Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Bethany Bullet - for the Week of January 24, 2016

“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”  (I Peter 2:9-10)

This past Sunday following worship we held a congregational information meeting about proposed improvements, changes and enhancements to our facility at Bethany.  It would have been possible for some to think it ironic that we held a meeting about our facility minutes after our children sang in worship, “the church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place, the church it is a people.”

Indeed, the church is a people; not just any people either!  The church is a “chosen people”, a “people called out of darkness”, a “people who’ve received mercy”, a “people who belong to God.”

One of the primary ways we as the “people belonging to God” continue to: grow in the conviction that we are “chosen and holy” because of Jesus, assist each other in “offering praises to God” and equip one another to be the means through which God “calls others from darkness or bestow upon them mercy” is through a ministry that originates at a building. 

The church, people and building alike, exists not only for those who belong to God; it exists just as much for those who are “not a people” but God willing and under God’s blessing shall become “people belonging to God.”  This most often happens through a ministry that welcomes and sends, assembles and propels, gathers and scatters people to and from a building.  

Yes the church is a people.  We, the people of Bethany who belong to God, have a building that belongs to us.  While we don’t have a steeple so to speak, we do have a cross tower.  Our facility is in need of some care.  We have many deferred maintenance issues and a host of things that must be addressed.  We also have the potential to make some changes that, while having minimal overall impact upon the structures, will have major impact upon our ministry.  We also, quite honestly, could use some beautification too. 
All so that we might continue to welcome, assemble and gather both those who are “people belonging to God” and people desiring to be the same.  Once welcomed, assembled and gathered at Bethany, we the “people of God” are equipped and prepared to declare His praises and share His mercy with neighbors and co-workers, community members and strangers alike as we are sent, propelled and scattered from this campus to go to those who are “not yet a people” but who through our ministry might become the “people of God.” 

The link at the end of this Bethany Bullet will take you to pictures of our proposed campus work, which we discussed this past Sunday at our Informational Meeting.  What you will see; and a few things you won’t here as follows:

  • Our entire campus gets a make-over including paint, stucco repair, roof work, replacement of rotted wooden posts, doors, etc. 
  • Our campus has a new entry point as the current brick wall and iron gating between the office building and sanctuary is removed and our green space and cross tower receive up-dating along with a new fence that opens onto Clark.  
  • The office itself is redesigned and re-orientated with both the addition of a new foyer entry area off of Friendship Square and an expanded window area where our reception and office administrator have eyes on our campus.
  • The Parish Lounge is expanded both to the North and the South, a storage area of chairs and tables is added, and the existing restrooms are updated and made ADA compliant.
  • An expanded Narthex presents a dramatic presence and face to our community and more importantly  it enables us to add a cry-room to our worship space, and a welcome area inside to ‘capture’ information from visitors and finally encourage through traffic flow entrance into the life of the community after worship.
  • Once inside the sanctuary everything from pews to paint, flooring to sounds system will be addressed.
  • You’ll notice in Hensley square there is a stair case leading to a balcony.  This is the new entrance to our redesigned youth facility.  Not only will this be more welcoming to our youth and more usable once inside, it will allow all youth to participate.  A hallway is opened from the existing classroom next to the elevator allowing those who need the elevator to go through the hallway to the balcony and into the youth facility.
  • Hensley square, like Friendship square, is beautified becoming space that can be better used for a multitude of purposes and space where people can rest for awhile.   The sacristy too is redesigned to include a service area for coffee and donuts on Sunday and other events during the week for the school that can serve people in either square.
  • If the members of Bethany Lutheran Church at a Voters’ Meeting on Sunday, February 21st at 12:15PM move to approve this project, known currently as the Renaissance Project, we will begin a Capital Funding Campaign.  The entire project is currently estimated to cost between one-and-a-half to two million dollars.

If you have any questions or suggestions about the facility proposal please feel free to ask Pastor Kevin, Gary McDaniel, John Holmquist, Scott Andersen or Lucy Smith.

Click HERE for a link to the document that was discussed at the Informational Meeting.

If you unable to open link, please copy/paste this into your browser to view the link:

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

* If you would like to hear Sunday’s (1/24/16) sermon again about the Truth that our God is a Here & Now God listen to the pod-cast found on the Bethany website.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The One Year Bible- January 25th

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

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
We finished up the story of Joseph this week. It has been a longer story than most and there is good reason for it. First of all, this is the back-story for the most important event in Jewish history, the Exodus. The Exodus tells of God’s love and mercy for his chosen people and how he redeemed them from slavery in Egypt. As a New Testament Christian this story foreshadows the story of how Jesus redeemed us from the slavery of sin. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As we read the Old Testament we see many similarities between it and some stories in the New Testament. I believe that this is on purpose. Theologians call this Biblical Typology. I found this description of typology in a resource I have entitled “Fellowship With God” written by Rev. Henry F. Fingerlin:

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

There is much to say about Biblical typology but one thing to remember is that Old Testament Biblical types are always less than the New Testament antitype. As Paul writes in Colossians 2:17, “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

How does this relate to the story of Joseph? Some theologians see Joseph as a “type” or Christ. Here are a few examples:

- Joseph is the “beloved” son of his Father(Gen. 37:3)—Jesus is the Father’s “beloved” son (Matt. 3:17

- Though innocent, Joseph is sold for silver (Gen. 37:28)—Jesus is betrayed and sold for silver (Matt. 26:15)

- Joseph finds himself in prison with two other criminals (Gen. 40)—Jesus suffered death (a kind of prison) between two criminals (Luke 23:32-33)

- Joseph foretells death to one prisoner and release and restoration of the other (Gen. 40:9-19—Jesus tells one of the thieves that he will be with him in paradise while the other dies in his sins (Luke 23:42)

- Joseph is freed from prison by a decree of Pharaoh (Gen. 41:37-41)—Jesus is freed from the prison of death by the Fathers decree of Life, Resurrection, for His Son (Acts 2:24)

- Joseph is exalted at Pharaoh’s right hand and given a name that is above all names (Gen. 41)—Jesus is exalted to his fathers right hand and given a name that is above every other name (Phil. 2:9-11, Acts 2:33-36)

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

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

Bits And Pieces

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

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

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Bethany Bullet - Week of January 17, 2016

The Hereafter, Here and Now: We’re Here Now!”

Through Isaiah God declared that His delight is in His people!  For Israel life had been unsettling, to the extent that some had begun to wonder if God had deserted them or worse yet detested them.  They had gone into exile, and though it was over they had not returned to that Golden Davidic age that most desired!  So, the Lord through His prophet assured them, “My delight is in you!”

Just as true as it was for God’s people back then, it is true for us today!  Like them we live in an unsettling world!  Politically, culturally, morally, economically many would say things aren’t as good as they once were.  As painful as it might be to feel on a national or global level that God has deserted or detested, how much worse on a personal level? 

It doesn’t take communal exile, just being separated from a loved one, from family, from employment, from the feelings of hope and purpose can make one wonder if God has deserted them or worse yet detests them.  To them, to us, to each, God sends the prophet again, “My delight is in you!” we hear Him say.  In Jesus, God has proven that we are His delight.  If that were not the case, our Lord would not have come!

The unsettling world into which He came, is a world that remains unsettling to those for whom He came.  While life can still be unsettling, those who are ‘set’ in Christ have a solid and sturdy foundation.  Those who are ‘set’ in Christ are none others who have heard and believed the word of the Lord, “My delight is in you” and who have in faith spoken His word back to Him and said to the Lord, “My delight is in You.”

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, January 18, 2016

The One Year Bible- January 18th

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

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Bethany Bullet - Week of January 10, 2016

“The Hereafter, Here and Now: Hear Now!”

This message is the first in a four week series titled: The Hereafter, Here and Now.  Through the season of Epiphany we will see how God makes Himself known in the pages of Scripture and today.

The word Epiphany means manifestation or revelation.  Literally, it means to be made known.  In the coming weeks in the season of Epiphany, we will see how God continues to make Himself known to humanity in many and different ways.

Today, in our Gospel lesson, we saw how at the waters of the Jordan River, God revealed Himself.  This was no ordinary man standing in front of John.  Yes, it was his cousin whom he probably knew for years.  John had just confessed with words to his followers about the Messiah, the one who was to come and that He would be different.  And here He is standing in front of him.

That baptism was different as well.  John’s baptism was one of repentance but here, One who had no need of repenting is revealed as God.  With a descending dove and booming voice, Jesus is proclaimed as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, in the words of the hymn, “God in Man, Made Manifest.” 

This was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  His words would soon make known the plan of salvation, the grace of God, the love of the Creator and the will of the Master.    In the course of time, many would hear His words, know His will and follow His way. 

The focus of Jesus’ ministry would be on the hereafter.  He had come to make things different, to change the course of sinful humanity.  He revealed Himself as the Messiah so that our hereafters would include a forever relationship with Him.

If you have spent any time here at Bethany, you have heard either Pastor Kevin or myself remind you that the ministry of Jesus is not just something from the past, it is not simply something that affects the hereafter, His ministry is HERE & NOW
  • It comes in water and the Word at Baptism 
  • It comes in the wafer and wine in Holy Communion 
  • It comes in the witness and the words of God's people gathered together

Jesus is here, now, to bind up the broken hearted, to heal the sick and the suffering, to ease the pain of loss and grief.  Jesus is HERE, NOW!

For all the sin that clings to your being; for all the times you have blatantly disobeyed and gone your own way, Jesus is HERE, NOW and He offers forgiveness found is His blood, shed on the cross and He offers His life to you as He has defeated death HERE & NOW.

HERE & NOW, your sins are forgiven, in Christ!

And all of this is well and good.  It’s what those gathered here need to hear.  The reminder that we are indeed sinful people and that by the amazing grace of God we stand as forgiven children of God. 

But what about the world? 

You know, back in the days of the Apostle Paul the world was just becoming Christian.  This church was in its infancy.  The previous generation had NOT known the story of the Savior.  Paul’s calling was to make known what God had done in Jesus to the current generation.  And he did so in new and different ways. 

Paul writes to the Ephesians from our text this morning, “In the past, this mystery was not known by people as it is now. The Spirit has now revealed it to his holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is the Good News that people who are not Jewish have the same inheritance as Jewish people do. They belong to the same body and share the same promise that God made in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 3:5-6)

In many ways, we live in a time that is 180 degrees from that of Paul.  The previous generations HAVE lived in a world where the Christian message has been made known both in culture and in society. 

But many are also painfully aware that the coming future generations will not necessarily have the same centrality on God’s Word, God’s will, or God’s way in everyday life.

The old St. Francis of Assisi had value in a Christian world, “Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary, use words.”

In a post Christian world I’m not so sure it is as valuable.  In the here and now words are necessary. In many ways we need to go back to what Paul did, to preach Christ, and Him crucified.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and He also dwells IN us as He works through us here and now.

So, what does this mean?  As you head back to work, school, or wherever God has called you in this season of life, you can be the Hear & Now for someone else by using your words to say, “Hear, now!” 

Your words and your witness are powerful ways that the coming generations who are here now will come to understand God’s Word, God’s will, and God’s way. 

In my house we tell our kids all the time “Use your words!”  So today I am encouraging you to do the same.  Use your words to give witness to Jesus.

I know you have heard the old phrase, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”  Words may not have the physical power to hurt but God’s Word does have the power to heal, the power to create, and the power to instill faith.  And you have that Word!!  It is as close to you as the Bible and is with you as you use your words to tell others. 

Word’s are necessary and THE Word will help you accomplish it!

Paul told the church in Rome, “…faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

Joseph Bart-Plange, is a volunteer with the Lutheran Hour Ministries office in Ghana and he relates the following story.
In 1999 while on a visit to the Daboase area in the Western Region of Ghana, I met a man who was a mechanic, a fellow who specialized in repairing motorcycles. After sharing the Gospel with the man, he was brought to faith. His was a faith that responded well to the Lord's love. He and his family offered their residence to be used for a church. This offer I shared with our head office of Media Ministry in Accra. They supported me and the work with materials that proved invaluable.

Knowing faith comes by hearing, we started with Bible studies. This was done using tapes of Scripture, which had been recorded in the native language. The studies were done outside with the people sitting on benches. Our gathering soon attracted the attention of those who passed by. Soon many of those folks joined us so they could listen to the Gospel in their native tongue.

The number increased each week, and as a result we started church services on Sunday and Bible studies on Wednesday. Daboase now has a church and a pastor shepherding the flock.

In the same year, a cassette supplied by Lutheran Media Ministry was introduced to the nearby Sekondi prison. It was our desire to provide God's Word so the inmates might hear the Gospel. I give thanks I am able to share there was a great impact on the inmates, and many of them were brought to faith by the Holy Spirit.

Along with the tapes of the Bible, we also introduced our Bible Correspondence Courses (BCC). Those inmates who completed the course were awarded certificates and their very own Bible. While in prison some of the inmates requested permission to do their communal labor around the church in Daboase. When they have finished their sentences, a large percentage of the inmates have visited and joined the church.

Wow, what a story of the power of words and the power of The Word.  God continues to reveal himself in different and powerful ways.  And with the Word made flesh, we all can have an impact on the hereafter here and now and we can ask others to HEAR NOW, the great news of Jesus.    

-Pastor Seth Moorman

The One Year Bible- January 12th

Most weeks the One Year Bible Study will be posted on Monday mornings.  I forgot to post yesterday so here is this week's study a day late. My apologies. -Pastor Seth

We are twelve days into the New Year and I hope your reading plan is going well. Each week I will kick off our study with a short thought or some general words of encouragement. This week I want to give you some information about how our weekly studies will be arranged. Each week I will give you my thoughts on the week’s readings. I will not be commenting on all the readings but I will be giving some general comment as well as highlighting specific  passages and trying to make some connections for you. My quotes from the readings will almost always be from the NIV. Please don’t get discouraged if I don’t write about certain parts of the reading. You can always ask me questions via the comment section or via email. If you want some more detailed comment on a particular reading you can visit The One Year Bible Blog (www.oneyearbibleblog.com). I visit this site regularly to get some insight as well.

Each time we start a new book of the Bible I will give you some vital stats for it in the Bits and Pieces section of the post. This will help you get your bearings as you begin to read. The most important thing I will say today is that we must remember the context of what we read. The Bible is a Christ centered book and it tells one overarching story. Try to keep that story in mind as you read. My posts will try to help with that as well. Keep up the good work and be ready to let God lead you as you immerse yourself in His Word. On to the study for today…

Seth’s Thoughts:
The Old Testament
Like any good book the Bible begins with some great storytelling and some drama. The reason for the whole book is right there at the beginning. Because of mans fall and the steadfast love of God, a series of events takes place that will have an impact on the world and all humanity forever. In fact, the first promise of a Savior is found in Genesis. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel" (Genesis 3:15 NIV). The story of God’s love continues with Noah. God saw how sinful the world had become so, in his love, he destroyed those who disobeyed yet saved Noah and the promise of his love became more fully known. One of the great Old Testament words we see early on in Genesis and will have great meaning later is the word we translate as “remember”. God remembered Noah, he remembered his promises to Abraham; later in our story God will remember his people in Egypt and in exile. He will remember his promise from Genesis and send a savior for the world.

After God dispersed the people at Babel, he called one man, Abraham and gave him a promise. We will come back again and again to this promise. It is a three-fold promise that I like to call the PLR promise. We first see it in Genesis 13, but it will come back over and over again. The promise is that God will make Abraham into a people, a nation set apart, he will give them land, and he will have a relationship with them (PLR = people, land, relationship). This three-fold promise will not be fulfilled in Abraham’s day. The only piece of land he will ever own is a grave. But this promise will be fulfilled as the story continues with the people of Israel under the leadership of Moses and Joshua. It will be expanded in the New Testament era as we are all called to be God’s people, our land is in heaven, and we have a relationship with Jesus because of the empty tomb.
One thing to keep in mind while reading through the Old Testament narrative is that you need to try to keep the characters straight. Think of it like a program at the ballgame or the theatre. If you need to write down the characters and how they are related that might help out. This brings me to my first point about context. If you missed the fact that Lot and Abraham are related, you don’t quite get their relationship. Abraham loves his nephew so much and that relationship enters in to his decision making process.  Also, two times Abraham tells others that Sarah is his sister and at first it looks like he is flat out lying but in Chapter 20 we find the following passage, “Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife” (Genesis 20:12).  Now this may seem gross or unthinkable to us but remember we need to read this within the cultural context of the day and this sort of thing was O.K.  It can be dangerous to impress our 21st century American culture upon a people and a land far remove in time and place and make judgments.  This sort of thing will come up again and we must place ourselves in the culture of the day to understand.  We don’t have to like it, heck there are a lot of things in the Bible I don’t really like, but it is God’s Word.

The New Testament
The first thing I need to say about reading the Gospels is that they are not always written in chronological order. I hope I am not sacrificing any sacred cows for you with this but it is difficult to put a time line and chronology together when looking closely at the text. For example, in the book of Luke Jesus seems to be jumping all over the place in Nazareth and Judea. One moment he is teaching by the sea of Galilee, the next moment he is in Jerusalem, and then he is back again. Many scholars (and I agree) tend to see the Gospels written from a thematic point of view. They take the stories and events and use them to not only tell the story but to highlight certain events. Taking a look at the Gospel of Matthew we see that it was written to a Jewish audience. How do we know that? First of all Matthew was a Jew so it makes sense to write to an audience that he knew. Secondly, Matthew places the events of Jesus ministry into an order that the Jews would see as very interesting. First of all Matthew tells us that the baby Jesus was taken to Egypt. Right after the family comes back from Egypt, we get the story of the baptism of Jesus then immediately to the desert for 40 days. A Jew of Matthews day would immediately see the connection to the Exodus story of the people coming out from Egypt and going through the waters of the Red Sea and then into the desert for 40 years. It is no coincidence that Matthew uses this series of events to bring a greater meaning to his Gospel to the Jews. A casual, non-Jewish reader might miss this connection. Matthew also leans on many of the Old Testament prophecies that his audience would be well aware (especially in the birth narrative). As you read in Matthew try to remember his audience of the first century and try to see how we can gain even more understanding by studying the book as a whole instead of taking parts out and studying them in isolation.

Bits and Pieces

Last week I gave you some helpful tips as you begin your journey and I want to repeat them here again.  I know that some of you have just started this week and may have missed last weeks post. 

Tips for Comprehension
-Begin your time in prayer and ask God to send His Spirit to guide you as you read.
-Find a place to read that is relatively free of distractions.
-Read the passage aloud and slowly if necessary. The goal is not just to finish, but to understand.
-Make some notes in the Bible and underline key verses. Look back at them later.
-Remember the Bible tells one story. That story is about redemption from Sin by the work of Jesus. Keep that in mind as you read.
-Take your Bible to Church and read along to see what comes before and after.
-Keep a journal about what you read and how it has affected you.
-Memorize key verses.
-Look at a children’s Bible storybook to get a mental image of the stories. This is especially helpful for the Old Testament stories.
-Teach what you have been reading to your children. This will help reinforce the stories for you and introduce them to your children.
-Share what you are reading with coworkers or friends who are not Christians. This can happen especially if you are reading during your lunch hour at work. If they are interested in the Bible point them to 1 John and to Mark.
-Use a daily devotional book (Portals of Prayer, Strength for the Day, etc.) in addition to your reading.
-Look at some Bible maps and get a layout of the land. This is important when talking about events in the Old Testament.
-Don’t worry if you miss a few days. Just double up your readings for a while until you catch up. Don’t try to read it all in one day.
-Some questions to ask as you read: What is the Biblical context of this passage? What is the historical context? Who is speaking and to whom are they speaking? How can I use this information today? Don’t worry if you can’t answer all the questions.

Have a great week and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Free Hit Counter