Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Bethany Bullet - Week of March 26, 2017

Sermon: “The Transformative Power of a Gift”

Outside of Jesus’ own Resurrection, the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels is the feeding of the five thousand.  Of all the miracles Jesus worked, it is that miracle that stands out as unique.  Jesus, who never did anything unintentionally, involved others in the miraculous feeding.  The disciple who pondered how to feed the crowd, the child whose lunch was offered, the twelve who helped distribute the meal; each of these played a role in the event.  True, while ONLY Jesus worked the miracle, He intentionally chose to use the gifts and service of others to bless the recipients of His miraculous action.

Our Renaissance at Bethany recognizes that the Lord works through His people for the sake of His people, intimate followers, and the crowd alike.  In other words, we know that Jesus blesses through Bethany and that He works through the gifts and talents and service of the people of Bethany to bring about His blessings to those at Bethany and those outside of Bethany. 

The child in the account of this miracle, recorded in each Gospel, had two small fish and five barley loaves.  If that boy would have run away from the disciples and kept his lunch unto himself it would have remained a fine meal.  Only in turning his lunch over to Jesus did it become a miracle worthy of being recorded in each Gospel. 

Of course, the details of what happened later in the day are unknown to us.  There is a good chance that the boy went home and had to tell his mom that the disciples of Jesus “stole” his lunch and then Jesus fed 5000 people with it.  There is also a good chance that mom didn’t immediately believe this report.  Perhaps she came to trust her son the following day at the market or well when a neighbor who was in attendance confirmed the miracle; maybe when she read the record in a Gospel 40 years later; maybe when in heaven she struck up a conversation with someone who said they started following Jesus the day He fed thousands with a little boys lunch which was freely offered. 

Two things are certain, that offering changed eternities for some and all of us have an offering we too can freely and sacrificially turn over to Jesus.

Some of us at Bethany have “small fish” and “barley loaves” so to speak, while others of us have “King Salmon” and “large French baguettes”.  While we the members of Bethany will not all offer equal gifts, we can each offer an equal sacrifice.  We each offer an equal sacrifice when we offer to our God something that is ours (which is actually really His – remember our stuff is not our stuff) for His sacred purpose.  The miraculous is at the heart of the Renaissance as renewal, restoration and revitalization are all miraculous works of God accomplished in God’s Son even when the means are the gifts of God’s people.

Equal sacrifice means that our Renaissance commitment isn’t quite as easy as giving that which won’t be missed.  Some of us will give up Starbucks other will give stock, some will give-up vacation others vacation property, some will forsake a monthly evening of entertainment for three years others will give an investment product that has been growing for years.  While our gifts will vary and not be equal in amount or size or duration, when these gifts are given in faith and trust and when that which is offered is something that will be missed we will know the joy of equal sacrifice.

These commitments will also be sacrificial gifts because they are gifts given to our Lord’s Renaissance at Bethany that are over and above regular tithes and offerings.  Both gifts, our tithes and our offerings, and our sacrificial gifts to the Renaissance result in stories we may never know the details of but we can be confident that the conclusion thereof is an eternal offering of glory and praise to God in Christ, the author of the Renaissance of souls and sacred spaces here at Bethany.

If you have not yet picked up your Renaissance Commitment Card you can get them in the church office. Return it to the church office.  Please put C/O Renaissance on the envelope.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, March 27, 2017

The One Year Bible- March 27th

When I was in high school, I played on the basketball team. My first year I warmed the bench for the freshman “A” team. I would have liked to actually play on the “B” team but my coach was great and wanted me on his team. My sophomore year was a blur and I think I played a total of three minutes but I loved being part of a team. My junior year I got cut from the team and I poured my heart out to the coach and asked to just be able to practice with the team. He said “no” but the varsity coach put me back on the team, (I think there is a story of redemption there but that is not where I am going). Needless to say I played a total of zero minutes that year, but I never missed a practice and I worked my tail off. My senior year I made the varsity team and was encouraged by a great coach. Gene Campbell will always have a place of honor in my heart. He not only put me back on the JV team the previous year, he gave me shot as a senior. His pre-game speeches were amazing. Our team was picked by the local paper to come in last in the league; we were small, un-athletic, and inexperienced. That did not stop Coach Campbell from giving us confidence and inspiring us to be more than we were told we could be. We finished the year in fourth place out of ten teams. We missed the playoffs but made everyone stop and notice us. I see Moses as that type of person for the people of Israel. If the paper did a story on them, they would be picked last among the people in the area, they were small, un-athletic, and very inexperienced, but Moses had confidence in them. As he stands at the boarder of the Promised Land, he recounts the history of the people and gets them ready and pumped up for the battle ahead. This is how I view the book of Deuteronomy. Keep this in mind as you read the rest of the book. On to the rest of the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
I want to spend some time this week talking about one of the most important passages in the Hebrew Bible. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 NIV). Mark Braun in his commentary on the book of Deuteronomy says the following:

“Israel did not worship a pantheon of gods; their God was one, undivided. Because of that, God wanted them to give him undivided loyalty. The Baals of Canaan were manmade pictures of the various forces of nature, but Israel’s God was one. “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one” is the deepest statement of God’s nature as one Lord. For centuries the Jews have called this their Shema, from the first Hebrew word of this phrase. Observant Jews still say the Shema twice each day, as part of their morning and evening prayers, yet it is not so much a prayer as a statement of faith.”

This idea of one God is known as monotheism. It was a distinctive feature of the Hebrew religion. Many ancient peoples believed in many gods, or pantheism. But the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God of the whole earth, the only true God. This was an important insight for the nation of Israel because they were about to enter a land filled with people who believed in many gods. God reminds the people over and over again before they enter the land, not to have anything to do with these other gods. We shall soon see that this is a bit of foreshadowing, as the gods of the land of Canaan are the cause of many problems and eventually captivity and exile for the people.

Right after the Shema, Moses then gives some instructions to the people regarding education. The LORD wanted to make sure that the following generations would hear the stories and know of the love and mercy of God and his statutes and teachings for His people. “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6: 6-9 NIV).

Mark Braun continues in his commentary:

“God wanted education in the faith to be a family thing. God didn’t want his people confining it to Sabbath days, leaving it to the religious professionals to conduct. Moses’ words in verses 7-9 were probably meant in a figurative way; parents were to talk about their relationship with their Savior God and they went about their day-to-day lives. Many later Jews, however, took these versed literally. Jewish males, thirteen and older, tie phylacteries on to their foreheads and their left arms—two little black boxes containing tiny parchment scrolls on which are written four passages of the Hebrew Scriptures. Observant Jews also fasten mezuzoth to the door frames of their homes and public buildings—small wooden or metal boxes that hold two scrolls on which are written this verse and Deuteronomy 11:13-21. The Jewish teacher Maimonides said that those who look upon the mezuzoth and the phylacteries as lucky charms are ignorant, yet by obeying Moses’ words literally, many Jews many have found these outward symbols served as strong reminders of their faith. Crosses or pictures of Jesus serve a similar purpose in our homes.”

Jesus makes mention of this practice in Matthew 23 when he says, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and
do everything they tell you...
Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'” Jesus points out that although the Pharisees seem to be doing the things on the outside right, they are not right on the inside. They need to do what Moses intended. The word must come out through our actions (tied to our hands) and should be always on our minds (tied to our foreheads).

Here are some pictures of phylacteries and mezuzoths that may help:

The New Testament
We continue our journey in Luke and there are some amazing passages from this past week’s readings. I like the quote from Jesus, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Luke 5:31 NIV). We are all definitely sick because of sin. We are all in need of a doctor and the great physician; Jesus himself is there for us. You may have wondered about this “Son of Man” reference that Jesus keeps making reference to. I could write a book about it but the short answer is that he is most likely making reference to Daniel 7 where a “son of man” comes in glory from the clouds to rule. This was what Jesus was on earth to do. I will try to remember to talk about that when we get into Daniel (in November).

Jesus’ teachings on loving your enemies should make us all a bit uncomfortable. Do we really have to love them? Remember that because of sin we are enemies of God. He still loved us so much that he sent Jesus to die in our place for us. How many of you would die for your friends let alone your enemies. Just amazing. To a Jew the heart was the center of the emotions, as well as all reason and intellect. When Jesus talks about the good things and the evil things that come from our hearts would really hit home. He is not just talking about emotions here. This is the whole shootin’ match. What you say flows from what is in your heart. So that begs the question, what is in your heart? Is it sin or is it love. If it is sin how can you get rid of it? If it is love, how did it get there? The only way the sin will be removed is through what Jesus did for us. Because of his death he has removed that sin and has put in it’s place love. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Bethany Bullet - Week of March 19, 2017

Sermon: “The Prodigal Father”
Text: Luke 15

Prodigal means "wantonly reckless" or "brazenly careless" and thus is a quite fitting title for the younger brother in Jesus' parable recorded in Luke 15.  He is a boy who wanted his father's stuff but not his father; and in the end does what he wants, when he wants, with what he believes is his to do with as he pleases.  Yet, the older brother too was wantonly reckless in his estimation of himself. Read the story again you'll find that he is a boy that believes his father owes him and his status is based on his superiority rather than his father's generosity, his behavior not his father's nature.  

In the end however, perhaps we learn that the term prodigal might belong to this father more than either brother.  After all he is always there...loving, caring, providing for the self-satisfied child whether or not he realizes it, desires it or knows he needs it; and he is always there waiting, longing, aching to embrace the self-destructive child even when he believes himself worthless and irredeemable. 

To be known as being wantonly reckless with blessings and brazen careless with grace ... like Father God and His only begotten Son, our Savior and brother Jesus...oh may the term prodigal rightly be said of us.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, March 20, 2017

The One Year Bible- March 20th

As I have been driving around this past week I have noticed that many of the trees are starting to leaf out. It is an exciting time of the year when we see blossoms on plants, the days getting longer and the temperatures climbing (a bit). Spring is in the air and I think it is kinda neat that during this season we celebrate Easter. Now, I know I am getting ahead of myself since we are still a few weeks away and Lent is still in full swing, but as we look to the changes that are taking place on the earth, new life and new growth, I can’t help but think about the new life that has been given to all of us because of Jesus’ victory over death. When you see the new life springing from the ground, think about Jesus and the new life granted to us and guaranteed by what he did on the cross and his “springing” from the ground in his wonderful resurrection. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
Numbers is a strange book. It combines the narrative with some rules and regulations and then the “numbers” of counting and census taking. It can be hard to keep track of the story. I found myself turning back the pages a few times to remember what we read (this is not such a bad idea to do once in a while). A few things stuck out for me this week. The name of Baalam comes up again in the New Testament book of Revelation. I don’t know how much you know about the book of Revelation (and we don’t have time here to discuss in detail) but at the beginning of the book, Jesus gives John a message for seven churches. One of the letters warns of holding to the teaching of Baalam. This is the only place in the New Testament that makes reference to this story. Baalam knew about Yahweh but he took money from king Balak to give a curse against the people of Israel. Baalam gave in to the money and compromised his faith for the sake of material gain. I think that many in our world have compromised their faith or their beliefs for monetary gain as well. We outwardly worship the Lord but our hearts lust after wealth. This is the main message of the story. This lesson is important enough for John to mention it in the book of Revelation. Baalam ends up dying at the hands of the Israelites a few chapters later (31:8).

Another amazing event takes place in chapter 31. As the Lord commands the people to take revenge on the Midianites, they completely destroy them with the Lord’s help. This is amazing in and of itself but what really got to me was the fact that when the generals and captains gave a report to Moses they said, “Your servants have counted the soldiers under our command, and not one is missing.” (31:49 NIV) How amazing is that!!! They go to battle and no one is killed?? No friendly fire, no accidents, not even one lost battle. This should have been a sign to the people to trust in God, but as we shall see, the people will start to trust in themselves and not in God and things go wrong. In chapter 33 we have a very important task and warning from God. As the people are on the edge of the Promised Land, they get a command from God, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you and destroy all their figured stones and destroy all their metal images and demolish all their high places. And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it... if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. And I will do to you as I thought to do to them.” We will see that this is one of the main problems for the Israelites in the Promised Land. God told them what to do and they didn’t quite get the job done.

As we begin the book of Deuteronomy this week, don’t be puzzled by the fact that Moses retells almost the entire story of the history of God’s chosen people. I will have more to say about that next week, but I like to think of this book as Moses’ pre-game speech to the team led by Joshua. They were about to engage the enemy in battle and standing on the eastern bank of the Jordan, Moses encourages and motivates the people to do what God has been preparing for a long time. They were on the verge of taking possession of the promise that was given so long ago to Abraham. It is an exciting time, and time filled with some fear and expectation as well.

The New Testament
Luke is a great storyteller. He weaves a wonderful story together. Luke tells of three “songs” in the beginning of the book; Mary’s song, Zechariah’s song and Simeon’s song. All three of them are wonderful examples of praising God. Mary gives glory to God for the gift she has been given, Zechariah praises God for his mercy, and Simeon thanks God for the fulfillment of his promises through the Christ Child. These “songs” give a depth of emotion not found in the other Gospel accounts. If you grew up in a Lutheran Church that used the old 1941 hymnal you probably know Simeon’s song by heart (by the way it has made a comeback in the new Lutheran Service Book p.p. 199-200). I love that song. I will admit as a child I liked that song because that meant the service was almost over, but as I grew older that song and the words had an impact on me. Those of you who know the tune can sing along:

Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word, For mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation: which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people. A light to lighten the Gentiles and the Glory of Thy people Israel. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be world without end AMEN.

After his baptism and a list of his earthly ancestors, Jesus’ ministry begins in earnest. He first is tempted in the desert and rejected in Nazareth. I could just imagine the scene in the synagogue where Jesus gets up to read for the service and at the end hearing him say “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” I think that would be one of the most exciting times for those who believed that the Messiah was coming soon. Was this guy the one that was promised? Could he be the Messiah that we have been waiting for? Can we like Simeon, now die in peace? For some this guy was a blasphemer and a troublemaker. I hope I would know that this is the Christ the son of the living God. Soon we see that the Pharisees start looking for ways to get rid of Jesus. They see him forgiving sins, and healing on the Sabbath.

One other interesting point Luke makes is that he sets the story in a historical context. One of the knocks on the Bible is that it is just some fanciful story that was made up by the writers. One way Luke gives some credibility to his book is that he places it within the frame of history. This makes the document have more legitimacy outside of religious circles because of the verifiable evidence of history. At the beginning of Chapter 3 Luke writes, “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,...” All of these people can be verified to have existed using extra-biblical sources. Luke wants to let his readers know that he is not just making this stuff up. This was a very important point in the third century when the formation of the New Testament was happening. The inclusion of this information (as well as other factors) gave Luke a solid historical footing for inclusion in the New Testament.

Bits and Pieces

We will start the book of Deuteronomy this week. Here are the vital stats for the book:
PURPOSE: To remind the people of what God had done and encourage them to rededicate their lives to him
AUTHOR: Moses (except for the final summary which may have been written by Joshua)
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Israel (the new generation entering the promised land)
LAW THEMES: Devoted to destruction, hard-hearted, laws of the covenant, snare of idolatry, cursing
GOSPEL THEMES: Redemption- “I am the Lord, your God”, inheritance, righteousness by God’s Word, promises of the covenant, God’s love and calling, atonement, faithfulness, blessing
SETTING: The east side of the Jordan River, in view of Canaan
KEY VERSE: “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. (7:9)
KEY PEOPLE: Moses and Joshua

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Bethany Bullet - Week of March 12, 2017

Sermon: “Immeasurably More”

Our Text (from Sunday morning) comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians the third chapter verses 20 & 21. 

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

A survey was recently conducted among people who earned salaries of six figures or more. The question put to them was: “How much do you really need in order to feel secure…to feel that you have enough?” And their answer to that question was, overwhelmingly, some variation of these words: “Just a little bit more.”

Please note that the question was put to people who earned salaries of six figures or more. Their response is very revealing.

It shows us how most in our culture perceive the source of security in this life. It reveals that, for so many, their god is the money they have…or the money they wish they had.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he speaks of the “immeasurably more” that God desires us to receive, to accomplish His purposes in our lives, and in the life of our congregation. 

Just what is that “more” we are invited to believe God wants to bring?

First, let’s remember some great examples from Scripture.
  • Abraham prayed for more mercy for Sodom and Gomorrah – Genesis 18:16-33
  • Joshua prayed for more daylight to win his battle with the Amorites, and the sun stood still – Joshua 10:12
  • Solomon prayed for more wisdom – 1 Kings 3:1-15
  • A man with a sick child prayed to Jesus for more faith, and the life of his son was restored – Mark 9:24
  • Jesus prayed for deliverance, and received strength for his ordeal – Matthew 26:36-56

What kind of “more” does God desire us to ask for, and receive?
Whatever it might be, it is not a number in a bank account but I’m convinced it’s something that draws us closer to Him, something that causes us to treasure our salvation, and to seek to serve others in a more powerful, compelling way.

Our God wants us to have more; more of what Paul says right before our text in Ephesians , “. . . this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Eph. 3:19

The love that was expressed so beautifully, so tragically, at the cross, where the One who prayed that the “cup be taken from me” willingly drank it fully for us, so that by His death on our behalf, we might be sitting here with a destiny of hope, and a vision of what is possible if we grow as disciples of our Lord Jesus.

During the past few months, you’ve been hearing a great deal about the Renaissance campaign. 

We’ve been growing in awareness of what we believe the Lord desires to do through us, and why it’s the best for the future ministry here at Bethany.

That God may work a Renaissance first and foremost in the hearts of His people here in this place and also in the physical spaces here on our campus so that many more may come to faith in Him. 

This “more” we’re talking about: it’s not something that we have the power to do by ourselves. It’s not something that we are going to do because we’ve voted for it, and thus it’s the right thing to do.  This more is really not about a number in an account.

It’s something that God wants to do with us. To us. Through us. It is something that He sees, and we as His disciples say, “Amen” to what Paul said, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. . .”

For that we kneel in obedience. We kneel in prayer. Because the vision God has given us is so far beyond our best efforts that He will have to make it happen by His power.

Because we’ll need all the inspiration God can give us, and strengthening within, for what He has in store for us.

On Palm Sunday, just a few weeks from now, we are all going to have the opportunity to make a commitment to the future God sees.

Everyone whose life our congregation touches – everyone who calls this place their worship home – will be invited to be a part of the "immeasurably more” that our God has for us.

Can you imagine the possibilities when our campus is a beacon of hope for the community, when all our youth in our programs have access to wonderful facilities, when the students who come here to hear about Jesus every day are provided greater safety and structures on which to play and imagine and learn? 

Imagine the first time visitor coming into our sanctuary and catching a glimpse of the divine in worship or seeking help in the comfort of our redesigned offices. 

Can you imagine that? Some can, but I also know that some are having difficulty, and of course there are some here who don’t want to imagine it, because they don’t want it to happen.

Regardless of where we are collectively, this “more” will be “more than all we can ask or imagine.” That’s God’s promise.

We pray that we will all experience personal renaissance and spiritual growth.

We pray that we will be inspired by the Word of God in order to see this “immeasurably more” come about.

That’s how Paul describes it: these things happen “…according to his power that is at work within us.”
Our goal, after all, is not transforming the value of our bank account; it is transforming the hearts of God’s people gathered here. It’s not just a number on a statement it’s so we can make a statement for Christ and what He has done for all humanity. 

Our goal is not to inspire you to give to a goal or a project, but to be transformed into disciples who are changed, and who continue to grow as generous people.

For that reason, Paul prayed, right before our text in Ephesians, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Eph. 3:16

Ask yourself: for what do you need prayer for, with regards to our Renaissance campaign?
  • Are you one of our Directors, or a team member or volunteer, who has been putting in long hours to make this campaign happen? If so, we’re going to pray that you receive the strength and inspiration you’ll need to do “immeasurably more than all you can ask or imagine.”
  • Are you one of the many who have become excited about our campaign, and who are looking forward to hearing more about the plans God has for our future? If that’s you, can you pray for our leadership, that they can describe our endeavor in a way that is “immeasurably more” than all we can ask or imagine?
  • Maybe you are a person who still isn’t quite sure what we’re doing and why it’s important. If so, let’s pray together that, as Paul wrote, “…the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.”
  • Perhaps today, as you’re listening, you know what our campaign is about, and you’re just not sure it’s the right thing for us as a congregation. We all want to respect each other’s opinions, and listen to each other, and so if that’s the case, the best thing we can do is to pray that our love for each other, inspired by the love God demonstrated for us at the cross of our Savior, will draw us together in a more powerful way than ever.

After our Commitment Sunday we pray that we will move on in the Renaissance Project and begin to impact the ministries here and the lives that they intersect.

And who will get the glory for all this? He will:   “…to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.” Eph. 3:21

So, we pray for more.
  • More desire to speak to the Lord in prayer about our hopes, and yes, our fears, about this campaign.
  • More desire to see the vision we have coming true in our midst.
  • More passion to be generous, to give as those who are incredibly loved by God, through Jesus Christ.

I’d like to share with you a true story that occurred recently in the life of Jerry Kieschnick, one of the past presidents of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.  In a recent article, he wrote:
During the Sunday service I noticed across the aisle a little girl who was crying while the offering was being gathered. Looking more closely, I detected a coin in her little clenched hand. About that time she looked toward the back of the sanctuary at the ushers who were making their way from front to back. I deduced that she was deeply upset about missing the offering plate.

Her mother was saying something to her that was impossible for me to hear. But I surmised that mom had suggested her daughter could still deposit her offering since the ushers would pass by again on their way back to the front of the sanctuary to place the offering plates on the altar. Unaware of the dilemma, the ushers walked right past her pew, which catalyzed additional tears.

After briefly pondering if and how it would be appropriate to help, I quickly got out of my seat, walked across the aisle, knelt beside the little girl and asked her mother if her daughter was crying because she missed the offering. Mom’s answer was in the affirmative. So I asked the mother if it would be okay for her daughter to go with me to the altar to put her offering in the plate. She readily agreed. So did the little girl, whose face suddenly turned from sadness to satisfaction.

Hand in hand a little girl and a man she had never met walked down the center aisle and up the chancel steps. When we stood before the altar, which was much too tall for her to reach, I asked if I could pick her up so she could reach the plate. She nodded in agreement. I picked her up, she completed her mission, and we walked back together to her appreciative mother. On the way I noticed no small number of smiling worshippers who had witnessed what had transpired.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, I learned from her mother after the service that the little girl’s name is Katelyn. She is four years old. When I saw the coin she placed in the plate I was reminded of the biblical story of the widow who gave all she had. And I was thankful that I did not let my initial concern about possibly making a scene or interfering in a parental matter prevent me from taking what turned out to be a most rewarding risk.

May we be given that same desire for more and when the time comes, and we are invited to bring forward a commitment to the future God sees. To echo Paul, then, “. . . to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.”

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, March 13, 2017

The One Year Bible- March 13th

With Lent in full swing and our calendars filling up quickly, it may be time to reevaluate your reading plan.  About every three months or so it is good to do a little check-up.  Have you been able to keep up with your daily readings?  If not, do you know why?  What can be done to tweak your routine to find time to read?  I settled into a routine a few years ago and it has worked for me.  My weekends are quite busy so I have been doing two readings a day on Monday through Thursday and taking a break Friday through Sunday.  This plan gives me one day of wiggle room in case I really get bogged down with other things.  The important thing is to find a time that works and stick to it.  Soon it will become habit.  Please let me know if I can help out in any way!  On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

As we have said before, the book of Numbers has a general them of grumbling and complaining by the people.  Time and time again God tries to show the people his love but the people don’t seem to get it.  The phrase that God uses over and over to show is Grace is, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God.” (Numbers 15:41 NIV).  This is almost the same phrase God uses when he gives the law with the Ten Words (Ten Commandments).  God reminds the people that the relationship he has with them is based on Grace.  That being said, God is still a jealous God, who is Holy (meaning without sin and hating sin), therefore he cannot just turn a blind eye to the grumbling and disobedience of the people.  A few examples to illustrate my point:

Their first complaint resulted in God sending a fire to destroy the people. Moses prayed to God and the fire left. One verse later the people start complaining again! Now they want meat. They were sick of this manna stuff and they longed to be back in Egypt. Moses even gets agitated with the people. But God, in his mercy, gives them meat to eat. So much meat that they get sick of it. Moses then selects 12 men to go into the Promised Land to check it out and when they return, 10 of the men say that Israel should not go in because the people are giants. Only Joshua and Caleb give a true account. They trust in God’s promises. So the people started complaining again. They even wanted to kill Caleb and Joshua. God gets fed up with this group and tells them that none of them will even enter the Promised Land.

Chapter 16 tells the story of the rebellion of Korah. This story serves as a lesson to all those who do not trust God. All those who followed Korah were either killed by fire or swallowed up by the earth. Then God wants to destroy all the people, but God in his mercy hears the cry of his people and spares them. (Do you see a theme here?) Surely this will put an end to the complaining. But as soon as they run out of water they rebel again. But God in his mercy hears the cry of his people and provides for them.

Then Moses gets into trouble by not giving credit to God for providing the water from the rock and he finds out that he will not enter the Promised Land. So the people start complaining again in Chapter 21. So God sends snakes to kill the people. But God in his mercy hears their cries for help. He tells Moses to put a snake on a pole and those who look at it will live. This is a foreshadowing of Christ, because those who look upon Jesus (on a pole a.k.a. the cross) will be saved (“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up” –John 3:14). Our readings for this week ended with the people looking for safe passage through some of the lands near Canaan. They get themselves into trouble by trying to fight when God said not to.

Next up is the story of Baalam. This is a story that tells about the power of God. Baalam knows the true God, but Baalam was not always faithful. King Balak wants Baalam to curse the people but Baalam will not because the Lord (Yahweh) is with them. God also shows his power by making Baalam’s donkey talk. God will use any means necessary to get his message across.

I hope you can see that our God is a God of mercy.  He showed that mercy ultimately in the person of his son Jesus Christ who was the ultimate sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. 

The New Testament

We finished up Mark’s Gospel and it was a quick journey. It is believed that Mark was the first account of Jesus that was written. And it ends just as it begins, with action. In quick succession we have the Last Supper, the time in the garden, the trial, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and Mark’s version of the Great Commission. Like Matthew, Mark mentions the Temple curtain being torn in two. This was very significant. Remember from our readings in the Old Testament that there was a curtain that separated the holy place from the most holy place and that only the high priest could enter it and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement. When that curtain tore, it showed that we no longer need a human person to go to God for us. Jesus has restored our relationship with the father and now we can approach him because of Christ. The book of Hebrews really drives this point home. It is also interesting that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all say that it tore from top to bottom. Thus signifying this was from God.  There is an interesting bit of text at the beginning and end of the book that serve as bookends for Mark.  In Chapter 1 he writes, “The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God”.  Then in Chapter 15 verse 39 we read this that came from the mouth of the Roman centurion, “Surely this man was the Son of God”.  Everything in between these two verses tells us all about the ministry of Jesus.  Now of course the resurrection was coming but that was just more proof as to who Jesus is.  One other textual note, I am sure that you noticed that at the end of Marks Gospel there was some note saying something like “The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20”.  That is not to say that they are not Biblical.  The translators want the reader to know that there are some textual problems with these verses.  For the most part the problems do not go so far as to place a great deal of doubt in these verses but theologians do not generally use these verses as proof texts for doctrine. 

As we begin the book of Luke I want you to notice the different style that Luke uses as compared to Mark.  Luke seems to take more time in the story telling and uses “songs” to show some of the emotion behind the stories.  Many have said that Mark is the Gospel for guys and Luke is for the ladies.  I know that is stereotyping but I hope that helps you see the difference in the books. 

Have a great week!!

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