Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bethany Bullet - April 29, 2014

A Five Tool Christian – Open Heart

In baseball a “five-tool” player is one who has an arm like a cannon, can run like a deer, has a glove that gets everything, and can hit for both power and average.  Opening Day of the baseball season comes with hopes of a line-up filled with “five-tool” players. 

Easter is our Opening Day! 
V  Because the tomb was open so are the arms of God. 
V  Because the tomb was open so is the gate of heaven. 
V  Because the tomb was open so is a life of faith.

The life of faith both rests in and flows from an Open Heart. 

Thomas was familiar with the Easter message.  He had heard it over and over again.  For a whole week he had been bombarded with the Gospel message – familiarity ONLY bread contempt!  We don’t know when the Easter tradition began of responding to the words, “Christ is Risen!” with the words, “Christ is Risen, Indeed!”  I wonder if it was that first week.  Every time Thomas stood to stretch did someone say, “Christ is Risen!” Only to have another disciple respond in a loud voice, “He is Risen, Indeed!” 

As the candles were extinguished and sleep began to take hold of them one would whisper, “Christ is Risen!” and the rest before they slept would whisper in return, “He is Risen, Indeed!”  I don’t know, (but of this I am certain) for an entire week Thomas, who knew everything there was to know about Jesus throughout His entire ministry, heard clearly the Easter message about the resurrection.

One profound truth this obvious reality teaches us is that faith is NOT information (knowledge) about the Lord and what He has done.  Thomas had all the information in the world.  He had been with the Lord throughout His ministry.  He knew the exact moment Jesus was arrested and he was standing in the garden with Him when it happened.  He not only knew the location of the grave, he also wept with all who wept as they returned from the tomb in which their dead Master was hurriedly buried.  Now after 7 days of this, Thomas had become intimately familiar with their assertion of the resurrection! 

Faith is not knowledge about Jesus; nor does faith believe that the information one possesses is accurate. 

What Thomas doesn’t say upon hearing the disciples words are as important as what he does say!  Notice Thomas does not counter, “Do you hear yourselves?  This is lunacy!  Sure He survived a storm on the sea and escaped the crowd on several occasions – but no one survives a Roman crucifixion squad!  This is impossible.  IT DIDN’T HAPPEN; YOU’RE WRONG! HE ISN’T LIVING.  HE IS AND EVER SHALL BE …DEAD!” 

Why is it that Thomas doesn’t question the historical possibility of a resurrection?  

I believe it is because Thomas had witnessed a pair of resurrections previously! Most likely he was aware of a third as well.  The daughter of Jairus had her life given back to her.  Thomas was not in the room when it took place, whether or not Peter, James or John told the others were unaware…but how do you keep that kind of news to yourself?  Even if they did, even if Thomas didn’t know about it until he read about it in a fellow disciples Gospel,  He was with the Lord when Jesus stopped a funeral procession, opened up the casket and gave back to a widow her only son who had died.  Thomas was also a central figure in the Lazarus event.  He knew Lazarus had died, he knew that Jesus’ life was in danger, and he is the one who said, “Let us go with him that we may die with him.”  Then contrary to every law of nature, instead of a few more being buried and interred with Lazarus, the dead brother of Mary and Martha escapes death and exited the tomb, he (Lazarus that is) was Risen!  INDEED Thomas knew that to be true!  A historical factual resurrection was a historical factual possible reality when Jesus was around. 

Thomas doesn’t say you’re crazy, lying or deluded.  Because Jesus has done this before!  Resurrections and Jesus go together like – baseball and hot dogs!  Rather Thomas says, I WON’T BELIEVE.  Though I have knowledge, though I have evidence that historically these things can happen, and perhaps the evidence is even overwhelming that this one did happen, still I won’t believe it unless I see, unless I touch, unless…

Faith is not knowledge, it is not even assent that the knowledge possessed is actually true, faith is a personal conviction that what God has done, He has done for you.  I believe Thomas didn’t yet hold the conviction that it was for him.  The doubt wasn’t the knowledge about Jesus, nor the agreement about what God can do, Thomas knew that, what he lacked was a personal conviction that causes one to cry about Jesus, My Lord and My God!  Of course, today we recognize and celebrate that that is how Thomas’ recorded discipleship ended.  He didn’t say, “By golly you were right boys.”  Thomas final words were not, “Oh it is true!”  His story doesn’t end with an “Amen to what they said and what we all know will teach.”  No, Thomas’ story ends with a personal testimony, about a personal conviction that caused Him to cry in Jesus’ presence, “My Lord and My God!” 

Holy week, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday happened because God so loved the world, but faith, faith, is a conviction that HE LOVES ME! 
V  That His blood was shed on account of my sin! 
V  That His holy life was lived because my living has so often been unholy;
V  That His grace and forgiveness are for me because I need it as much as any doubter ever has!
V  Faith is a personal conviction that because HE rose I will rise and that because He lives I WILL LIVE in and through and for Him!

It is from an Open Heart, a heart opened by the Spirit that clings with confidence to the promises of God in Christ that each was met for all collectively but also for me personally; that the rest of the tools flow and we get in the game.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, April 28, 2014

The One Year Bible- April 28th

As you heard me say before, “I love the book of Judges”. I have always thought they should make this into a movie. Who wouldn’t want to see the left handed Ehud taking care of the Eglon who was taking care of business on the “throne”, or Samson killing 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey or tying 300 pairs of foxes together, lighting them on fire and setting them loose in the fields? And you can’t forget Gideon and the testing of God and the defeat of the Midionites with just 300 men. Or what about Samson…I think this would be a good task for Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame or maybe even George Lucas, but I digress...... On to the study.....

Seth’s Thoughts:

The Old Testament
I hope you are enjoying the book of Judges as much as I am. Some people get depressed when they read the book because it looks as if the people just don’t get it. They always seem to do evil in the eyes of the Lord and they get handed over to some group and they suffer. But I don’t think that is the point. The point of the book is that God takes care of his people. He loves them so much and he will do anything to save them. We still don’t get the point today. Thank God for sending Jesus to save us.

I want to spend some time talking about Gideon and Samson today. First of all the book of Judges spends more time on these two guys then the others. An angel who seeks him out chooses Gideon. A bit of knowledge would help here. Gideon is hiding. How do I know that? He is in the bottom of a winepress (think big barrel) threshing wheat to hide it from the Midianites. The angel comes to him and calls him a “Mighty Hero”. Of course Gideon tries to talk his way out of it (sounds like Moses). Gideon asks for a sign and he hurries home to get an offering. The angel then burns up the offering and Gideon believes that it was an angel from the Lord. End of story right....not so fast. Gideon seems to be convinced but he tests his appointment two more times with God. Again the point here is not to show how untrusting Gideon was, but to show how patient God is, he patient with us in all things. The rest of the story continues on this theme. God delivers the people with only 300 men so the people would not brag that they did it all themselves. One of the other problems the people get into is that they want an earthly king. They ask Gideon to be their ruler and they have problems. After Gideon died, one of his sons, Abimelech tried to be the king. This only leads to problems because God is the only king the people need. The people lose sight of this and the cycle continues. Eventually God will allow a king but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Samson is another judge that makes for good Sunday school stories. His great strength makes him a good hero. But as you read the story you find out that Samson has some personality issues. He has problems with women and his temper (good movie material). Eventually he is humbled and matures and God uses him to exact some judgment on the Philistines. At the center, these stories are about the mercy of God. He continued to show the people mercy when they did not deserve it. He shows it to us today as well.

The New Testament
We finished up the Gospel of Luke with the familiar story of the passion. The one thing that jumped out at me was in chapter 24. Jesus was walking on the road to Emmaus with some of the disciples and Jesus takes them to task about believing that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus seems a bit impatient but in verse 27 it says, “The Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” What a great teacher. He knew that they still did not get it but he proceeded to teach them. His patience is amazing. In our readings for May 3rd, Nicodemus comes (at night because he didn’t want others to know he was there) to meet with Jesus. During their discussion Jesus mentions a story from the Old Testament. We read this story back in March. The people did not do what God said and he sent snakes into the camp. Moses made a bronze snake and put it on a pole and the people were saved. Jesus takes this story and gives some new meaning to it. “And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.” And right after this is the famous John 3:16. You can’t tell me that the Bible is not one story!!

Bits And Pieces:
We will finish the book of Judges this week and read whole the book of Ruth. Here are the vital stats for the book of Ruth:
Purpose: To show that the Lord demonstrates His faithfulness by providing for Ruth’s family a redeemer, who secures the heritage among God’s people.
Author: Unknown. Some think it was Samuel, but internal evidence suggest that it was written after Samuel’s death.
Date Written: Sometime after the period of the Judges (1375-1050 B.C.)
Setting: A dark time in Israel’s history when people lived to please themselves, not God.
Law Themes: The frailty of life; God allows suffering; selfish disregard for family.
Gospel Themes: The Lord’s kindness; God welcomes the nations by grace; redemption; inheritance; the genealogy of Jesus, THE Redeemer.
Key Verse: “But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.’” (Ruth 1:16)
Key People: Ruth, Naomi, Boaz
Key Places: Moab, Bethlehem

We will also start the book of 1 Samuel. Here are the vital stats for this book:
Purpose: To reveal the Lord’s faithfulness toward Israel in establishing His rule through Samuel, Saul, and David, despite the peoples unfaithfulness.
Author Most likely Samuel himself
Setting: The book begins in the days of the judges and describes Israel’s transition from a theocracy (let by God) to a monarchy (led by a king)
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 Verses: “And the LORD told him, ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king....Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do’” (8:7,9)
Key People: Eli, Hannah, Samuel, Saul, Jonathan, David

Monday, April 21, 2014

The One Year Bible- April 21st

When I was in college I worked at Arrowhead Lutheran Camp for many summers as a counselor. Right out of college I was hired to be the program director at the camp. I was just a young kid but I had quite a bit of experience working with children. As a counselor I always struggled with finding ways to get my campers to go to sleep. Some other counselors told ghost stories or scary tales but those freaked me out too much. Quite by accident one night I began to read stories from the book of Judges. I started with Gideon. That took about two nights then I went to Ehud, Samson, Deborah and others. My young boys really enjoyed the blood and guts stories that weren’t too scary. I liked them because they also taught that God was in control. Some people have a tough time with the book of Judges because of its violent nature and that is fine, but if you look at the stories through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy you might get some understanding. The key thing to remember is that God has mercy on his people and shows his love to them by sending a judge. Not a judge that comes to condemn, but one that comes to save. Sounds kind of like Jesus doesn’t it? On to the study for this week……

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
As I have alluded to in the opening the book of Judges is all about God’s mercy. It seems like it is about his wrath with some blood and guts thrown in for good measure but when you really look at it you see a familiar pattern emerge with all the judges. We see this same pattern when Jesus is sent as the final Judge. Why was it necessary for the Judges to come anyway? Didn’t the people promise that they would be faithful to God? What happened to the promises they made? In the first part of the book we get the answer. “The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots.” (Judges 1:19 NIV) The story was the same with the other tribes. Reading a bit further, “The tribe of Manasseah failed to drive out the people….” Then the tribe of Ephraim failed, then Zebulen failed, then Asher failed, then Naphtali. Then Yahweh (LORD in all caps) sent his angel (some think this may be the pre-incarnate Christ) to talk to the people. Judgment was to be upon the people. “Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.” (Judges 2:3 NIV) This sums up the problems that the people will encounter the rest of the Old Testament. The people living in the land and their gods will cause major problems for the people. Remember this as we read the rest of the story this year. But the LORD (Yahweh) in his infinite mercy shows love to the people and sends help. The account of each Judge has a similar pattern. It usually begins with, The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, He turned them over to their enemies for so many years. Then the LORD raised up a Judge. The people followed this Judge and were saved. The land had peace for so many years. The Judge dies and the people return to their old ways and do evil in the eyes of the LORD. Get familiar with this pattern. This is some foreshadowing of the New Testament story of Jesus. We don’t have time to discuss each Judge (we will spend more time with Gideon next week) in detail so let me give you some highlights. Ehud is my favorite. He is left-handed. Why does the writer of Judges tell us this? He was able to smuggle his dagger into the presence of the king because, being left-handed he drew it from his right side. Most people carry their dagger or sword on the left side because they are right handed. Ehud was able to get close to the king and kill him because he was left-handed. You see, God uses all things for his good purposes. I also think it is funny that Ehud escapes through the outhouse in the kings chambers and the attendants are so embarrassed to disturb the king when he is in the bathroom. Some commentators even suggest that the king was actually sitting on “the throne” (the one in the bathroom) when Ehud stabs him (you see why young boys like this story?). The account of Deborah is good to show that God works through women as well. God raised her up as a Judge and she led the people in battle. In the story it was another woman, Jael, who took care of the evil Sisera. Talk about girl power (both the boys and some of the girls like this story). The story of Gideon is a bit longer and has some interesting insights for us. We will talk about him next week.

The New Testament
In our readings for this week we begin the story of the Passion. Luke makes an interesting comment about all the praise that Jesus is receiving on Palm Sunday. Some of the Pharisees tried to get Jesus to stop the celebration and Jesus says, “If they keep quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!” (Luke 19:40) This is an amazing statement. We have read in the Psalms that all creation praises the Lord, but here is proof that it can happen. Can you imagine if no one would praise God and then the rocks start to cry out? What a sight that would be!

Luke does a good job keeping the action moving in the story but there are some rather significant things to see when you dig a bit deeper.  When Jesus is before the high priest and is asked point blank if he is the son of God he says, “I am”. OK you say? No big deal? But, the words Jesus used are very important. When he says “I am” not only is he answering in the affirmative, he also is using the name God used when talking to Moses in the burning bush. Remember that God said his name was, “I am”. No wonder the High Priest and the others wanted Jesus dead after he had said this. Jesus goes in there and uses the name of God that the Jews to this day will not even use! Jesus was saying in no uncertain terms that he was the Christ, the promised Messiah. When we get to the Gospel of John we will see seven big “I am” statements from Jesus. Remember them when you read and pour into them the Old Testament meanings. 

Bits and Pieces

We will finish the Gospel of Luke next week and we will start the Gospel of John. As a quick note, the first four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are grouped together and are referred to as the synoptic Gospels. The basically have the same form and tell the same story. They probably leaned on one another for source material. John is its own animal all together. John is the only Gospel that mentions three different Passover celebrations, which is where we get the three-year ministry of Jesus. John does not have a standard birth story. John begins with creation, but more on all this next week. John also makes heavy use of metaphor. We will see Jesus referred to as the door, the lamb, the good shepherd, the gate, the way the truth the life, and others. Here are the vital stats for the book of John:

Purpose: To prove conclusively that Jesus is the Son of God and that all who believe in him will have eternal life.
Author: It is never actually mentioned but most agree that it is John the apostle, son of Zebedee, brother of James, called a “Son of Thunder”
To Whom Written: New Christians and searching Non-Christians
Date Written: Probably between A.D. 85-90
Setting: Written after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and before John’s exile to the island of Patmos
Key Verses: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:30-31
Key People: Jesus, John the Baptist, the disciples, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Jesus’ mother, Pilate, Mary Magdalene
Law Themes: Darkness; slavery to sin; condemnation; demand for signs; death; fleshly desire; unbelief; Judas’ example; spiritual blindness; unclean; command to love; the world’s hatred
Gospel Themes: Light; grace; truth; Baptism; Lamb of God; born or the Spirit; life; resurrection; Jesus’ flesh and blood; the Shepherd’s care; clean; forgiveness; God’s love; sanctification.
Key Places: Judean countryside, Samaria, Galilee, Bethany, Jerusalem
Special Features: of the eight miracles recorded, six are unique (among the Gospels) to John, as is the “Upper Room Discourse” (chs. 14-17). Over 90 percent of John is unique to his Gospel. John does not contain a genealogy or any record of Jesus’ birth, childhood, temptation, transfiguration, appointment of the disciples, nor any account of Jesus’ parables, ascension, or Great Commission.

Have a wonderful week!!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bethany Bullet - April 15, 2014

Get Off Your Donkey

Palm Sunday began at Bethany, a village a few miles outside of Jerusalem.  As the crowds were gathering for the most important feast of their church year, the sea of humanity splits and Jesus, atop a donkey, rides into Jerusalem as her King.

The Pharisees tell Him to dismount.  They say, in a way, “Get off Your Donkey” and quiet the crowd. “After all they are receiving you like a Royal. Worse yet, they are treating you as one who is Divine.”

The crowd has also appealed to Jesus, more or less, requesting that He, “Get off His Donkey” and teach the teachers a lesson, provide them the bread they’ve been wanting and kick out the Romans for good measure. 

Yet it is only One voice that Jesus will heed.  The Father who tells His Son to, “Get off His Donkey” and become Himself a lowly beast of burden.  So Jesus does dismount.  Not to claim throne but prepare a home…for His own.  Jesus bares the pride and injustice, the lust for power and arrogance at thinking one always knows best that so dominates humanity’s crowd.  The ones gathered at that Bethany and the ones who read this blurb from this Bethany.  Jesus came for the hard-hearted that are so quickly closed to the ways of God and the stiff-necked that so soon bristle at any “new” the Lord would do.

Jesus rides into our lives as King!  The King’s decree: “Get off your donkey!”  For we are so quick to get on our “high horse.”  “High horse” is a synonym for those desiring power and control.  When the term is used, it is to criticize folk for their haughtiness.  “The first riders of high horses didn’t see it that way; they were very ready to assume a proud and commanding position, indeed that was the very reason they had mounted the said horse in the first place.”  (John Wycliff) but Palm Sunday declares that being set apart as God’s holy people isn’t about.

While we are so quick to get on our high horses, Palm Sunday reminds us that being set apart as God’s holy people isn’t about being correct, but being right with God.  Jesus was and is King.  Jesus was and is Divine.  Yet proving He was correct wasn’t what the moment needed; rather providing us the means to be right with God is what and why His time was required! So Jesus “Got off His donkey.”

Ought not we, do the same?  The purpose of the church is not to be right!  But to be the means through which others become right with God!   Now, that doesn’t mean truth isn’t truth, that there are no matters that are black and white and that accuracy is unimportant!  But our calling isn’t to defend a position but to declare a Person.  One who is royal and divine at the same time and who rides into lives to bring mercy and eternity; to bring personal transformation and a personal relation with God Himself.

While we are so quick to get on our high horses, Palm Sunday reminds us that being set apart as God’s holy people isn’t about being elevated by others, but humbling yourself. Holiness isn’t about tooting your own horn but gladly wearing a thorn…crown that is.  Jesus let others toot the horn, the kids, the crowd, the rocks would have if need be.  But HE, He humbled Himself and got off His donkey.

Ought not we, do the same?  The purpose of the body is not to be lauded by others for who we are but to live for others because of whose we are. Sure it would be great to be known as the best church, the best author or preacher, or the member.  However, far more important that being settled firmly in place in an earthly kingdom, we are called to firmly setting our purpose in the Eternal Kingdom. 

Jesus did.  Palm Sunday could have been the climax to the Christ event.  Palm Sunday could have been the end.  Christ could have ridden atop that crest, took the throne and called it quits.  He would have had every right to do so and if He had it would have been the end for us.  It would have meant this is as close to heaven as we ever get.  It would have meant this is as close to holiness as we would come; a pilgrimage begun at Bethany to the One who lives in temples made of stone.  So Jesus “Got off His donkey.”

Ought not we, do the same?  We’ve not merely come close to Holiness; Holiness has drawn near to us. How near?  It flowed over you in Baptism, it fills your ears with the Words, and “for sake of one who got off his donkey and climbed onto your cross your sins are forgiven.”  It dwells in you through the Spirit of Holiness who lives in each of these temples of God reading these Words.

There is no denying that our natural desire is for a fiefdom, a principality, a throne and signet ring. Yet as new creations in Christ (declared Holy through faith) we are called to a holiness of life that sacrifices our little kingdoms that others might enter the Greater Kingdom – one from another place.  His calling won’t sound like the demands of the detractors around us, or the adoring applause of those beside or within us either for that matter.  Holiness of life that flows from the Holiness of faith will surely cost us power or prestige, control or comfort zones.  It bares others more than it cares for self, It seeks to give more than it seeks to gain, its priority is yielding authority to God not wielding authority over man.  The call of holiness of life proceeding from the holiness of faith is elegant and simple at the same time, to each declared Holy on account of Christ, to all who seek to follow in His holy way it starts as we, like HE who comes in the name of the Lord, Get off our donkey!

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, April 14, 2014

The One Year Bible- April 14th

I am not sure if I have mentioned this before, but I have been a big fan of the book of Psalms for many years. Remember, the book of Psalms was like the hymnal for the people of Israel. Unfortunately the tunes have been lost to history but the words are still there. I wish we had more time to dive deep into the Psalms and perhaps someday I will do just that, but every once in a while I want to highlight some things from this great book. This week I want to look at Psalm 86 (April 17). This is a Psalm of David and has some great words of comfort and also can serve to refocus us when things seem to going wrong. In verses 11 & 12 we read, “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.” I think that reading through the Bible from cover to cover is one way that God teaches us His way so that we might walk in the truth. There is just so much to learn from His word.
Lets get going....

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
Many of the readings this week were like a geography lesson. If you are like me it did not make much sense since the geography of the Holy Land is a bit of a mystery. The list of landmarks did not help me very much either. Please don’t get frustrated at this. The best thing to do is go to a map.  You may have one in the back of your Bible or you can do an image search on the internet.A map may help you visually see what we have been reading.

The geography of the Promised Land will be important later in the story. Eventually this land will become a kingdom under the rule of Saul. Things go well for a while but eventually the land is divided in two. The Northern Kingdom will have ten tribes, and the Southern Kingdom will have the other two (Judah, and Benjamin). Simeon will go with the North. This will be important later because the Northern Kingdom will be taken into exile never to return. A few years later the South will also be taken but some will return. This story points to Christ in so many ways but we don’t have the time to discuss this now. Trust me; we will discuss it later this year. One other note, the tribe of Dan will complain about their land and they will move out and head north to a city known as Dan. This is important because the city of Dan is in the far north of the kingdom and is part of a phrase we will see a number of times. When an Old Testament writer uses the phrase, “From Dan to Beersheba” they mean the entire land, since Dan is in the north and Beersheba is the city furthest south. Both places are on the map.

The New Testament
Jesus seems to talk a lot about money. To Jesus, money is something that can be used for good but it can also be used as something to be worshiped. Jesus said, "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate (remember our discussion of hate from last week?) the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (Luke 16:13 NIV) This was a direct attack on the Pharisees who loved money. The point is that God wants us to be faithful with the monetary blessings that we have been given but they are not to rule us and in reality become an idol that we worship. When Jesus talks to the rich young ruler, money is again an issue. Jesus tells him to sell everything he has and give the money to the poor. This man was not ready to give up his money. We all struggle with money. How much should we give away? How much is too much etc. Many of us are afraid if we do not save money we will not be able to survive. We sometimes forget the wonderful words of Jesus, "What is impossible with men is possible with God." (Luke 18:27 NIV) God will take care of us, we should not have to worry about money because we can focus on money and it will rule us if we are not careful.

Bits and Pieces
We will finish up the book of Joshua this week and begin the book of Judges. Here are the vital stats on the book of Judges:

Purpose: To present Israel’s declining spiritual state and the Lord’s mercy, by which He forgave them and held them together.
Author: Unknown, possibly Samuel
Setting: The land of Canaan, later called Israel. God had helped the Israelites conquer Canaan. which had been inhabited by a host of wicked nations. But they were in danger of losing this Promised Land because they compromised their convictions and disobeyed God.
Law Themes: Israel’s failure to conquer the Promised Land; transgression of the covenant; cowardice; idolatry; unfaithful Levites; doing what is right in one’s own eyes.
Gospel Themes: The Lord provides saviors and judges; the Lord answers Israel’s cry for help; the angel of the Lord; the Spirit of the Lord.
Key Verse: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” (17:6)
Key People: Othniel, Ehud (my favorite Judge), Deborah, Gideon, Abimelech, Jephthah, Samson, Delilah Special Feature: Records Israel’s first civil war

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