Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Bethany Bullet - Week of June 26, 2016

Sermon: Freed! Fruit!
Text: Galatians 5:1 & 22

In the next few weeks we will hear a lot about freedom.  As the 4th of July approaches red, white, and blue will start popping up all over.  Bunting in baseball stadiums, decorations on fireworks stands, displays in stores, and clothes on kids will all make us cheer for the red, white and blue.

Its freedom that we celebrate each summer and with fireworks and parades we are reminded of the blessings of liberty we enjoy in our country. 

Galatians chapter 5 is a good text to look at as we move into this season in our country.  From Galatians chapter 5, starting at verse 1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

But let’s not get confused.  Paul is NOT talking about the same kind of freedom we have as citizens of the United States.  This is not a political text, but a theological one. 

The yoke of slavery that we face is that of sin; our detestable acts, done in defiance of a God who desires us to live for him.   This is not just a fight against the tyrannical rule of a foreign power, but a real battle against the enemy of the flesh and the evil one himself who desires us to be slaves to sin and separated from God.

To stand firmly in God’s good graces without having to do anything to merit or earn this blessing—that is freedom indeed!

The Galatians were confused by some who tried to convince them that they needed to do something to be seen as worthy by God.  They continued to be yoked to the ceremonial regulations of the law.

There were some in the Galatian church who considered works done by humans necessary for salvation.  In essence what Paul is saying here is that if you accept the necessity of the law, then the gospel has no meaning. 

But let’s be clear.  You are freed from the yoke of sin, not because of anything you do, but only on account of Christ and what he has done on the cross and through the empty tomb. 

Let’s skip to verse 13, “You, my brothers, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.  The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:13-15)

A key term in this section is the Greek work translated as “the sinful nature.”  Literally it means “flesh” and refers to our unregenerate self—what we are by nature in our fallen and sinful state, commonly called our old Adam.

This old Adam is totally selfish and self centered.  Any freedom from restraint is going to be interpreted by him as an opportunity to throw off authority, grab what he can for himself, and indulge his every whim and pleasure. 

In short, the “flesh” is that part of us and our nature that wants to do just as it pleases, without thinking of anybody else.  That is its idea of “freedom.”  Paul warns against this.

To be sure, Christ has fulfilled every demand of the law, and there remains nothing for us to do to earn salvation.  But when we realize that salvation has been earned for us and that everything has come to us as a free gift of God, grace, then we will want to show our appreciation to our gracious God for so great a gift.

Here, God’s law gives us guidance and direction.  Remember the third use of the law from last week?
Continuing on in verse 16, “So I say, live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” (Galatians 5:16-18)

The theological opposite of the “flesh” is seen here in the word translated as the Sprit.  Here we see how we can accomplish giving thanks to God and express our faith in love.

It is the Spirit, the Holy Spirit that enables us to do this.  Our spiritual life is in contrast to our sinful nature.

Paul explains that the Christian’s life will always be a pitched battle.  There is an ongoing conflict between what the rebellious old Adam wants to do contrary to God’s will and the new creation in Christ, guided by the Spirit, wants to do in accordance with God’s will.

Have you experienced this battle?  Have you lived with this tension?  What the two entities want in the

Christian are light-years apart.  The difference is immediately apparent as one observes their activities. 
“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21)

Paul pulls no punches here, and it would be tempting to say, well this list doesn’t describe me, so I’m OK. 

But this list is not inclusive.  Jesus calls us to be perfect and if you are not, and I know I am not, then I fall into line as one who gives in to acts of the sinful nature. 

But Christ died for these sins, and all of your sins too.  Paul does not say that these sins are unforgiveable, after all in their pagan past, the Galatians had done all of them. 

Your sins are not unforgiveable either.

God’s own son came down from heaven to give his life as a ransom for you. 

Again, we need to dig into the original language to get some perspective.  Paul does not say that those who have done these things are cut off from salvation. 

Literally Paul says, “Those continuing to do things of that sort will not inherit that kingdom of God.”  It is the unrepentant, unregenerate person who has completely turned his or her back on the grace of God that Paul is talking to.

So what is our response to the grace given to us?  To live by the Spirit.

Paul continues, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:22-24)

Notice how the lists are different.  The acts of the sinful nature are things that sinful people can do by themselves.  They need no help.  The good things, on the other hand, are not things that come naturally from us.  They are the “fruit of the Spirit.”  God the Holy Spirit produces them in and through us.

True freedom comes when the sinful nature is crucified and the Holy Spirit calls us by the Gospel, gives us His fruit, sanctifies and keeps us together with Christ when we couldn’t do it ourselves and helps us to live by the spirit. 

We are freed to be fruit to others so that they too can experience what it means to live by faith expressing itself in love.  That is true freedom.

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, June 27, 2016

The One Year Bible- June 27th

I am in the habit of writing smiley faces or unhappy faces in the margins of my One Year Bible to indicate a good story or a bad one. Usually they about equal each week. This week however, I had way more unhappy faces. I wrote one for each time someone killed another person or events that were displeasing to God took place. Looking back, it makes me appreciate even more the love God has for us. As a group, people keep messing up. I do every day. But God loves us and sent his son for us. It is just amazing when you stop to think that Jesus was sent to this earth in spite of and because of people like Ahab and Jezebel. On to the study.....

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

A couple of stories I want to mention today that have parallels in the New Testament. First of all, there is a miraculous conception with the woman from Shunem. It reminds be of the story of Abram and Sari in Genesis but it also points forward to both Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and Mary, the mother of Jesus. Like Jesus, this child died and was brought back to life again (after he sneezed seven times…that is funny). Now I don’t want to press the text too much, but it does set a precedent that God is a powerful God and he can bring people back from the dead. Then there is the story of the poisonous stew. Elisha made sure the stew was O.K. to eat and in a fashion similar to the feeding of the 5,000 everyone ate and was satisfied and there was food left over. In an of themselves these stories show the power of God, but I think they also are a set up for what was to come in the person of Jesus Christ. Then there is the story of the ax head the floats in the water. What was that all about? Again it shows the power of God and points to who Yahweh is. One more… after Elisha dies and is in his tomb the people need to bury another person. Now in those days the dead were buried in shared tombs like caves. The Moabites start a raid on the people so they just throw the body in the tomb. It bumps into Elisha’s bones and the guy comes back to life! Now that is awesome!! God is still using Elisha to show is power long after Elisha died. I wish there was more to this story but the text just goes on to another story. Sometimes the Bible does that. It does not mean that it is not part of scripture but sometimes there is nothing else about the story. One thing that I found in reading this week was trying to keep the kings straight in my mind. What I did was look for some sort of a list and here is what I found. I hope it is helpful:

Kings of Judah and Israel

Kings Before Division of Kingdom
· Saul: First King of Israel; son of Kish; father of Ish-Bosheth, Jonathan and Michal.
· Ish-Bosheth (or Eshbaal): King of Israel; son of Saul.
· David: King of Judah; later of Israel; son of Jesse; husband of Abigail, Ahinoam, Bathsheba, Michal, etc.; father of Absalom, Adonijah, Amnon, Solomon, Tamar, etc.
· Solomon: King of Israel and Judah; son of David; father of Rehoboam.
· Rehoboam: Son of Solomon; during his reign the kingdom was divided into Judah and Israel.

Kings of Judah (Southern Kingdom)
· Rehoboam: First King.
· Abijah (or Abijam or Abia): Son of Rehoboam.
· Asa: Probably son of Abijah.
· Jehoshaphat: Son of Asa.
· Jehoram (or Joram): Son of Jehoshaphat; husband of Athaliah.
· Ahaziah: Son of Jehoram and Athaliah.
· Athaliah: Daughter of King Ahab of Israel and Jezebel; wife of Jehoram; only queen to occupy the throne of Judah.
· Joash (or Jehoash): Son of Ahaziah.
· Amaziah: Son of Joash.
· Uzziah (or Azariah): Son of Amaziah.
· Jotham: Regent, later King; son of Uzziah.
· Ahaz: Son of Jotham.
· Hezekiah: Son of Ahaz; husband of Hephzi-Bah.
· Manasseh: Son of Hezekiah and Hephzi-Bah.
· Amon: Son of Manasseh.
· Josiah (or Josias): Son of Amon.
· Jehoahaz (or Joahaz): Son of Josiah.
· Jehoiakim: Son of Josiah.
· Jehoiachin: Son of Jehoiakim.
· Zedekiah: Son of Josiah; kingdom overthrown by Babylonians.

Kings of Israel (Northern Kingdom)
· Jeroboam I: Led secession of Israel.
· Nadab: Son of Jeroboam I.
· Baasha: Overthrew Nadab.
· Elah: Son of Baasha.
· Zimri: Overthrew Elah.
· Omri: Overthrew Zimri.
· Ahab: Son of Omri; husband of Jezebel.
· Ahaziah: Son of Ahab.
· Jehoram (or Joram): Son of Ahab.
· Jehu: Overthrew Jehoram.
· Jehoahaz (or Joahaz): Son of Jehu.
· Jehoash (or Joash): Son of Jehoahaz.
· Jeroboam Il: Son of Jehoash.
· Zechariah: Son of Jeroboam II.
· Shallum: Overthrew Zechariah.
· Menahem: Overthrew Shallum.
· Pekahiah: Son of Menahem.
· Pekah: Overthrew Pekahiah.
· Hoshea: Overthrew Pekah; kingdom overthrown by Assyrians.

The New Testament
We are in the middle of hearing about the missionary journeys of Paul. I hope you found a good map to help you follow along. A couple of things about these readings. First of all Paul is following his pattern of going to the synagogue first (remember this pattern from last week?). Then he heads out to the streets and in Acts 14 we have a very famous sermon. It is referred to as the sermon on Mars Hill. Paul argues using Greek ways to the philosophers about this person called Jesus. Later on Paul uses one of the statues of the “gods” and says that this “unknown god” is indeed Jesus. Of course this gets Paul into all kinds of trouble and they people try to kill him so he flees the area. Acts 15 records a big debate on whether or not Gentiles have to become Jews first (i.e. through circumcision) before they can be Christians. Paul has a great line in the debate that seems to set the church on the right path, “But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” (Acts 15:11 ESV) Then James gets up and makes the decision to have a compromise and he says, “Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those who turn to God.” (Acts 15:19 ESV) I think these are some wise words that we need to be heard today. Of course, because of the message, Paul and Silas end up in prison, but God turns it into a positive thing when they were able to share the message of Jesus with all in the prison, including the jailer. We find out that they all get baptized and became followers. There is a lot more to say about this week’s readings but we don’t have time here. Let me know if you have any questions.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Bethany Bullet - Week of June 19, 2016

  1. What is the purpose of the law?
  2. What is the result of faith?
  3. What does faith cling to (or rest on)?

St Paul states that, "We are held as prisoners by the law, locked up…" so to speak.

The law of which Paul speaks is the "moral law" that which is written on our hearts.  That law, like its giver, calls for perfection and holiness; for God's demands are in concert with His character and harmony with His nature.  This when we look at the law, we see in ourselves that which Isaiah saw in his vision and can only say, "Woe are we!"  The law condemns us and there is no escaping, of our own...yet, those who trust in Jesus, who have been washed in baptism, they are clothed in Christ; and though they see only their own sin when they look into the mirror of the law, on account of His grace through faith God sees only Christ's perfection and holiness when He looks at them.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, June 20, 2016

The One Year Bible- June 20th

The NBA, and NHL crowned champions in past week or so, the baseball season is in full swing and the Euro Cup and Copa America are keeping soccer fans riveted. But the most exciting contest was in our readings this week. Many people in the world live and die through sports.  In most of the world soccer is like a religion.   National holidays are called to watch a match played half way across the globe. Employers close shop because everyone is fixated on the match. Many become so obsessed that their very existence hinges on the outcome of a game. In 1 Kings we have another contest that captured the attention of a nation. When Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal the nation was transfixed on the outcome. God used this opportunity to remind the people of who God was and that he had complete power. God used this match to bring the focus of the people back to God. We all have times where our focus is not on God. I am reminded of these words from the book of Hebrews, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV) I hope your Bible reading helps to focus your eyes on Jesus Christ. On to the study....

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
The time of the kings was not a glorious time for the people of God. After only three kings (Saul, David, Solomon) the nation divides and there is almost constant war. “There was continual warfare between Rehoboam and Jeroboam.” (1 Kings 14:30 NIV) There was also lots of murder and other vile behavior from both sides. Don’t forget to keep the kingdoms straight in your head as you read. When you read Israel, think northern kingdom ruled from Samaria, and when you read Judah, think southern kingdom ruled from Jerusalem. In this section of scripture every time Israel is mentioned it is always in reference to the northern kingdom and not to all the people. Almost every king we meet is bad and we will read over and over again, “He did evil in the eyes of the LORD and followed in the ways of.........” There are a few exceptions to this. Make sure you spot the good ones and remember what they did. 1 and 2 Kings make mention of a few source materials. The Book of the History of the Kings of Israel, and The Book of the History of the Kings of Judah, have never been found but they are mentioned here. Most kings had a scribe who wrote down everything that happened during their reign. It was a common practice and just because we do not have these books today does not discount the validity of the scriptures. We saw the beginning of the history of bad blood between Jerusalem and Samaria this week. Remember in Jesus time, the Jews hated the Samaritans. The history of this rivalry goes back to the divided kingdom. The Samaritans of Jesus day were a bit different because of the exile and other factors, but this is the beginning. God’s prophet Elijah has a big role in the kingdom of Israel. He spends a lot of time trying to convince the Israelites that they have turned away from YAHWEH. His challenge of the prophets of Baal and the sending of fire to consume the king’s messengers are two big ones. A quick note on the challenge on Mt. Carmel; one thing that makes the scene even more dramatic (if it wasn’t already) is the fact that Baal was the god of the weather and he rode on the clouds. If you remember that right after the challenge on the mountain, Elijah says that it is going to rain and it does, in buckets. That was a big “In Your Face!” to the prophets of Baal. I also like the fact that Elijah was given “super strength” as he ran ahead of Ahab’s chariot. I don’t have time here to talk all about Ahab, but suffice it to say that he was a scumbag. He was terrible and I think his wife was even worse. Most of the kings of Israel will be compared to him and eventually he and his wife will become synonymous with evil. “There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, urged on by Jezebel his wife.  He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the LORD drove out before Israel.” (1 Kings 21:25-26 NIV)

The New Testament
Many people believe that in the early church Peter did ministry only to the Jews and Paul did ministry only to the Gentiles. But when you start looking at it, it becomes obvious that this was not the case. In Acts 10 Peter clearly is called and sent by God to the house of a Gentile. Not only does God give him a vision that this is OK, Peter also baptizes Cornelius and his family! This is Peter doing ministry to the Gentiles. Peter got into some trouble with this, but he was convinced saying, “Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.’” (Acts 10:34-35 NIV) Acts 12:24 marks a transition from Peter’s ministry to Paul’s. Even though Paul is known as an apostle to the Gentiles (he even said it himself) Paul’s first destination when he goes into any town or city is the synagogue. If he is to bring the message to the Gentiles, why start in the synagogue? The quick answer is that Paul had a desire that all come to know Jesus and that all would be saved. He himself was a Jew (and a Pharisee to boot) and his desire was also for his own spiritual family. The standard process for Paul and his companions was this: They would start in the synagogue and would preach with success until they encountered hostility. They would then go out to the streets and find some success until they were persecuted and then they fled the city. (My seminary professor had us memorize this as S.S.Hos.S.S.P.F. which stands for synagogue, success, hostility, streets, success, persecution, fled) So both Peter and Paul brought the message to all people everywhere. One thing that is very interesting to note is the list of early church leaders at the beginning of chapter 13. This was a very multicultural group. From the beginning the church has been multi-lingual and multi-cultural (remember Pentecost?). I think we can learn from this model. If we look to Acts as our guide we need to find ways to break the church away from a mono-cultural Western mindset. (Now I am rambling so I will move on.) One neat thing that we find in Acts is the many Old Testament references. The early church used the Scriptures to help teach the truth of Jesus Christ to those waiting for the Messiah.  We will see even more of this later.

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We will start the book of 2 Kings so here are the vital stats:

PURPOSE: To demonstrate the fate that awaits all who refuse to make God their true leader
AUTHOR: Unknown. Possibly Jeremiah or a group of Prophets
SETTING: The once-united nation of Israel has been divided into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, for over a century.
KEY VERSES: “The LORD warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and seers: ‘Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees, in accordance wit the entire Law that I commanded your fathers to obey and that I delivered to you through my servants the prophets.’ But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their fathers, who did not trust in the LORD their God.” 2 Kings 17:13-14
KEY PEOPLE: Elijah, Elisha, Shunammite woman, Naaman, Jezebel, Jehu, Joash, Hexikiah, Sennacherib, Isaiah, Manasseh, Josiah, Jehoiakim, Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar
SPECIAL FEATURES: The 17 prophetic books at the end of the Old Testament give great insights into the time period of 2 Kings.

Have a great week!!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Bethany Bullet - Week of June 12, 2016

Cemented to Christ

When I was younger I used to spend a lot of time around church.  Yes I went worship every week but I was there just about every day. With my dad being the pastor, and living next door in the parsonage, I would come over and visit with the secretary, see what the custodian was doing, poke around in the fridge, and just explore.
One summer day, I was bored and came over to church where I saw some of the trustees doing some work.  I was curious and started asking questions. They were getting ready to pour some new cement near the water fountain. The ground was prepped and the small portable cement mixer was just about ready to be fed. 

I really didn’t know what went in to making cement.  I watched as they added bags of grey, dusty powder, a few shovels of rock and broken stones and then added some water from the hose.  With some mixing and testing, soon the concoction was ready to be poured.

I watched in amazement as the grey glob was spread evenly in the proper place.  The men took their tools and formed it and shaped it into the mold and soon it started looking like a new sidewalk.  From what looked like dust and broken pieces came something strong and useful.

Later that afternoon I went to check on the new cement and I was handed a small screwdriver and was told that I could write my name in the wet cement.  For years as I would go get a drink of water I was reminded that my name was written in the cement for all to see. 

Why do I tell you this story?  I’ll tell you in a few minutes.

Right now I want you to open your Bible’s to Galatians chapter 2.  The reading you heard this morning begins in verse 15, but I want to go back just a bit to get some perspective. 

At the end of chapter 1 Paul tells his story, how he was a persecutor of the church, and how his life was completely changed as he came face to face with Jesus, how he was appointed and called by God in his grace and mercy and understood and believed in the Good News of Jesus Christ.

At the beginning of chapter 2 Paul describes the issue that is at the heart of his letter to the Galatians.  Look at verse 4, “False Christians were brought in.  They slipped in as spies to learn about the freedom Christ Jesus gives us.  They hoped to find a way to control us.” (Galatians 2:4)

Two weeks ago Pastor Kevin talked about the freedom that we have in Christ.  Not freedom to do whatever we want, but freedom from what binds us…sin.

The Galatians church was being influenced by some who were adding a requirement of the law in order to follow Christ.  In fact, Paul openly opposed Peter in this matter.

But my friends, the true Gospel message carries no extra requirements on the part of sinful humanity.  There is nothing you can do to earn your salvation.  There is nothing you can do that will make God favorably disposed toward you.

Paul says it this way from our reading this morning in verse 16, “…we know that people don’t receive God’s approval because of their own efforts to live according to a set of standards, but only by believing in Jesus Christ.  So we also believed in Jesus Christ in order to receive God’s approval of faith in Christ and not because of our own efforts.  People won’t receive God’s approval because of their own efforts to live according to a set of standards.”  (Galatians 2:16)

We are all broken people; our lives are filled with sin and sadness.  I know that your life has had its share of pain and problems, and try as you might, you cannot solve them on your own. 

And skipping ahead a few more verses Paul writes, “If we receive God’s approval by obeying the laws in the Scriptures, Christ’s death was pointless.” (Galatians 2:21)

I am reminded of the law constantly as I feel the weight of my own sin pushing me down.  There have been plenty of times I have tried to figure things out on my own because I was too embarrassed to admit that I too am mired in sin.  When I try to live up to what I know is right, according to God’s standard, I fail.  The curse of sin is always with me.  I am a broken man, covered with the dust and dirt of sin.

Paul tells the Galatians in chapter 2 verse 19, “When I tried to obey the law’s standards, those laws killed me.” (Galatians 2:19)

And if we skip down to chapter 3 verse 10, “Certainly, there is a curse on all who rely on their own efforts to live according to a set of standards because Scripture says, ‘Whoever doesn’t obey everything written in Moses’ teachings is cursed.’  No one receives God’s approval by obeying the law’s standards since, ‘The person who has God’s approval will live because of faith.” (Galatians 3:10-11)

It might seem like Paul is telling us to just believe or have more faith.  As if action on our part is necessary, or even possible. Kind of like the Nike mantra of “Just do it!” 

But the word translated as believe is this amazing little word in the original language.  The word we translate as “believe” is also the same word that is translated as “have faith”.   Different forms of this word are found over 300 times in the New Testament. 

Here is a great definition I found, “Faith is the attitude whereby one abandons all reliance in his or her own efforts to obtain salvation, be they deeds of piety, of ethical goodness or anything else. It is the attitude of complete and total trust in Christ, of reliance on him alone for all that salvation means.”

This idea is outside of us and is only possible because it has been given to us by Christ himself.  It is not found in what we do, or who we are on our own.  It comes on account of Christ.

It comes as we hear the Word proclaimed, as we gather at the rail, as we confess and are granted forgiveness and grace and as simple water and word come over us at the fount. 

Paul continues in verse 20 of chapter 2, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live I live by believing [having faith] in God’s Son who loved me and took the punishment for my sins.”  (Galatians 2:20)
So, let’s get back to cement.  Cement is a binder, a substance that sets and hardens and binds other materials together.  Little did I know that my little summer project with the church trustees would be sermon illustration.

Luther wrote this about Galatians 2:20, “By faith, you are so cemented to Christ that He and you are as one person.” (AE 26:168)

What Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says to us today is that in Christ all of the dusty, dirty, broken, sin filled pieces of your life are cemented together with Jesus in his crucifixion and resurrection. The water of life has come over you in baptism and the life of Jesus is now inextricably intertwined with yours, in faith and you live because Christ lives!  Like the cement I saw poured so many years ago. 

While it’s true that sometimes we feel all mixed up in life, God has a plan. 

As you encountered water and word you were transformed from something weak and broken on your own and formed into something strong and useful.  And in baptism he wrote his name upon your heart and bestowed upon you faith.  He forms and shapes you even today, using the tools of worship, study, and the means of grace.

You are so cemented to Christ that He and you are as one person.  His life, is your life, his death paid the price for your sins.

Paul says it this way, “Christ paid the price to free us from the curse that God’s laws bring by becoming cursed instead of us.  Christ paid the price so that the blessing promised to Abraham would come to all the people of the world through Jesus Christ and we would receive the promised Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:13-14) 

Christ has forgiven you, Christ has freed you from sin, the Holy Spirit is yours and you are cemented with Jesus and his life is yours. 

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, June 13, 2016

The One Year Bible- June 13th

Have you ever read a book and about half way through, not known the main storyline? Maybe you missed it, or possible it is not there, but it is never fun reading a book without a point. Some people get that when they read the Bible. For many it seems like a bunch of disconnected stories that do not seem to fit together. One way to see the big picture is to take the time and read through the whole thing. If you are like me, there is no way I could just sit and read the Bible straight through, starting at page one and going to the end. Some people have the ability to read a book in a weekend or even in a day. The only time I have ever done that was for a class. But when you start digging into scripture and the big picture is revealed, the whole Bible starts to make sense. This happened to me a number years ago when I was teaching an Old Testament class. Our textbook was the Bible, and for the first time in my life, it started to make sense. In this weeks readings we have seen some of the connections. Lets look at them today....

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
This week’s readings had some great connections. The people of Israel now have peace under King Solomon. Things are looking up for the people. The author of 1 Kings gives us a bit of a flashback to Abraham when he writes, “The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy.” (I Kings 4:20 NIV) The promise that was made to Abraham has come to pass. Solomon then undertakes the building of a permanent home for Yahweh. Solomon sends a message to king Hiram of Tyre to make an order for building supplies. Tyre is in what we call Lebanon today. Tyre had (and still has) a great natural resource in timber. It was the best timber around, and only the best was used for the temple. It took seven years to build the temple. I don’t know if you have been part of a building project, but a seven-year building project must have been stressful. When the day came for the dedication of the Temple the priests were sacrificing away and then they had to stop. “When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the Temple of the LORD (remember all caps = Yahweh). The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the LORD filled the Temple.” All of the promises of God to Abraham had been fulfilled!!! Without studying this beforehand one would not understand the gravity of this time. Remember back when we were reading in Genesis and I mentioned the three fold promise that was given. God promised to make Abraham a great people, to give them land, and to have a relationship with them. All three have now officially come to pass. The people are more numerous then the sand on the seashore, they are living at peace in the land, and Yahweh has come down to have a relationship with them in his earthly home. This is no light matter. Solomon speaks of the PLR promise in his prayer of dedication as well. This is the high point of the Old Testament. At this point all seems to be going well, everyone is happy and prosperous. There was so much gold that silver had no value. I especially like this verse, “The king had a fleet of trading ships at sea along with the ships of Hiram. Once every three years it returned, carrying gold, silver and ivory, and apes and baboons.” (1 Kings 10:22 NIV) Why did Solomon need apes and baboons (or peacocks if you are reading the ESV)? Who knows, but when you have money you will find new things to buy just because you can. But sin is still in the world and bad times are just ahead of the people. Soon after this great event even wise Solomon starts to fall away. His wives and their “gods” start to distract him and the country divided in two. Solomon’s son will not be king over a united kingdom. The LORD will provide consequences for sin. This ushers in a time of great suffering and troubles that will last for many years to come. We also see a new literary pattern when the kings are introduced, “So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done.” (1 Kings 11:6 NIV) Look for this pattern as we continue to read about the Kings of Israel and Judah. The rest of 1 and 2 Kings will be filled with sin, sin, and more sin. We will see a few bright spots, but it seems now that the promises of God are far from being fulfilled. It may be helpful to read the rest of the Old Testament narrative with this verse in mind, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes” in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV) The promise will be fulfilled in Jesus who, as a descendant of David, will sit on his throne forever. This is the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant. Jesus will be the one who will make us his people through his suffering and death, Jesus will give us land in heaven, and he promises to be with us forever.

The New Testament
As we continue in the book of Acts we see that the Word of the Lord continues to grow and spread as the church begins, but there were some rumblings of discontent. The Apostles address this concern and start to delegate some authority. This is a good thing that we can all learn from. One verse really struck me from Chapter 6, “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7 NIV) Wow!! Some of the priests hear the Word and become believers of Jesus. That is powerful! The big connection this week to the main story is that of Stephen. He was commissioned to help pass out the food in Jerusalem and there he is preaching the message of Jesus Christ. He gets arrested and then has a marvelous speech. In this speech he mentions the PLR promise that was given to Abraham! How awesome is that? We just heard about it from Solomon and now we hear it from Stephen. His message gave a great summary of the Old Testament and he even mentions David and Solomon and the temple. What a great connection. He goes on to say, “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men” (Acts 7:48 NIV). Jesus was the temple. He even said so himself, “Jesus said ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days,’” (John 2:19 NIV) Jesus was talking about himself. Stephen becomes a great witness to Jesus and because of his death the word of the Lord was spread. One thing of note here is that there is a Pharisee named Saul who was in favor of killing Stephen. We will meet Saul again in a minute. One of the other people commissioned to pass out food was Philip. We see him later preaching and baptizing, not just passing out food. I think both Stephen and Philip tell us a lot about our vocation. We have been called to do certain things, but we all still preach, teach, and share Christ every day in every way. We saw the spread of the Gospel to Samaria in chapter 8 when Peter and John travel up to bring the Holy Spirit. This is a big deal because any good Jew hates anything Samaritan. Both Peter and John not only go to Samaria to see what was going on, but they also stopped and preached the Good news at many Samaritan villages. Philips meeting with the Ethiopian brings the message to Gentiles!! This is the beginning of something big. At the end of our readings we see this Saul character again. He was one bad dude. He hated the believers of the way and would do anything to stop them. But God had other plans. He called him on the road to Damascus and changed his life forever. We will spend more time talking about Saul (a.k.a. Paul, his Greek name) later. One quick thing: God does not change his name, he just goes by Saul when he is with Hebrew speakers and Paul when he is with Greek speakers, but more on him later.

Have a great week!!

Free Hit Counter