Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of August 27, 2017

Sermon: “Counter-Culture Charter”

St. Paul has, throughout his letter to the Romans, clearly articulated that the Life of Christ, His perfect life and innocent sacrifice of the same, has saved our lives!   As he concluded his letter Paul turned his attention to the response of lives so delivered:  “Love sincerely. Cling to what is good.  Honor others above yourself.”  (Romans 12:9ff)
A week ago, many of those who were unable to view the eclipse directly because they didn’t have the proper eye protection were still able to view the eclipse in a reflected state.  Our lives are lived in a reflected state of our Lord’s.  We are “loved sincerely” in Christ who humbled Himself and considered us of greater import than Himself.  We are “clung” to by He who is goodness incarnate.  We, though poorly tis true, reflect Him as we, “love sincerely, cling to what is good and honor others above ourselves.”

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of August 20, 2017

Sermon: “What Kind of Sacrifice is Alive?”

In the 12th chapter of his letter to the Romans, Paul calls us to "Offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God; in view of His mercy."

This offering does not remove sin's guilt from us nor move God toward us.  Through the sacrifice He offered, in the Lamb of God – that has already been accomplished.

Yet, such an offering does move us toward Him and away from sin.  In Christ we have become priests, rather than offer the life of another creature however we offer our living selves.  In so doing, worship becomes constant and a lived out doxology to Him who from, through and to ALL things belong.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of August 13, 2017

Sermon: “Your Own Two Feet”

Romans 10:14 & 17 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)

14 But how can people call on him if they have not believed in him? How can they believe in him if they have not heard his message? How can they hear if no one tells the Good News?


17 So faith comes from hearing the message, and the message that is heard is what Christ spoke.

For Lutheran confirmation students this text is one that connects with their memory work from the Apostles Creed.  Luther’s meaning of the 3rd article, “I believe that I cannot believe by my own reason or strength in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the truth faith…”  

Faith is the work of God’s Spirit. 

How is it that the Spirit works such faith?  Paul answers that question, “Faith comes from hearing the word of the Lord.”
Of course, that naturally begs another question (or two).  How do those who do not have their hands on a Bible or their rumps in a pew hear The Word?  Paul answers that question as well, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” 

That Word of the Lord we hear after having had the Scriptures in our hands or our rumps in the pews is not a Word to simply be kept by us; it is a Word to be shared that the Spirit might call, enlighten, and sanctify others even as He has called, enlightened, and sanctified the entire church on earth.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, August 14, 2017

The One Year Bible- August 14th

With the calendar still showing August it is hard to think that fall is right around the corner. I am looking forward to fall. I love the cooler evenings, and the regular pace of life that begins once school is in session. Fall brings a new school year, new pencils, new challenges and in our Old Testament readings we will be getting into some new territory. The main narrative story of God’s people is over. We will see some more narrative in the prophets but for a while we will have new things, like the books of Esther, Job, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. We will get into the prophets by the second week of September, but for now, enjoy the change of pace and see what God will reveal to you through His word. On to the study…

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
We finished up the book of Ezra and began the book of Nehemiah this past week. Ezra was a book about a priest and served as a theological perspective to the return of the Exiles. Nehemiah is more of a political book. Nehemiah was in the service of King Artaxerxes as a cupbearer. This was no small job; it was very important. Nehemiah was one of God’s people in exile. He had heard of the return of some of his own people back to the land to rebuild the temple and now he too desired to go. He asked for and received permission from the king and he went back with the purpose of rebuilding the walls of the city so it would be safe from foreign enemies. This was not popular with the governors of the area and they tried to stop the rebuilding of the walls many times. But God’s plan was for the wall and the city to be rebuilt because of his ultimate plan of sending the Messiah to fulfill prophecy. It took just 52 days to finish the wall and after it was completed, the Law (remember Law = writings of Moses) was read to the people and they all rededicated themselves to the LORD. Nehemiah gives us a good history lesson along the way as he reminded the people of the grace of God and his love for the people in spite of their disobedience. For as important as the ministry of Ezra was to the spiritual lives of the people, Nehemiah was to the political life of Jerusalem. The stage was set, the pieces have been put in place, everything was ready for the events to come to pass just as the prophets had foretold. All that was needed was for the fullness of time and the promised Messiah would come.

The New Testament
In our readings in 1 Corinthians we finished up Paul’s introduction with a message on legal matters. His advice is to stay out of the courts when you have a disagreement with another Christian. It just makes you look bad and is a very poor witness to Jesus. In fact it does not honor God when, in the public eye, Christians can’t get along. Paul then moves on to the questions that the church asked him. We do not have a copy of their letter to Paul but we do know how he answered some of their questions. Paul spends a lot of time dealing with marriage. He does not condemn marriage, but he does give some warning about how the desires of the flesh can get us off track spiritually as well as in our relationships. Paul then spends quite a bit of time on the issue of food. Food is something very important to a person of the Old Testament. Food laws were abundant and issues regarding food came up often in the early church. The root of the problem stems from the fact that the early church was multicultural. There were Jews and Gentiles together who had vastly different ideas about food. What was clean and unclean according the groups differed. God had made it perfectly clear that what ever He made clean was clean. This did not mean the people could go “hog wild” (no pun intended). In fact the church needed to be very careful about what it ate. Some people had a hard time with eating foods sacrificed to idols. They wanted to know if they ate the food were they honoring that idol. Then there was the whole problem of what would people think if they saw a believer eating that food. This is a complex issue. Paul tries to break it down, “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.” (1 Cor. 8:13 NIV). And in the next chapter he says, “We put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.” (1 Cor. 9:12b NIV). The bottom line is, if it causes someone to stumble or struggle in his or her faith we should try to avoid it at all costs. This has implications for us today. Do we have freedom in Christ? Yes! Can we do whatever we want? Yes, but not everything is beneficial. We must be careful of what we do and how that reflects Christ to the world.

Bits and Pieces
The Old Testament
We will read the entire book of Esther next week. We will also get into the book of Job.

Here are the vital stats for Esther:
PURPOSE: To demonstrate God’s sovereignty and his loving care for his people.  To record the Lord’s providential deliverance of the Judeans from destruction by their enemies in the Persian Empire.
AUTHOR: Unknown, possible Mordecai. Some have suggested Ezra or Nehemiah because of the similarity of the writing style.
DATE WRITTEN: Approx. 483-471 B.C.
SETTING: Although Esther follows Nehemiah in the Bible, its events are about 30 years prior to those recorded in Nehemiah. The story is set in the Persian empire, and most of the action takes place in the king’s palace in Susa, the Persian capital.
KEY VERSE: “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such as time as this?” (Esther 4:14 NIV)
LAW THEMES: Weakness before one’s enemies due to disobedience; the Lord thwarts grudges and hatred.
GOSPEL THEMES: Preservation of God’s people from whom Jesus would be born; the Lord works constantly for the deliverance of His people.
KEY PEOPLE: Esther, Mordecai, King Xerxes I, Haman
KEY PLACE: The king’s palace
SPECIAL FEATURES: Esther is one of only two books named for women (Ruth is the other). The book is unusual in that in the original version, no name, title, or pronoun for God appears in it. This caused some church fathers to question its inclusion in the canon. But God’s presence is clear throughout the book.

Here are the vital stats for Job:
PURPOSE: The Lord shows He is our Redeemer, despite what we may suffer in life.  It addresses the question, “Why do the righteous suffer?”
AUTHOR: Unknown, possible Job. Some have suggested Moses or Solomon.
DATE WRITTEN: Unknown. Records events that probably occurred during the time of the patriarchs, approx. 2000-1800 BC.
SETTING: The land of UZ, probably located in northeast Palestine, near desert land between Damascus and the Euphrates River.
KEY VERSE: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.” (Job 19:25 NIV)
LAW THEMES: People suffer unduly in a sinful, broken world;  no one can justify himself or herself before God; Satan can tempt people and inflict suffering.
GOSPEL THEMES: God accomplishes His righteous purposes amid and through suffering; the Lord is our Redeemer; the resurrection of the body.
KEY PEOPLE: Job, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, Zophar the Naamathite, Elihu the Buzite.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Job is the first of the poetic books in the Hebrew Bible. Some believe this was the first book of the Bible to be written. This book gives us insights into the work of Satan. Ezekiel 14:14 and James 5:11 mention Job as a historical character.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of August 6, 2017

Sermon: “To Tell the Truth”
Text: Romans 9:1

“As a Christian, I’m telling the truth.  I’m not lying.  The Holy Spirit along with my own thoughts, supports me in this.”  (Romans 9:1)

This is how Paul begins the 9th chapter of his letter to the Romans.  So far in this letter, Paul has laid out the case that humanity is filled with sin and cannot free itself.  He has also testified to the answer to the problem of sin in the person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross and now he appeals to the readers of his letter and to us today that his words are not some fanciful delusion or some hope filled desire.

He says that he is telling the truth.  His account of Jesus who died and rose again and is filled with grace and mercy…it’s all true. 

Many of you know that I am a huge Star Wars fan.  In the first Star Wars film, also known as Episode 4: A New Hope, the space smuggler Han Solo in conversation with Luke Skywalker about the Force says, “Kid, I've flown from one side of this galaxy to the other, and I've seen a lot of strange stuff, but I've never seen *anything* to make me believe that there's one all-powerful Force controlling everything. 'Cause no mystical energy field controls *my* destiny. It's all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.”  

In Episode 7, The Force Awakens there is an interesting scene that takes place as new characters Rey and Fin run into Han Solo aboard his star ship the Millennium Falcon.  Han Solo, once the doubter of the Force now believes.  As Rey asks about Luke Skywalker and the Jedi Knights, he says, “The crazy thing is…it’s true…all of it!”

Now I realize that is a Hollywood movie and not reality.  While I may invoke the willing suspension of disbelief and give in to the force while wielding my light saber in my office, (and yes I do that every once in a while) I know that it’s just a movie.

We do live in a world that struggles with the truth.  You don’t have to look too far to find stories of fact checking or fake news.

It seems that everybody wants to believe in their own thing.  Some will even say that truth is just relative. 
Richard Whatley, archbishop of Dublin in the late 19th century once wrote, “Everyone wishes to have truth on his side, but not everyone wishes to be on the side of truth.”

Here in his letter to the Romans, Paul pauses to make his plea, I’m telling the truth.  I’m not lying.”  (Romans 9:1)

How often do you tell the truth?

It is said that “The truth cannot be told without words, but lies can be told in silence.”

What was Paul talking about when he wrote, “I’m telling the truth”?  Just flip back over the previous parts of the letter.

From Chapter 1-“God’s anger is revealed from heaven against every ungodly and immoral thing people do as they try to suppress the truth by their immoral living.” (v. 18) “These people have exchanged God’s truth for a lie.  So they have become ungodly and serve what is created rather than the Creator.” (v. 25)

From Chapter 2 “But he will bring anger and fury on those who, in selfish pride, refuse to believe the truth and follow what is wrong.” (v. 8)

From Chapter 3 “For all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.” (v. 23)

From Chapter 6-“The wages of sin is death.” (v. 23)

And From Chapter 7 “What miserable people we are!” (v. 24)

You want the truth?  Do you think you are entitled to answers? 

Well, in the words of Colonel Nathan Jessup, played by Jack Nicholson in the movie A Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the truth!”

You are a poor miserable sinner and there is nothing you can do about it.  That is the truth!

If you are like me, you’ve tried to hide it, tried to deny it.  You’ve tried to fix it or forget about it.  We are not truth tellers.  We use our words to get us out of trouble but get stuck in a web of lies.

The inconvenient truth is that you have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Your punishment?  Death!

But Paul does not leave us without hope.  He does not abandon us to the grave.  He points us to Christ. 

So if you are troubled by your sin, hear the words of Christ Himself:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:1-6)

Jesus is the truth that Paul is talking about!

You might not be able to handle the truth, but the truth can handle you!  Jesus the way, the truth, and the life can handle your sin, he can handle your sorrow, he can handle your doubt and your disease, your fears and your failures and He nailed them to the cross so that you could be His.

There is only one truth, one reality, namely the truth embodied in Jesus Christ. 

As the Word from eternity, He created all that we see. 

As the one sent from the Father, He came to restore the truth of God’s love and salvation for us all. 

As the way, the truth and the life, He came to bring us into God’s kingdom and to send us His Spirit of truth to keep us in His way.

In Christ you are forgiven!  That is the truth!

Listen to the truth that Paul tells at the end of chapter 8 in his letter to the Romans. 
“What can we say about all of this? If God is for us, who can be against us? God didn’t spare his own Son but handed him over to death for all of us. So he will also give us everything along with him.  Who will accuse those whom God has chosen? God has approved of them.  Who will condemn them? Christ has died, and more importantly, he was brought back to life. Christ is in the honored position—the one next to God the Father on the heavenly throne. Christ also intercedes for us.  What will separate us from the love Christ has for us? Can trouble, distress, persecution, hunger, nakedness, danger, or violent death separate us from his love?  As Scripture says:

“We are being killed all day long because of you. We are thought of as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 The one who loves us gives us an overwhelming victory in all these difficulties.  I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love which Christ Jesus our Lord shows us. We can’t be separated by death or life, by angels or rulers, by anything in the present or anything in the future, by forces or powers in the world above or in the world below, or by anything else in creation.” (Romans 8:31-39)

That is the truth, and in that truth we find freedom; freedom from the shackles of sin and freedom in Christ alone! He is the truth that handles us.

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, August 07, 2017

The One Year Bible- August 7th

Time sure is flying.  It is hard to believe that the school year is right around the corner.  I have seen the “Back to School” mailers in my house and the stores are filled with pens, pencils, and paper just waiting to get used. Summer is winding down. School will be in session soon, and before you know it, it will be Christmas time. The narrative story of God’s people in the Old Testament is winding down as well. We are almost done with the story. It doesn’t seem possible does it? We have made it over seven months now and all I can say is that it has gone by quickly. Before it goes by too fast, let’s stop and spend some time studying and meditating on this week’s readings.

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
We finished up the book of 2 Chronicles and like I said last week, we miss a big part of the story. We miss about 70 years while the people are in exile in Babylon. We will catch some of this story when we read through Daniel a bit later this year. For now, we see that the LORD is working to set up the people so that a “remnant” will return and be ready for the coming of the Messiah. The Messiah was prophesied to return to the Promised Land. He was to be born in Bethlehem, of the house of David (the prophets will tell us this). Therefore there must be a plan to bring the people back. To get the people ready, God uses Josiah. Josiah gets the people back on the right path and during his reign, the book of the law was found. This was no small thing. The book of the Law was the foundation for the entire society. Without the book of the law it is no wonder that the people kept going their own way. Under Josiah, the people renewed their covenant with the LORD and promised to remain faithful. The people also celebrated the Passover again. But the people fell away under the leadership of some more bad kings and eventually the people were taken into captivity in Babylon. This should have not come as a surprise to the people, both Isaiah and Jeremiah had warned them. But God used King Cyrus of Persia to bring a remnant back to the land. That is where the book of Ezra begins. Jeremiah has prophesied that a remnant would return and it was so. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel and others, the first wave of exiles returned home to rebuild the temple as well as the city of Jerusalem. The people that were living in the area tried to stop it but they were unsuccessful. Did you catch that this was the time of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah? Make sure you remember this context when we get to these books. Ezra led the second wave of people back to the land. Ezra was a scribe and a teacher of the law. He was given the job to make sure the law was taught to the people who returned. In chapter seven the writing changes from third person (he, she, they) to first person (I, me, we). This is now the story of Ezra. The first bit was the history of the first wave of exiles to return. Ezra brings with him more people and more gold, silver and other riches from the King of Babylon. God sure was blessing the people in their return. But, Ezra soon learns that not all is well back home. The people have started to intermarry with the locals (again!!). This causes him great distress. He prays to God for mercy and forgiveness and is ashamed that even in the midst of grace, the people sin. Sounds like today. We live in the midst of grace every day, yet we seem to fall victim of the grip of sin.

The New Testament
We finished up the book of Romans with a long list of names. We don’t know too much about these people in the list. One name has been seen before in the New Testament. Mark mentions a Rufus who was the son of Simon of Cyrene, who carried the cross for Jesus. Is this the same guy? We don’t know for sure, but it would be a compelling story or conversion. Paul ends this letter with a wonderful phrase of praise to God, To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.” (Romans 16:27 NIV)

To understand Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth we need to get some background information.  The Christians in Corinth were struggling with their environment. Surrounded by corruption and every conceivable sin, they felt the pressure to adapt. They knew they were free in Christ, but what did this freedom mean? How should they view idols or sexuality? What should they do about marriage, women in the church, and the gifts of the Spirit? These were more than just theoretical questions; the church was being undermined by immorality and spiritual immaturity. Living as a Christian in Corinth was difficult and some of them were failing the test.  This is the situation and the reason for the first letter to the Corinthians. Paul is concerned with this church and he wants to try to help them through the difficult times. Paul confronts them (and us) with sin and the need for corrective action. Paul talks a lot about the foolishness of being a follower of Jesus. This is not meant as being a slam on those who believe, but as a way to help those understand why those who believe do so. It does not make sense to believe in Jesus from the world’s point of view. Grace does not make sense to our rational brains. Why would God do such a thing as send his only son to die for us? It makes no sense.

I especially like Paul’s analogy in chapter 3, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-8 NIV). At times in our lives, God has called us to sow the seeds of salvation. At other times we are called to water those seeds. It is rare that we get to see the fruit from beginning to end. When I worked at Arrowhead Lutheran Camp I sowed a lot of seed. At times it was frustrating. I didn’t get to seem much fruit. A few years after leaving camp, I received a letter from a camper who said that because of camp and the Bible studies she was a part of, she know has a close walk with Christ. She thanked me for all my work and says she still prays for the camp and me every day. This letter brought tears to my eyes. I know that it seems that at times we are just spinning our wheels, but let me tell you, the Holy Spirit is doing more than you know.

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We will finish up Ezra and move onto Nehemiah next. Here are the vital stats for
PURPOSE: Nehemiah is the last of the Old Testament historical books. It records the history of the third return to Jerusalem after captivity, telling how the walls were rebuilt and the people were renewed in their faith.  This book shows that all things are possible by God’s gracious and providential care.
AUTHOR: Much of the book is written in the first person, suggesting Nehemiah as the author. Nehemiah probably wrote the book with Ezra serving as editor.
DATE WRITTEN: Approx. 445-432 B.C.
SETTING: Zerubbabel led the first return to Jerusalem in 538 B.C. In 458, Ezra led the second return. Finally, in 445, Nehemiah returned with the third group of exiles to rebuild the city walls.
KEY VERSES: “So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.” Nehemiah 6:15-16
LAW THEMES:  Exile due to sin; illegal marriages; broken faith by failing to keep God’s Word.
GOSPEL THEMES:  God fulfills His promises of grace; God’s providence; restored atonement at the temple; God’s hand guides history and the lives of His people, the remnant.
KEY PEOPLE: Nehemiah, Ezra, Sanballat, Tobiah
KEY PLACE: Jerusalem
SPECIAL FEATURES: The book shows the fulfillment of the prophecies of Zechariah and Daniel concerning the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls.

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