Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bethany Bullet - February 25, 2014

The Fellowship Project
Paul wraps up his explanation of life in the body of Christ, The Fellowship Project, as we’ve dubbed it with the heart of Christian stewardship. 
V  We give to God because He gave His Son to make us His own
V  We give to God because our true identity is found in Him having us
V  We give to God because everything that is ours is naturally His because we are His! 
These truths are part and parcel to his declaration that “All things belong to you, you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.” 

The following Vimeo video segment is from our Bethany Blueprint Formation Group Series which explains the Biblical details and Christian responsibility of Proportionate Giving in approximately 7 minutes. 
·         Click HERE to view the video.
·         If unable to open link then copy/paste this into your browser: http://vimeo.com/62291532

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, February 24, 2014

The One Year Bible- February 24th

It seems like every year we get busier and busier. Life seems to add things to our plates on a daily basis. This past week I have been busy planning Bible studies, writing sermons, getting ready for Vacation Bible School, prepping for summer camp, as well as gearing up for Mission Alaska.  Right now time seems to be at a premium. To put it mildly, I am busy. The one constant this week has been my daily readings. I have managed to read every day and it has been a source of strength and a blessing for me. When you have days, or, weeks, or months like this I hope you will lean on the strength that you will find in God’s Word. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
Not much to talk about from a theological perspective on this week’s readings from the Old Testament. The big thing is the rules and regulations regarding offerings and health. Last week I gave you some info on the different kinds of offerings. Please refer back to that if you need to as we continue to read. The other thing about this week is the copious use of blood. I think we have talked about this before, but remember that this was a different time and culture. In our day, blood is seen as bad and possibly containing diseases. For the people of Israel the spilling of blood gave them life. This all points to Jesus and we have talked about that time and again. I got an email a few years ago at this time from someone who was reading The One Year Bible and I want to share the question and the answer with you:

Good Morning Seth,

In Leviticus 11:1-12:8 today the Bible states the following:

"And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you." What does it mean when God says it is unclean? Is it His law that we not eat pig or does it just make us unclean? This was interesting this morning as I did not know that God has commanded us to eat or not eat certain foods.

Any insight you could offer would be greatly appreciated.


My Reply:

I just finished that reading myself. The thing you need to remember about all these laws and regulations is that they are for the people of Israel in the wilderness as God is forming them to be his people. All these laws were not written for us in the US in the 21st Century. The reason that God placed some dietary restrictions on the people was two-fold. First of all many of the animals that were considered unclean had problems with parasites and other things that could make the people sick if they were not cooked or handled properly. God needed the people to be healthy. Secondly, many of these animals were used by the pagan people they would encounter in the Promised Land in their worship of false Gods. God did not want them to associate with them so he set them apart.

Fast forward to today...some people still follow these dietary laws but they are no longer required. The ceremonial law was fulfilled in Jesus and we now have freedom. This does not mean that we can abuse our freedom, but we are not bound to all of the requirements of the Old Testament Law. If it were so we would have many more things to do every day (like ceremonial washing, staying outside of the city until sunset if we are unclean, men not shaving beards, etc.) Rest assured that eating pork, or lobster, or a cheeseburger (all would be unclean in the OT) is OK. I hope this helps.

Pastor Seth

You may have had the same question and I hope this helps you as well. Please feel free to email me your questions or better yet make a comment on the blog, I will answer it and others can benefit from the discussion. You can always comment as “anonymous” if you would like.

The New Testament
The book of Mark is filled with miracles and parables. It is no wonder many point new believers to this Gospel. Mark lays out the evidence that Jesus is the savior of the world and Jesus proves it by his miracles. Jesus also is a good teacher and as all good teachers he uses the power of stories. Stories teach in ways that other words cannot. Stories captivate our imaginations, they take us to places we have never been, they can help us understand complex ideas. Jesus knew the power of story and he used it. In our reading for the 20th we see that “He did not speak to them without a parable.” (Mark 4:34a ESV). What better way to teach to a bunch of uneducated people. I think at times we have lost the art of storytelling in our Churches. We do a good job of it in Sunday School but we often forget it with Adults. I feel that we all can benefit from a good story and what better story to start with than the story of Jesus Christ.

I also want to address one historical point today. In the reading for Feb. 22nd we are introduced to King Herod. We have not seen that name since Matthew’s Gospel. What you need to know is that the Herod in Mark 6 is not the same one as in Matthew 2. A bit of history here; in Matthew 2 we are talking about Herod the Great who was the king of Judea, Galilee and other areas at the time of Jesus’ birth. He was the one who ordered all the baby boys killed to try to take care of the new king that was born. When he dies his kingdom is split between his three sons, Herod Philip II, Archelaus, and Herod Antipas. Herod Antipas was the ruler of Galilee and is the one who puts John the Baptist to death and is mentioned in Mark 6 (And Matthew 14). This is also the same Herod we will see in Luke 23 when Pilate sends Jesus to see him just before the crucifixion. We will see two more Herods. In Acts 12:1-24 we will see Herod Agrippa I who is a grandson of Herod the Great. Herod Agrippa I is the one responsible for killing the apostle James, who put Peter into prison and was killed by an angel. In Acts 25 and 26 we will see Herod Agrippa II who is the son of Herod Agrippa I. This is the Herod who Paul has a trial with before he is sent to Rome. If you didn’t follow all of that don’t worry. Just remember that we are talking about one royal family with the same name.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bethany Bullet - February 18, 2014

The Fellowship Project

We are God’s fellow workers and His field!  As His field, Christ has worked for and in us.  Now, as God’s fellow workers, our Lord will work with and through us. In Bethany Blueprint language we call this a commitment to worshipping faithfully, forming spiritually, serving passionately, giving proportionately, and sharing intentionally. 

As God’s fellow worker commit worshipping faithfully; the Lord is committed to being here in His house.  He is committed to speaking to you through His Word, listening to you in prayer, accepting you as you are, receiving your praise and adoration, hearing your confession, and declaring to you His mercy and absolution.  In response His co-workers are to commit themselves fully to the Lord via faithful, regular worship.

As God’s fellow workers commit to forming spiritually; the Lord is committed to not allowing His Word to return empty or void but to do what He intended for it to do IN you!  While not every passage may speak to you as equally powerful as others, every passage is God’s self-revelation, each text of Scripture is His communication and He is committed to revealing Himself through the Word.  In response His co-workers are to commit to reading their Bible, attending a study or small group. 

As God’s fellow workers commit to serving passionately; the Lord is committed to working in our world and in your life through Word, Sacrament, and His servants.  In response His co-workers are to commit to being God’s hands and God’s voice in the home and office, in the ministry of the church or the daily doings and seeing those they serve as the Lord Himself. 

As God’s fellow workers commit to sharing intentionally; Christ is committed to being with us to the very end of the age, to sending His Spirit to give us words to speak, and to placing us on a hill to shine for Him. In response His co-workers are to commit to reflecting word and deed the love of the Lord.   

As God’s fellow workers commit to giving proportionately; Our Lord is committed to providing daily bread, to blessing us with what He knows we need and in response His co-workers are called to commit to bringing an offering into His house.  Commitment to a proportionate gift begins with the recognition that all we have is His.  It continues with the understanding that through returning a first fruit portion thereof we glorify God as a generous giver and bless His body through the funding of ministry.  

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, February 17, 2014

The One Year Bible- February 17th

This is the 11th year that I have read through the Bible using "The One Year Bible" format.  It has been a profound blessing to me as I read God's powerful word daily and then write some of my thoughts and insights.  I will freely admit that over the years I have recycled many of my thoughts.  In doing so it turns out that this year I am a week ahead of myself in these posts.  So, to get us back on track I am not posting anything new this week, instead I will be honest enough to say please forgive me if you have done this study before and it seems like deja vu as you read my notes.  If this is your first time going through this study, well, I guess you know my secret.  Each week I do review my notes and make some updates etc.  Thanks for your understanding and for your commitment to reading God's Word daily and deeply. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bethany Bullet - February 12, 2014

The Fellowship Project
Paul has already established the foundation of “The Fellowship Project.”  In the body of Christ (contrary to human nature and our weakened wills) superiority is to give way to unity and ownership is to be replaced by fellowship.  In the body, harmony is not a matter of everyone agreeing with me!  Of course that doesn’t mean that there are no standards, no absolutes, and no truth. 
·         When God speaks – we affirm! 
·         When God commands – we obey (when we fail to do so we call it sin)
·         When God promises – we confess (when we fail to trust we call that false)
Yet, when God is silent we will not be strident and where God has allowed Christian Freedom we will not pass church law!

Building atop that foundation, Paul made clear the dichotomy that exists between faith and unbelief, between human nature and divine revelation – that the cross is non-sense to those who don’t believe, the cross is offensive to those who don’t trust but to we who believe the cross is the wisdom of God and the power of God.

The next building block in this (the Fellowship Project) is how we, who view the cross as the wisdom of God, will exercise spiritual wisdom ourselves in our own life. True spiritual wisdom is found in judging one’s self in light of God’s revelation and in loving others in light of God’s revelation.

True spiritual wisdom is found in judging one’s self in light of God’s revelation what we might call the necessity of the cross; and true spiritual wisdom is found in loving others in light of God’s revelation what we might call the sufficiency of Christ.

In my opinion, judging himself in light of God’s revelation is exactly what Paul does in vs. 3 of chapter 2.  “When I came to you, I was weak.  I was afraid and very nervous and I didn’t speak with persuasive intellectual arguments.”

The way Paul speaks of himself there you’d think he was Gomer Pyle or the teacher in Peanuts. 


Nothing could be further from the truth; Paul was a profound orator!  

Picture this…you’re traveling in a foreign country, you’ve come to the University town in which the intelligencia congregate you’re surrounded by, degreed philosophically minded people, and you want to tell them about Jesus (now mind you Jesus is a totally foreign concept to them for although they are educated, the person and work of Jesus has never been in their curricula.)  What do you do?

Paul gravitates toward their artwork and monuments; when he finds one dedicated to an unknown god he says, “I see good people that you are very religious, you even have a monument to an unknown god, what is unknown to you I can tell you about.  The God who made the heavens and the earth and every creature on it, He set the seasons and gave breath to its people…as a matter of fact even your own poets whom you educated folk have read have said, “we are his offspring”, well that God is not far off or uninvolved with us!  In fact, He wants all of us to turn to Him and have a relationship with Him and He has proven this through the sacrificial death of Jesus whom He has raised from the dead.
·         Sound like someone without rhetorical skills?
·         Does this sound like someone without persuasive intellectual arguments? 
·         Does this really line up with Paul’s self assessment? 
I believe these are the words of a man who knows that while he might be good with words and before crowds, he also knows that in and of himself he isn’t good with or before God. These are the words of a man who is judging himself in light of God’s revelation.

This is a testament to the necessity of the cross, it verifies our lost condition. 

The Fellowship Project comes to a crashing halt and the church ceases to be the body of Christ when her members begin believing that they are worthy of God’s call, that they have earned God’s admiration and that they dwell within His body based on their ability, performance, or work.  No matter how talented or brilliant we are, no matter how many degrees we have or from whence they come, regardless of how much we stand out from the crowd, in the Light of God’s revelation we can’t stand before Him on our own.  That is why Christ came!  That is the necessity of the cross. 

Judge ourselves in light of God’s revelation enables us to love others in light of God’s revelation as well.  Paul declares that such was his aim in I Corinthians 2:2, “…while I was with you I decided to know nothing but Christ crucified.”

While judging ourselves in light of God’s revelation flows out of fully embracing the necessity of the cross, loving others in light of God’s revelation flows from trusting in the sufficiency of Christ.  This begins by knowing that they (WHOEVER they are and whatever they have done) they are as precious to God as we are.  They, whoever they are, are as important to God as we are.  They, whoever they are, are as cherished by God as we are. 

Paul had every reason to wash his hands, start a new church, worry about the other congregated bodies and forget about Corinth, every reason but ONE: the sufficiency of Christ.  Were these folk a pain? Yep!  Did they offend? You bet!  Had they failed to be what they were called to be? No question!  Sound like people you know?  What do you do with folk like that?  Love them and serve them passionately because of the sufficiency of Christ.  

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, February 10, 2014

The One Year Bible- February 10th

Later this week we will start the book of Mark and right at the beginning of this Gospel there is a verse that jumps out at me, “News about him [Jesus] spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee” (Mark 1:28 NIV). Just think of the power of Jesus. Mark tells us “At once” everyone around knew about him. It reminds me of living in the Internet age. We can get information “at once” as soon as events happen. It is amazing how fast news travels. But what has happened to the good news about Jesus? Why is his fame not being spread everywhere? Well one reason is because the Devil doesn’t want it to. Satan is waging war against the good news of Jesus Christ and at times he seems to be winning. Satan is not happy that you are reading the Bible this year and he will work on your soft spots to get you behind and tempt you to give up. Don’t let his tricks get you down. You have the most powerful weapon in the fight, the Word of God. Remember that the battle belongs to the Lord and even though we may loose a few skirmishes here and there the ultimate victory is the Lord’s. Keep up the good work and fight the hard fight as you pick up the sword of the Spirit daily. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
The end of Exodus is just a foretaste of what is to come in the book of Leviticus. We will be taking a break from the narrative story for a while and read about many of the nuts and bolts of religious life of the people of Israel. We usually do not read these sections of scripture in Church so they may be brand new for you. Exodus ends with the building of the tabernacle and all the furnishings. This place (and later the temple) is the physical representation of Yahweh on earth. It is quite literally, God’s house. The building of this structure is important for many reasons. First of all, it gave the people something tangible in their relationship with God. Secondly, it was a place where God could interact with his people bringing mercy and forgiveness. Third, it sets up the life and ministry of Jesus. Jesus referred to himself as a temple that would be destroyed and build again in three days. Jesus himself came down to be a physical representation of Yahweh on earth. In John 1:14 we read, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” The word we translate at “made his dwelling” literally means that Jesus “tabernacled” among us. When Jesus came to earth he becomes another tabernacle, this one wrapped in flesh and poised to be the ultimate sacrifice for the forgiveness of the sins of the world. Now the tabernacle had its own purpose in the days of the Israelites, and the temple as well for that matter, but they both point to a greater tabernacle and temple in the person of Jesus Christ.

One other thing I want to do this week is give you an introduction on the many different offerings that are mentioned in Exodus and especially in Leviticus.

Burnt Offering: Leviticus 1; 6: 8-13; 8: 18-21; 16: 24 The burnt offering was for unintentional sin. This was a blanket sacrifice for wrongdoing in general. The price was a male bull, lamb or goat. It had to be a perfect animal, without defect. The poor could offer a pigeon or dove. The penitent would present the animal at the entrance to the tent, which housed the altar and the tabernacle. After presenting the animal, the sinner would place his two hands on the animal and thus, it was accepted as an offering for sin. Probably this act transferred the sin from the human to the animal, which paid the penalty and was sacrificed. They would kill their own offering and then the priests took over.
The priests bled the animal and cut it up ceremonially. The priests sprinkled the blood on the altar. Some of the internal organs and legs were washed. They then burned it whole on the altar. The aroma was said to be pleasing to God. The fire had to be continually burning and was never extinguished.

Grain Offering: Leviticus 2; 6: 14-23 Voluntary worship and thanks: A grain offering is just what it says. The grain had to ground into flour and could be put into loaves or cakes. Olive oil and incense were added to make a pleasing aroma when it burned. Yeast was forbidden for this offering. The cakes had to be salted. The offering was presented to the priests who burned a small portion of it on the altar. The rest was food for them and the Levites.

Fellowship Offering: Leviticus 3: 7: 11-34
A voluntary act of worship, thanks and fellowship: This is called a fellowship offering because the sacrifice is eaten communally instead of burned. Any clean animal, male or female could be offered. Bread, both with and without yeast, was also part of the offering. These were presented at the gate of the tent. The priests would sprinkle the blood on the four corners of the altar. The internal organs, the fat on them and the best part of the liver were burned as a food offering. The rest had to be eaten within two days or else it was burned also.

Sin Offering: Leviticus 4: 1-5: 13; 6: 24-30; 8: 14-17; 16: 3-22 Mandatory for specific sins: All of these offerings for sins are for unintentional transgressions. If you were guilty of premeditated infraction, these offerings didn’t help you. Your stature in the community determined the kind of sacrifice that you were required to offer. A young bull was required for the sin of a high priest or for a community sin. Leaders had to present a male goat. The common people could bring a female goat or a lamb. The poor were permitted to offer a dove or pigeon and the very poor could get away with a tenth of an ephah of fine flour. The bull’s fat was burned inside the camp but the rest was burned outside. Leviticus 5 records the sins for which a sin offering was required. These include unintentionally touching an animal that is ritually unclean, touching something unclean of human origin or making a careless promise.

Guilt Offering: (Repayment Offering) Leviticus 5:14 – 6:7; 7: 1-6 Mandatory for unintentional sin requiring restitution: This is a repayment offering for a sin committed against God, like holding back your tithe. A ram or lamb was brought to the tent to be sacrificed. The debt would have to be paid plus an additional twenty percent. These were the offerings outlined in the first seven chapters of Leviticus. God could forgive mistakes but intentional sins were another matter.

The New Testament
This week we saw the familiar words of institution as Jesus gives his disciples communion for the first time. Remember that meals were very important for the Jews and the connection that this new meal of remembrance first occurred during Passover is by no means a coincidence. Remember that Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience and this new covenant made in blood would ring a bell with all his readers. This would cut to the heart of any Jew, hearing about this because blood equals life. It is not in our culture to think of that. In fact when people outside of the Christian faith hear about being washed in the blood of the lamb, they get turned off from Christianity. I guess my point here is we need to watch how we word some things. To a Jewish audience, Matthew does the culturally relevant thing; when we share the message of Jesus we need to be careful not to offend or even gross out someone when talking about blood.

I want to say a few words about the Great commission that we will read later this week, and I hope not to loose you when I start talking about Greek grammar. First of all every time we translate the Bible from its original languages we loose something. The phrase “Lost in translation” is really true. At times when we translate into English we then, without thinking place certain rules and meaning based on sentence structure and word order. Unfortunately many people, myself included, have misinterpreted portions of scripture because of our cultural bias toward English. In reading the Great Commission in English it seems to be that Jesus is giving us a command (called an imperative) in the word “go”, but in the Greek this word is an adverbial participle, not an imperative. What is an adverbial participle? The action described by an adverbial participle is primarily directed toward the verb. This kind of participle is usually translated with an adverbial phrase. “While studying for his Greek final...” or “While going through the world...”. So we see in Matthew 28 an interesting grammatical sentence that if translated properly is very poor English. A very literal interpretation would be, “As you are going, disciple all the nations, by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things...” The only imperative in the Great Commission is to disciple others—literally to make them learners. How do we do it? Well, Jesus tells us, we are to baptize and teach. Again these words are not imperatives but the natural flow of what will occur by “discipling” others. Don’t even get me started on the NIVs use of the word “obey”. What a poor translation that is. We are to observe the things of Jesus through his word and actions and they serve as a guide. They are descriptive on how we are to live not prescriptive. I could go on about this one but we don’t have time here.

One quick thing about the book of Mark. As you read look for the extensive use of the word “immediately” (or similar phrases such as “at once”, they are usually the same word in the Greek). This is a book of action. It hits the ground running and never stops. It is a good book to read as we slug through Leviticus. It will give us some balance to our readings for the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Bethany Bullet - February 4, 2014

The Fellowship Project

Seahawk fans break forth in joy!  Oh Great Northwest rejoice!  Your time has come O land of coffee and grunge.  The 12th man is celebrating their victory from Super Bowl Sunday still.  Underscore THEIR victory.  Now mind you I know something about such boasts and this time next year I’ll be planning to do so again when the Steelers get number 7.  But I digress; the victory which sports fans boast in, is a victory mind you, that they played ABSOLUTELY NO ROLE IN WHATSOEVER.  They bought the jersey, cheered the team, watched the game(s), but they never stepped onto the field, blocked tackled, punted or passed, caught or carried; and yet for them, for that fan, the victory is theirs!

Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.  St. Paul’s declaration to the Corinthian congregation was that our boasting is to be based NOT ON what we’ve done, but in that through which we’ve won!  Something any football fan can understand. 

Many however, even the greatest sports fans, do have trouble understanding the spiritual illustration of the above principal.  That is why Paul calls the message of the cross “foolishness and non-sense.” The very notion that there is nothing I can do to make myself appealing to God and that God Himself must to do everything necessary to save us is not appealing to us by nature! God’s way of saving people is contrary to every reasonable plan we humans might come up with. He chooses to save creatures that have nothing to offer Him, who have totally offended Him and who have wholeheartedly turned away from Him.  He does so solely by His own action in Christ’s cross (that is “Paul shorthand” for Jesus’ perfect, holy and sinless life and for His innocent suffering and death).  That is why apart from Him we have nothing to boast of!  The difference from the Super Bowl boasting fan and the Christi-(f)-an’s boasting is that all the Seahawk fan has gained is boasting rights and gear to wear for a year!   

Through the cross (more specifically, faith in the crucified and risen ONE) we the, Christi(f)an, gain the championship itself; far greater than boasting rights that our team is the champ…is the right to boast we’ve become more than champions in Him.  
-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, February 03, 2014

The One Year Bible- February 3rd

This week’s readings have been filled with many of the most theologically significant passages in all of scripture.  I hope you have found that seeing some familiar passages in context helps in the understanding of them.  We have a lot to get to so let’s get on to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament:
This weeks readings begin with the most revered event in Jewish history—The Exodus. After the plagues, Pharaoh finally relents and lets the people leave. As the people are leaving, God blesses the people by having the Egyptians give the people of Israel gifts of gold, jewelry and other valuables. These “gifts” will come in handy a bit later in the story. We begin to see what will become a pattern for the people. They start complaining. We will read about their complaints over and over in the upcoming chapters. This pattern continues once they get into the Promised Land as well and eventually explodes into open rebellion from God. God continues to show the people mercy even though he does not have to. He would have every right to get rid of them all but in His love He doesn’t. While they are in the desert God gives the people instructions on how to live, how to worship, how to conduct business etc. This is really a time of learning for the people. God is preparing them to be a Nation. One of the most significant things that God gives them is found in Exodus 20 (coming up on February 4th). Here we have what many have called “The 10 Commandments”. In Jewish tradition they were never called “commandments”. They were always referred to as “The 10 Words” or “The 10 Sayings”. They are as follows:

1. I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt.
2. You shall have no other Gods but me.
3. Do not misuse my name.
4. Remember the Sabbath day.
5. Honor your father and mother.
6. Don’t murder.
7. Don’t commit adultery.
8. Don’t steal.
9. Don’t give false testimony.
10. Don’t covet.

Christians disagree about the numbering of the commandments because of a misunderstanding of what “The 10 Words” were all about. Many see the Ten Commandments as a list of laws and rules that the people had to obey. They are seen as only a message of the law. When we look at these from a Jewish point of view we see that all the “words” flow out of a message of the Gospel, “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt”. Because of what God has done first then we are able to do the other 9 things. It is like saying; “Because God led us out of Egypt, is merciful to us, remembered us and loves us we would never think of having any other gods, or misusing his name etc.” The numbering of the commandments differs between Christians as well. Some make two commandments out of “You shall have no other Gods” and “You shall not make any idols”. In the Lutheran tradition, we have divided “Do not covet” into two commandments. So what is the point of all of this? Are we doing something wrong? Not really. The numbering of the commandments is a side matter. The big idea here is that the commandments are really our response to what God has done for us (this is a very Lutheran way of thinking anyway). Because God loves us our response is to follow his law. Some get it turned around and think that because I follow God’s law then God loves me. This was the thought of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day.

In our readings this past week God gave instructions for the tabernacle and all of the furnishing that will go into it. This was to be a forerunner of the Temple that would be built by Solomon in Jerusalem many years later. It was a visible sign of God’s presence with His people. It was a place for sacrifice and a reminder of God’s law as well as his promises.

Another tidbit of foreshadowing comes in a warning that God delivers to Moses.  God said not to have any interaction with the people who possess the land they will be inheriting.  He said, “Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. Do not let them live in your land, or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you” (Exodus 23:32-33 NIV).  Eventually as the people enter the Promised Land they will not heed this warning and their involvement with the local people will cause problems for them for their entire history.  Remember this passage and see how this plays out in the weeks to come.

The New Testament
In our readings we see a few encounters that Jesus has with the Pharisees. As Jesus speaks the truth to them he only makes them more upset and fuels the fire to arrest and kill him. One of the more interesting things I have seen in our readings comes on February 3rd & 4th. On the 3rd we see Jesus restating the Law of Moses. When Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is he replies, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV). In a few short sentences, Jesus states the entire message of “The 10 words”. To love God with all your heart, soul, and mind is to have no other Gods, to not misuse the name of God, and to worship the LORD alone. To love your neighbor as yourself is to follow all the others. I find it fascinating that the very next day we see “The 10 words” in our Old Testament reading. I think the Spirit had something to do with this. Jesus also teaches quite a bit about signs of the end of the age. His main point is that we must be ready. Don’t worry about when it will happen or how it will happen, just know that it will happen and we must be ready. He makes his point clear with the story of the sheep and the goats.

We will start the story of the Passion this week and it will be good for us as Lent begins soon to read the whole story in preparation.  Take some time this week as you read the Passion account to ready your heart and mind for Lent this year.

Bits and Pieces

We will be starting two new books this week.  First off we will move into the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament.  A word of caution here, many people do well getting through Genesis and Exodus but Leviticus is a different story, it can be a brick wall for some people.  The narrative story takes a break for God to give some needed instructions to the people.  The book of Leviticus is not the easiest reading, but remember it is still God’s Word.  Be patient and remember that this is all part of the old covenant that has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  It may take you a bit longer to get through the readings but hang in there.  We will run into this again in a few of the prophets.  But for now, remember that we are not the primary audience of this book.  Put yourself in the context of the hearers and it will make some more sense to you.  Here are the vital stats for the book:

PURPOSE: To teach Israel how God shares His holiness with them and how they should live in His holiness.
SETTING: At the foot of Mt. Sinai. God is teaching the Israelites how to live as a holy people.
KEY VERSE: “Be holy because I, the LORD your God am holy” 19:2
KEY PEOPLE: Moses, Aaron, Eleazar (Aaron’s son)
KEY PLACE: Mt. Sinai
SPECIAL FEATURE: Holiness is mentioned more times (152) than in any other book of the Bible
GOSPEL THEMES: Cleansing; atonement; redemption; consecration; rest.
LAW THEMES: Uncleanness; sin requires a blood sacrifice; diseases resulting from sin; walking in God’s statues and commands.

We are also starting the Gospel of Mark this week.  I love the book of Mark and I suggest that this is a good book to start reading with a new Christian. Marks favorite word is “immediately”. He uses it often. Mark has been called the action Gospel or the Gospel to the Gentiles. Mark is believed to be the writer of Peter’s story.  Many scholars see the fingerprints of Peter throughout the book.  Here are the vital stats:

PURPOSE: To proclaim Jesus the Son of God, who calls disciples to repent, to believe the Gospel, and to bear the cross.
AUTHOR: John Mark. He was not one of the 12 disciples but he accompanied Paul on his first missionary journey (Acts 13:13)
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The Christians in Rome, where he wrote the Gospel
DATE WRITTEN: Between A.D. 55 & 65
SETTING: The Roman Empire under Tiberius Caesar. The empire with its common language and excellent transportation and communication system was ripe to hear Jesus’ message, which spread quickly from nation to nation.
KEY VERSE: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (10:45)
KEY PEOPLE: Jesus, the 12 disciples, Pilate, the Jewish leaders
KEY PLACES: Capernaum, Nazareth, Caesarea Philippi, Jericho, Bethany, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Golgotha
SPECIAL FEATURES: Mark was probably the first Gospel written. The other Gospels quote all but 31 verses of Mark. Mark records more miracles than any other Gospel.
LAW THEMES: Repentance; political and religious opposition; uncleanness; authoritative teaching; heard-heartedness
GOSPEL THEMES: The Good news; baptism; compassion; mercy; cleansing; authoritative teaching; ransom; Lord’s Supper

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