Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of April 28, 2019

Sermon: “I Refuse”

Over the years quite a few people have asked for a copy of the following poem:
“One account in the Gospel story seems to mar Easter’s glory,

The stubborn refusal of Thomas the twin to believe that Jesus was alive again.

Risen from the dead, how can that be?  I won’t believe it unless I see.  

And we God’s people or so it appears have never forgiven Thomas for his doubts or his fears. 

A missionary to India, martyred for the faith he had shown; yet as a skeptic, doubting Thomas he’ll forever be known. 

Yet Thomas is like most of us here, minds clouded with doubt and hearts loaded with fear

And as Thomas needed a new beginning in trusting God on Easter II a new beginning in trusting God can be used by me and by you.”

Now admittedly the reason “quite a few people” have requested a copy of the above has far less to do with the profundity of the poem than the frequency of its use. 

In habititual fashion I’ve used this poem on Easter II; and found the text driving us to consider how we are like Thomas – both as sinner and saint.  This year, as is the habit of the lectionary we were once again confronted with Thomas’ story.  However, only the first half of the poem grabbed me as I read and meditated upon the text yet again: “One account in the Gospel story seems to mar Easter’s glory, the stubborn refusal of Thomas the twin to believe that Jesus was alive again.  Risen from the dead, how can that be?  I won’t believe it unless I see.”  

Rather than being drawn toward how I am a twin to Thomas, I couldn’t help but notice how unlike the other disciples that first week after Easter, I am week in and week out. What the rest of the disciples, the assembly of women and men who had seen the Risen Jesus, refused for an entire week is confounding, captivating and ought to be compelling.  They refused to kick-out the refuser!

Now let’s be clear here…Thomas doesn’t merely doubt…He outright denies and demands.

Peter cries, “Jesus is Risen!”; “He is Risen Indeed!” the others reply.  Then Thomas chimes in, “no he’s not.”  Remember, this wasn’t a one-time event.  IT IS FOR US.  As already stated this story is THE story that is read each Sunday after Easter Sunday. While we hear it yearly, how many times do you think that during that week between Easter and 7 days later, one of the disciples, tears of joy in the eyes, a brilliant smile across the lips, a heart as light as a feather and warm as a fire said, “Can you believe Jesus is alive?” only to have one of their own say, “NO!”  No I can’t.  In fact, I don’t.  Truth is I WON’T…not unless…I REFUSE!

A week later, John reports, with the doors still locked… what astounds me is that Thomas is on the inside of those locked doors after that week.  NO ONE, NOT ONE, said, kick him out there where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth!  How is it that they put up with this?  Where did they find the strength to refuse to exclude the refuser?
Where did they find the strength to put up with Thomas? 
1.      They were overwhelming convinced of Jesus’ Resurrection.
2.      They were undoubtedly certain that no one was beyond Jesus’ reconciliation!

How could they not be overwhelming convinced of Jesus’ Resurrection. In His account of the life of Jesus known as the Book of Acts, Luke records for us that, “Jesus offered many other proofs of His resurrection over 40 days and spoke to them about the Kingdom of God.”  

They too knew what a Roman crucifixion squad would do…they left no one alive.  Those who attended His execution bore witness to Jesus’ death…He was dead!  HE was dead indeed!  Even Thomas agreed with that.  Jesus’ lifeless corpse was in fact entombed…no one exhumed Him … but Himself…through the power of the Spirit! 

Though once dead, He was (HE IS) alive…He is Risen!   He stood among them again (even when the doors were locked), He ate with them once more (ghosts don’t have flesh and blood or appetites as do I)  and He resumed His instruction on the meaning of the Kingdom (days and times are not for you to know but you are to go and make known the Good News that I am the Resurrection and the Life”).  But for 7 days, one of them - who had not seen Him, simply refused to believe…and it’s just hard for me to believe that they refused to exclude the refuser:

Where did they find the strength to put up with Thomas? 

They were undoubtedly certain that no one was beyond Jesus’ reconciliation! Thomas refused…James and John snoozed!  Jesus had asked them to pray with Him; specifically to KEEP WAIT!  He pleaded with them to PRAY and STAY AWAKE and yet they slept! Its one thing to fall asleep watching TV…I plan to do it this afternoon! It’s one thing to nod off in the easy chair when the days have been difficult.  It’s another to fall asleep when someone has asked you to stay up with them…when that one is the ONE who has come for EVERYONE! Thomas refused…but James and John snoozed…and restored, redeemed, and reconciled by Jesus’ Resurrection they had no intention of excluding Thomas from their company. 

Thomas refused…but Matthew and Bartholomew cruised. One swung a sword and stood his ground …but when the soldiers appeared, led by Judas, they disappeared from the garden. Thomas refused but Matt and Bart cruised and comforted with the grace of Christ, covered in His righteousness, consoled by His mercy, restored to their Lord they clearly would not exclude Thomas from their company.

Thomas refused their testimony but Peter restrained his own.  He had a chance…actually 3 of them!  You’re one of His disciples aren’t you?  Didn’t I see you with Him? Surely you’re a follower – you’re a Galilean – Thomas refused their testimony but Peter restrained his own. NO I’m NOT! I don’t KNOW Him! I got no idea what you’re talking about!  Thomas refused but Peter restrained and redeemed, renewed, restored – “feed my sheep”, he wasn’t about to exclude the wayward lamb from the little flock.

I must confess that I’m rather habitual in regard to a ready willingness to dismiss those who disagree with me…in non-essential items, matters of Christian Freedom, that which is termed in the church, “adiaphora”.  

Thomas for an entire week refused to confess the 2nd and 3rd articles of the creed, let alone their meanings.  I’m not suggestion that ought be the churches continual strategy, but it seems to me that I’ve been far too ready to require an “Indeed” to my personal preferential declarations. Perhaps this week, that we habitually observe, intends to break me of that habit.  Perhaps it intends to break you of the same. 

For the times we’ve fallen asleep to our calling – not only bearing witness to the resurrection but also bearing with one another, for the times we’ve strayed and stayed away, because of things that have nothing to do with what He has done, for the times we’ve denied that others should be a part of us because they are not like us in the non-essentials … the Lord shows up today to enter the locked rooms we maintain in our hearts and minds and say to us the same thing He said to Thomas, “Stop it, reach out and embrace me, trust me, receive grace, bless others.”

One account in the Gospel story seems to mar Easter’s glory the stubborn refusal of Thomas the twin to believe that Jesus was alive again.  Risen from the dead, how can that be?  I won’t believe it unless I see.  Yet the reaction to Tom’s doubt exemplifies Easter clout, the steadfast refusal of Thomas brothers, to reject him and replace with another.  To witness and welcome tis our call; till Risen Indeed is said by all!
-        Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, April 29, 2019

The One Year Bible- April 29th

As you heard me say before, “I love the book of Judges”. I have always thought they should make this into a movie. Who wouldn’t want to see the left handed Ehud taking care of the Eglon who was taking care of business on the “throne”, or Samson killing 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey or tying 300 pairs of foxes together, lighting them on fire and setting them loose in the fields? And you can’t forget Gideon and the testing of God and the defeat of the Midionites with just 300 men. Or what about Samson…I think this would be a good task for Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame or maybe even George Lucas, but I digress...... On to the study.....

Seth’s Thoughts:

The Old Testament
I hope you are enjoying the book of Judges as much as I am. Some people get depressed when they read the book because it looks as if the people just don’t get it. They always seem to do evil in the eyes of the Lord and they get handed over to some group and they suffer. But I don’t think that is the point. The point of the book is that God takes care of his people. He loves them so much and he will do anything to save them. We still don’t get the point today. Thank God for sending Jesus to save us.

I want to spend some time talking about Gideon and Samson today. First of all the book of Judges spends more time on these two guys then the others. An angel who seeks him out chooses Gideon. A bit of knowledge would help here. Gideon is hiding. How do I know that? He is in the bottom of a winepress (think big barrel) threshing wheat to hide it from the Midianites. The angel comes to him and calls him a “Mighty Hero”. Of course Gideon tries to talk his way out of it (sounds like Moses). Gideon asks for a sign and he hurries home to get an offering. The angel then burns up the offering and Gideon believes that it was an angel from the Lord. End of story right....not so fast. Gideon seems to be convinced but he tests his appointment two more times with God. Again the point here is not to show how untrusting Gideon was, but to show how patient God is, he patient with us in all things. The rest of the story continues on this theme. God delivers the people with only 300 men so the people would not brag that they did it all themselves. One of the other problems the people get into is that they want an earthly king. They ask Gideon to be their ruler and they have problems. After Gideon died, one of his sons, Abimelech tried to be the king. This only leads to problems because God is the only king the people need. The people lose sight of this and the cycle continues. Eventually God will allow a king but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Samson is another judge that makes for good Sunday school stories. His great strength makes him a good hero. But as you read the story you find out that Samson has some personality issues. He has problems with women and his temper (good movie material). Eventually he is humbled and matures and God uses him to exact some judgment on the Philistines. At the center, these stories are about the mercy of God. He continued to show the people mercy when they did not deserve it. He shows it to us today as well.

The New Testament
We finished up the Gospel of Luke with the familiar story of the passion. The one thing that jumped out at me was in chapter 24. Jesus was walking on the road to Emmaus with some of the disciples and Jesus takes them to task about believing that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus seems a bit impatient but in verse 27 it says, “The Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” What a great teacher. He knew that they still did not get it but he proceeded to teach them. His patience is amazing. In our readings for May 3rd, Nicodemus comes (at night because he didn’t want others to know he was there) to meet with Jesus. During their discussion Jesus mentions a story from the Old Testament. We read this story back in March. The people did not do what God said and he sent snakes into the camp. Moses made a bronze snake and put it on a pole and the people were saved. Jesus takes this story and gives some new meaning to it. “And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.” And right after this is the famous John 3:16. You can’t tell me that the Bible is not one story!!

Bits And Pieces:
We will finish the book of Judges this week and read whole the book of Ruth. Here are the vital stats for the book of Ruth:
Purpose: To show that the Lord demonstrates His faithfulness by providing for Ruth’s family a redeemer, who secures the heritage among God’s people.
Author: Unknown. Some think it was Samuel, but internal evidence suggest that it was written after Samuel’s death.
Date Written: Sometime after the period of the Judges (1375-1050 B.C.)
Setting: A dark time in Israel’s history when people lived to please themselves, not God.
Law Themes: The frailty of life; God allows suffering; selfish disregard for family.
Gospel Themes: The Lord’s kindness; God welcomes the nations by grace; redemption; inheritance; the genealogy of Jesus, THE Redeemer.
Key Verse: “But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.’” (Ruth 1:16)
Key People: Ruth, Naomi, Boaz
Key Places: Moab, Bethlehem

We will also start the book of 1 Samuel. Here are the vital stats for this book:
Purpose: To reveal the Lord’s faithfulness toward Israel in establishing His rule through Samuel, Saul, and David, despite the peoples unfaithfulness.
Author Most likely Samuel himself
Setting: The book begins in the days of the judges and describes Israel’s transition from a theocracy (let by God) to a monarchy (led by a king)
Law Themes: Barrenness; covetousness; neglect of fatherly duties; unfaithfulness; rejection of God’s rule; failure to keep God’s Word; rash vows; jealousy; divination.
Gospel Themes: The Lord provides leaders; the Lord promises an everlasting kingdom and priesthood; victory in the Lord’s name; godly friendship; blessings through the tabernacle; David’s mercy.
Key Verses: “And the LORD told him, ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king....Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do’” (8:7,9)
Key People: Eli, Hannah, Samuel, Saul, Jonathan, David

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of Sunday, April 21, 2019

He is Risen!

The prophet Isaiah foretold of Jesus' suffering and death with words like, "Stricken and afflicted by God, pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, by His wounds we are healed."  

Isaiah also foretold of the victories this suffering Servant would bring upon His return after this suffering Servant has "Seen the light of life" and defeated death.  In the 65th chapter of the prophecy bearing his name, Isaiah wrote that in His "new heavens no earth there would be no more: crying, dying or sighing and no more absurdity, calamity and animosity."  Of course, here and now in this world, as Luther calls it a “veil of tears"; in these days of crying, dying and sighing, in these days of absurdity, calamity and animosity we have a Servant whose suffering has secured our peace, healing and forgiveness.  

His resurrection fills us with such and such flow from us to others in these days...until that day foretold by Isaiah and captured in the Easter creed, "Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again!"
-        Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, April 22, 2019

The One Year Bible- April 22nd

When I was in college I worked at Arrowhead Lutheran Camp for many summers as a counselor. Right out of college I was hired to be the program director at the camp. I was just a young kid but I had quite a bit of experience working with children. As a counselor I always struggled with finding ways to get my campers to go to sleep. Some other counselors told ghost stories or scary tales but those freaked me out too much. Quite by accident one night I began to read stories from the book of Judges. I started with Gideon. That took about two nights then I went to Ehud, Samson, Deborah and others. My young boys really enjoyed the blood and guts stories that weren’t too scary. I liked them because they also taught that God was in control. Some people have a tough time with the book of Judges because of its violent nature and that is fine, but if you look at the stories through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy you might get some understanding. The key thing to remember is that God has mercy on his people and shows his love to them by sending a judge. Not a judge that comes to condemn, but one that comes to save. Sounds kind of like Jesus doesn’t it? On to the study for this week……

Seth’s Thoughts
As I have alluded to in the opening the book of Judges is all about God’s mercy. It seems like it is about his wrath with some blood and guts thrown in for good measure but when you really look at it you see a familiar pattern emerge with all the judges. We see this same pattern when Jesus is sent as the final Judge. Why was it necessary for the Judges to come anyway? Didn’t the people promise that they would be faithful to God? What happened to the promises they made? In the first part of the book we get the answer. “The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots.” (Judges 1:19 NIV) The story was the same with the other tribes. Reading a bit further, “The tribe of Manasseah failed to drive out the people….” Then the tribe of Ephraim failed, then Zebulen failed, then Asher failed, then Naphtali. Then Yahweh (LORD in all caps) sent his angel (some think this may be the pre-incarnate Christ) to talk to the people. Judgment was to be upon the people. “Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.” (Judges 2:3 NIV) This sums up the problems that the people will encounter the rest of the Old Testament. The people living in the land and their gods will cause major problems for the people. Remember this as we read the rest of the story this year. But the LORD (Yahweh) in his infinite mercy shows love to the people and sends help. The account of each Judge has a similar pattern. It usually begins with, The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, He turned them over to their enemies for so many years. Then the LORD raised up a Judge. The people followed this Judge and were saved. The land had peace for so many years. The Judge dies and the people return to their old ways and do evil in the eyes of the LORD. Get familiar with this pattern. This is some foreshadowing of the New Testament story of Jesus. We don’t have time to discuss each Judge (we will spend more time with Gideon next week) in detail so let me give you some highlights. Ehud is my favorite. He is left-handed. Why does the writer of Judges tell us this? He was able to smuggle his dagger into the presence of the king because, being left-handed he drew it from his right side. Most people carry their dagger or sword on the left side because they are right handed. Ehud was able to get close to the king and kill him because he was left-handed. You see, God uses all things for his good purposes. I also think it is funny that Ehud escapes through the outhouse in the kings chambers and the attendants are so embarrassed to disturb the king when he is in the bathroom. Some commentators even suggest that the king was actually sitting on “the throne” (the one in the bathroom) when Ehud stabs him (you see why young boys like this story?). The account of Deborah is good to show that God works through women as well. God raised her up as a Judge and she led the people in battle. In the story it was another woman, Jael, who took care of the evil Sisera. Talk about girl power (both the boys and some of the girls like this story). The story of Gideon is a bit longer and has some interesting insights for us. We will talk about him next week.
Bits and Pieces
We will finish the Gospel of Luke this week and we will start the Gospel of John. As a quick note, the first four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are grouped together and are referred to as the synoptic Gospels. The basically have the same form and tell the same story. They probably leaned on one another for source material. John is its own animal all together. John is the only Gospel that mentions three different Passover celebrations, which is where we get the three-year ministry of Jesus. John does not have a standard birth story. John begins with creation, but more on all this next week. John also makes heavy use of metaphor. We will see Jesus referred to as the door, the lamb, the good shepherd, the gate, the way the truth the life, and others. Here are the vital stats for the book of John:

The Old Testament

The New Testament
In our readings for this week we begin the story of the Passion. Luke makes an interesting comment about all the praise that Jesus is receiving on Palm Sunday. Some of the Pharisees tried to get Jesus to stop the celebration and Jesus says, “If they keep quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!” (Luke 19:40) This is an amazing statement. We have read in the Psalms that all creation praises the Lord, but here is proof that it can happen. Can you imagine if no one would praise God and then the rocks start to cry out? What a sight that would be!

Luke does a good job keeping the action moving in the story but there are some rather significant things to see when you dig a bit deeper.  When Jesus is before the high priest and is asked point blank if he is the son of God he says, “I am”. OK you say? No big deal? But, the words Jesus used are very important. When he says “I am” not only is he answering in the affirmative, he also is using the name God used when talking to Moses in the burning bush. Remember that God said his name was, “I am”. No wonder the High Priest and the others wanted Jesus dead after he had said this. Jesus goes in there and uses the name of God that the Jews to this day will not even use! Jesus was saying in no uncertain terms that he was the Christ, the promised Messiah. When we get to the Gospel of John we will see seven big “I am” statements from Jesus. Remember them when you read and pour into them the Old Testament meanings. 

Purpose: To prove conclusively that Jesus is the Son of God and that all who believe in him will have eternal life.
Author: It is never actually mentioned but most agree that it is John the apostle, son of Zebedee, brother of James, called a “Son of Thunder”
To Whom Written: New Christians and searching Non-Christians
Date Written: Probably between A.D. 85-90
Setting: Written after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and before John’s exile to the island of Patmos
Key Verses: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:30-31
Key People: Jesus, John the Baptist, the disciples, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Jesus’ mother, Pilate, Mary Magdalene
Law Themes: Darkness; slavery to sin; condemnation; demand for signs; death; fleshly desire; unbelief; Judas’ example; spiritual blindness; unclean; command to love; the world’s hatred
Gospel Themes: Light; grace; truth; Baptism; Lamb of God; born or the Spirit; life; resurrection; Jesus’ flesh and blood; the Shepherd’s care; clean; forgiveness; God’s love; sanctification.
Key Places: Judean countryside, Samaria, Galilee, Bethany, Jerusalem
Special Features: of the eight miracles recorded, six are unique (among the Gospels) to John, as is the “Upper Room Discourse” (chs. 14-17). Over 90 percent of John is unique to his Gospel. John does not contain a genealogy or any record of Jesus’ birth, childhood, temptation, transfiguration, appointment of the disciples, nor any account of Jesus’ parables, ascension, or Great Commission.

Have a wonderful week!!!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of April 14, 2019

No one likes expecting one thing to only receive something else.  In the world of marketing such is called "bait and switch".

Jesus rides into Jerusalem and is welcomed as King.  He enters the Holy City, in the eyes of many in the crowd assembled, to reign.  Yet, by week's end He is paraded out of the city as a criminal.  He is crucified outside the Holy City, in the eyes of many in the crowd assembled, as a blasphemer.

Those, or at least a great many of those, who greeted Jesus on Palm Sunday were expecting this to be the pinnacle of Jesus' ministry.  David's throne re-established God’s Kingdom come.  It could have been; Palm Sunday could have been the climax of the "Christ event" and had it been it would have been the closest to heaven we'd ever get.  A pilgrimage to Jerusalem to visit a temple made by hands would be the closest to holiness we could find ourselves.  

Hosanna, hosanna in the highest that Palm Sunday!  Praise God that Palm Sunday is the beginning of the week we call holy - not the completion!  In Jesus not only do we get the unexpected, we receive the undeserved.  Jesus exchanges a throne for a crown...of thorns.  He will not rule an earthly kingdom but establish an eternal one.  This King is the Prince of peace and His ultimate coronation is His crucifixion.  And we, by grace through faith, receive the unexpected - no longer are we simple members of a crowd who can see the King pass by.  We are sons and daughters of the King, citizens of the Kingdom, through whom the Kingdom is extended and the King seen.
-        Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, April 15, 2019

The One Year Bible- April 15th

I am not sure if I have mentioned this before, but I have been a big fan of the book of Psalms for many years. Remember, the book of Psalms was like the hymnal for the people of Israel. Unfortunately the tunes have been lost to history but the words are still there. I wish we had more time to dive deep into the Psalms and perhaps someday I will do just that, but every once in a while I want to highlight some things from this great book. This week I want to look at Psalm 86 (April 17). This is a Psalm of David and has some great words of comfort and also can serve to refocus us when things seem to going wrong. In verses 11 & 12 we read, “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.” I think that reading through the Bible from cover to cover is one way that God teaches us His way so that we might walk in the truth. There is just so much to learn from His word.
Lets get going....

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
Many of the readings this week were like a geography lesson. If you are like me it did not make much sense since the geography of the Holy Land is a bit of a mystery. The list of landmarks did not help me very much either. Please don’t get frustrated at this. The best thing to do is go to a map. I found this one on the Internet that shows how the land was divided. You may have one in the back of your Bible as well. For me this visually shows what we have been reading this week.

The geography of the Promised Land will be important later in the story. Eventually this land will become a kingdom under the rule of Saul. Things go well for a while but eventually the land is divided in two. The Northern Kingdom will have ten tribes, and the Southern Kingdom will have the other two (Judah, and Benjamin). Simeon will go with the North. This will be important later because the Northern Kingdom will be taken into exile never to return. A few years later the South will also be taken but some will return. This story points to Christ in so many ways but we don’t have the time to discuss this now. Trust me; we will discuss it later this year. One other note, the tribe of Dan will complain about their land and they will move out and head north to a city known as Dan. This is important because the city of Dan is in the far north of the kingdom and is part of a phrase we will see a number of times. When an Old Testament writer uses the phrase, “From Dan to Beersheba” they mean the entire land, since Dan is in the north and Beersheba is the city furthest south. Both places are on the map.

The New Testament
Jesus seems to talk a lot about money. To Jesus, money is something that can be used for good but it can also be used as something to be worshiped. Jesus said, "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate (remember our discussion of hate from last week?) the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (Luke 16:13 NIV) This was a direct attack on the Pharisees who loved money. The point is that God wants us to be faithful with the monetary blessings that we have been given but they are not to rule us and in reality become an idol that we worship. When Jesus talks to the rich young ruler, money is again an issue. Jesus tells him to sell everything he has and give the money to the poor. This man was not ready to give up his money. We all struggle with money. How much should we give away? How much is too much etc. Many of us are afraid if we do not save money we will not be able to survive. We sometimes forget the wonderful words of Jesus, "What is impossible with men is possible with God." (Luke 18:27 NIV) God will take care of us, we should not have to worry about money because we can focus on money and it will rule us if we are not careful.

Bits and Pieces
We will finish up the book of Joshua this week and begin the book of Judges. Here are the vital stats on the book of Judges:

Purpose: To present Israel’s declining spiritual state and the Lord’s mercy, by which He forgave them and held them together.
Author: Unknown, possibly Samuel
Setting: The land of Canaan, later called Israel. God had helped the Israelites conquer Canaan. which had been inhabited by a host of wicked nations. But they were in danger of losing this Promised Land because they compromised their convictions and disobeyed God.
Law Themes: Israel’s failure to conquer the Promised Land; transgression of the covenant; cowardice; idolatry; unfaithful Levites; doing what is right in one’s own eyes.
Gospel Themes: The Lord provides saviors and judges; the Lord answers Israel’s cry for help; the angel of the Lord; the Spirit of the Lord.
Key Verse: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” (17:6)
Key People: Othniel, Ehud (my favorite Judge), Deborah, Gideon, Abimelech, Jephthah, Samson, Delilah Special Feature: Records Israel’s first civil war

Monday, April 08, 2019

The One Year Bible- April 8th

When I was in second grade our class was scheduled to sing in church.  The song we sang was called “Everywhere I Go.”  Why do I remember such a thing?  Well, this song had a big impact on my life.  It has a catchy tune and great words and I latched on to this song and sang it everywhere I went.  I started singing this song every time I was scared or though I was in trouble.  I sang it a lot while riding my bike.  This song gave me comfort and security because even as I child I knew that God was there with me.  This song came to my mind this week while reading the story of God’s people as they entered the Promised Land.  I am sure many of them were scared and fearful of the future.  But Moses and Joshua reminded the people that God was with them everywhere they would go, and to be strong and courageous.  As we begin today, don’t forget that the same God is with you as well.  We begin with the words of that song:

Everywhere I go the Lord is near me
If I call upon Him He will hear me
Never will I fear, for the Lord is near
Everywhere I go.

Everywhere God is there
Tending all in loving care
He is with me everywhere I go

On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament


One quick comment from one of our readings this week: In Psalm 78:41 (April 7th) a reference to the “Holy One of Israel” is found. We will see this term often when we get into Isaiah and some of the other prophets. This term refers to the promised Messiah and when you see it you can be certain that this is talking about the coming of Christ.

Let me set the stage for you once again.  The people are on the edge of the Promised Land.  Moses has gathered the people together to give them a pep talk and remind them of the promises of God and his continued faithfulness.  Moses will not be joining the people because of his own disobedience but he is still God’s prophet.  At the end of the pep talk he breaks out into song.  This last bit of instruction for the people served as a reminder and a comfort for them.  Just before Moses gets a glimpse of the Promised Land, he introduces Joshua as the new leader.  We see in just a few short verses the phrase, “Be strong and courageous”.  This is an important phrase, as the people will be doing some difficult things in the next few years.  Moses as well as the Lord tells Joshua and the people to, “Be strong and courageous”  at least six times.  Indeed the Lord will be with them; and indeed he was.  The Lord caused the Jordan river to stop as the people crossed it. 

In the next few days we will see that the Lord delivered the fortified city of Jericho into their hands.  The Lord blessed them, but true to form the people disobey.  After Jericho was destroyed someone took some of the plunder that was to be devoted to the Lord.  This caused a military defeat of the people and doubt started to creep in.  It was just one small action that had big consequences.  It seems that is what happens in our lives as well.  Just one seemingly small sin causes us big problems.  Even after the pep talk from Moses, the people disobey.  This will be a theme we will see over and over again.  When we look at the world today we see the same theme.  We have heard what we should do, we know the right things be we find ourselves doing the opposite or not even listening to God.  For the people of Israel this caused problems.  Later we will see how sin begins to spiral out of control and eventually the people will be lead off to exile.  We are in the exile of sin as well and we are in need of rescue.  God sent his son Jesus to rescue us from our sin.  Because we could not do it, Jesus did it all for us.  Jesus fulfills the requirements of God and we get all the benefits.  The Old Testament once again points us to Christ the author and perfector of our faith. 

The New Testament
A few things jumped out at me as I read through the readings from Luke this week. After our readings in the Old Testament about washings, the section at the end of chapter 11 (readings for April 6th) where Jesus really blasts the Pharisees makes more sense to me. Jesus really lets them have it for only worrying about the outside things. He tells them in no uncertain terms that God looks at the inside as well and they need to get their act straight. In Luke 7 Jesus says some hard things. Jesus tells us that if we want to be his disciple we need to hate other things. I have always struggled with this statement. In one of my seminary classes we talked about the word “hate” and how it is used in the New Testament. This is another word that we translate the Greek literally but it has some Hebrew meaning. In Hebrew the word we translate as “hate” means that we prefer one thing over the other but not necessarily at the expense of the other. In the Old Testament we read that Jacob “hated” his wife Leah, but he still cared for her, he had children with her and he provided for her. This does not sound like the “hate” we think of. Now it is true that Jacob preferred Rebekah, but he did not “hate” Leah as we see it. I hope this sheds some light on this passage for you. We are to prefer following Jesus over all others. We will still need to carry our cross and count the cost and that will only be possible with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Have a great week and remember that God is with you everywhere you go!!

Monday, April 01, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of March 31, 2019

Sermon: “From Adored to Abhorred”

It was just after midnight on March 21st and our Boeing triple 7 rumbled down the taxiway of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.  It was the end of an amazing week in Kenya and the beginning of a long 19 hours of flight time home.  Soon we were airborne for an 8 ½ hour flight to London’s Heathrow Airport. I usually adore flying on a plane. It usually means that adventure is ahead or perhaps the glow of time away remains forefront in my mind. But soon this flight would go from adored to abhorred. 

To say the least, there was not much space on the plane.  We were seated in the second row of basic economy and legroom and shoulder room was in short supply.  I was in a middle seat and was next to a woman who was trying to curl up the best she could to get some sleep on the overnight flight.  Soon after takeoff the person in front of me leaned their seat back and now the entertainment screen was just inches from my eyeballs and was burning my retinas with every passing mile.  After a while, the meal services started and the choices were some sort of spinach item and lamb.  Wanting nothing to do with the spinach, I chose the lamb.  It was a poor choice.  It was awful.  As the cabin lights dimmed, I tried to get some shut eye. But just as I drifted off to la-la-land I was shaken from my slumber by someone in the row behind me getting up to use the facilities. 

As they got up, they used my seat back to steady themselves and scoot out.  If it would have been one time I would have excused this but it went on about every 30 minutes for about 5 or 6 hours. I would doze off for a moment…then I was shaken from slumber. I just wanted to die.  There were no adoring glances given to those behind me.  Soon I began to abhor the whole situation. By the time we arrived in London I was impatient with the trip, cranky and upset and I was quick to criticize my fellow passengers, British Airways and even the entire airline industry.  But this is minor compared to what happened with God’s people recorded in the book of Numbers chapter 21.

Then they moved from Mount Hor, following the road that goes to the Red Sea, in order to get around Edom. The people became impatient on the trip and criticized God and Moses. They said, “Why did you make us leave Egypt—just to let us die in the desert? There’s no bread or water, and we can’t stand this awful food!”

So the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people. They bit the people, and many of the Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we criticized the Lord and you. Pray to the Lord so that he will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake, and put it on a pole. Anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it on a pole. People looked at the bronze snake after they were bitten, and they lived.  (Numbers 21:4-9)

Just for the record, there were no snakes on my plane, no one died, that I know of and for me it was just a minor inconvenience.  For God’s people in the wilderness it was more than just an inconvenience, it was life and death.

And in that moment as Moses intercedes for the people, he does something confounding.  He instructed the people to do that which was contrary to their religious sensibilities… “Make a snake, and put it on a pole. Anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” It’s a confounding story, as the people adore what is raised up they find life. 

Of course, that which is even more confounding is what happened when another was raised on a pole; that moment when God, Himself, took on human flesh and was raised up on an instrument of torture as a sacrificial offering.  “For just as Moses lifted the snake up on a pole, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.” (John 3:14)

For the times Israel went astray, for the occasions we have wandered away, for the times Israel grumbled against God and the occasions we’ve complained about Him.

For the occasions the Hebrew community distrusted God and the times the Bethany community has done so as well.  For the occasions the Israelites embraced group think and the occasions we’ve done the same. For all the acts of injustice, disobedience and self-centeredness that humanity has ever engaged – and for all those things you have done and left undone, Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin…and God who declared Him to be His beloved and chose Him for this work – condemned Him chief of sinners and rejected Him for our guilt.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

The one who was adored just days before when he entered Jerusalem was now the one abhorred by those who called out “Crucify, crucify!” but it's far worse than that.  For on the cross, the son of God was abhorred by His Father because of our sins; as the Father turns His face away from His only begotten Son, the punishment for the sin of the world fell firmly upon Him. 

He did this so that having become a curse, He might redeem you and me from the law’s curse…in Jesus we’ve gone from being abhorred…to adored!

In this season of Lent we draw our eyes to the cross and there we see that Jesus became the embodiment of our sin and mistakes.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

He took in Himself all our sin: our acts of injustice, our taking advantage of others for our gain, and our self-centered faithlessness.  He, who was once adored by many, became an image abhorred by all.  Yet, our salvation lies with Him, the one who “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” (Galatians 3:13).

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

It is there, as we behold the sight of our enfleshed sin, beaten, pierced, and crucified, that God calls us to adore what was raised, first on the cross and then raised to defeat sin, death and the devil, to look and to live, for there all humanity is transformed from abhorred to adored.
 -Pr. Seth Moorman

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