of the eight verses within each stanza begins with the Hebrew letter named in its heading. So in the first section each line begins with the Hebrew letter “aleph” and so on for each of the 22 letters. Of course, once you translate it you loose this unique structure. This is a common literary form used for Hebrew poetry. When you know some of the structure, you can see more of the beauty of the original.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bethany Bullet - May 14, 2013

This past weekend we finished our series on the LAMB.  We walked through some of the passages in the book of Revelation that talk about the Lamb of God and we used that word LAMB to help us gain some understanding. In the past weeks we have seen that through the Lamb: 
  • We can Laud And Magnify Boldly  
  • We are Lovingly Annotated in the Master’s Book  
  • We can Leave All Mourning Behind  
  • We have been Laundered Anew and Made Blemish-less

Today we look at the last chapter of Revelation and see that through the LAMB there is LIFE ALWAYS & MORTALITY is BANISHED.

From John’s Revelation, the 22nd Chapter, “Then the Angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.  On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.  And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1-2)

Here in the last chapter of the Bible, we end where we began, in paradise with the tree of life in the center and now the Lamb is on the throne and life giving water flows. 

Back in the first paradise, in Eden, the tree of life stood and water flowed and everything was good and perfect.  But things soon changed.  The slyness of the serpent seduced sin and soon there was a curse as toil, and pain, sadness and shame set in.

Since that fateful day in the garden humanity has been subject to a curse.

Adam and Eve gave in to the lies of the serpent and began a chain of events that brought the curse of God upon the world and we have all suffered from the curse to this day.  
The curse of: 
  • Darkness  
  • Disease  
  • Death

As a result, Life was Waylaid and Humanity Banished. 

On that fateful day, death entered the world and our first parents were banished from paradise.

Where have you felt the curse? Chemotherapy? Catastrophe? Crisis? Coffin?

As a high school freshman, I knew that something was wrong. My mom was acting strange, different, not herself.  The strong woman who sat me on her lap to read books to me, was beginning to struggle. She began to forget names and dates, and she was easily angered at the littlest things. Soon her motor skills began to deteriorate and her steps were labored.  She was in her early 40s but seemed to be suffering from some neurological disease. Numerous doctors’ visits, and a myriad of tests followed, but no diagnosis was determined. After a number of falls and some broken ribs we knew we needed to do something to keep my mom safe. Soon, we were looking for a care facility that mom could move to; dark days indeed.

As the months and years dragged on, my mother, slipped into a silent world. She lost her ability to communicate and never had the opportunity to know anything about her grandchildren. 

For years I prayed that this curse would be taken away, that my mom would be healed, that the pain I felt would be erased.  I prayed every day, for years…and, nothing.  I felt like I was in the dark and there was no way out.  My friends the curse of sin is strong, it eats at our souls, it destroys relationships, and fractures families.

Finally in January of 2007, after nearly 20 years in residential care, my mom rested in the arms of Jesus.  At her memorial service I read a letter I wrote to her just after she died and on this Mother’s Day I want to share a portion of that with you:

Dear Mom,
I know I haven’t written you a letter in a long time but I just had to tell you some things that have been on my mind recently. I was thinking the other day about the gift I gave you when you moved into Tustin Manor. The small stained glass frame with the saying “Mom, I will never outgrow my love for you” has been etched in my mind. That saying cannot be more true. I have been thinking of when my love for you first bloomed. Was it before I could remember as you held me in your arms, or when you played with me as a toddler? Was it when I fell down and you kissed my skinned knee? Or was it there even before? I know I felt it as we waited for the AVON lady to come. Would you order something for me this time? I felt it as we watched TV together. You would watch Sesame Street with me and I would watch the Guiding Light with you. I felt your love when I could smell your perfume when I was in your arms. I always felt better when I knew you were close. I felt your love even when you turned on the vacuum cleaner that scared me so. I know you were right there to help me find my things that had fallen in the magic crack of my bed and the couch. I felt your love as you sent me to take a nap. My love for you grew as you took us kids to the doctor and on your errands. As I grew older I remember watching you read your books and I wanted to be like you. I remember seeing you teach VBS and Sunday School and longing to hear your Bible stories. Thank you for teaching me about Jesus!! My love for you grew as I grew and spent more time at school and away from you, but you were always there showing me how to live. As you taught Sunday school, sang in the choir, and sat with us at church, I learned so much from just watching you. My love grew for you as I sat on your lap and you showed me how to sew on a button and to use a needle and thread to fix my pants. You will never know how much you helped me by teaching me how to make pancakes and cookies and other things, and even to do my own laundry. I was a hard day when you moved out but I knew it was for the best. As you got sicker, my love grew stronger. I missed having my mom around every day but I held on to what you taught me. My love continued even though I seemed to be distant for a while. It was hard seeing you change so much and when I would see you, my heart would break. I struggled seeing you slip into a silent world. I hope you saw us as we sat by your bed talking to you and praying. I hope you felt our love as we tried to take care of you the best we could. Mom, there are so many things I wish you could have been there for. The graduations, birthdays and wedding celebrations were not the same without you there. Your spunk and vigor of life were missed.

Mom, I will NEVER outgrow my love for you. As I got to hold your hand for the first time in years last week, I hope you felt my love for you, which began when you first loved me. I know that today even as I grieve your loss I am strengthened by your faith. I know that Jesus loves you and was at your bedside when none of us could be. I know that he held your hand when things were tough. I know that he called you his own in Baptism and that he loves you more than I ever can. Today you get to experience his love first hand as you join your parents at the feast of the Lamb. This is a sad but joyous day and I know that you would want us to dry up our tears and light up a good cigar and celebrate your newfound freedom in paradise. Mom, I love you with all my heart and I look forward to seeing you someday in heaven, and when I do I will wrap my arms around your neck and breath deep to smell your perfume and all will be right once again.
All My Love, Seth

On this Mother’s Day I am here to boldly proclaim that the curse has been reversed; the pain begun in the garden has been replaced by the peace and comfort found in the LAMB of God, Jesus Christ, who will never outgrow His love for us. 

He cares about you in the midst of your pain.  He will walk beside you when you feel alone.  He came so that the curse might be reversed.  Jesus became a curse for us as hung upon a tree.  He felt the curse of sin full on as the nails were pounded into his flesh.  The curse of the garden was upon Him, but the grave couldn’t contain Him. His light shines forth to dispel the darkness of this world and by His resurrection all who believe have been given life.
Back to our text from Revelation, “No longer will there be any curse.  The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.  They will see is face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  There will be no more night.  They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever.” (Revelation 22:3-5)

The curse has been reversed, the water of life flows and heaven is open. The darkness of this world has been replaced by the light of the LAMB and in Jesus we have Life Always and Mortality is Banished.  This is true for my mother today. 

As I remember her on this day I know that she has seen the face of Jesus, that His name was written on her forehead in the waters of baptism and she has life forever and mortality has been banished. 

The same is true for you. I know many of you are feeling the curse of sin, the pain of a crisis or catastrophe or chemotherapy or a coffin, but the problems that have plagued us from the garden will be no more.  The tree of life is given freely to us in Jesus. 

And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

The curse has been reversed for we have LIFE ALWAYS & MORTALITY is BANISHED.  On this Mother’s Day, give your mom a hug if you can, call her on the phone, or honor her memory and remember what awaits us all in paradise. 
 -Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, May 13, 2013

The One Year Bible- May 13th

Tom and Jerry, Super man and Lex Luthor, USC and UCLA, Coke and Pepsi, Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, APPLE and Microsoft; these are just a few of the great antagonistic relationships in pop culture. We all know a great rivalry when we see it; you have the “good” guy and the “bad” guy. You have drama, intrigue, verbal exchanges, misunderstandings and bad blood. One of the best rivalries in literature is found in 1 Samuel. We all know about David and Goliath but a much greater story is David versus Saul. This story has more twists and turns than an episode of General Hospital. There is deception and mistrust, attempted murder and slander. But once again it all points to our need for God and salvation through Jesus Christ. Samuel warned the people that having a king would bring hardship and pain but the people insisted on their own way. This story should serve as an example of God’s patience and mercy; for Jesus came to die for Saul and for David and for us as well. In this twisted tale we see David as the good guy but soon he will be the foil in another story unfit for the family channel. The good news is that in his patience God forgives us and loves us, even as we are mired in our own sin. As you read this tragic story, don’t forget that it serves a purpose to point us to Christ. On to the study…

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
This week’s readings focused on the beginning of the monarchy in Israel. God had finally allowed an earthy king but He said that it would be filled with some unexpected problems. The people still insisted and there were troubles. Saul was a man who had no equal. He was a head taller than the others and was good looking too.. Samuel reminds the people of what will happen to them under a king and gives them this warning, “But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, you and your king.” (1 Samuel 12:25 ESV) For those of you who remember the story this is exactly what happened. Many generations later the people were taken into exile and swept away. Only a remnant survived. Chapter thirteen begins a regular pattern that we will see when the Kings are discussed. “Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned for forty-two years.” (1 Samuel 13:1). The Hebrew text is rather vague here. It is unclear as to how old Saul was from this text or exactly how long he reigned (If you are reading the ESV you may have noticed the note in the text describing this). The one thing to note is the pattern. We will see this same pattern when each King is introduced. “X was Y years old when he became king, and he reigned for Z years." Saul seems to be doing OK until he gets a bit impatient. Saul ended up sacrificing a burnt offering himself without Samuel or a priest there, big mistake. Samuel tells Saul how foolish a thing he has done and then he drops the bomb, “But now your kingdom must end, for the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart.” Wasn’t it just a few verses ago that Saul was anointed king? The kingdom talk is about his line or family. And a few chapters later, “So because you have rejected the command of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.” God has decided to have the monarchy go to a different family, because of Saul’s sin. Now Saul will still to be king for a while and God will use him but the days of his kingdom are numbered. This will be different (and I am getting ahead of myself a bit) with David’s kingdom. God will promise that the kingdom of David will last forever. This will come to pass because Jesus will come from the line of David and fulfill this promise, as he is a king today and forever. After Samuel anoints David as the new king, a strange turn of events puts the old king and the new king in close quarters. A tormenting spirit filled Saul with depression and fear and he needed some comfort. The ESV translates it as an “evil” spirit and this is accurate to the Hebrew but we need to understand that this was not “evil” in the sense of being from the devil. Nothing “evil” comes from God. The idea here is that it tormented Saul to the point of frustration. One way that Saul dealt with this is to have music played in his presence. David ends up being the one to play his harp in the king’s presence and to be his armor bearer. This is no coincidence. Saul and David will have a long a tension filled relationship. The best word for it is “DRAMA”. Those of you with teenagers or remember those days know what I mean. Saul acts rather childish and the rest of his life is filled with drama. After the familiar story of David and Goliath we read that Saul and David returns victoriously to Israel and the people chant, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands!” This really gets Saul’s feathers ruffled. “And Saul eyed David from that day on..” (1 Samuel 18:9 ESV) This was the beginning of some violent interactions between David and Saul. I think Saul goes a bit nuts in his obsession with David and even lies on the ground naked all day once. One other great storyline is that of David and Jonathan. They became the closest of friends. They watched out for each other and I believe that their relationship can be a model for us today. Two other things caught my eye in my reading this week. Fist of all when Saul sends his men to David’s house to kill him he escapes and his wife tells them he is sick and in bed. In reality David is not in bed but it is a pillow with goats hair on top. This rouse gave David enough time to escape. Here I thought that the guys who escaped from Alcatraz had a new way of deceiving the guards and David did the same thing years earlier. This coming week we will get a description of the kind of people who were hanging out with David in the caves. The ESV describes them like this, “And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul gathered to him. And he became captain over them” (1 Samuel 22:2). Sounds a bit like the “sinners and tax collectors” that Jesus hung around with! It was really just a rag tag bunch of misfits.

The New Testament
John has an amazing way with words, even after it is translated into English. We read the account in chapter eight that is not in many of the Greek manuscripts. Why was it not there? It is hard to be certain, but I love the story that the section contains. The woman who was caught in adultery is guilty. By the law she is condemned to die. It is a powerful scene. Mel Gibson uses this scene in The Passion of the Christ and it is amazing. I wonder what Jesus was writing in dirt. Could it be that he was writing the sins of each of the people who had rocks in their hands? Whatever it was, the people left. I wonder how they felt? Were they convicted of their own sins or were they mad that they did not get to do what they wanted. At any rate it is a great story. Did you notice the “I Am” statements this week? The “I Am” statements in 8:24 & 28 occur in a section where people were trying to figure out who Jesus was. “Listen Up People!!! He is telling YOU!!” When he says “I Am” that is your clue. He says it again in verse 58. I guess I would have to put myself in their position. Would I be able to figure it out? I don’t know. I might be one of those who thought Jesus was a crazy guy. We also read some of the “I Am” metaphors. In chapter 8 Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 ESV) He uses the same metaphor again in chapter 9:5. The “I Am” statements keep flying out of Jesus’ mouth in. Jesus says “I am the gate” meaning that he is the only way into heaven. There is no other way for salvation. It is by him and through him that we are saved and enter the safety of the heavenly sheep pen. He also says, “I am the good shepherd”. Is he really a good shepherd? He leaves all the other sheep unprotected to look for one lost one. But that is the point. Jesus will do anything, even give up his own life in order to save the sheep. He knows all of the sheep and will sacrifice his life for each and every one of them. Jesus also spends a lot of time trying to show the relationship he has with the father. The disciples just don’t seem to get it. Jesus says that he and the father are one, and that he is doing the work of the father. These statements are found only in John. He uses them to give an analogy for the reader; to help us understand who Jesus is. They are wonderful statements that I am convinced Jesus said. Some believe that John was putting words into Jesus’ mouth in order to make a literary point. I disagree. I think Jesus knew what he was doing when John remembered these statements as he wrote his Gospel.

Bits and Pieces
We will move on to the book of 2 Samuel this week. It is basically the continuation of the same story but here are the vital stats of the book:

PURPOSES: To Record the history of David's reign; to demonstrate effective leadership under God; to reveal that one person can make a difference; to show the personal qualities that please God; the depict David as an ideal leader of an imperfect kingdom, and to foreshadow Christ, who will be the ideal leader of a new and perfect kingdom.
AUTHOR: Unknown; some have suggested that Nathan's son Zabud may have been the author; the book also includes writings from Nathan and Gad
SETTING: The land of Israel under David's rule
LAW THEMES: Barrenness; covetousness; neglect of fatherly duties; unfaithfulness; rejection of God’s rule; failure to keep God’s Word; rash vows; jealousy; divination.
GOSPEL THEMES: The Lord provides leaders; the Lord promises an everlasting kingdom and priesthood; victory in the Lord’s name; godly friendship; blessings through the tabernacle; David’s mercy.
KEY VERSE: "And David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel" (5:12)
SPECIAL FEATURES: This book was named after the prophet who anointed David and guided him in living for God.

Have a wonderful week!!!

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