Monday, November 30, 2015

The One Year Bible- November 30th

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

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

On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

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

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

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

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

Bits and Pieces

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

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

Here are the vital stats for the book of Amos:

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

And the vital stats for Obadiah:

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

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

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

Here are the vital stats for the book of Jude:

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

And the vital stats for the book of Revelation:

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

SPECIAL FEATURES: Revelation is written in “apocalyptic” form—a type of Jewish literature that uses symbolic imagery to communicate hope (in the ultimate triumph of God) to those in the midst of persecution. The events are ordered according to literary, rather than chronological, patterns.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Bethany Bullet - Week of November 22, 2015

Jesus is a King

In pursuit of World Championship Royals fans followed a #TakeTheCrown.  We’ve been following one (at least if you follow me on twitter) #UnlikeAnyOther is King Jesus

Take the Crown; it is what Jesus was cheered on to do often in His life. That was how the ministry of Jesus began. After His baptism He went to the desert where the devil offered Jesus a deal, “bow down and worship me and all the kingdoms of the world shall be yours.”  Yet, Jesus refused for He would NOT take the crown the easy way – a deal with the devil.

Later on during His public ministry, after the only miracle of Jesus’ recorded in all 4 Gospels (save the resurrection) – when He fed 5000 people and they in turn sought to make Jesus King by force.  Yet Jesus however slipped through the crowd and disappeared, for he would not take the crown the revolutionary way – a coup d’état.

When before Pilate He was questioned about His royal status, “Tell me are you?”  “If my kingdom were of this world my servants would fight for my coronation.”  Jesus’ reply should that He would not take the crown the old fashion way – force of arms.

On the cross He would breathe His last, what appeared to be an utter defeat proved to be complete victory, that which looked like loss to tyranny was coronation to Royalty – the prince of this world stood condemned and the rule and reign of Jesus was validated!  He took the crown, not the easy way, not the revolutionary way, not the old fashion way – but the humble way, the servant way, the divine way.

While the crown is His, He bestows it on us and we in turn are called to TakeTheCrown.  You didn’t get it the easy way, the revolutionary way or old fashioned way, but the humble way – admitting you don’t deserve, haven’t earned it and could never merit it.  You’ve received it the servant way, Trust that He took your place.  You’ve received it the divine way – by the grace of God

So princes and princesses who shall reign with Christ the crown is yours – however – it’s not yours to keep but to take.  #TakeTheCrown – that is, bring the king to others through lives of humble service.  It is the divine way; our Lord’s way; feeding hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the lonely, praying for the enemy, suffering for righteousness sake, so that He who rules and reigns over and rules and reign in us - might rule and reign in all – and the pursuit beings as we Take The Crown.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

The One Year Bible- November 23rd

The Holiday season is in full swing and now more than ever your Bible reading time may be impacted. With so many things to do and gifts to buy it is easy to forget your readings for the day. If this happens don't worry. First of all you may need to be even more deliberate in your planning for time in the word and if you fall behind remember my easy rule, just read two a day until you catch up. Don't kill yourself trying to get all the readings done in a day. Maybe you can take your Bible to the mall and take a shopping break and do some reading. This could be a great witness of your faith and may even spark a discussion with someone else. You can tell them about the real meaning of the season. Speaking of shopping, this may be the time to think about next year and your Bible reading habits. Perhaps you want to do this again but this time read a different version. I will be doing this same study in 2016 so you can do it again with me if you would like. Here is another idea. Ask a friend of yours to read with you. You can look at each week’s study and then talk about it over coffee or lunch or even via email. There are many ways to continue this great habit you have begun. You could also look at reading a book like “The Story” that uses just the narrative of the Bible text to tell the chronological story found in Scripture.  I will keep trying to motivate you as we hit the stretch run and push on through to 2016 but for now, on to this week’s study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
We finished up the last part of Ezekiel with the end of the vision of the New Jerusalem and Ezekiel gave a reminder to the people of God's commands including the keeping of the Passover. Ezekiel makes reference again to the three fold promise that was given to Abraham when the land was again divided among the tribes. Ezekiel ends with a sense of hope and looking forward to the return of the remnant back to Jerusalem. But it doesn't stop there. The hope of a continued future for God's chosen people goes beyond the return and into the future where there will be an even greater Jerusalem. I think we talked about this before but I will say again, to remember this vision of Jerusalem, because we will see a very similar one in the book of Revelation.

The book of Daniel once again picks up the narrative story of the people of Israel in captivity in Babylon. We see four important characters right away, Daniel, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego). These were all young healthy men that were put into the service of King Nebuchadnezzar. They all had special gifts from God, "To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds." (Daniel 1:17 NIV). The story reads like a novel and is easy to follow. There are some great Sunday School stories in its pages as well. One thing that struck me this time was that the story of Daniel has a lot of parallels to that of Joseph. Both of them were sent to a foreign country under duress. Both interpreted dreams. Both became important political members in their new country. Many of the other stories are familiar to us such as the fiery furnace, the hand writing on the wall and Daniel and the Lions Den. Each story seemed to point to the fact that God was still involved and cared about his people. He was active in creation and wanted the whole world to bow down and worship him.

The New Testament
So many great visuals to use when reading 1 and 2 Peter; for example the living stones (1Peter 2:5) reference really hits home with me. We are all just one piece of the puzzle that is part of the spiritual temple that is the church. We may look different and have different strengths and weaknesses but we are all important. Peter likes to use many references from the Old Testament in his letters. He uses them in great ways. Peter reminds us that we are aliens and strangers (1 Peter 2:11 NIV) and we are to conduct ourselves in a manner that will honor God. We must always love on another and not worry when we suffer, and we will suffer. Peter makes the connection between Noah and baptism in 1 Peter 3. This is important because it gives us an Old Testament story to describe a New Testament activity. This gives more substance to the teachings of the New Testament. The book of 2 Peter talks a lot about our response to God’s promises (2 Peter 1:5). As Christians we are not called to static, stoic lives. We are called to action in response to what God has already done for us. We must now work hard in the life we have been given, knowing that God will take care of us. Peter also gives us a glimpse of the spiritual war that rages beyond Earth. In 2 Peter 2 he references hell where the angels that sin were sent to. We never get a full picture of this struggle, but we know it was bad and nothing we want to be a part of. One of the greatest parts of 2 Peter is when he writes, But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8-9 NIV). There were some in Peter’s day (and in our day as well) that can’t seem to wait until Jesus returns. They think he should have come back a long time ago. Peter wants to tell these people that it is not that God has forgotten; it is just that he wants as many people to be saved as possible. The longer he waits the more people will be in heaven. How long will he wait? Only he knows. Praise God for his patience!!!

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We will finish up Daniel this week and move on to the book of Hosea. We will really start getting through the books in a hurry coming up. Here are the vital stats for Hosea:

PURPOSE: To illustrate God’s love for his sinful people
AUTHOR: Hosea son of Beeri (“Hosea” means “salvation”)
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Israel (the northern Kingdom) and God’s people everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: Approximately 715 B.C. recording events from about 753-715 B.C.
SETTING: Hosea began his ministry during the end of the prosperous but morally declining reign of Jeroboam II of Israel (the upper classes were doing well, but they were oppressing the poor). He prophesied until shortly after the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C.
KEY VERSE: “The Lord said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another adultress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods.’” (3:1)
KEY PEOPLE: Hosea, Gomer, their children
KEY PLACES: The northern kingdom, Samaria, Ephraim
SPECIAL FEATURES: Hosea employs many images from daily life—God is depicted as husband, father, lion, leopard, bear, dew, rain, moth, and others. Israel is pictured as wife, sick person, vine, grapes, early fruit, olive tree, woman in childbirth, oven, morning mist, chaff, and smoke to name a few.

The New Testament
We will read through 1 John and get into 2 John this week. First the vital stats on 1 John:

PURPOSE: To reassure Christians in their faith and to counter false teachings
AUTHOR: The apostle John
TO WHOM WRITTEN: This letter is untitled and was written to no particular church. It was sent as a pastoral letter to several Gentile congregations. It was also written to all believers everywhere.
DATE WRITTEN: Probably between A.D. 85 and 90 from Ephesus
SETTING: John was an older man and perhaps the only surviving apostle at this time. He had not yet been banished to the island of Patmos, where he would live in exile. As an eyewitness of Christ, he wrote authoritatively to give this new generation of believers assurance and confidence in God and their new faith.
LAW THEMES: Sin; walking in darkness or light; God’s commands; hatred; death; deceit; antichrist(s); love one another; lawlessness; deceivers; wicked works; imitate God, not evil.
GOSPEL THEMES: Christ, the atoning sacrifice; our advocate; eternal life; God perfects His love in us; light; born of God; children of God; truth; fellowship;  reward; abiding in Christ’s teachings; Christ has come in the flesh.
SPECIAL FEATURES: John is the apostle of love, and love is mentioned throughout this letter. There are a number of similarities between this letter and John’s Gospel—in vocabulary, style, and main ideas. John uses simple words and brief statements, and he features sharp contrasts—light and darkness, truth and error, God and Satan, life and death, love and hate.

And here are the vital stats for 2 John:
PURPOSE: To emphasize the basics of following Christ—truth and love—and to warn against false teachers
AUTHOR: The apostle John
TO WHOM WRITTEN: To “the chosen lady” and her children—or possibly to a local church, and all believers everywhere.
DATE WRITTEN: About the same time as 1 John around 90 A.D. from Ephesus
SETTING: Evidently this woman and her family were involved in one of the churches that John was overseeing—they had developed a strong friendship with John. John was warning her of the false teachers who were becoming prevalent in some of the churches.
LAW THEMES; see above
GOSPEL THEMES: see above

KEY VERSE: “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love” (verse 6)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Bethany Bullet - November 17, 2016

Jesus: Unlike Any Other Series…Priest                     Text: Hebrews 7 and Mark 12:39-40

A Priest Unlike Any Other
We continue our series titled “Unlike Any Other.” Today we look at the Priestly office of Jesus and we will see how Jesus is a Priest like no other.

For the people of Israel, the priest was the most important person in society.  The priest was the go-between, the one who was able to secure the forgiveness of sins and to appease a holy and righteous God. 

The office of priest began with Moses and Aaron, from the tribe of Levi and for generations the Levite family served the Lord in the Tabernacle and in the Temple and served the people by offering sacrifice that brought forgiveness. 

Sacrifice is a messy business.  It was a something that happened over and over again.  The priests spent their days offering the blood of bulls and lambs, pigeons and sheep, pouring out the life of another for the sins of the people. 

The book of Leviticus chronicles the activity and we don’t need to go into details but suffice it to say sacrifice was something that happened often.

One day a year (the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur) the high priest would enter the holy of holies, the inner part of the tabernacle, then the temple, and would offer a sacrifice for his own sins and the pour out a sacrifice upon the mercy seat for the forgiveness of the people.  This was the only way that sinful people could be made right in the eyes of God.

The repetition of sacrifice was at the heart of the life of the priests.  There was a constant flow of animals and blood in an attempt to satisfy the wrath of God himself. 

From the time God gave his law to Moses on Mount Sinai until the destruction of the Temple in 70AD countless priests served innumerable offerings.

But these priests were sinful humans like the rest of us.  The book of Hebrews gives us a great picture of the work of a priest and we will use a few passages in this book as our text this today. 

In Hebrews chapter 5 we read the following, “Every chief priest is chosen from humans to represent them in front of God, that is, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin.  The chief priest can be gentle with people who are ignorant and easily deceived, because he also has weaknesses.  Because he has weaknesses, he has to offer sacrifices for his own sin in the same way that he does for the sins of his people.” (Hebrews 5:1-3)

The Old Testament sacrificial system was set in place to bring forgiveness to the people but the writer of Hebrews tells us that it was also to prepare humanity for something even better. 

In Hebrews chapter 7, we are re-introduced to the character of Melchizedek who “was king of Salem and priest of the Most High God.” (Hebrews 7:1)

Melchizedek is a different kind of priest.  Not a Levite, but a priest none-the-less and a king as well.  “If the work of the Levitical priests had been perfect,” the writer of the book of Hebrews says, “we wouldn’t need to speak about another kind of priest.” (Hebrews 7:11)

The priests of the Old Testament had the problem of sin.  Their own sin made their position only temporary.  Another kind of priest was necessary. 

The requirements are laid out for us from Hebrews 7, verses 26 and 27, “We need a chief priest who is holy, innocent, pure, set apart from sinners and who has the highest position in heaven.  We need a priest who doesn’t have to bring daily sacrifices as those priests did…Jesus brought the sacrifice for the sins of the people once for all when he sacrificed himself.” (Hebrews 7:26-27)

And from Hebrews 10, “Every day each priest performed his religious duty.  He offered the same type of sacrifice again and again.  Yet, these sacrifices could never take away sins.  However, this chief priest made one sacrifice for sins. And this sacrifice lasts forever.” (Hebrews 10:11-12)

Jesus is a priest like no other.
·        Unlike the priests of old who had to atone for their own sins first, Jesus had no sin to atone for.
·        Unlike the sacrifices of old where repetition was required, Jesus’ sacrifice was once for all.
·        Unlike the priests of old who used other things for the offering, Jesus was the offering for others. 
Jesus is your high priest like no other, and He is also the sacrifice. 

Sacrifice is messy business as He offered himself on Calvary’s cross; it was His own blood that was poured out.  He was the willing sacrifice so that your sins would be covered.  He gave all He had as an offering so that we might have the riches of heaven. 

His work on the cross, once and for all, satisfied God and your sin has been forgiven.

We find in 1 Peter chapter 2 the following,  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

Those who are in Christ are a royal priesthood, but it is not to make sacrifice as before but as the Lutheran Confessions say, “We teach that the sacrifice of Christ dying on the cross has been enough for the sins of the whole world.  There is no need for other sacrifice as though Christ’s sacrifice were not enough for our sins.  So people are justified not because of any other sacrifices, but because of the one sacrifice of Christ…So they are now called priests, not in order to make any sacrifices for the people…rather they are called to teach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments to the people.” (Ap XIII 8-10)

For all of the times you tried to do it on your own, for all the times you walked away, for the times you gave in to doubt or sought the trappings of fame and fortune at the expense of others.  For every sin you have ever done, those you know of, and those you don’t, Jesus served as your priest and by his own blood cleanses you from your sin. 
Jesus is a priest like no other as He also is the sacrifice. 

His blood is once again poured out for us here this morning.  As Jesus, our High Priest gives us his body and his blood in, with, and under the bread and the wine he gives to us his righteousness, he forgives all our sins and opens the very gates of heaven for us all.

He is a priest like no other and the very Lamb of God.

For many of us who grew up in the Lutheran Church there is a portion of the older liturgy called the Agnus Dei or “Lamb of God.”  It was sung as part of the preparation for communion where Jesus once again promises to be present with his people as priest.  Follow this link to hear the music for this part of the liturgy:

Oh Christ the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.  Oh Christ the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.  Oh Christ the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, grant us you peace. Amen.

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, November 16, 2015

The One Year Bible- November 16th

With thankful hearts, family events coming up, the anticipation of Advent and eyes cast upon Christmas it may be hard to find time this holiday season to read your Bible every day. It seems that every year there is more to do and less time for our own interests. Make sure you have a plan before your time runs short and you find yourself so busy with holiday preparations that other things don’t get done. Make sure that you carve out (pun intended) some time each and every day to spend time in God’s word. On to the study…

Seth’s Thoughts
The Old Testament
The book of Ezekiel is winding down. This week we got to probably one of the most famous parts of his prophecy, that is the Valley of the Dry Bones. From Kieth Kuschel’s commentary on Ezekiel:

The faith of the child of God is constantly threatened by two opposing dangers: overconfidence and despair. It was to the second of these dangers that God’s message in Ezekiel 37 is addressed. In the previous chapter God had assured his people that the exiles now in Babylon were not forever gone, but that “they would soon come home” (38:8). God’s people were so depressed by their situation, however, that they found it difficult to believe God’s promise. They said: “Our hope is gone; we are cut off” (37:11). To reassure his people God granted Ezekiel a remarkable vision: the vision of the valley of the dry bones. God’s question of Ezekiel—“can these bones live?”—normally would have been answered in the negative. Ezekiel’s reply was interesting. He said, “Only the Person who made all those bones could make them alive.” Only the God who made man from the dust of the earth could make something living out of that valley full of bones which represented the whole community of exiles. The Lord promised to do for these bones just what he had done for the dust formed into a body in Eden: “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). At the Lord’s command, Ezekiel prophesied to lifeless bones and a miracle happened. There was a rattling noise as bone came together to bone. To Ezekiel the valley seemed no longer to be full of disconnected bones but of skeletons. God’s miracle continued, “Tendons and flesh appeared on them.” Now the valley resembled a battlefield littered with corpses. But God’s miracle was still not over. At God’s command Ezekiel continued to prophesy, and breath entered that army of corpses, and they came to life and stood up. Through a vision Ezekiel saw how God would re-create his people now apparently hopelessly lost in Babylon. Ezekiel carried out his orders and the Lord kept his promise. This ought to be a description of our lives: We carried out the Lord’s orders and the Lord carried out his promises. Knowledge that we are doing the Lord’s will in our lives is what takes away the boredom and drudgery. We are not just working for a paycheck. We are serving God and supporting our families as God expects. We are not just studying. We are using our minds to the maximum capacity because the Lord has called us to be good managers of our intellect. We are not just taking care or the kids. We are shaping the souls of God’s own children by letting them learn of Jesus from the way we talk and act. And the Lord keeps his promise, just as he did when Ezekiel preached to those dry bones as he was instructed to. After Jerusalem had fallen and the rest of the nation had joined them in exile, the Jews in Babylon had given up hope. “As a people and a nation we are just as good as dead.” they said. To which the Lord replied, “I can change that. I can raise you from the dead! I can return you to your land. Nothing is impossible for me.” This vision of the dry bones might have been the basis for the New Testament picture of the spiritual status of all people. St. Paul, for example, wrote, “You were dead in your transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). By nature everyone is spiritually dead, unable to do anything pleasing to God. But in his might and mercy the Lord has made us “alive with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4). This makes it possible for us who were “foreigners and aliens,” exiled from God because of sin, to become “fellow citizens with God’s people” (Ephesians 2:111-13, 19).

The New Testament
James is one of those books that has a checkered past in the history of the Church. It was one of the books that underwent a tough fight before it found its place in the New Testament. Many of the objections to the book revolve around the issue of good works. From a quick reading, it does seem like the book preached a faith and works salvation. This problem cannot just be swept away easily. Martin Luther called James an “epistle of straw”, meaning that it had not much substance or worth according to him. This viewpoint has not been held tightly even in the Lutheran church, although many of the teachings of the book are very difficult to translate. The one big way to help bring about understanding, at least for me, is to think of the works portions as a natural result of faith. When we look at good works as the logical outcome of living a life of faith then it is only natural to think that if there are no works there must not be true faith. I don’t know if this helps you or not but it works for me. Another way to help is by reading the book of James through Ephesians 2:8-10, “For it is by Grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

From The Life Application Bible intro to the book of James:
Genuine faith will inevitable produce good works. This is the central theme of James’s letter, around which he supplies practical advice on living the Christian life. James begins his letter by outlining some general characteristics of the Christian life (1:1-27). Next he exhorts Christians to act justly in society (2:1-13). He follows this practical advice with a theological discourse between faith and action (2:14-26). Then James shows the importance of controlling one’s speech (3:1-12). In 3:13-18, James distinguishes two kinds of wisdom, earthly and heavenly. Then he encourages his readers to turn from evil desires and obey God (4:1-12). James reproves those who trust in their own plans and possessions (4:13-5:6). Finally, he exhorts his readers to be patient with each other (5:7-11), to be straightforward in their promises (5:12), to pray for each other (5:13-18), and to help each other remain faithful to God (5:19,20).

This letter could be considered a how-to book on Christian living. Confrontation, challenge, and a call to commitment awaits you in its pages. Read James and become a doer of the Word (1:22-25).

Bits and Pieces
The Old Testament
We will finish up Ezekiel this week and start on the book of Daniel. Here are the vital stats for Daniel:

PURPOSE: To give a historical account of the faithful Jews who lived in captivity and to show how God is in control of heaven and earth, directing the forces of nature, the destiny of nations, and the care of his people.
AUTHOR: Daniel
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The other captives in Babylon and God’s people everywhere.
DATE WRITTEN: Approximately 535 B.C., recording events from about 605-535 B.C.
SETTING: Daniel has been taken captive and deported to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 B.C. There he serves in the government for about 60 years during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus.
KEY VERSE: “He [God] reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him” (2:22)
LAW THEMES: Babylon holds Judah captive; Judah has failed to obey God’s voice and has violated God’s covenant; open shame; apocryphal events, including the profaning of the temple and the abomination that makes desolate; God’s final judgment of mankind; everlasting contempt.
GOSPEL THEMES: The Most High God rules the kingdom of men; He keeps his covenant; mercy for the oppressed; His Anointed One will rule a kingdom that shall never be destroyed; an everlasting dominion; everlasting life.
KEY PEOPLE: Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, Shadrach, Mexhach, Abednego, Balshazzar, Darius
KEY PLACES: Nebuchadnezzar’s palace, the fiery furnace, Belshazzar’s banquet, the den of lions.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Daniel’s apocalyptic visions (chapters 8-12) give a glimpse of God’s plan for the ages, including a direct prediction of the Messiah

The New Testament
We will finish up 1 Peter and get into 2 Peter this week. Here are the vital stats for 2 Peter:

PURPOSE: To warn Christians about false teachers and to exhort them to grow in their faith in and knowledge of Christ
TO WHOM WRITTEN: To the church at large, and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 67, three years after 1 Peter was written, possibly from Rome
SETTING: Peter knew that his time on earth was limited (1:13-14), so he wrote about what was on his heart, warning believers of that would happen when he was gone—especially about the presence of false teachers. He reminded his readers of the unchanging truth of the gospel.
KEY VERSE: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and goodness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (1:3)
LAW THEMES: Exhortations to virtue; warnings against false prophets; ignorance; nearsightedness; forgetfulness; fiery judgment; destruction of the ungodly.

GOSPEL THEMES: God’s sure Word; the Spirit’s work; Christ cleansed us from our former sins; eternal kingdom; God promises new heavens and a new earth; God does not wish any to perish. 
SPECIAL FEATURES: The date and destination are uncertain, and the authorship has been disputed. Because of this, 2 Peter was the last book admitted to the canon of the New Testament Scripture. Also, there are similarities between 2 Peter and Jude.

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