Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Bethany Bullet - Week of April 24, 2016

Unrestrained Sacrifice

Elizabeth Barrett Browning asked:  “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”  In her counting she included loving “freely, purely and passionately.” 

Christ called His disciples to love one another as He had loved them.  (John 13) how has He loved us?

Freely:  Jesus loved without expectation of return, even when there was nothing in us that would deserve so to be loved. 

Purely:  Jesus’ love, as is He, is without stain or wrinkle or blemish or any defect.  He loves us without alterior motive, hidden agenda, or hope for selfish gain.

Passionately:  His love led to His passion; the cross.  He was willing to take upon Himself our guilt of failing to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our inability to love each other as we love our self and the things of the world.

The result of that having received love like that is a call to love like that.  What does this mean?  When a brother bellyaches or is bullheaded, bear with him, build him up, love freely.   When a sister has a heart filled with sorrow or a conscience filled with shame, support her, stand-by her, love her purely.  When the family of faith is floundering call it to follow, when it is behaving foolishly redirect its focus, when it has failed offer forgiveness, love it passionatelyFor that is how you have been loved by Him.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, April 25, 2016

The One year Bible- April 25th

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 this 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!!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Bethany Bullet - Week of April 17, 2016

Uncommon Charity
First Scripture Reading: Acts 9:32-43

"To never miss an opportunity to do good and help those in need" such was the servant-life Dorcas lived.  

In so doing she emulated the One who did good and aided those who rebelled against Him, offended Him and even sought His death.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, April 18, 2016

The One Year Bible- April 18th

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 something that we have read during the week. This week I want to go back to 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
This week’s readings left the narrative story behind and we received 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 to me. The list of landmarks did not help me much. Please don’t get frustrated at this. The best thing to do is go to a map. I found this one on the Internet that shows how the land was divided. You may have one in the back of your Bible as well. For me this visually shows what we have been reading this week.

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 in this week’s readings. 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

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Bethany Bullet - Week of April 10, 2016

“Untapped Resource”

At the time of the Resurrection, the typical resources we might think necessary for what would become the early church were scant to say the least.   There was no property, or parochial schools, no parish halls or parking lots.  There was not a single sanctuary, sacristy, or synod. 

Before the collection of sacred writings we call the Bible, the physical resources of the early church were mostly made of flesh and bone.

Granted, these were precious resources, including those who walked, talked, ate with and traveled with Jesus.  They had the promise and comfort of the sacraments and the Words of the Savior Himself but for the most part, the brick and mortar resources that define the church today were far from the minds of the followers of “The Way.”

In contrast, the Jewish establishment was entrenched in centuries of ritual and rules.  And there were plenty of physical places to go.  There were synagogues for teaching and, of course, there was the Temple in Jerusalem.  It was still the cultural and spiritual center for the majority in Israel.  The resources of Judaism were immense, both physical and personal.  They were assets for continuance of the status quo. 

The Pharisees and the Sadducees directed the daily life of the people.  The High Priest along with the Sanhedrin ensured the masses were following the laws.  The temple in Jerusalem was the only location for sacrifice and where forgiveness was to be found. 

Then there is Saul, who was described as a Pharisee among Pharisees. He was an asset for the establishment.   However, to the followers of “The Way,” those who had seen the risen Christ, Saul was a liability, not an asset. 

Our text for today from Acts chapter 9 picks up the story, “Saul kept threatening to murder the Lord’s disciples.  He went to the chief priest and asked him to write letters of authorization to the synagogue leaders in the city of Damascus.  Saul wanted to arrest any man or woman who followed the way of Christ and imprison them in Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:1-2)

At this point Paul was a resource of oppression, persecution, and hate towards the church and he came with credentials.

He studied under the prominent teacher Gamaliel, and was considered a prime example of how devout Jews should behave. 

He knew his Scriptures, he followed every point of the Law, and he was in the eyes of many perfect because of his obedience.

He was tapped to do harm not to help.

He was chosen and set for a purpose—to destroy the church and its followers.

Our text continues, “As Saul was coming near the city of Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?’  Saul asked, ‘Who are you, sir?’ The person replied, ‘I’m Jesus, the one you are persecuting.  Get up, go into the city, and you will be told what you should do.” (Acts 9:3-6)

Saul is confronted on the road with the presence of Jesus himself.  In that moment things changed.  His allegiance was transferred.  Jesus did not see him as a liability but our generous God saw him as an untapped resource. 

In that moment the Pharisee became a man filled with humility.  His pride was cut down, his self righteousness shattered.  He was blind both physically and spiritually.

He would in short time come to know himself as the chief of sinners and would soon profess a personal faith in Jesus the Messiah.

This man, called Saul, also known as Paul would go on to be one of the most influential people in all Christianity. 

In the book of Philippians Paul described this complete change that happened in him.  He writes, “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” (Philippians 3:4b-9)

Paul was an untapped resource actively working against the Lord, but God chose him for a purpose, set him on a path and provided him exactly what he needed.   He does the same for you. 
Many times our thoughts and actions would place us in the same camp as Saul the Pharisee.  We strive, and work for what we desire.  We are spiritually blind. 

Even if we think our intentions are good, we put confidence in our own abilities.  We often think of ourselves better than others.  We look down on those who are different than us, who don’t work as hard.
How often do you put confidence in the flesh?  I do, far often than I want to admit.  Everyone one of us has done harm and not helped when we should.  Our credentials read, sinner, in thought, word and deed.  Your actions make you a liability to the Lord.  Your sin…my sin…all sin separates us from God. 

Here in this place we too are confronted with the presence of Jesus.  He comes to us when we hear the readings, when we witness water being splashed on one of God’s own, when we kneel together as one and are fed by Christ himself.  In Christ our sin has been forgiven, we are set on a new path, our allegiance has been transferred. 

In this place, through faith, God is preparing you to be a resource in the world. Like Saul you have been chosen and set for a purpose.  Are you an untapped resource?  How can God use you?
However you spend your days, be it at the office, in the classroom, in the factory or shop, at home, or in countless places in between, God has chosen you to be a resource for him. 
You are an asset for God’s plan and His will is done through you. 

As Martin Luther once said, God himself will milk the cows through him whose vocation that is.”
Whatever vocation you have been given, you are a resource for God. 

Lutheran theologian Gene Veith said it this way, When I go into a restaurant, the waitress who brings me my meal, the cook in the back who prepared it, the delivery men, the wholesalers, the workers in the food-processing factories, the butchers, the farmers, the ranchers, and everyone else in the economic food chain are all being used by God to ‘give me this day my daily bread.’”

What resource have you been given that can be used for His Glory?  How might you be an asset to the Lord’s work? 

Here at Bethany we are making the first steps on a journey of campus renaissance.  We have added staff, we will be starting a capital campaign, we hope to be swinging hammers and pouring concrete at some point in the near future.  What resources can you bring to the community here at Bethany?  What untapped resources are out there?  It could be physical or financial, but whatever it is it can be used for God’s glory.

If you want to get involved, please let me know, talk to Pastor Kevin and we would love to find a way for you to be an asset to Bethany. 

The Lord continues to point to untapped resources, to Saul, to you and to me.  He gives you the credentials to do it as he calls you his own in Faith, forgives you of your sin and points you to the cross, for we, like Paul, can count everything as loss compared to knowing Christ and him crucified and risen again.

In Him we can be a resource to the world, so that many may know our generous God and in him live a generous life.

Let us pray…

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, April 11, 2016

The One Year Bible- April 11th

When I was in second grade our class was scheduled to sing in church.  The song we sang was called “Everywhere I Go.”  Why do I remember such a thing?  Well, this song had a big impact on my life.  It has a catchy tune and great words and I latched on to this song and sang it everywhere I went.  I started singing this song every time I was scared or though I was in trouble.  I sang it a lot while riding my bike.  This song gave me comfort and security because even as I child I knew that God was there with me.  This song came to my mind this week while reading the story of God’s people as they entered the Promised Land.  I am sure many of them were scared and fearful of the future.  But Moses and Joshua reminded the people that God was with them everywhere they would go, and to be strong and courageous.  As we begin today, don’t forget that the same God is with you as well.  We begin with the words of that song:

Everywhere I go the Lord is near me

If I call upon Him He will hear me

Never will I fear, for the Lord is near

Everywhere I go.

Everywhere God is there

Tending all in loving care

He is with me everywhere I go

On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

Let me set the stage for you once again.  The people are on the edge of the Promised Land.  Moses has gathered the people together to give them a pep talk and remind them of the promises of God and his continued faithfulness.  Moses will not be joining the people because of his own disobedience but he is still God’s prophet.  At the end of the pep talk he breaks out into song.  This last bit of instruction for the people served as a reminder and a comfort for them.  Just before Moses gets a glimpse of the Promised Land, he introduces Joshua as the new leader.  We see in just a few short verses the phrase, “Be strong and courageous”.  This is an important phrase, as the people will be doing some difficult things in the next few years.  Moses as well as the Lord tells Joshua and the people to, “Be strong and courageous”  at least six times.  Indeed the Lord will be with them; and indeed he was.  The Lord caused the Jordan river to stop as the people crossed it. 

In the next few days we will see that the Lord delivered the fortified city of Jericho into their hands.  The Lord blessed them, but true to form the people disobey.  After Jericho was destroyed someone took some of the plunder that was to be devoted to the Lord.  This caused a military defeat of the people and doubt started to creep in.  It was just one small action that had big consequences.  It seems that is what happens in our lives as well.  Just one seemingly small sin causes us big problems.  Even after the pep talk from Moses, the people disobey.  This will be a theme we will see over and over again.  When we look at the world today we see the same theme.  We have heard what we should do, we know the right things be we find ourselves doing the opposite or not even listening to God.  For the people of Israel this caused problems.  Later we will see how sin begins to spiral out of control and eventually the people will be lead off to exile.  We are in the exile of sin as well and we are in need of rescue.  God sent his son Jesus to rescue us from our sin.  Because we could not do it, Jesus did it all for us.  Jesus fulfills the requirements of God and we get all the benefits.  The Old Testament once again points us to Christ the author and perfector of our faith. 

The New Testament

A few things jumped out at me as I read through the readings from Luke this week. After our readings in the Old Testament about washings, the section at the end of chapter 11 (readings for April 6th) where Jesus really blasts the Pharisees makes more sense to me. Jesus really lets them have it for only worrying about the outside things. He tells them in no uncertain terms that God looks at the inside as well and they need to get their act straight. In Luke 7 Jesus says some hard things. Jesus tells us that if we want to be his disciple we need to hate other things. I have always struggled with this statement. In one of my seminary classes we talked about the word “hate” and how it is used in the New Testament. This is another word that we translate the Greek literally but it has some Hebrew meaning. In Hebrew the word we translate as “hate” means that we prefer one thing over the other but not necessarily at the expense of the other. In the Old Testament we read that Jacob “hated” his wife Leah, but he still cared for her, he had children with her and he provided for her. This does not sound like the “hate” we think of. Now it is true that Jacob preferred Rebekah, but he did not “hate” Leah as we see it. I hope this sheds some light on this passage for you. We are to prefer following Jesus over all others. We will still need to carry our cross and count the cost and that will only be possible with the help of the Holy Spirit.

One quick comment from one of our readings this week: In Psalm 78:41 (April 7th) a reference to the “Holy One of Israel” is found. We will see this term often when we get into Isaiah and some of the other prophets. This term refers to the promised Messiah and when you see it you can be certain that this is talking about the coming of Christ.

Have a great week and remember that God is with you everywhere you go!!

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