Monday, January 28, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of January 27, 2019

Sermon: “Our Real, Present, God is a Keeper”

Read: Psalm 121

Psalm 46 begins, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  These words from Scripture have given comfort and hope to countless generations since they were first penned centuries ago. 

The words of Psalm 46 form the basis for the theme of National Lutheran Schools Week that begins today and will be celebrated in nearly 2,000 Lutheran early childhood centers, elementary schools and high schools across the country. 

With an enrollment of over 200,000 Lutheran schools students across the country will encounter a Real, Present God in the days ahead, and hopefully the rest of their lives.   

With the psalmists, we celebrate the only true God who is real in the person and work of Christ and who, through the Means of Grace, is present with His people. These truths are what all Lutheran Schools strive to impart on each and every student. 

Of course this day we not only remember and celebrate with those who are currently enrolled in Lutheran education, but also those who have graduated or spent time learning in an environment where this Real, Present, God is made known.

It was many years ago, but remember with great fondness my time at St. Paul’s Lutheran school in Garden Grove, CA.  It was within the walls of that school I first heard the call to serve the Lord. 
Today we also lift up all the others who have heard the call of God to serve in Lutheran schools, here at Bethany, and across the country and we give thanks for our teachers and staff who give of themselves daily with children from 2 years old through 8th grade. 

While Psalm 46 provides the immediate context for the theme of Real, Present, God, the entirety of the book of Psalms describes and gives praise to this Real, Present, God. 

This morning I would like to turn your attention to Psalm 121, the text of which is printed for you in the worship folder.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.
(Psalm 121)

What an amazing description of our Real, Present, God!

Notice the underlined words in bold.  There is something that brings comfort knowing that the Lord is my keeper. 

Often times when we talk about something being a keeper, we have many different ideas.

It could be a position on the soccer pitch whose job it is to keep the ball from going into the goal.

If you were to go fishing and reel in the catch of a lifetime, you would call that a keeper.  You are not throwing that one back be it for display on the mantle or to dine at your table, it’s a keeper. 

One might say the same for a good boyfriend or girlfriend.  When you find a good one, they are a keeper, you don’t want to let that one go!

When I was in school I remember the cool folder to get was something called a “Trapper Keeper.”  All the cool kids had Trapper folders and the coveted Trapper Keeper binder.  What made these folders far superior to the boring Pee-Chee folder was that the Trapper folder would not spill its contents easily. All the papers were kept safe.  And inside the binder, all the folders were closed in with an uber safe Velcro closure. 

If you know what I’m talking about you know how cool the Trapper Keeper was.   You can still buy them from the Mead Company; so if you are in the market for a new binder, check them out. 

If history is more your thing, perhaps you are familiar with the area in a castle known as the keep.  It is a type of fortified tower built within castles and usually refers to large towers in castle that were fortified residences, used as a refuge of last resort should the rest of the castle fall to an adversary. 

In this Psalm, the Lord is described as “your keeper.” 

In good Lutheran fashion, let’s ask, “What does this mean?”

First of all we see that God is a keeper of people, meaning He thinks highly enough of you to keep you.  He doesn't toss you aside or think you are not worthy.  We have a God who cares deeply about each and every life that He was willing to exchange His Son for us…but I am getting ahead of myself.

When the Psalmist describes the Lord as a keeper, it means that He keeps us safe.  Like a folder that keeps papers in order, our Lord keeps us safe and secure and binds us together with one another in the church. 

He does this by being present with us in Water and Word, Wafer and Wine, and in the Witness of one another.

God is also our keeper as He is our “refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble” as Psalm 46 says.  Just as the keep in the castle is the last refuge in attack, our Lord is our refuge from daily the attacks of the devil. But this idea of the Lord as our keeper is so much more than this. 

The fact is we are not good keepers. You don’t have to think too hard to know that try as you might; you still fall short of doing what God desires of you.  You might try and keep His law, but sooner or later you will mess up.  Scripture is clear, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." (James 2:10)

And from our second lesson on Sunday, from the book of Romans, “It is impossible to do what God’s standards demand because of the weakness our human nature has.”  (Romans 8:3a)

You are not a good keeper.  In fact, most of what we keep separates us from our keeper.

But because God sees you as a keeper He sent one who could keep the law.  Paul continues in Romans 8, “But God sent His Son to have a human nature as sinners have and to pay for sin.  That way God condemned sin in our corrupt nature.  Therefore, we, who do not live by our corrupt nature but by our spiritual nature, are able to meet God’s standards in Moses’ Teachings.”  (Romans 8:3b-4)

Don’t believe Paul?  Listen to the words of our Lord from the Gospel reading today, “I can guarantee that unless you live a life that has God’s approval and do it more faithfully than the experts in Moses’ Teachings and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 5:20)

But Jesus was not going to leave us alone, wallowing in sin.  His love is deep for His creation and He came to keep the law for us.  Listen again, “Don’t ever think I came to set aside Moses’ Teachings or the Prophets.  I didn't come to set them aside, but to make them come true.”  (Matthew 5:17 GW)

Or as the ESV renders this verse, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”  (Matthew 5:17 ESV)  Jesus was a keeper of the Law, but that’s not all.

Jesus is also a keeper of sins.  When He followed the will and plan of the Father, he willingly took upon himself your sin and mine, all those things you cannot keep, he kept, and then he took your punishment. 

Jesus is a keeper of sins, and by his death he separates your sin from you as far as east is from west so that he might keep you forever.  For that was the goal. 

You are a keeper in God’s eyes. Each and every life is precious to God, toddler, teen or retiree; fetus, factory worker or fashionista; prenatal, parental or professional, student, staff or supporter.

The Lord is your keeper!

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.
(Psalm 121)

Pr. Seth Moorman

The One Year Bible- January 28th

We are almost one month into the reading and I hope it has been a blessing to you.  I have been thinking about the over arching story of the Bible.  As we journey in the Bible this year we will see narrative sections as well as prescriptive sections.  The narrative portions get the big billing since they tell the “story,” but don’t just skip past the other sections.  There is some good stuff in there.  Just over 40% of the Old Testament is devoted to telling the narrative story.  The following Old Testament books are largely or entirely composed of narrative material: Genesis, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Jonah, and Haggai.  Also, Exodus, Numbers, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Job contain substantial narrative portions.  People like stories, and the stories in the Bible are important.  They are purposeful stories that tell the historical events of the past and are intended to give meaning and direction for a given people in the present.  There is a difference in the Bible’s stories for they tell God’s story.  As the book How to Read the Bible for all Its Worth says, “The Biblical narrative tells the ultimate story—a story that, even though often complex, is utterly true and crucially important.  Indeed it is a magnificent story, grander than the greatest epic, richer in plot and more significant in its characters and descriptions than any humanly composed story could ever be.” (How To Read the Bible for All Its Worth, p. 90)  Enjoy the stories and remember to try to see the overarching story of God’s love for his creation and his desire to save us from sin. 

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
Exodus is a well written book that is foundational for the faith of both Christians and Jews; within its pages lie some of the key elements of our faith (the Passover, the 10 commandments a.k.a. the 10 words). A reading of this book is not complete without seeing the awesome wonder and power of God. One of the key words in the Old Testament is translated as “remembered”, as in God remembered his people, the people are to remember to celebrate the Passover etc. This is a theologically significant word in that it shows God’s grace and his love for his people. This theme will be carried out to completion as God “remembers” his people once again as they are slaves to sin and provides redemption through his son. Before we get to the Passover lets take a closer look at one of the most famous sections in the book, namely the plagues. Much has been made of these events in movies and other media but they show how God works in systematic ways. One thing to remember is that even when God showed his mighty wonders, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. He said the right things but went back on his word. I think at times we are all a bit like Pharaoh. We like to have things our own way and when things are going badly we will promise everything. Things ease up and we go back on our word. Eventually this will end up badly for us. But I am getting off track, so back to the plagues...

Before the first plague Moses and Aaron have a confrontation with Pharaoh and his magicians. We see here that Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them. By looking at the first nine plagues in groups of three we can see some interesting things.

The Plagues:

1. Blood (7:14-25)
2. Frogs (8:1-15)
3. Gnats (8:16-19)

4. Flies (8:20-32)
5. Animal Disease (9:1-7)
6. Boils (9:8-12)

7. Hail (9:13-35)
8. Locusts (10:1-20)
9. Darkness (10:21-27)

In each series the first and second plagues are announced to Pharaoh in advance. The third is given without previous warning. The series of 3 x 3 leads up to a climax in number 10—the number that is the symbol for completeness. Within the plagues themselves there is a progression, an increase in severity. The last three are especially severe and destructive. The Egyptian magicians vie with Moses in duplicating the first two plagues. At the third they try but no longer succeed in their magic arts. They must confess, “This is the finger of God.” Beginning with the second group of plagues (4,5 & 6) a distinction is made between the Israelites and the Egyptians. The land of Goshen where the Israelites live is spared. The first nine plagues deal with phenomena that have to do with nature. Since the Egyptians worshiped the powers of nature, what more effective way could God display his power over all things, which they looked upon as deities? The tenth plague was the plague of the firstborn. With this plague all the first-born were to be killed. But the angel was to “pass over” the homes of the Israelites.

The Passover presents to us one of the most important Old Testament types of the Savior Jesus Christ. As we look at the directions for preparing the Passover meal, we see step by step how the entire ritual points to Christ, our Passover lamb. The Passover lamb was to be a year-old male. John the Baptist tells of the Messiah who was to be the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." In Corinthians, Paul says, “For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.” God directed that this Passover lamb was to be “without defect.” Peter wrote that we were redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” The Passover lamb was to be slaughtered as a sacrifice. Paul reminded his people “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”. The writer of the book of Hebrews repeatedly refers to Christ as an “offering” and “sacrifice”. “Do not break any of the bones.” This was direct foreshadowing of Jesus. The Israelites were to “take some of the blood and but it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses.” God said, “When I see the blood I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” This points to the teaching that we are redeemed from the power of sin, death and Satan with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. God tells the people that they are to remember the Passover for “generations to come”.
I hope you can see how the Passover celebration is important to our understanding of who Jesus is and how he is the culmination of Gods redeeming work on earth. It is no coincidence that Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples the night before he was betrayed. Again it is no coincidence that Jesus instituted another celebration that is to be celebrated for “generations to come” as he gave his disciples the first communion feast.

The New Testament
I want to spend a little bit of time talking about parables this week since we have seen so many of them in the book of Matthew and we will see more as we go through the Gospels. In my seminary classes on the New Testament we spent quite a bit of time on parables because of their wonderful content and use for us not only as preachers but also as Christians. Today I would like to share with you some material from an article written by Dr. Erich H. Kiehl who was a professor at Concordia Seminary St. Louis for many years. He wrote an article titled “Why Jesus Spoke in Parables” in which he said:
A parable may be defined as “a story with a puzzling quality which confronts the hearer with the need to make a decision for or against Christ through the Spirits work.” Perhaps the most helpful is the more usual definition: “A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly (spiritual) meaning” with the addition “in the sense that it confronts the hearer with the need to make a decision for or against Christ through the Spirits work.”
An analysis of the content of the Gospels indicates that about one-third of the Gospel accounts are parables. Aside from their theological importance, parables shed much light on life in the New Testament era. Except for the Egyptian papyri, which emphasize life in Egypt, the parables are the best source of information about life in the Near East in the New Testament era. They reflect the innate love of graphic, pictorial speech and the great delight in a story, which is still true of life there today. Jesus’ parables demonstrate everyday experiences and events in the world of nature.
Since Jesus’ hearers would not listen to him on his terms, that is, the true meaning of the kingdom of God as revealed in Scripture, Jesus then began to speak to them in parables. His hearers had an innate love for graphic stories and pictorial speech. Jesus used this appealing parabolic approach to catch their attention and to seek to get them to ponder the true meaning of what he said. As people wondered and pondered what Jesus was telling them in his parables, the Holy Spirit could work in their hearts, seeking to lead them to the proper Biblical understanding of His message. In time, as the Spirit penetrated the hardness of the heart, hearers could grow in understanding of the true meaning and nature of God’s kingdom and of life in the kingdom. Crucial in this was the Spirit leading them to understand who Jesus truly is in His ministry and teaching as the fulfillment of the prophecies in his person and work, and its decisive implications for their life as members of God’s covenant people.

From The Concordia Journal July 1990 p.248-249.

Dr. Kiehl continues in his article to develop the skills of determining what Jesus actually meant when he told his parables. He warns us not to try to put our own meaning into the parables but to strive to find the true meaning, the one that Jesus meant for us to have. This is no easy task, especially when Jesus does not explain the meaning of the parable. Don’t worry too much if some of this flies over your head. The main point is not to force our own thoughts and insights on the text and miss the true point of the parable. When in doubt, pray, meditate, or ask your pastor if you don’t fully understand.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of January 20, 2019

Sermon: “Life in Jesus”

John, (unlike the chronological, biographical in nature synoptic Gospels) is not looking to tell his readers what happens to Jesus in life, but rather what happens to life in Jesus. 

In fact Jesus’ own words, recorded in John, concerning His ministry's purpose: "I have come that they might have to the full."

In Cana, as a wedding reception guest, draws as little attention to Himself as possible and allows those who are saved from embarrassment to get the credit..."you guys have saved the best till last!"  

Some might say He, Jesus, could have picked a better miracle with which to start His ministry. Lazarus resurrection at Bethany for example!  A major location, everybody in attendance knows Lazarus is dead (his death is the reason for their attendance) and thus in the end all recognize the situation and all see the sign. Cana on the other hand is a rinky-dink town, few in attendance knew there was a problem (the partiers were at the bottom of the barrel (literally) but they had no idea the cellar was empty); fewer still in the end - know of Jesus' intervention and solution.  Then again, John's intention is not to tell us what happens to Jesus in life but what happens to life in Jesus. Those who receive the revelation, who witness the manifestation, who see the sign (Epiphany stuff) put their "faith in Him" and give Him the glory.

Such disciples know that Jesus has come to transform! That's what's going on here in Cana, that's why Jesus starts His ministry with this miracle and why John starts his Gospel with this sign.  For Jesus is displaying His power...His pattern...and His purpose...He has come to transform!

Jesus, will in John's Gospel, transform death into life and the dead into the living: Lazarus story, which coincidentally only John's Gospel records.  Jesus will transform a social outcast, and religious reprobate, that wanton woman from the Samaritan well into the first Christian missionary (By the way, John is the only Gospel author to include the account in his narrative).  Jesus shall transform the very nature of access to was understood that personal action like ritual observation such as water purification was the direction to go to get to God.  (Of course, the water Jesus uses in this story is water contained in jars for ritual washing...behold the transformation...that's not the route to the Father, I am! Says the Lord, "I am the way, truth and life; no one gets to God except through me!"  How many Gospels record those words?  You guessed it, only one, John.

John is not looking to tell his readers what happens to Jesus in life, BUT rather what happens to life in Jesus.  This is a story of transformation and here Jesus transforms that water into wine...the necessity of life into the abundant life.  He transforms: where guilt, grace; where death, life; He transforms followers into leaders, those who have seen His goodness revealed into those who reveal His goodness so it is seen.  That's what happens to life in Jesus.
Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, January 21, 2019

The One Year Bible- January 21st

We are almost one month in to our year-long journey in the Bible and this week we will finish the first book of the Old Testament. This is no small accomplishment. Genesis is a long book, filled with important stories that serve as important pieces to the overall story of the Bible. We will make reference to many of these stories and events as we go along. Each time we reach a milestone in our journey we should celebrate. As well as finishing the book of Genesis we will also finish one month in the word. Give yourself a pat on the back and you should feel good for your accomplishments. I also want to encourage you to keep going. If it is not already, your daily reading will become habit and spending time in God’s Word is one of the best habits you could ever have. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
We will wrap up the story of Joseph this week. It has been a longer story than most and there is good reason for it. First of all, this is the back-story for the most important event in Jewish history, the Exodus. The Exodus tells of God’s love and mercy for his chosen people and how he redeemed them from slavery in Egypt. As a New Testament Christian this story foreshadows the story of how Jesus redeemed us from the slavery of sin. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As we read the Old Testament we see many similarities between it and some stories in the New Testament. I believe that this is one purpose. Theologians call this Biblical Typology.

I found this description of typology in a resource I have entitled “Fellowship With God” written by Rev. Henry F. Fingerlin:“The Bible is an amazing book. But something not too commonly know is that the Bible contains a unique kind of prophecy that no other book contains or could contain, namely, Typology. In Romans 5:14b St. Paul says that “Adam...was a type of the one who was to come.” (That is Adam was a type of Christ). In I Peter 3:21 Peter tells us that Baptism “corresponds” to Noah’s ark in which 8 persons were saved through water. The word translated “corresponds” in the Revised Standard Version is antitype in Greek. There are many such “types” and “antitypes” in the Bible. For example the Passover Lamb and the scapegoat, who bore the sins of the people, are types of Jesus; and the work of the High Priest in making sacrifice for the sins of the people is a type of his saving work. Types, copies, shadows, miniatures, scale model, partial, earthly, temporal, limited, imperfect—these are the people, observances and events of the Old Testament. Fulfillment, spiritual, eternal, perfect, unlimited—these are the realities, the completion, the fulfillment brought into being through Jesus and the New Covenant. This is the way Jesus and the Apostles understood the Old Testament and its fulfillment in the New. Only God who knows the future and also brings it to pass, could so thoroughly detail through prophecy and types all that would transpire through John the Baptist, Jesus, and the beginning of the New Covenant.”

There is much to say about Biblical typology but one thing to remember is that Old Testament Biblical types are always less than the New Testament antitype. As Paul writes in Colossians 2:17, “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”  How does this relate to the story of Joseph? Some theologians see Joseph as a “type” or Christ. Here are a few examples:
- Joseph is the “beloved” son of his Father(Gen. 37:3)—Jesus is the Father’s “beloved” son (Matt. 3:17
- Though innocent, Joseph is sold for silver (Gen. 37:28)—Jesus is betrayed and sold for silver (Matt. 26:15)
- Joseph finds himself in prison with two other criminals (Gen. 40)—Jesus suffered death (a kind of prison) between two criminals (Luke 23:32-33)
- Joseph foretells death to one prisoner and release and restoration of the other (Gen. 40:9-19—Jesus tells one of the thieves that he will be with him in paradise while the other dies in his sins (Luke 23:42)
- Joseph is freed from prison by a decree of Pharaoh (Gen. 41:37-41)—Jesus is freed from the prison of death by the Fathers decree of Life, Resurrection, for His Son (Acts 2:24)
- Joseph is exalted at Pharaoh’s right hand and given a name that is above all names (Gen. 41)—Jesus is exalted to his fathers right hand and given a name that is above every other name (Phil. 2:9-11, Acts 2:33-36)

There are others that we could talk about but these are the big ones. I will be highlighting some more typology as we go this year. Let me know what you think about typology. Remember you can't always say that something is a “type” of Christ, but if you see something that you may think is let me know and I will do some investigating for you.

The New Testament
We read a few more parables of Jesus as well as read about some miracles including the feeding of the 5,000 and just as amazing, the feeding of the 4,000. One of the most powerful passages we read came in Ch. 16. Peter’s confession of Christ is a powerful witness to the divinity of Jesus and his claim to be the Messiah. After hearing Jesus preach and witnessing his miracles he boldly professes, “You are the Christ (Messiah) the Son of the living God." Either Peter was crazy or he was convinced that this simple man from Nazareth was the promised Messiah.

Bits And Pieces

We will dive into the book of Exodus this week and here are the vital stats:

PURPOSE: The Lord reintroduces Himself to Israel, rescues them from Egypt, and gives them a covenant of laws and sacrifices.
KEY PEOPLE: Moses, Miriam, Pharaoh, Pharaoh’s daughter, Jethro, Aaron, Joshua
KEY PLACES: Egypt, Goshen, Nile River, Midian, Red Sea, Sinai Peninsula, Mount Sinai
LAW THEMES: Plagues against unrepentant Egypt; God gives the Ten Commandments and requires an oath to fulfill the Law.
GOSPEL THEMES: God remembers and fulfills His promises to the patriarchs; atonement through sacrifice.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Exodus relates more miracles than any other Old Testament book and is noted for containing the Ten Commandments

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of January 13, 2019

Sermon: “Soak It In!”

Most of us are familiar with the phrase “Soak it in.”   The past few days we’ve had, and according to the weather channel over the next few days we will have more, occasion to say those words.  May our lawn “soak it in!”  After all, if the lawn and garden soak it in new growth, some deep green and certain beauty will come forth. 

Of course, living in a coastal desert climate we probably say those words more often figuratively than literally.  When used we are hoping, asking or even pleading for something to be absorbed either emotionally, physically or spiritually. 

Baptism’s impact, no longer how long ago your baptism was, brings daily opportunity to “soak it in.”

In Baptism, God granted you identity, amnesty, intimacy and a daily opportunity.

In our world it is pretty easy to have your name trashed or tarnished; or to do so to others. Spend any time on social media and you know that.  In Baptism, God not only calls you BY name (which is pretty great mind you); yet, far better than to have God announce that He knows me, Kevin, by name is to know He has pronounced me by my new name in baptism, His name, ChristianOne who BELONGS TO Christ and one who follows Christ.  In Baptism we’ve been given our truest identity.  Soak it in!

While we’ve been given such in Baptism, in those waters something else was taken away!  Our guilt, our sin…in Baptism the Lord who swept Pharaoh’s army away in the Red Sea has swept the stain of sin away from our lives. In Baptism God drown the foes of Satan and sin, guilt and the grave.  He gave us mercy and forgiveness and thus in Baptism we’ve been given amnesty … Soak it in!

Even as the planets population expands exponentially and social media and electronic communication connect us immediately, more and more people are feeling lonely, isolated, ostracized, unwanted and excluded.  Ever felt like that?  The ONLY One, who is really SOMEONE, cared enough to rend the heavens, speak over you and come to live inside you on the day you were baptized.  Through baptism, united to Christ, with God you have received intimacy.  SOAK it in!

In Baptism, the God who has given you identity, provided you amnesty, granted you intimacy, also presents you with a daily opportunity…to rise anew.  In his Small Catechism Luther talks about how the baptized life begins each morning by rising before the Lord to live in trust and service and contrition (which leads to drowning the old Adam/Eve daily)

Rainy days and rainy weeks are great occasions to remember that the greatest ‘greening’ we can long for, the greatest growth and beauty for which we can hope, begins as we daily rise and cling to the identity, amnesty and intimacy we’ve received in Baptism…Soak it in!
Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, January 14, 2019

The One Year Bible- January 14th

In seminary I took a class called Biblical Theology and Exegesis.  Don’t get too impressed.  I am convinced that theologians want to sound smart, so they use technical names for most of the classes.  For example in Seminary I took:  Hermeneutics, Homiletics, and Old Testament Isagogics.  In regular English that means I took Bible study, preaching, and Old Testament history (I hope I didn’t give away any company secrets).  Anyway, part of Biblical Theology and Exegesis is seeing the whole story of the Bible.  My textbook gave this definition, “Biblical theology is principally concerned with the overall theological message of the whole Bible.  It seeks to understand the various parts in relation to the whole.”  This is exactly what I try to do each week with our studies.  I guess I didn’t even know that I have been teaching a class in Biblical Theology every week on the internet for over five years.  Well, I hope that through these studies you will start to see the whole picture and the overall theme of God’s Word.  At the end of the first chapter of my textbook it says, “The Bible is about humankind falling into sin, and God’s determination to put things right.  It is about salvation, God’s rescue plan for human beings under judgment.  It is about the worship of the one true God and the rejection of the gods that fail.”  Lets all try to keep this in mind as we journey in God’s Word together.

Seth’s Thoughts

Old Testament
The opening stories of the Old Testament revolve around what we call the Patriarchs. This includes Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph. The first week of the year we sped through many generations as well as many years but this week we have been focusing on one family. This family has some issues.  Jacob is encouraged by his mother to pretend to be his brother so that Isaac will give him the family blessing.  If this sounds dysfunctional you are right. We will see plenty of dysfunctional behavior in the Old Testament. Remember the Old Testament is setting the stage for the coming of the Messiah, the one that was to save the people. Just wait until we get into the book of Judges and then we will see some real dysfunctional behavior. That PLR (people, land, relationship) promise that we talked about last week comes back (in whole or in part) quite often.  We saw it multiple times this week.  Each time I read it I put the letters PLR in the margin. I hope you begin to see that this is an important promise. This becomes the foundation for all the other promises that God will make in the Old Testament, including the coming of the Messiah. We read about Jacob and his rather strange relationship with his father-in-law, and then his odd relationship between him and his bickering wives. Once again we see some facets of dysfunctional behavior, but we also see that God will be faithful and keep his promise. The story of Joseph is one of the longest stories in the Old Testament. I will have more to say about this story later. For now be sure to catch all the details and see if they remind you of any other stories in the Bible.  Perhaps some of you are familiar with the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical called Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  This musical is a pretty faithful rendition of the story and if you get confused you may want to rent the movie version.  It stars Donny Osmond (don’t let that scare you) and has an appearance by Joan Collins (don’t let that scare you either). 

New Testament
In our readings from this week we find that Jesus still continues to teach, and heal and now he is starting to generate some interest. John’s disciples start to question him about things and we get a deeper glimpse into the ministry of Jesus. Chapter 10 has some interesting things to say about going out and speaking about Jesus, but remember that Jesus was speaking to 12 Jewish men in Israel almost 2000 years ago. It can be dangerous to make some one for one comparisons with these teachings and today. One very interesting section in our reading is found in chapter 12:13. Jesus uses some Old Testament stories to bring light to his earthly ministry. He gives us some clues about the end of his earthly ministry as he compares himself to Jonah. This is a fascinating passage for theologians as it sheds light not only on the work of Jesus but also the reason that the book of Jonah is in the Old Testament.  For those of you at Bethany, we will be studying the book of Jonah this Lenten season.  In that study we will explore this relationship ever further. Jesus also says that he is greater than Solomon. This was a big claim because no one was a wise as Solomon especially in the eyes of a Jewish person.  It is also another place that shows the relationship between the Old and New Testaments.

Bits and Pieces
One thing I think I forgot to mention last week. Every time you read the word LORD (in all capitals) in the Old Testament, the translators are saying this is the proper name Yahweh. It is God’s personal name. Remember that Moses is the one writing the first five books and he was the one to whom God revealed that name. So it makes sense that he uses it in his writing.
Another thing I want to point out to you is the use of names.  Names are important in the Bible.  like I just said above LORD is translated from Yahweh which means “I Am who I Am”.  It sounds rather nebulous to us but how could you try to contain God in a few letters no matter what language it is in.  On to my point, we have seen quite a few names, the names of people and places.  If you are reading through the NIV or the ESV you will notice that every time we encounter a new name there is a footnote.  If you follow those footnotes you will find some more information about the name.  For example, when Isaac was born we read in the footnote that Isaac means “he laughs”.  Some of these names have some theological significance.  The name Jacob means “he grasps the heel” which is an idiom for someone who deceives which is just what he does to his brother twice.  Later in the story we will get to Joshua.  His name means “the LORD saves”.  This is the same name that is translated as Jesus in the New Testament.  Makes sense doesn’t it.  The phrase Jesus Saves is almost redundant.  I will try to point out some of these names when they come up but feel free to follow the footnotes to get some more information. 

That is about all for now, but one word of encouragement. If you get behind in your reading don’t try to catch up all at once. Just double up your readings each day and soon you will be back on track. The other option is to just let some of the readings go, like water under the bridge and just pick up on the current day. Either way you are still in the Word, and that is a good thing. Have a great week and look for a new post next week!!

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of January 6, 2019

Sermon: “Best Day Ever!”

I received this forwarded email, and a few other interactions of the same, this past Christmas Season. 
The email was dubbed:  God’s Wife?

It’s New York City on a cold day in December. 
A little boy, about 10-years-old, is standing before a shoe store on the
roadway, barefooted, peering through the window, and shivering.

A lady approaches the young boy and says,
'My, but you're in such deep thought staring in that window!'
'I was asking God to give me a pair of shoes, was the boy's reply.
The lady took him by the hand, went into the store,
and asked the clerk to get half a dozen pairs of socks for the boy.
She then asked if he could give her a basin of water
and a towel. He quickly brought them to her.
She took the little fellow to the back part of the store and,
removing her gloves, knelt down, washed
his little feet, and dried them with the towel.
By this time, the clerk had returned with the socks…
Placing a pair upon the boy's feet, she purchased him
a pair of shoes…

She tied up the remaining pairs of socks
and gave them to him…
She patted him on the head and said, 'No
doubt, you will be more comfortable now'
 As she turned to go, the astonished kid caught her by the hand,
and looking up into her face, with tears in his eyes, asked her.
'Are you God's wife?'

Heartwarming to be sure!  Yet if one allows themselves the opportunity to ponder deeply, this story is not merely sentimental but theological. 

The Scripture refers to Jesus as the Groom of His church; and Jesus calls His people, the church, His bride. 

If the woman in the story were a Christian living out Matthew 25 (“what you have done for the least of these…you have done for me”) in a sense the question could receive an affirmation.

The gift of Christ’s mercy, compassion, care, forgiveness, grace and loving kindness are actually ours to give away.  On Epiphany He, the Christ-child, who received gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh) from the nations at the beginning of His earthly life; at the end of His earthly ministry commands His disciples to take His gifts (mercy, compassion, care, forgiveness, grace and loving kindness) to the nations.  
Pr. Kevin Kritzer

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