Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of October 28, 2018

Sermon: “Reformation: By, Through & For
                   Reforming: For, Through & By”

Before he became the famous, or infamous, Reformer (depending on your view) Luther was a simple priest.  While a resident of the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt he could often be found prostrate before the altar pleading, "I am yours Lord, save me!"

Luther knew the gravity of his depravity and was burdened with his sin.  Release, however, was not found in the chancel but the classroom.  Preparing to lecture on St Paul's letter of Romans to university students, he found in the pages of Scripture the promise of God that "flung the gates of heaven wide open." 

The burden of sin, which weighed Luther down, and which the church had said could be lifted with personal action - (say a prayer, light a candle, purchase a mass, buy an indulgence, reverence a relic, etc.) never actually helped.  Yet, there in Scripture was the clear promise of divine intervention through which the burden of sin is lifted and we are saved "by grace, through faith, for Christ's sake."

By:  Not the result of anything from us nor in us but the result of God's favor for us, His grace.

Through: Not brought about via our action(s) nor decision(s) but simply personal trust in Jesus person and work, Through faith.

For: Not on account of our membership in the church or actions in the same but on account of Jesus perfect and holy life, His innocent suffering and death, and His victorious resurrection from the dead, For Christ's sake. 

As those burdened by sin no more, on account of Christ, we find ourselves however burdened anew by the work of the Spirit.  As God's redeemed children we bear a burden for the gathered and the scattered; those found and those yet lost.  And making a daily plea on their account, "They are yours Lord save them!" is where we Lutherans "Ought be found." 

(The word picture below was crafted by a member while listening to Sunday's message.  Perhaps it will help your visualization of this Scriptural truth too)

You are invited to go to the altar for 31 consecutive days, starting on Reformation day, praying for your brothers and sisters in the faith.  Pray by name or ministry team ..."They are yours Lord, save them!" and again for the outsider, those not yet a part of the community of faith.  Pray by name or in general..."They are yours Lord, save them!"  

Send an email, voicemail or text to PK to let us know you'll be heading to the altar these next 31 days burdened for others.  If you need a reminder download the Bethany app as we'll be sending out a daily call. 

-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, October 29, 2018

The One Year Bible- October 29th

With Halloween and Reformation Day upon us,, All Saints day coming up, and Thanksgiving and Advent on the horizon, it goes without saying that this is a busy time of the year.  It seems that life gets more hectic every year.  Perhaps you feel like you could write your own lamentations today.   But even in the midst of the tough times of life we praise God by saying, “Great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23).  Let that be our guide today. On to the study...

Pastor Seth’s Thoughts

This week we will dive into the book of Lamentations. I was thinking that this book is like the soundtrack to the book of Jeremiah. If they ever made a movie (more like a miniseries) about Jeremiah, the music would have to be influenced by the book of Lamentations. In David M. Gosdeck’s commentary on the book he says the following:
By the end of the week we will have read two letters in their entirety (Titus and Philemon) and will be into the book of Hebrews. Titus is known as one of the Pastoral letters (along with 1 & 2 Timothy) and has much advice for pastors and church leaders. The following is from Armin W. Schuetze’s commentary on Titus:
As we look at the book of Hebrews this week, don’t forget the audience of the book.  They are Jewish Christians who are in danger of going back to Judaism. Keep this in mind so it will hopefully make more sense when you read language like “greater than Moses”, “high priest”, “Melchizedek”, “covenant”, “tabernacle”, “sacrifice” etc. I will spend a lot of time in the next two weeks talking about this book. It is one of my favorites.

The Old Testament

The Hebrew title for this book of the Bible is taken from the first word, “How”. When, during the Intertestamental Period, the Jews translated this book into Greek they gave it the title, “The Tears of Jeremiah”. When the Greek was translated into Latin, it was named “The Lamentations of Jeremiah,” the title we use today. Lamentations consists of five individual poems. The first four (chapters 1-4) use a poetic device known as “acrostic”. In an acrostic each new line of poetry begins with a successive letter of the alphabet. In chapters 1,2, and 4 each verse begins with a new letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Since the Hebrew alphabet has twenty-two letters, each of these chapters has twenty-two verses. In chapter 3 the author triples the acrostic. Every three verses begin with a new letter of the alphabet, so chapter 3 has sixty-six verses.

In the face of Jerusalem’s destruction, the prophet encouraged the believers to keep on clinging to the Lord. The nation was without excuse. It has plenty of time to repent, but it chose the path of sin. Not its sins had brought the present terror. On its own, the nation could not deliver itself. Its only hope lay in a return to the Lord, and the Lord did not fail. Even in this disaster, believers could see his gracious hand. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). Even under suffering, the believer can confidently wait for the salvation he knows will come.

The New Testament

Since Paul calls Titus “my true son in our common faith” (Titus 1:4), he know doubt was one of Paul’s converts. He may have been from Antioch, where Paul had worked for an entire year before his missionary journeys (Acts 11:26). We find Titus there when Paul and Barnabas “were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders” about the necessity of circumcision for salvation (Acts 15:2). Paul mentions Titus as someone he had taken along as a test case and reports that “not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised even though he was Greek” (Galatians 2:1,3).

Later Paul found Titus to be a valuable and trusted associate whom he sent to Corinth to settle the problems that had arisen in this congregation. In all of his Corinthian assignments Titus proved to be an evangelical, trusted, and respected “troubleshooter”.

After Paul’s release from his first imprisonment, he may have met Titus when he came to the island of Crete. Paul left Titus there to complete the organizing of the church (Titus 1:5). This was not an easy assignment because of trouble makers who needed correction (Titus 1:10-16). Paul promised to send a replacement to Crete so that Titus might join him again at Nicopolis where Paul intended to spend the winter (Titus 3:12).

Titus must have been with Paul in Rome during a part of his second imprisonment, for Paul sent him from Rome to Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10). We know nothing more about this assignment.

Titus was no doubt younger that Paul but very likely older than Timothy. He did not need the kind of encouragement that Paul gave his younger “son” Timothy. The advice Paul gave Titus for his work on the island of Crete continues to be a blessing to the church and its pastors as they read, study and apply his inspired words to themselves and the church of all times.

The book of Philemon is very short but very profound. The following is from the intro to the book in “The Life Application Bible”:

This is a personal letter sent as a plea for a runaway slave. Imagery and parallels abound in this short letter. Paul writes to Philemon and reintroduces Onesimus to him, explaining that he is sending him back not just as a slave but as a brother. Tactfully he asks Philemon to accept and forgive his brother. The barriers of the past and the new ones erected by Onesimus’s desertion and theft should divide them no longer for they are one in Christ.

This small book is a masterpiece of grace and tact and a profound demonstration of the power of Christ and of true Christian fellowship in action. As with Philemon, God calls us all to seek unity, breaking down walls and embracing our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I will have plenty to say about the book of Hebrews in the next two weeks.

Bits and Pieces

The New Testament
As we look at the book of Hebrews this week, don’t forget the audience of the book.  They are Jewish Christians who are in danger of going back to Judaism. Keep this in mind so it will hopefully make more sense when you read language like “greater than Moses”, “high priest”, “Melchizedek”, “covenant”, “tabernacle”, “sacrifice” etc. I will spend a lot of time in the next two weeks talking about this book. It is one of my favorites.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of October 21, 2108

Sermon: “Sharing Intentionally”

Anyone who has spent a delightful afternoon looking at a blue sky with puffy white clouds; shapes taking form and changing above, knows the joy of cloud watching. Lowering the blood pressure and engaging the grey matter seems to be a byproduct of cloud watching. When the author of the letter to the Hebrews says, "Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses..." the aim is neither to aid in passing time or assist in achieving peace of mind but allow us to find a source of encouragement and strength when life is anything but blue skies and billowing white clouds:  "Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles." 

We can all close our eyes and see faces emerge in "our cloud."  Some images are of those who reside in heaven, while others are members of our congregation; yet those images fade and a single shape emerges in our vision, or ought to according to Hebrews, "Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles...let us fix our eyes on Jesus the Author and Perfecter of our faith." 

Over the past month we've seen how the Bethany Blueprint is much more than a picture of how we want to live, it is the very definition of what Jesus did in His earthly ministry.   And nothing is more quintessentially Christ than the "last" Blueprint action of Sharing Intentionally.  The Lord who constantly sought to engage in divine conversations and use the run of the mill to discuss the eternal, does more than encourage and invite us to Share Intentionally ourselves; He commissions and commands us to do so!

In a world where we love to share, and do so with a simple push of a button, pictures of our latest meal or how we look in front of monuments or mirrors, the great cloud reminds us, we are commanded and commissioned to share the message of the Gospel:  The truth that though Jesus owed NOTHING, He gave EVERYTHING, so we wouldn't have ANYTHING standing against us before God, but would instead receive ALL THINGS from Him in Christ. 
-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, October 22, 2018

The One Year Bible- October 22nd

I have always been a fan of the morning prayer service known as Matins. This service has a rich tradition in the Church. This service is filled with singing, prayer and other music. Growing up Lutheran I have seen many versions of this service. But regardless of what hymnal it comes out of the words are very powerful and have great meaning for me. We will read one of the central passages used in Matins this week. Lets use these words as our focus today.
 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
   let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
   let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the LORD is a great God,
   and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
   the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
   and his hands formed the dry land.
 Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
   let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God,
   and we are the people of his pasture,
   and the sheep of his hand.--
Psalm 95:1-7 ESV

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
As we keep plugging away at Jeremiah I saw some great glimpses of gospel this week. Here are a few that hit me:

“Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security.  I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first.  I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.”  Jeremiah 33:6-8

“For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the LORD.” Jeremiah 33:11b

And then a great Messianic promise: “In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.”  Jeremiah 33:15-16

We have come to the point in the story where there is more narrative than prophetic. Many historic details are filled in and give us a better picture of some of the events that took place right before the exile. We don’t usually get many of these stories in Sunday School. I had forgotten that Jeremiah gets thrown into a mud pit and almost dies. And that the king burned up the scroll that was written almost in spite of the message it contained. Eventually we see the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple itself. It was a sad day in the life of the people. I put quite a few frowning faces in the margin of my Bible this week. Another bit of the story that I forgot about was that of those who were left in the country and not taken into exile. I found it very interesting that the Lord promised protection for these people through Jeremiah as long as they stayed in the land. But, like what seems to happen again and again, the people do not listen and head to Egypt for what they think is “safety”. Their self-centeredness was their destruction.

Most of the rest of our readings this week were pronouncements of judgments on the surrounding countries. The Lord will finally punish all the other countries for their unbelief. It is sometimes hard for us to read about all this destruction, but we need to remember that God has every right to punish us for our sins. We need to have a good grasp on this so we can see that the gift of Jesus Christ is so amazing. We are not treated as we deserve. We have been given a wonderful gift in Jesus…you see, I told you this book was Christ centered.

The New Testament
As a pastor I really feel that Paul is talking to me through the words of 1 and 2 Timothy. But just because you are not a “pastor”, does not mean you cannot benefit greatly from these two letters of Paul. I kind of see these letters as letters of encouragement, sort of like Paul is the coach and Timothy is the player. Paul can’t do the work for him but he can give him some great advice. One of the most famous phrases of encouragement comes from 1 Timothy 4, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”  What awesome encouragement! Paul goes on to say, “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.”  Paul also reminds us all, “You can’t take it with you.” We need to learn to be content where God has placed us. In 2 Timothy 2 Paul makes a connection to the Old Testament. He writes, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel”   (2 Timothy 2:8 ESV). This is a flashback to the good old Davidic covenant that we have seen in Jeremiah recently. Once again it all comes back to a story about Christ. I love all the “trustworthy sayings” in these letters. The one on the unity we have with Christ gives me great comfort and hope. “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us;  if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.”  (2 Timothy 2:11-13 ESV) There are some big passages in 2 Timothy for us in our Theology. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV) This passage forms the basis for our belief in Scripture. We believe that the Bible is the only rule and norm of faith. It comes from God, and is useful for all sorts of things regarding our faith. It gets us ready to respond to God in good works as well. This is one of those passages that should be committed to memory!!! The end of 2 Timothy shows us some of the humanity of Paul. He is stuck in Rome, under arrest, and many of his followers have left him. Only Luke remains. Paul asks for Timothy to come to visit with him. It shows us that Paul not only cares for his good friend and partner in ministry but he misses him terribly and desires his companionship. I hope you have good friends like this; I have been blessed with many of them.

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We will finish up Jeremiah this week and move on to the book of Lamentations followed by the book of Ezekiel. Here are the vital stats for the books:

PURPOSE: To teach people that to disobey God is to invite disaster, and to show that God suffers when His people suffer.
AUTHOR: Most likely Jeremiah
DATE WRITTEN: Soon after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
SETTING: Jerusalem had been destroyed by Babylon and her people killed, tortured, or taken captive.
KEY VERSE: “My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city.” (2:11)
LAW THEMES: The Lord pours out His anger against the kingdom of Judah; Judah finds no comfort; she cries, mourns, weeps, and laments the siege and exile.
GOSPEL THEMES:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; great is His faithfulness; wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord; he has redeemed you.
KEY PEOPLE: Jeremiah, the people of Jerusalem
KEY PLACE: Jerusalem
SPECIAL FEATURES: Three strands of Hebrew thought meet in Lamentations—prophecy, ritual, and wisdom. Lamentations is written in the rhythm and style of ancient Jewish funeral songs or chants. It contains five poems corresponding to the five chapters.

PURPOSE: To announce God’s judgment on Israel and other nations and to foretell the eventual salvation of God’s people
AUTHOR: Ezekiel—the son of Buzi, a Zadokite priest
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The Jews in captivity, in Babylonia, and God’s people everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: Approx. 571 B.C.
SETTING: Ezekiel was a younger contemporary of Jeremiah. While Jeremiah ministered to the people still in Judah, Ezekiel prophesied to those already exiled in Babylonia after the defeat of Jehoichin.
KEY VERSES: “For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all you idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (36:24-26)
LAW THEMES: Death and God’s wrath come to Israel by the sword; Israel has not walked in God’s statutes; in anger, God withdraws His glory and blessings; idolatry as spiritual adultery; defilement; exile; famine and pestilence.
GOSPEL THEMES: God keeps His covenant; new hearts; gift of the Spirit; the Good Shepherd; cleansing; restore the fortunes; God’s glory returns; the new temple.
KEY PEOPLE: Ezekiel, Israel’s leaders, Ezekiel’s wife, Nebuchadnezzar, “the prince”
KEY PLACES: Jerusalem, Babylon, and Egypt

The New Testament
Here are the vital stats for the next three books we will read in the New Testament:

PURPOSE: To advise Titus in his responsibility of supervising the churches in the island of Crete
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Titus, a Greek, probably converted to Christ through Paul’s ministry (he had become Paul’s special representative to the island of Crete), and to all believers everywhere.
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 64, around the same time 1 Timothy was written; probably from Macedonia when Paul traveled between his Roman imprisonments.
SETTING: Paul sent Titus to organize and oversee the churches on Crete. This letter tells Titus how to do this job.
KEY VERSE: “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I direct you” (1:5)
LAW THEMES: Be above reproach; rebuke; the pure and the defiled; submissiveness; devotion to good works.
GOSPEL THEMES: Election; soundness; God’s grace; redemption; washing and renewal; justification.
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Titus
KEY PLACES: Crete, Nicopolis
SPECIAL FEATURES: Titus is very similar to 1 Timothy with its instructions to church leaders.

PURPOSE: To convince Philemon to forgive his runaway slave, Onesimus, and to accept him as a brother in the faith.
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Philemon, who was probably a wealthy member of the Colossian church, and all believers.
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 60, during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, at about the same time Ephesians and Colossians were written.
SETTING: Slavery was common in the Roman Empire and evidently some Christians had slaves. Paul does not condemn the institution of slavery in his writings, but he makes a radical statement by calling this slave Philemon’s brother in Christ.
KEY VERSES: “Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good—no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord (verses 15-16)
LAW THEMES: Usefulness; imprisonment; service; debt; partnership
GOSPEL THEMES: Comfort/refreshment; reconciliation; forgiveness.
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Philemon, Onesimus
KEY PLACES: Colosse, Rome
SPECIAL FEATURES: This is a private, personal letter to a friend.

PURPOSE: To present the sufficiency and superiority of Christ
AUTHOR: Paul, Luke, Barnabas, Apollos, Silas, Philip, Pricilla, and others have been suggested because the name of the author is not given in the Biblical text itself. Whoever it was speaks of Timothy as “brother” (13:23)
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Hebrew Christians (perhaps second-generation Christians) who may have been considering a return to Judaism, perhaps because of immaturity, stemming from a lack of understanding of Biblical truths; and all believers in Christ.
DATE WRITTEN: Probably before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70, because the religious sacrifices and ceremonies are referred to in the book, but no mention is made of the temples destruction
SETTING: These Jewish Christians were probably undergoing fierce persecution, socially and physically, both from Jews and from Romans. Christ had not yet returned to establish his kingdom, and the people needed to be reassured that Christianity was true and that Jesus was the Messiah.
KEY VERSE: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (1:3)
LAW THEMES: Retribution for disobedience; slavery to death and the devil; and unbelieving heart; rebellion; obligation to sacrifice; repentance from dead works; crucifying Jesus again; the living God’s vengeance; struggle against sin; discipline; obedience to leaders.
GOSPEL THEMES: God spoke through Jesus; purification for sins; inheriting salvation; our High Priest and Mediator; sanctification; God’s promises; Melchizedek; sprinkled and washed; assurance of faith; the founder and perfecter of our faith; the great Shepherd.
KEY PEOPLE: Old Testament men and women of faith (see chapter 11)
SPECIAL FEATURES: Although Hebrews is called a “letter” (13:22), it has the form and content of a sermon.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of October 14, 2018

In five of his letters, (Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, I Timothy and Titus) St. Paul says roughly the exact same thing: “Jesus gave Himself for us.”

Jesus gave Himself for us!  Of course, Jesus knew all about proportionate giving too.  He learned it from His earthly parents.  In fact, the first conversation of Jesus that the Gospels record is when as a boy He was taken to the Temple and His family duly offers the prescribed sacrifice.  This lesson was one that Jesus in turn taught; “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”  While Jesus was taught proportionate giving from His earthly parents, His heavenly Father sent Him to give disproportionately!

Jesus owed nothing, yet gave everything, so that there wouldn’t be anything between us and God and He might give unto us all things in Christ.

Jesus owed nothing!  He and He alone was pure and holy; blameless before the law and righteous before the LORD.  Jesus owed nothing!

Jesus gave everything!  From each consideration, conversation and action of Jesus that was perfect, to His last drop of blood and final breath, though He was innocent, Jesus gave everything!

There isn’t anything standing between us and God.  Jesus has “torn down the dividing wall” as Scripture says.

And God gives us all things in Christ; His mercy, grace and forgiveness to be sure.  Yet, it is also true that all of our earthly possessions are gifts from Him.

Jesus owed nothing, yet He gave everything, so that there wouldn’t be anything between us and God and He might give unto us all things in Christ.  This reality is what drives us to the action the Bethany Blueprint describes as “Giving Proportionately.” 

We return a first fruit gift of all that we have NOT in order to get anything from God, but because He has already given us all things in Christ, who gave Himself for us!

-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, October 15, 2018

The One Year Bible- October 15th

Today I want to encourage you to keep up the good work and remember that we are almost done with the book of Jeremiah.  After this book we have 14 more books to read in the Old Testament and 8 weeks to do it.  Needless to say the books will be coming fast and furious the last few weeks of the year.  We are in the home stretch, but stay strong.  On to the study…

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
I hope you have been enjoying digging through Jeremiah and finding the nuggets of grace. There were quite a few this week. We continue to see that even with the oncoming disaster, God has mercy and promises to save the remnant and bring them back. We also read some prophetic words about the Messiah as well, more on that later. There were a few other things that hit me this week and I would like to share. First of all there was mention of the Davidic covenant in a few places this week. We first met this covenant back in 2 Samuel chapter 7. God promised to David that, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16 NIV). Now of course you remember that the earthly kings of Israel are long since gone. They were in their twilight in the time of Jeremiah. But this covenant had much more than just earthly meaning. Like many of God’s plans, they are much deeper and more amazing than we think. The true line of David would be fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus was the one who was born of the house and line of David who now sits on the throne of the universe. This is a big deal! Jesus reigns at the right hand of God today!! Even when we think God does not fulfill his promises, we find out that not only is this not true but it is even better than we imagined. Speaking of Jesus, in my digging for nuggets this week I came across a passage in Jeremiah that speaks of the coming Messiah. Chapter 23:5-6 again mentions David’s line as well as a king who will, reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.(Jeremiah 23:5 NIV). This person is called, “The LORD is our Righteousness.” This is most definitely a reference to Jesus as the Messiah.

In Chapter 30 Jeremiah gives some practical advice to the people. In short, he says for the people to “Bloom where they are planted”, be that in Israel or in exile. He tells the people that the exile will last for 70 years so keep doing what God wants. Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.  Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." (Jeremiah 29:5-7 NIV). In this context comes one of the more famous passages from Jeremiah, For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV). I hope I am not sacrificing any sacred cows in your world with my next statements. This passage was not written for us to use at graduations or for people who are going through hard times.  This passage has been pulled out of context so often many have forgotten what it really means. When we look at this verse we have to remember the original context in which it was written. This verse was written to give the people hope in a time of great despair. It was a message of grace in a time of punishment. We must remember that God was talking to a stubborn people who had consistently gone against his will. These people deserved to go into exile. Even in the midst of this, God gives grace and mercy. Now, that being said, can we apply this verse to our lives today? Sure! But don’t forget the original context and remember that we are not living in that same context today. It is a stretch to use only this verse and make major applications to us today.  If you plan on using this verse make sure you put it in context and then related it to the current situation. 

The other big thing in our readings this week is the idea in Chapter 33 about the New Covenant. Remember there was nothing really wrong with the old covenant. It simple, as Jesus summarizes it when he says, “Be perfect”. That’s all, no big deal!! (please sense the sarcasm in my tone.) The Old Covenant was not broken by God, but broken by man and the sinfulness that we bring to the table. We are incapable of following what God desires. This New Covenant was not to be sealed in the blood of animals but in the blood of Jesus Christ. This New Covenant would transcend space and time and even Abraham would live under the New Covenant (even though he never knew it, see the book of Romans)  I would like to spend more time on this but I fear that if I continue I will either confuse you or bore you with the details. If you have questions, please let me know.

The New Testament
I want to take a look at parts of three letters today.  There is no way to cover all of the material, so if you have any specific questions, please feel free to email me or use the comment section on this blog.

1 Thessalonians
At the beginning of the book, Paul and his companions try to validate their ministry. They do so relying on Jesus and their track record of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus. After getting on some firm ground and giving some positive encouragement, Paul gets to the point. He tells the Thessalonians what will happen when Jesus returns. It will not be some secret event. And all those who have already died in the faith will be raised back to life. It will be a wonderful time. In the mean time Paul has some advice, And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14-22 NIV)

2 Thessalonians
The main thing to remember about this book is to not be idle in your journey of faith. We do not know when Jesus will return so we must keep working so as many people here the message as possible. Paul tells the people not to think that Jesus has already come and they somehow missed it. Paul mentions a character called “the man of lawlessness”. This person is often called the Antichrist. It is the work of the Devil in the world today. Paul says that he is at work right now in the world. He will win some battles but he will be destroyed by the power of Jesus. Paul gives a great word of hope in Chapter 2, So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15-17 NIV). Great words to end on for this book.

1 Timothy
This is Paul’s instruction to young Timothy. There are some great instructions for all who serve in the church in this letter. Paul states his purpose right at the beginning, The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5 NIV) There are many “trustworthy sayings” in this letter that should not be ignored. They all read like little sermons for Timothy. One thing that has caused much confusion is the definitions of what an elder is and what a deacon is. They seem to be quite similar but Paul treats them as two different things. Theologians have spent countless hours trying to figure this one out and we don’t have time to get into all the details but in my humble opinion, both sets of requirements are useful for anyone who does work in the church. They are the standard that we should strive for, but we must remember that forgiveness must fit into this somehow, someway. More about this book next week...

Bits and Pieces

The New Testament
We will finish up 1 Timothy and move on to 2 Timothy this week. Here are the vital stats on 2 Timothy:

PURPOSE: To give final instructions and encouragement to Timothy, pastor of the church at Ephesus
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Timothy, and all Christians everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 66 or 67, from prison in Rome. After a year or two of freedom, Paul was arrested again and executed under Emperor Nero.
SETTING: Paul was virtually alone in prison; only Luke was with him. Paul wrote this letter to pass the torch to the new generation of church leaders. He also asked for visits from his friends and for his scrolls, especially the parchments—possible parts of the Old Testament or other Biblical manuscripts.
KEY VERSE: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2:15 NIV).
LAW THEMES: Judgment Day; suffering for the Gospel; charges and commands.
GOSPEL THEMES: The appearing of our Savior; sound words of the Gospel; the gift of the Spirit; the good deposit; rescue.
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Timothy, Luke, Mark, and others.
KEY PLACES: Rome, Ephesus
SPECIAL FEATURES: Because this is Paul’s last letter, it reveals his heart and his priorities—sound doctrine, steadfast faith, confident endurance, and enduring love.

Monday, October 08, 2018

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of October 7, 2018

Sermon: “Worshiping Faithfully”

As child of the 70’s I am certain that most of what I learned early in school was reinforced by that wonderful pop cultural phenomenon of public television called Sesame Street.  I loved the characters and how they interacted with one another and I was mesmerized by the music and images dancing across the screen.  

While characters like Big Bird, or Cookie Monster made their way into the minds of countless kids, one character always had a soft spot for me.  His name was Poco Loco, the pet parrot of handyman Louis. 

You might not remember Poco Loco as he was just a minor character through the mid 70s and early 80s.  But what made Poco Loco stick out to me was his ability to mimic or copy any sound.

He might have been a master at copying, but it didn't always go well.  So, his name fits him.  If you speak Spanish you know that Poco Loco means… a little crazy. 

Today, we continue our series on the Bethany Blueprint as we see what it means to copy Jesus and worship faithfully.  Sometimes it doesn't go well for us either and the world thinks we are poco loco but how good it is when we are gathered in this place for worship.

This morning we continue our series on the Bethany Blueprint as we turn our attention to “Worshiping Faithfully”.

As we define worshiping faithfully in the Bethany Blueprint we say that it is - “Regularly Gathering around Word and Sacrament.”

I looked up the word faithful, or faithfully and I found a few definitions I’d like to share as we get started.

One could define being faithful in the following five ways:
  1. Having faith or remaining true, or constant in something
  2. Maintaining loyalty, especially to one's spouse
  3. One who is consistently reliable like a faithful worker
  4. Something that is reliable or truthful for example a faithful source
  5. Being accurate and exacting in detail for example a faithful translation

In all of these definitions there is the implied relationship with something or someone else and so there is with worship as well. 

Allow me to use that second definition, maintaining loyalty, especially to one’s spouse as our working definition today.

Marriage is not only beautifully described in the pages of Scripture, it is also used as an analogy to the relationship that Christ has with his church. 

In our Old Testament reading from Sunday, we hear God’s word, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18) and then goes on to describe the most intimate of relationships between man and woman, “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh…they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:23)

For those of you who are married, and those of you who have ever been to wedding, you have heard the promises made; the vows of faithfulness; the pledges of fidelity; the declaration to love and honor and it might seem well and good, but you’ve heard the statistic that more than 50% of all marriages will end in divorce. 

Today is not about divorce, but worship, so stick with me.  In our Gospel lesson the Pharisees come to Jesus and ask, “Can a husband divorce his wife?” 

It was a loaded question.  Moses allowed it, but Jesus denounces it.  And in so doing harkens back to the words found in Genesis, “…and the two will be one.” (Mark 10:6)

The Apostle Paul helps us put some of the pieces together here.  In many weddings we hear a reading from Ephesians 5.  I’m sure you have encountered it, I preached on it a while back.  In this passage Paul is giving an example from marriage, saying that the wife should submit to her husband and the husband should love his wife. 

Please give me just a few seconds to put that into context. 

While the word “submit” has garnered a negative connotation in our culture today it need not be that way. 

The example I use is that of a pitcher and catcher in baseball.  In that relationship, who does the submitting?  The pitcher.  The catcher calls the sign, the pitcher submits to the will of the catcher knowing that they are on the same side with the same goal.  Does that make the pitcher any less of a player?  By no means!  In fact, it is the pitcher who gets the glory. 

But when we look at what Paul is getting to in Ephesians 5 we see something important for us today.  Paul writes, “…for we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:30-31)

First of all, did you catch the reference to our Old Testament and Gospel readings for today?  While we use this passage to talk about husband and wife listen again to where Paul is going, “but I am talking about Christ and the church.”

This divine union of Christ and the church is what worshiping faithfully is all about.  We have been called to submit to Christ, as He loves us.  Worshiping faithfully is about a relationship, which began for many of you at the waters of Baptism and is sustained as we spend time in the Word and as we partake in the Lord’s Supper. 

But like some marriages, our relationship with Christ is filled with infidelity, wrought with unfaithfulness, and bursting with self-centeredness. 

We have been unfaithful to God in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.  Many have forsaken worshiping faithfully for just being spiritual.  Some have traded in time in God’s house for time in our own houses, doing what we love to do.  And some have ignored Him altogether.

Church itself, and worshiping faithfully has become counter cultural.  It is no longer the dominant force in society, let alone Sunday morning.  Thousands of pilgrims no longer flock to cathedrals filled with stained glass but ones with fake grass; where it not about salvation but about competition; it’s not about humility but about power. 

I’m not here to bash the NFL, because it’s not the only thing that has our attention.  I don’t know what has captivated you and pulls your attention from worshiping faithfully.  It could be a comfy bed or the desire to make more bread.  It could be your kid’s soccer game or chasing fame

You may feel this place is filled with hypocrites or people who just don’t fit.  You may be here, but you are wishing that person wasn’t.   Your desire may be for bells to ring and choirs to sing but you hear guitars that strum and it makes you want to run. 

I guarantee something is causing you to be unfaithful when it comes to worship.  The devil will do everything in his power to distract you from this divine relationship.  He is working overtime this morning in this place. 

We all struggle when it comes to our relationship with our Lord.  This marriage has some issues, but they are our issues, not Gods. 

There is an old joke that goes like this, “A couple is sitting in their living room, sipping wine. Out of the blue, the wife says, “I love you.” The husband asks, “Is that you or the wine talking?” “It’s me,” says the wife. “I’m talking to the wine.”

As we turn our gaze on countless other things that pull our minds and our eyes away from God and towards ourselves we need to understand the depths and depravity of the human condition.  We are unfaithful people. 

Left to ourselves we will never be satisfied with worship, for you see, worshiping faithfully is not about our faithfulness but about God’s.  It is not about what we get out of it, but what God has put into it.  James the brother of Jesus writes about the attitude of worshiping faithfully, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”  (James 4:10)

Worshiping faithfully is a result of the one-way love of God.  He was right when he said back in the Garden, “It is not God for Man to be alone.”  So he did something about it.  It was more than just provide a helpmate, but to provide salvation.  He sent Jesus to restore the broken relationship.  Even as we are mired in our sin, God loves us and seeks us out.  His unconditional love is the foundation of worship and he promises to be with us forever.   Listen to the words of Scripture:

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3-7)

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

 And the words of Christ himself, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:20b)

So let me sum up:
  • Worshiping Faithfully is about a divine relationship; the relationship between you and God.     
  • We are not good at this relationship and are constantly wandering away, following our own desires.
  • But it’s not about our faithfulness, but Gods; He is always faithful and by sending Jesus to live, die and rise again, our infidelity has been taken and paid for by Christ.  This was an act of worship in itself and because of it, you are forgiven.  
  • Jesus promises to never leave us or forsake us.  He will be with us forever, now on this side of heaven by faith, and face to face eternally one day in heaven.  
  • Because of this we, as the Bride of Christ are now free to worship faithfully, meaning we can regularly gather around Word and Sacrament not by our own power but because Christ lives in us. 

And let me close with this, the world thinks were are poco loco, a little crazy to spend our time in worship, but listen to the words of Psalm 133 as we end this morning,

How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!
(Psalm 133:1)

May we all copy our Lord in all we do! 
-Pr. Seth Moorman

The One Year Bible- October 8th

A number of years ago I taught a class at Bethany called “The Divine Drama” which studied the overarching themes found in scripture and how the Bible tells one story of salvation. One of the lessons in the study is about the prophets of the Old Testament.  In the text book the author, Rev. Dr. Harry Wendt, gives some good info that we can use as we study the prophets. 

The prophetic books constitute one-third of the Old Testament, or one-quarter of the Bible.  They empower people today to hear, in astonishing ways, the passionate proclamations of those to whom the LORD revealed his truth and will.  To understand the message and mission of Jesus the Messiah, we must understand the ministry of Israel’s ancient prophets.  After all, Jesus was that expected Final Prophet (see Deuteronomy 18:15, Mark 9:7)

To really understand Jesus we need to understand the prophets, and when we understand the prophets we will fully understand the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ.  On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
This week I have been searching for the nuggets of grace in Jeremiah. All too often we get bogged down with the repeated message of the coming doom and destruction. I hope you can start seeing the nuggets of grace as well.

“’But even in those days, declares the LORD, I will not make a full end of you..”—Jeremiah 5:18 ESV

Here Yahweh gives some hope to his continued message of exile and punishment. This faithful remnant would return to the Promised Land and set the stage for the coming of the Messiah.

“‘But let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD..’”—Jeremiah 9:24 ESV

Yahweh describes his true character in this verse. Even though punishment is coming (and it is deserved) he still is full of love. The exile showed his justice. It was not a good time for the people but it was to benefit them as a whole and again make way for the Messiah.

“‘Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.  He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit..’”—Jeremiah 17:7-8 ESV

God is the one who has planted us; his living streams water us. When we stay connected to this living water we continue to grow and we have nothing to worry about. When we think we can go on our own, we start having problems.

I have said it before and I will say it again now, don’t get discouraged by hearing all the gloom and doom news from Jeremiah. Try to mine the gems of good news.

The New Testament
In my studies this week I found some great information in “The Peoples Commentary Bible” by Harlyn J. Kuschel. The following paragraphs are from that book:

Only two of the thirteen letters of the New Testament authored by Paul we addressed to congregations he had not founded and most of whose members he had never met. One was Romans the other was Colossians. About four or five years after the founding of the church in Colosse, its pastor Epaphras came to Rome to visit Paul. Why would he make the 1300 mile journey just to see Paul? There were some problems with the church in Colosse. They were being influenced by some ideas that mixed Judaism, Pagan religions, and Christianity. Thier message included a belief in self-salvation. This was a danger to the true teaching of Jesus. Epaphras wanted to discuss this with Paul personally. In the letter Paul does not directly address those who are teaching falsely in the church. He simply overwhelms their errors by confronting the Colossians with the full riches of the Gospel of Christ. Throughout the letter there is constant emphasis on the greatness of Christ. Paul knew that the more thoroughly the Colossian believers understand the person and work of Christ, the better equipped they will be to recognize and reject errors like the one seeking to win its way into their congregation.

From the time that this epistle was written to our own day the clear message of the gospel and salvation by grace through faith in Christ has been obscured by many false teachers. In Colossians Paul cuts through all the confusion of human laws and ideas and simply and directly points us to Christ. Christ is sufficient for our eternal salvation, and he is sufficient for our day-to-day living as his children.

One of the things that struck me this week as I was reading through Colossians is the wonderfully clear view of Christ it presents. We see that Jesus was fully God and fully man. He was the Messiah and salvation comes only through him. His ministry was one of love and caring so that “Christ is all, and in all.” (ESV) or as the New Living Translation says, “Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us” (Colossians 3:11b NLT).

Chapter 4 has one of the best messages of evangelism in the entire New Testament. “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.(Colossians 4: 5-6 NIV). We all should live our lives in such a way.

I know we got into 1 Thessalonians a bit this week too but I will hold my comments on it until next week.

Bits and Pieces

We will finish 1st as well as 2nd Thessalonians this week. We will also start on 1 Timothy. Here are the vital stats on 2 Thessalonians:

PURPOSE: To clear up the confusion about the second coming of Christ
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The church at Thessalonica, and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 51 or 52, a few months after 1 Thessalonians from Corinth
SETTING: Many in the church were confused about the timing of Christ’s return. Because of mounting persecution, they though the day of the Lord must be imminent, and they interpreted Paul’s first letter to say that the second coming would be at any moment. In light of this misunderstanding, many persisted in being idle and disorderly, with the excuse of waiting for Christ’s return.
KEY VERSE: “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance” (3:5)
LAW THEMES: Steadfastness; affliction; eternal destruction; man of lawlessness; idleness.
GOSPEL THEMES: The Gospel message; God’s righteousness; Jesus gathers us; the Spirit sanctifies us.
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Silas, Timothy
KEY PLACE: Thessalonica
SPECIAL FEATURES: This is a follow-up letter to 1 Thessalonians. In this letter, Paul indicates various events that must precede the second coming of Christ.

Here are the vital stats for 1 Timothy:
PURPOSE: To give encouragement and instruction to Timothy, a young leader.
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Timothy, young church leaders, and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 64, from Rome or Macedonia (possibly Philippi), probably just prior to Paul’s final imprisonment in Rome
SETTING: Timothy was one of Paul’s closest companions. Paul had sent Timothy to the church at Ephesus to counter the false teaching that had arisen there. Timothy probably served for a time as a leader in the church at Ephesus. Paul hoped to visit Timothy, but in the meantime, he wrote this letter to give Timothy practical advice about the ministry.
KEY VERSE: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” (4:12)
LAW THEMES: Charged/Appointed with service; thread of false teachers; management.
GOSPEL THEMES: The glorious Gospel; salvation through Christ, our Mediator; hallowed by God’s Word/grace.
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Timothy
KEY PLACE: Ephesus
SPECIAL FEATURES: First Timothy is a personal letter and handbook of church administration and discipline.

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