Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of September 23, 2018

Sermon: “Father, They’re Copying Me! – Forming Spiritually”

The Bethany Blueprint affirms the Biblical Truths that it is God who called us!  By the power of the Spirit at work in the waters of Baptism and the Word of the Lord we have been called to faith, called to a person trust in Jesus, called by name and called God’s own beloved children. 

It was through Jesus that God proved His love for us.  By Jesus’ perfect and righteousness life, His innocent suffering and death, and His holy and precious blood we have come to know the love of God; a love that moved Him to be gracious unto us for the sake of Jesus.  This God has also empowered us to live in and for Him; and the blueprint provides the layout for how that is done.  Through worship, formation, service, giving and sharing, we live our lives in and for Him.   The Blueprint therefore provides a picture of the people we want to be.  However, it also provides a picture of the person Jesus was.

Jesus formed spiritually, that is He “grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and with others.” (Luke 2)  Jesus did so as He memorized and meditated upon the Word; as He spent time alone with His Father; and as He spent time in the company of other children of God.

V  Jesus, who is the Eternal Logos (Word) and the Incarnate Word, who moved prophets, poets and patriarchs to record the Old Testament, whose own life was the content of the Gospel’s and whose teachings were the basis of the epistles, Himself meditated upon and memorized the Scriptures.  If Jesus, the Eternal Word and Incarnate Word spent time in the Word.  If Jesus did so, how much more so ought we if we are to Form Spiritually?

V  Jesus, who is One with the Father, existing in perfect harmony and unity, still found it necessary to ‘escape’ the noise of earth and connect with His Father in heaven.  Think of the number of times the disciples go off looking for Jesus, uncertain of His whereabouts only to find Him off praying in the wilderness.  Even Mary and Joseph experienced this on that one occasion to hear Jesus say, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”  If Jesus did so, how much more so ought we if we are to Form Spiritually?

V  Jesus, who is Israel reduced to one, the epitome of Christianity, connected with other believers – not just to give but also to receive – (Jesus received economic support from a host of NT women, one disciple in particular He connected to emotionally (the disciple whom He loved) one disciple in particular He connected to ‘professionally’ (the disciple whom He called the ‘rock’ and told to ‘feed His sheep.’)  Jesus even received encouragement for what lay ahead from saints of old, Moses and Elijah, who themselves had walked the lonely path of obedience.  If Jesus did so, how much more so ought we if we are to Form Spiritually?
-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, September 24, 2018

The One Year Bible- September 24th

A number of years ago I was introduced to a form of devotion and reading called Lectio Divina. In short it is a tool to use when you are reading God’s word. Here is a quick definition: Lectio Divina is Latin for divine reading, spiritual reading, or "holy reading," and represents a method of prayer and scriptural reading intended to promote communion with God and to provide special spiritual insights. It is a way of praying with Scripture that calls one to study, ponder, listen and, finally, pray from God's Word. The past few weeks I have used this tool to stop and spend some time just chewing on God’s word and praying through what we have been reading. I have stopped in various places including parts of Isaiah, Ephesians and especially Psalms. I encourage you to give it a try. One thing you have been doing without even knowing it is something called Lectio Continua which is Latin for continuous reading. It is the discipline of reading the entire Bible without omitting anything. Both Lectio Continua and Lectio Divina can bring some depth as well as breadth to the study of God’s Word. On to the study...
Seth’s Thoughts
The Old Testament
I think I could write a novel on what we found in Isaiah this week. I think I told you that I am putting a star in the margin of my Bible each time I read “The Holy One Of Israel”. Remember that this is a term that points to the coming Messiah, Jesus. One thing to keep in mind is that you need to remember who the “I” is in some of these passages. Sometimes it is Yahweh, other times it is Isaiah. Make sure you know who is talking. This will go far in helping you understand some of the significance of the passage. Some general thoughts; we have entered the second part of the book of Isaiah and we will start to see much more of a prophetic message. Isaiah’s audience has changed from the people living in the Promised Land, to the exiles living in captivity. Here we see a message of hope and promise. Chapter 40 begins the new section with such a message, “Comfort, comfort my people says your God” (Isaiah 40:1 NIV). The people are in need of comfort because of what has happened. The people have been exiled. They are living in a foreign land and they need to hear the comforting words of their God. Chapter 40 gives a hope filled message and ends with a verse near and dear to my heart, “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 NIV). This verse is my confirmation verse given to me by my father. It has been a source of comfort and hope for me for most of my life. I know that God is right there beside me giving me the strength I need to do his will. He promises to be with me when all other things seem to go wrong. Chapter 41 continues this same theme. Some of the most controversial parts of the book of Isaiah come from the sections where he mentions a character named Cyrus. He is called a shepherd, and one who will fulfill the purpose of God. He is also called an ally of God. Some translations use the Hebrew word Messiah to describe him. Cyrus was not a follower of Yahweh, he was the king of Persia, and a Gentile. He was used by God to bring the remnant back to the Jerusalem. Many believe that this name was inserted in later years to make Isaiah look good. There is no proof of this, and we should be careful to say that God was not the one who inspired Isaiah to write about this king. Many years later it would come to pass that King Cyrus would issue a decree that would allow many Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city and more importantly the temple. Isaiah also spends much time on the topic of monotheism. There are so many references to the Messiah in Isaiah it is hard to mention them all. Keep on looking for things that seem familiar to the life of Christ. I will post some of the connections in an upcoming post.

The New Testament
We finished up Galatians and now are in Ephesians. One of the main themes in Ephesians is “The Body of Christ” and the church. One key idea to keep in your mind while reading is one of Paul’s presuppositions of the book, namely that we are “In Christ” and apart from Christ we can do nothing. We are part of Christ by what he did on the cross and by claiming us as his own in baptism. We have been adopted into the family and now we can celebrate with all the rights and privileges as heirs of salvation. This is an amazing gift of God. This idea of “gift” is huge in Ephesians. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV). What a wonderful message. It is not up to us. If it were, I know I would be in trouble! I think I could just give quote after quote from Paul for this post. I have underlined so much in my Bible this week. Here are some of the best in my mind. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13 ESV). “For he himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14 ESV). “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19 ESV). “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6 ESV). “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 ESV). I could go on and on, but you get the point. This book is a deep rich read, filled with so many good things. Don’t just skim over these things. Meditate on them, let them sink in, roll them around you head for a while. You will be blessed by doing so.
Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We will finish up Isaiah this week. I will have a lot to say next week about it. This week we will start the book of Jeremiah. Here are the vital stats:

PURPOSE: To urge God’s people to turn from their sins and back to God
AUTHOR: Jeremiah
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Judah (the southern kingdom) and its capital city Jerusalem
DATE WRITTEN: During Jeremiah’s ministry approx. 627-586 B.C.
SETTING: Jeremiah ministered under Judah’s last five kings—Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. The nation was sliding quickly toward destruction and was eventually conquered by Babylon in 586 B.C. (see 2 Kings 21-25). The prophet Zephaniah preceded Jeremiah, and Habakkuk was Jeremiah’s contemporary.
KEY VERSE: “’Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and relize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the LORD your God and have no awe of me,’ declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty” (2:19).
KEY PEOPLE: Judah’s kings (see list above), Baruch, Ebed-Melech, King Nebuchadnezzar, the Recabites
KEY PLACES: Anathoth, Jerusalem, Ramah, Egypt
SPECIAL FEATURES: This book is a combination of history, poetry, and biography. Jeremiah often used symbolism to communicate his message.

The New Testament
We will finish up Ephesians, read Philippians and start on Colossians this week. Here are the vital stats for Philippians:

PURPOSE: To thank the Philippians for the gift they had sent Paul and to strengthen these believers by showing them that true joy comes from Jesus Christ alone.
TO WHOM WRITTEN: All the Christians at Philippi and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 61, from Rome during Paul’s imprisonment there
SETTING: Paul and his companions began the church at Philippi on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:11-40). This was the first church established on the European continent. The Philippian church had sent a gift with Epaphroditus (one of their members) to be delivered to Paul (4:18). Paul was in a Roman prison at the time. He wrote this letter to thank them for their gift and to encourage them in their faith.
KEY VERSE: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (4:4)
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus, Euadia, and Syntyche
KEY PLACE: Philippi

Here are the vital stats for the book of Colossians:

PURPOSE: To combat errors in the church and to show that believers have everything they need in Christ.
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The church at Colosse, a city in Asia Minor, and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 60 during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome
SETTING: Paul had never visited Colosse—evidently the church had been founded by Epaphras and other converts form Paul’s missionary travels. The church, however, had been infiltrated by religious relativism, with some believers attempting to combine elements of paganism and secular philosophy with Christian doctrine. Paul confronts these false teachings and affirms the sufficiency of Christ.
KEY VERSES: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (2:9-10).
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Timothy, Tychicuys, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Mark, Epaphras
KEY PLACES: Colosse, Laodicea
SPECIAL FEATURES: Christ is presented as having absolute supremacy and sole sufficiency. Colossians has similarities to Ephesians, probably because it was written at about the same time, but it has a different emphasis.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of September 16, 2018


Thus you have intrinsic value and divinely granted purpose.  This ought to shape our view of life and they way we live!  If you missed Sunday's message, click HERE to link to our Podcast page on our website and you may listen to Sunday’s message. 

The next 5 weeks we will be exploring "the way we live" and our Bethany Blueprint.

-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, September 17, 2018

The One Year Bible- September 17th

There is an art to discipline. Being a classroom teacher for many years always reminded me that for every student there is a way of dealing with his or her behavior. Sometimes they need to be yelled at, other times they need to feel loved. But there is always that one child where nothing seems to work. No matter what you say, they still make poor decisions; they still put their foot in their mouth. While reading through Isaiah, I get the feeling that he tried everything to get the people to listen. He used harsh words, he used loving words, and nothing seemed to work. His message was very important for their well being. If they would listen, they would be saved. At times it seems like Isaiah (and the other prophets as well) is just repeating himself. What else could he do? He was called by God to be His mouthpiece. Sometimes it comes down to being faithful to the calling you have received and not worrying about how the message is received. That’s my two cents for the day. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts
The Old Testament
The major theme of Isaiah is the proclamation of what will happen to those who do not put their trust in Yahweh. Isaiah has a simple message for all the countries: you will be destroyed. This same message is for Israel as well, with one caveat; there will be a remnant. This faithful remnant will return to the Promised Land ready for the coming of the Messiah. One neat thing I read this week revolved around the idea of applying the book of Isaiah to our lives in the 21st century. The book was not initially written to us, but it is preserved for us. The question is why? Many things come to light when answering this question. First of all, Isaiah’s warnings should ring true for us today. The same warnings he gave to Israel, we should heed today. We must put God first, and look to him for wisdom and strength. Second, Isaiah is preserved because of its wonderful Messianic prophecy. Can you imagine Christmas or Easter without quotes from Isaiah? A third thing I read, and I am still digesting, is the idea that just as Israel needed to watch its alliances with other countries, because of the problems that can develop (think about Isaiah’s warnings about Egypt), we also need to watch what things we ally ourselves with. We need to watch who we hang out with and spend time with. We must be careful of those close to us and their influence upon us. Chapter 36 begins a narrative section that gives some insights on the events from the reign of King Hezekiah. This is a neat section that shows how even when all seemed doomed, God rescued his people. Even after this, a few years later Jerusalem is destroyed and the people are taken into captivity.

The New Testament
I love Paul’s letter to the Galatians!! Many Bible scholars see the wonderful theology of Romans in an infant form in this smaller letter. Galatians shares many of the same themes and analogies as the longer letter to the Romans. Remember that Paul was not writing to one church. This letter went to all the churches in the area that Paul founded on his first missionary journey. I am sure Paul had fond memories of his very first mission trip and the people he saw and taught. These were memories he would cherish his whole life. I will never forget my very first class of students as a teacher. Some of the other years are a bit fuzzy at times but that first class will always be with me. Paul has some strong emotions for what he has heard from the believers in Galatia. Right from the get-go Paul tries to snap them out of the influence of a group known as the Judaizers. This group of people demanded that to become a Christian, one first had to convert to Judaism. The person must fulfill all the requirements of the law before being allowed to become a part of the community of believers. Paul was strongly opposed to any such group. He believed that these people were taking the free gift of God and turning it into a work. This was quite contrary to the message of Jesus Christ. The argument was settled by the church at the first Jerusalem council where it was agreed that one did not have to first become Jewish before believing in Jesus as the Messiah. The balance of the letter addressed this same issue. In Chapter one Paul lays it down, But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!(Gal. 1:8-9 NIV). Strong words from a passionate man. Paul goes on with saying that faith in the Law is worthless. Trying to gain salvation by the Law is hopeless for sinful people. Paul reminds the people of Abraham, the father of the promise. The Jews considered Abraham to be one of the big guys and we now live according to that same promise because of Jesus. In one of the best passages in all of Paul’s letters we find this, But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” (Gal 4:4-7 NIV). I could probably write a dissertation on these verses!!! To me they spell out the clear message of salvation. We were slaves, but Jesus adopted us as sons and we now enjoy all the blessing of being his own. I can’t imagine better news!!! Most of the rest of the letter spells out the difference between following the law and the ideas of the Judaizers in contrast to living in the Grace of Jesus Christ. One quick note on the fruit of the spirit; notice it does not say fruits (plural), it says fruit (singular). The Holy Spirit produces all of these things in our lives!!

Bits and Pieces
The Old Testament
We will be finishing up the first part of Isaiah and start the second (remember the divisions from last week). The second part, which starts at chapter 40 is more focused on future events. Isaiah will be writing about things that will happen beyond his own lifetime. There will be a lot said of Israel’s salvation and savior. The return from exile will be a major theme with an emphasis on redemption. Isaiah will still give warnings but his audience has changed and so has his message.

The New Testament
We will finish up Galatians this week and jump right into Ephesians. Here are the vital stats for the book of Ephesians:
PURPOSE: To Strengthen the believers in Ephesus in their Christian faith by explaining the nature and purpose of the church, the body of Christ
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The church at Ephesus, and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 60, from Rome, during Paul’s imprisonment
SETTING: The letter was sent with Tychicus to strengthen and encourage the churches in the area. Paul had spent over three years with the Ephesian church. Paul met with the elders of the Ephesian church at Miletus (Acts 20:17-38)—a meeting that was filled with great sadness because he was leaving them for what he thought would be the last time. Because there are not specific references to people or problems in the Ephesian church and because the words “at Ephesus” (1:1) are not present in some early manuscripts, Paul may have intended this to be a circular letter to be read by all the churches in the area.
KEY VERSES: “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (4:4-6 NIV).
LAW THEMES:  Rivalry between believers; grieving the Spirit through unfaithfulness; marital unfaithfulness; spiritual warfare.
GOSPEL THEMES: Baptism; election by God’s grace; justification by grace alone; the mystery of Christ revealed; unity in Christ’s body.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Several pictures of the church are presented: body, temple, mystery, new man, bride, and soldier. This letter was probably distributed to many of the early churches.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of September 9, 2018

Sermon: “The Law, the Whole Law, and Nothing But the Law…So Help Me God!”
Text: James 2:10

Since almost the advent of Television, courtroom shows have graced the airwaves and filled the cable channels giving us a window into the legal system of our great country. 

I’m not sure what show comes to your mind when you think of courtroom or legal shows on TV.  Perhaps it is the classic Perry Mason, or the intrepid Matlock.  Perhaps you spent time watching the exploits of LA Law or the cases played out on Law and Order or JAG.  Some of you might be up to speed on Suits or Goliath.  If courtroom drama is not your speed, perhaps you have caught an episode of Judge Judy, the Peoples Court or Judge Joe Brown. 

For me, the best courtroom TV show by far, and the one I look back on for teaching me the most about the legal system was Night Court.   Some of you may chuckle because you know the show, for those who don’t let me set the stage.

The storyline, goes like this, “In this situation comedy, the honorable Judge Harold T. Stone presides over ‘Night Court’, a court which deals with petty crimes which can be dealt with in a dime-a-dozen manner. Invariably, the cases appearing before the court are bizarre, but that's ok because Judge Stone is not your regular judge, he’s a hip, jeans-wearing eccentric judge whose views on various cases isn’t always normal, nor is his judgments. He's assisted by a motley crew of clerks, bailiffs and lawyers who often create as much chaos as the criminals they bring in for trial.”

This show was hilarious and every episode something crazy happened.  It ran from 1984 to 1992 and really catered to my young adult sense of humor.  Do me a favor when you get home and look up some Night Court clips on YouTube, or better yet, download a season or two for your next trip, you won’t be disappointed. 

So, why all the talk about courtrooms?  In our epistle lesson for today we come face to face with the Law. 

As I spent time with the second chapter of James this week I couldn’t get the law out of my mind.  

When reading God’s Word or hearing the proclamation of it here in God’s house it would be easy to come to the conclusion that to be a follower of Jesus you have to adhere to a strict collection of guidelines, behaviors and yes, even laws. 

Quite often it is believed that one must follow said guidelines in order to be received into the community. Fortunately this is not the case. 
Reception into the body of Christ is not dependent upon what we do, but upon what Christ has done…but I’m getting ahead of myself. 

From the Epistle of James, the 2nd chapter verse 10, “If someone obeys all of God’s laws except one, that person is guilty of breaking all of them.”  (James 2:10)

It would have been a whole lot easier for Perry Mason or Judge Harry Stone to operate in a courtroom that had those regulations; one slip up and you are done for!

The Jewish people were so focused on not transgressing the law that they not only tried to follow the ones instituted by God, but they made up even more to keep themselves distanced from even the chance that they may disobey. 

In the 3rd Century Jewish Rabbis enumerated 613 laws they found directly from the Old Testament Scriptures.  On top of that they added more regulations and requirements for every one of the 613 laws just to make sure they didn’t break them.

Let me give you an example.  The 10 commandments would be part of the 613 laws.  Let’s take the 3rd commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.”  First of all, good job to you all for keeping that one today.  But the Pharisees added another 39 regulations onto this one commandment.  Additional requirements would include how many steps you can take on the Sabbath, what specific activities constituted as work and many, many more.  

In modern times it has been expanded even greater.  Have you ever visited a Jewish hospital on a Saturday?  All of the elevators stop at every floor without the need to press a button, because that would be doing work on the Sabbath.  And this is just with one commandment! 

It is the belief that as long as you follow all of the laws, you will get into heaven. 

But it’s not just those in the Jewish faith.  It’s the secular world too.  As long as I am a good person, or take care of others or do right, then everything is going to be OK. 

And let’s be serious for a moment, in the Christian world we have this mixed up too.

If you took inventory of your life with just the 10 commandments, would you be declared innocent or guilty?
  • Have you ever put your trust into something other than God? 
  • Have you ever misused God’s name, even once? 
  • Have you always kept the Sabbath Day and the importance of worship in your life? 
  • Have you always honored your father and your mother? 
  • I would hope you have kept the commandment not to murder but as we learn in Luther’s Small Catechism this is more than just taking a life, it’s defending life too.  Have you ever not stood up for the life of another, or have you harbored hatred for another in your heart? 
  • Have you been faithful in both actions and thoughts in your relationships at all times? 
  • Have you ever taken what is not rightfully yours? 
  • Have your words always given a faithful witness to others? 
  • Have you desired to take or get that which does not belong to you? 
  • Are you innocent or guilty?  What does our text say?

“If someone obeys all of God’s laws except one, that person is guilty of breaking all of them.”  (James 2:10)

If we followed the Law, the whole Law and nothing but the Law, the only thing we could do is cry out, “So help me God!”

Those who look to the Law for salvation are missing the point.  There is no escape from the consequences of sin. 

As English poet and writer GK Chesterton once wrote, “Lawlessness in many modern matters seems to be the principal effect of law.”

Like a condemned criminal there is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor or turn away His wrath.  The judge has ruled and you are guilty! But God's love and mercy for us moved Him to provide a Substitute. Jesus became human to take our sins upon Himself, and He received the full punishment for those sins in His suffering and death on the cross.

Watching the brutality Jesus suffered in movies like The Passion of the Christ helps us realize how serious God is about His Law and holiness. But it also reminds us that God completely satisfied His holiness and justice by laying our sins on Jesus, who paid for each one in full.   Listen to the comforting words of Scripture:
“For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us-for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” (Galatians 3:13)

“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

This is Grace!  When we cry out, “So help me God!” He provides just what we need.  In our Psalm for today we encountered these words, Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” (Psalm 146:5)

The drama of your court case was settled on a hill outside of Jerusalem, where the God of the universe willingly changed places with you.  He took your punishment and gave you his righteousness. Blessed is he who help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.

This grace comes to you free of charge. 

As the popular song by Christian artists Casting Crowns correctly states when singing out to God, “Not because of who I am, but because of what You’ve done.  Not because of what I’ve done, but because of who you are.”

While the Law may make some sense to our human minds, Grace is hard to understand.  Why would God do such a thing as to take our sin upon himself? 

The only answer we find in the pages of Scripture is Love.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son so that we might not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  It’s the only thing that could satisfy the requirements of the Law.  We might try to fight against the Law, but Jesus won the victory. 
The unconditional, irrational, undeserved and totally amazing love of God has granted you grace, has pardoned your sin and on account of Jesus you are forgiven…so help us God.   Amen!

-Pr. Seth Moorman

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