Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of June 23, 2019

Sermon: “All Dressed Up and Now Where to Go”
Text: Luke 8

Undressed was He…without clothes…without home.  This sounds like it could be a headline from just about any city paper…while it might sound contemporary, this is actually the account of Luke’s Gospel written 2 millennia ago. 

The passerby of course, the One who is the ever-present way; Jesus, crossed Galilee and entered the region of the Gerasenes when suddenly He is met by “A demon-possessed man who for a long time had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had dwelt in the tombs. Upon seeing Jesus he shouted while lying at his feet ‘What do you want from me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?  I beg you don’t torture me!’” 

Of course after quoting the demonic, Luke records the true torture the man had endured; “Many times the demon had seized the man, who was chained, enabling him to break those chains and then drove him into solitary places.”

If a naked homeless man shouts at you as you are passing by, what is the first thing that you do? 

Keep on passing!  Pick up the pace even. 

What is the first thing Jesus does?  Look at the text, v. 30.  Jesus asks him his name. 

Now, I think that Jesus is talking to the man but it is the demon that gives reply!  We are legion, we are in charge here. For about as long as it took to get the word legion out, they immediately concede who is in charge…don’t toss us into the abyss!

Jesus sends them into a heard of pigs, which promptly rush down over the cliff, into the lake and drown.  The commotion brings the town out and even concludes with the formerly naked and crazed individual sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind. 

Then Luke wraps up the event by giving us a glimpse of the man’s heart, which in Christ has also been made right as he begs Jesus to join the disciples and go follow Him.  Jesus had a different plan as he tells the man to “Go home.”

At first this might sound like the case of being all dressed up with nowhere to go. 

Are you familiar with that phrase?  Apparently the earliest recorded usage is on a tombstone in Maryland and it reads, “Here lies an Atheist…all dressed up and nowhere to go.” Now I don’t know if the story is true but C.S. Lewis heard the tale too and replied, “I bet that Atheist wished it were true”…that is he had nowhere to go.

Perhaps you've seen that phrase used if someone gets stood up on a date or maybe a business person is ready to make a big pitch or presentation and learns of a last minute cancellation. 
In our text, Jesus doesn’t deny the man a destination he just sends him to an alternate location.

“Go home and tell how much God has done for you!”

This is a story of being “All dressed up, now, where to go!”

The fella freed from the foe wasn’t denied the designation of disciple.  “Let me go with you!” he said, “no, God home,” said the Lord.

You go that way, and do what these disciples will do this way…tell what God has done!  Tell what God has done for you!!

This story is also your story.  On the day you were baptized it became yours! 

Whether in a brand new white gown, one worn by generations at their baptisms, or something else, we all come to the waters of Baptism naked; that is the biblical metaphor for our sinful condition, our natural separation from God. 

At the fount an exorcism takes place, the devil is cast away, rejected along with all of his works and all of his ways, his threats as well as sins guilt, like the pigs in the Gerasenes, it is drown in the waters over which Jesus crosses and you are forgiven.

And baptized into Jesus we are freed from bondage and brokenness. 

The tombs that taunt and haunt have no power and even when our bodies go to the grave, our souls do not.

For baptized into  Jesus we rise, naked no more but rather robed in righteousness, adorned with the grace of God, clothed in Christ, “All dressed up…NOW, where to Go?”

That’s simple…home…to live, laugh, learn, love, and to tell how much God has done for us!

So, go!  Go home to tell what God has done for you.  Go and tell it to your family, your friend, your neighbor, your coworker, for you are all dressed up…now go!
-Pr. Seth Moorman

Monday, June 24, 2019

The One Year Bible- June 24th

I am in the habit of writing smiley faces or unhappy faces in the margins of my One Year Bible to indicate a good story or a bad one. Usually they about equal each week. This week however, I had way more unhappy faces. I wrote one for each time someone killed another person or events that were displeasing to God took place. Looking back, it makes me appreciate even more the love God has for us. As a group, people keep messing up. I do every day. But God loves us and sent his Son for us. It is just amazing when you stop to think that Jesus was sent to this earth in spite of and because of people like Ahab and Jezebel. On to the study.....

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

A couple of stories I want to mention today that have parallels in the New Testament. First of all, there is a miraculous conception with the woman from Shunem. It reminds be of the story of Abram and Sari in Genesis but it also points forward to both Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and Mary, the mother of Jesus. Like Jesus, this child died and was brought back to life again (after he sneezed seven times…that is funny). Now I don’t want to press the text too much, but it does set a precedent that God is a powerful God and he can bring people back from the dead. Then there is the story of the poisonous stew. Elisha made sure the stew was O.K. to eat and in a fashion similar to the feeding of the 5,000 everyone ate and was satisfied and there was food left over. In an of themselves these stories show the power of God, but I think they also are a set up for what was to come in the person of Jesus Christ. Then there is the story of the ax head the floats in the water. What was that all about? Again it shows the power of God and points to who Yahweh is. One more… after Elisha dies and is in his tomb the people need to bury another person. Now in those days the dead were buried in shared tombs like caves. The Moabites start a raid on the people so they just throw the body in the tomb. It bumps into Elisha’s bones and the guy comes back to life! Now that is awesome!! God is still using Elisha to show is power long after Elisha died. I wish there was more to this story but the text just goes on to another story. Sometimes the Bible does that. It does not mean that it is not part of scripture but sometimes there is nothing else about the story. One thing that I found in reading this week was trying to keep the kings straight in my mind. What I did was look for some sort of a list and here is what I found. I hope it is helpful:

Kings of Judah and Israel

Kings Before Division of Kingdom
· Saul: First King of Israel; son of Kish; father of Ish-Bosheth, Jonathan and Michal.
· Ish-Bosheth (or Eshbaal): King of Israel; son of Saul.
· David: King of Judah; later of Israel; son of Jesse; husband of Abigail, Ahinoam, Bathsheba, Michal, etc.; father of Absalom, Adonijah, Amnon, Solomon, Tamar, etc.
· Solomon: King of Israel and Judah; son of David; father of Rehoboam.
· Rehoboam: Son of Solomon; during his reign the kingdom was divided into Judah and Israel.

Kings of Judah (Southern Kingdom)
· Rehoboam: First King.
· Abijah (or Abijam or Abia): Son of Rehoboam.
· Asa: Probably son of Abijah.
· Jehoshaphat: Son of Asa.
· Jehoram (or Joram): Son of Jehoshaphat; husband of Athaliah.
· Ahaziah: Son of Jehoram and Athaliah.
· Athaliah: Daughter of King Ahab of Israel and Jezebel; wife of Jehoram; only queen to occupy the throne of Judah.
· Joash (or Jehoash): Son of Ahaziah.
· Amaziah: Son of Joash.
· Uzziah (or Azariah): Son of Amaziah.
· Jotham: Regent, later King; son of Uzziah.
· Ahaz: Son of Jotham.
· Hezekiah: Son of Ahaz; husband of Hephzi-Bah.
· Manasseh: Son of Hezekiah and Hephzi-Bah.
· Amon: Son of Manasseh.
· Josiah (or Josias): Son of Amon.
· Jehoahaz (or Joahaz): Son of Josiah.
· Jehoiakim: Son of Josiah.
· Jehoiachin: Son of Jehoiakim.
· Zedekiah: Son of Josiah; kingdom overthrown by Babylonians.

Kings of Israel (Northern Kingdom)
· Jeroboam I: Led secession of Israel.
· Nadab: Son of Jeroboam I.
· Baasha: Overthrew Nadab.
· Elah: Son of Baasha.
· Zimri: Overthrew Elah.
· Omri: Overthrew Zimri.
· Ahab: Son of Omri; husband of Jezebel.
· Ahaziah: Son of Ahab.
· Jehoram (or Joram): Son of Ahab.
· Jehu: Overthrew Jehoram.
· Jehoahaz (or Joahaz): Son of Jehu.
· Jehoash (or Joash): Son of Jehoahaz.
· Jeroboam Il: Son of Jehoash.
· Zechariah: Son of Jeroboam II.
· Shallum: Overthrew Zechariah.
· Menahem: Overthrew Shallum.
· Pekahiah: Son of Menahem.
· Pekah: Overthrew Pekahiah.
· Hoshea: Overthrew Pekah; kingdom overthrown by Assyrians.

The New Testament
We are in the middle of hearing about the missionary journeys of Paul. I hope you found a good map to help you follow along. A couple of things about these readings; first of all Paul is following his pattern of going to the synagogue first (remember this pattern from last week?). Then he heads out to the streets and in Acts 14 we have a very famous sermon. It is referred to as the sermon on Mars Hill. Paul argues using Greek ways to the philosophers about this person called Jesus. Later on Paul uses one of the statues of the “gods” and says that this “unknown god” is indeed Jesus. Of course this gets Paul into all kinds of trouble and they people try to kill him so he flees the area. Acts 15 records a big debate on whether or not Gentiles have to become Jews first (i.e. through circumcision) before they can be Christians. Paul has a great line in the debate that seems to set the church on the right path, “But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” (Acts 15:11 ESV) Then James gets up and makes the decision to have a compromise and he says, “Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those who turn to God.” (Acts 15:19 ESV) I think these are some wise words that we need to be heard today. Of course, because of the message, Paul and Silas end up in prison, but God turns it into a positive thing when they were able to share the message of Jesus with all in the prison, including the jailer. We find out that they all get baptized and became followers. There is a lot more to say about this week’s readings but we don’t have time here. Let me know if you have any questions.

Monday, June 17, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of June 16, 2019

Sermon: “The Father’s Day”
Text: Psalm 8

“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 118:24)

These words from the 118th Psalm are a fitting way to begin today.  And in reality they are fitting for every day, but today we rejoice and are glad in this day, made by the hand of the Lord himself.

You see, in many ways today is The Father’s Day.  Yes, I know that it is Father’s Day, but I’m talking about THE Father.  The Author of Creation, by whose word all creation sprang forth, all life began and His love was made manifest in all that was created. 

The Small Catechism describes the work of the Father this way, I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.  This is most certainly true.

Today is also Trinity Sunday and while in many ways we had the Holy Spirit’s Day last week as we celebrated Pentecost, and we had the Son’s Day in April as we once again witnessed the Savior springing forth in life to defeat sin, death and the devil.

Today we look to the work of the Father coeternal with the Son and the Spirit. 

When we start talking about the holy Trinity we can easily confuse the persons or combine the substance of their glory. To help us we turn our attention to Psalm 8 written by David:

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name
               throughout the earth!
Your glory is sung above the heavens
From the mouth of little children and infants,
you have built a fortress against your opponents
                              to silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens,
                              the creation of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have set in place
                              what is a mortal that you take care of him?
You have made him a little lower than yourself.
You have crowned him with glory and honor.
You have made him rule what your hands created.
You have put everything under his control:         
                              all the sheep and cattle, the wild animals,
                              the birds, the fish
                              whatever swims in the currents of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name
                              throughout the earth! (Psalm 8)

This Psalm gives insight to the creative work of God the Father and His plan of salvation.  From the outset we see how the Lord is praised by His creation.

The name of the Lord is praise and proclaimed by huge galaxies and by tiny babies.

When you consider the creation done by the fingers of God, what do you imagine? 

I start to imagine how through His mighty word He fixed the stars in their places, how at a wave of His hand He fashioned the universe and the planets.  How by His powerful breath all life sprang into being. 

It would be easy to think that the creation of humanity was a trivial event, for we are nothing but a microscopic speck compared to just one of the stars, let alone the galaxies. Yet in creation we find the heart of God Himself. 

We have been made in the Father’s image.  In the image of the Triune God we were created, just those things in the heavens.

We have been crowned with glory and honor and have been given the task to rule over the earth.

Just imagine this, while in physical stature we may seem insignificant, yet we are more precious to our heavenly Father than anything else in all of creation.

And after creating humanity God said it was very good! This, the Father’s Day was good and perfect and filled with peace.

The church throughout the centuries has ascribed the work of creation to the Father but we must remember that we cannot separate the persons of the Trinity. 

Centuries ago, Christians confessed faith in the words we still hold onto today that come the closest to describing the trinity without denying it.  This is what they wrote:

For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Holy Spirit is another.

But the Godhead of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit: the Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, the Holy Spirit uncreated; the Father infinite, the Son infinite, the Holy Spirit infinite; the Father eternal, the Son eternal, the Holy Spirit eternal.

And yet there are not three Eternals, but one Eternal, just as there are not three Uncreated or three Infinites, but one Uncreated and one Infinite.

In the same way, the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, the Holy Spirit almighty; and yet there are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God; And yet there are not three Gods, but one God.

So the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord.

Are you confused yet?  If you grew up in the Church you may recognize some of the words of the Athanasian Creed.  And as that creed does, it’s sometimes better to just proclaim what Scripture says than try to explain it all. 

We all know very well that when we try to fit God into our understanding we soon see that it’s not about the Father, or the Son, or the Spirit, but about ourselves. 

When Adam and Eve disobeyed the Lord perfection was ruined, tarnished, and destroyed. 

Each and every day since the days continue to be about what we humans can get and can get away with not about God; most days are not about our heavenly Father but about our own earthly existence.

Lord, You want us to rule what Your hands have created?  OK, great but not Thy will be done, by my will be done.

In this great fall our relationship with our Heavenly Father was broken, and our dominion diminished. 

Yes, we still use the intelligence God has given us, but we no longer have uncontested dominion over the earth.  The peace of the Father’s Day found in Eden is gone and in its place…chaos. 

In spite of our best efforts we cannot control the chaos.  Viruses and bacteria wreak havoc in our bodies; cells grow uncontrolled and unchecked and bring death.  

We battle against weeds, pests, and disease, against floods and droughts just to produce food from the earth.  We are killed by our own machines and poisoned by our own pollution. 

Inevitably humanity’s day ends when each of us must return to the ground from which we were created.

But another Father’s Day was yet to come.  It would be a day when chaos would be crushed underfoot, when the avenger and the enemy would be silenced once and for all and the will of the Father would be made known to the world. 

Jesus, begotten of the Father from the beginning, the uncreated, infinite, and eternal Son of God, co-equal with the Father and the Spirit said this as recorded in John’s Gospel, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:40)

That day on Calvary we were provided a fortress against the enemy.  That day on Calvary, Jesus, perfect God and perfect man suffered for our salvation descended into hell and then rose again on the third day so that we might be restored to the Father. 

Because of that day, every day is The Father’s Day.  Every day is made new by the transforming power of the Triune God made manifest in Christ.  It is in Christ that we find forgiveness and mercy.

It was the Father’s will to send His Son to die, so you would live!  The Father’s Day on Calvary is the act of a loving God, who desires to be with you and in Christ he provides the way.  In Christ alone you are forgiven and free. 
Now we are freed to praise a God who desires to give good gifts. 

As we heard last week the Spirit of God is alive and well and empowers us to make every day The Father’s Day.

As the Spirit of God flows through us, we can give good gifts to our families, our neighbors and the world.  As the redeemed children of God we can bring the love of the Father to a hurting world.

So, on this Father’s Day, I encourage you to pick up the phone to call your dad, if you are able.  Or perhaps tell a story or two about how he has impacted your life as you remember his, but as you do remember your heavenly Father and may every day be a day we can proclaim,

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name throughout the earth! (Psalm 8:1)
-Pr. Seth Moorman

Friday, June 14, 2019

The One Year Bible- July 29th

Can you believe that July is almost over?  Where has the summer gone?  I hope the busy summer had not got the best of you and your time with God’s Word.  Don’t worry if it has.  Like I have said before, when you get behind (and you will get behind) just try to read two days worth each day until you catch up, or if you would like, you can just pick up the readings on the day you begin again and try to catch the readings you missed next time.  Either way, it is important not to beat yourself up over missing the readings or to get so frustrated that you give up.  Keep up the hard work and let me know how I can help.  On to the study…

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
This section of 2 Chronicles spent a lot of time listing the various kings, how long they reigned, what they did, etc.. Some kings were good and some were bad. One character that is important in this section is Isaiah. We will be spending quite a bit of time with Isaiah a bit later in the year but try to remember that this is his context: near the end of the kingdom of Judah. We will see some of these stories again when we are in Isaiah. One king to focus on is Hezekiah. He was only 25 when he started his reign and he immediately went to work. The first thing he did was to reopen the Temple. The Temple had become a place for various idols and the worship of false God’s. By reading this section, it is obvious that the Temple was a mess. It took 7 guys 16 days to clean it. If it takes me more than two days to clean my garage, I get a bit upset. At least there was some good motivation for getting the job done. After the job of restoring the Temple was done, it was time to celebrate. For the first time in a while, the people celebrated Passover. Hezekiah did a good job of getting the people back on track. Some Bible scholars think that God was getting his people ready for the exile that was to come soon. With the work of Hezekiah, the remnant would be prepared to return and rebuild the temple. There will be one great story of grace and mercy coming up on August 2nd.  In that reading we heard that king Manasseh did evil in the eyes of the LORD. God even audibly spoke to him but he did not listen. The Assyrian army took Manasseh prisoner, pierced his nose (to mark him as a slave), bound him in chains, and took him to Babylon. While in Babylon, Manasseh realized that he was in trouble and he prayed to YAHWEH, who was moved by his prayer and had mercy on him. Manasseh was brought back to Jerusalem because of God’s mercy. “Then Manasseh knew that the LORD is God.” (2 Chronicles 33:13b NIV).  God’s mercy sure is awesome! 

The New Testament
In our readings from Romans we read these wonderful words from Paul, "
How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!(Romans 10:15b NIV) Paul continues a few verses later by saying that “Faith comes from hearing”. It is not any action that we do, or any magic pill. Faith is a gift of God. It comes in hearing the message of Salvation from Jesus Christ. I had a seminary professor who told us that when his kids were born, the first thing he did was to whisper into their ears that Jesus loved them. I had never thought of doing this before. We also read about one of the great analogies about being in the family of faith. Paul says that the Gentiles (which includes me) have been grafted into the family and now receive all the benefits of being part of the whole. We are now full partners in the blessings of Abraham as we live connected to God’s special olive tree. Paul then moves on to talk about being living sacrifices. This seems contradictory but in view of God’s mercy we offer everything we have to God as an offering to him. This becomes a part of our worship life. Paul then moves to the body analogy. It is not the only place Paul uses this but the point is that we are all part of one body. We are all connected in Christ.
Psalm 22 is known as a Messianic Psalm. Jesus quotes from this Psalm when he is on the cross. Go back and read verses 14 to 18 and think about the story of Jesus on the cross.  We also read the 23rd Psalm which is one of the most well known of all the psalms.  I really like the NLT translation of verse 6, “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life.”  What a great image, the love of God pursues us!  It does not just follow us, but is actively seeking us out, even in our sinfulness.

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We will finish the book of 2 Chronicles this week and start the book of Ezra. A lot of time will have passed between these two books. We will see the downfall of Judah and their exile to Babylon. If you are dying to know what happens there you can read the book of Daniel. Ezra begins the story of the return of the exiles back to the promised land. This promised “remnant” will provide the opportunity for the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy with the birth of Jesus. Here are the vital stats for the book of Ezra:

PURPOSE: To show the Judeans how God controls the nations of the earth for His saving purposes.
AUTHOR: Not stated but probably Ezra
DATE WRITTEN: Around 450 B.C. recording events from about 538-450 B.C.
SETTING: Ezra follows 2 Chronicles as a history of the Jewish people, recording their return to the land after the captivity.
KEY VERSES: “So the Israelites who had returned from exile ate it [the Passover], together with all who had separated themselves from the unclean practices of their Gentile neighbors in order to seek the LORD, the God of Israel. For seven days they celebrated with joy, the feast of unleavened bread, because the LORD had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria, so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.” Ezra 6:21-22
LAW THEMES: Exile due to sin, persecution, broken faith by illegal marriages
GOSPEL THEMES: God fulfills His promise of mercy, God providence in restoring the temple and its sacrifices of atonement, the hand of God guides history for the sake of His people, the remnant restored.
KEY PEOPLE: Cyrus, Zerubbabel, Haggai, Zechariah, Darius, Artaxerxes I, Ezra
KEY PLACES: Babylon, Jerusalem
SPECIAL FEATURES: Ezra and Nehemiah were one book in the Hebrew Bible, and, with Esther, they comprise the post-captivity historical books. The post-captivity prophetic books are Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Haggai and Zechariah both prophesy during the period of the reconstruction.

The New Testament
The book of Romans comes to a close this week with some greetings to some people in Rome. Our journey with Paul will continue with the letters to the Corinthians. Along with Romans, these letters give a good taste of Paul’s theology. Paul wrote these letters to a church that was having some problems. We will spend time with these issues because many are the same that we face today. Here are the vital stats for the book:

PURPOSE: To identify problems in the Corinthian church, to offer solutions, and to teach the believers how to live for Christ in a corrupt society.
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The church in Corinth and Christians everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 55, near the end of Paul’s three year ministry in Ephesus, during his third missionary journey.
KEY VERSE: “ I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” 1 Corinthians 1:10
LAW THEMES: Rebukes against divisions, foolish human wisdom, struggles with sexual immorality, idolatry, and spiritual pride; the Lord’s Supper abused; doubting the resurrection.
GOSPEL THEMES: Saved by Christ crucified; God’s wisdom in Christ; the Spirit’s work; Gospel ministry through the apostles; sanctified through Baptism; God’s unity; the Lord’s Supper; resurrection hope.
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Timothy, members of Chloe’s household.
KEY PLACES: Worship meetings in Corinth
SPECIAL FEATURES: This is a strong, straightforward letter.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of June 9, 2019

Sermon: “Promise Made…Promise Kept”
Text: Acts 2:1-21

The classic Disney film Beauty and the Beast includes a scene in which the character of Lumiere & Cogsworth coach the Beast on how to court Belle the beauty. Cogsworth’s advice includes, “Flowers, chocolates, promises you don’t intend to keep.” 

All of us have at some point made promises we had every intention of keeping; and most of us have at some point made a promise we had no idea how we’d keep at best or at beastly worst we had no intention of keeping. 

Pentecost is a day of promises made…promises kept!  Through the prophets God promised that He would pour out His Spirit before the great and glorious day of His coming and that all who called on His name would be saved.  Pentecost’s event validate that God’s promises made are promises kept.  Jesus before His Ascension promised the sending of another, the helper, guide, the Counselor.  Pentecost’s event is proof that God’s promises made are promises kept.  Through the apostles God promised that His people would be identified with His mission.  Pentecost’s event, read Peter’s words about the happenings in Acts 2, verify that God’s promises made are promises kept indeed!
-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, June 10, 2019

The One Year Bible- June 10th

Have you ever read a book and about half way through, not known the main story line? Maybe you missed it, or possible it is not there, but it is never fun reading a book without a point. Some people get that when they read the Bible. For many it seems like a bunch of disconnected stories that do not seem to fit together. One way to see the big picture is to take the time and read through the whole thing. If you are like me, there is no way I could just sit and read the Bible straight through, starting at page one and going to the end. Some people have the ability to read a book in a weekend or even in a day. The only time I have ever done that was for a class. But when you start digging into scripture and the big picture is revealed, the whole Bible starts to make sense. This happened to me a number years ago when I was teaching an Old Testament class. Our textbook was the Bible, and for the first time in my life, it started to make sense. In this weeks readings we have seen some of the connections. Lets look at them today....

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
This week’s readings had some great connections. The people of Israel now have peace under King Solomon. Things are looking up for the people. The author of 1 Kings gives us a bit of a flashback to Abraham when he writes, “The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy.” (I Kings 4:20 NIV) The promise that was made to Abraham has come to pass. Solomon then undertakes the building of a permanent home for Yahweh. Solomon sends a message to king Hiram of Tyre to make an order for building supplies. Tyre is in what we call Lebanon today. Tyre had (and still has) a great natural resource in timber. It was the best timber around, and only the best was used for the temple. It took seven years to build the temple. I don’t know if you have been part of a building project, but a seven-year building project must have been stressful. When the day came for the dedication of the Temple the priests were sacrificing away and then they had to stop. “When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the Temple of the LORD (remember all caps = Yahweh). The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the LORD filled the Temple.” All of the promises of God to Abraham had been fulfilled!!! Without studying this beforehand one would not understand the gravity of this time. Remember back when we were reading in Genesis and I mentioned the three fold promise that was given. God promised to make Abraham a great people, to give them land, and to have a relationship with them. All three have now officially come to pass. The people are more numerous then the sand on the seashore, they are living at peace in the land, and Yahweh has come down to have a relationship with them in his earthly home. This is no light matter. Solomon speaks of the PLR promise in his prayer of dedication as well. This is the high point of the Old Testament. At this point all seems to be going well, everyone is happy and prosperous. There was so much gold that silver had no value. I especially like this verse, “The king had a fleet of trading ships at sea along with the ships of Hiram. Once every three years it returned, carrying gold, silver and ivory, and apes and baboons.” (1 Kings 10:22 NIV) Why did Solomon need apes and baboons (or peacocks if you are reading the ESV)? Who knows, but when you have money you will find new things to buy just because you can. But sin is still in the world and bad times are just ahead of the people. Soon after this great event even wise Solomon starts to fall away. His wives and their “gods” start to distract him and the country divided in two. Solomon’s son will not be king over a united kingdom. The LORD will provide consequences for sin. This ushers in a time of great suffering and troubles that will last for many years to come. We also see a new literary pattern when the kings are introduced, “So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done.” (1 Kings 11:6 NIV) Look for this pattern as we continue to read about the Kings of Israel and Judah. The rest of 1 and 2 Kings will be filled with sin, sin, and more sin. We will see a few bright spots, but it seems now that the promises of God are far from being fulfilled. It may be helpful to read the rest of the Old Testament narrative with this verse in mind, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes” in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV) The promise will be fulfilled in Jesus who, as a descendant of David, will sit on his throne forever. This is the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant. Jesus will be the one who will make us his people through his suffering and death, Jesus will give us land in heaven, and he promises to be with us forever.

The New Testament
As we continue in the book of Acts we see that the Word of the Lord continues to grow and spread as the church begins, but there were some rumblings of discontent. The Apostles address this concern and start to delegate some authority. This is a good thing that we can all learn from. One verse really struck me from Chapter 6, “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7 NIV) Wow!! Some of the priests hear the Word and become believers of Jesus. That is powerful! The big connection this week to the main story is that of Stephen. He was commissioned to help pass out the food in Jerusalem and there he is preaching the message of Jesus Christ. He gets arrested and then has a marvelous speech. In this speech he mentions the PLR promise that was given to Abraham! How awesome is that? We just heard about it from Solomon and now we hear it from Stephen. His message gave a great summary of the Old Testament and he even mentions David and Solomon and the temple. What a great connection. He goes on to say, “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men” (Acts 7:48 NIV). Jesus was the temple. He even said so himself, “Jesus said ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days,’” (John 2:19 NIV) Jesus was talking about himself. Stephen becomes a great witness to Jesus and because of his death the word of the Lord was spread. One thing of note here is that there is a Pharisee named Saul who was in favor of killing Stephen. We will meet Saul again in a minute. One of the other people commissioned to pass out food was Philip. We see him later preaching and baptizing, not just passing out food. I think both Stephen and Philip tell us a lot about our vocation. We have been called to do certain things, but we all still preach, teach, and share Christ every day in every way. We saw the spread of the Gospel to Samaria in chapter 8 when Peter and John travel up to bring the Holy Spirit. This is a big deal because any good Jew hates anything Samaritan. Both Peter and John not only go to Samaria to see what was going on, but they also stopped and preached the Good news at many Samaritan villages. Philips meeting with the Ethiopian brings the message to Gentiles!! This is the beginning of something big. At the end of our readings we see this Saul character again. He was one bad dude. He hated the believers of the way and would do anything to stop them. But God had other plans. He called him on the road to Damascus and changed his life forever. We will spend more time talking about Saul (a.k.a. Paul, his Greek name) later. One quick thing: God does not change his name, he just goes by Saul when he is with Hebrew speakers and Paul when he is with Greek speakers, but more on him later.

Have a great week!!

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