Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of August 25, 2019

Sermon: “Back to School… ‘er Church. The Three R’s – Relaying to Christ”

He was angry with the pastor and the congregation and thus had not been in worship for a very long time.  The anger had grown to animosity toward God too and so he’d not welcomed His presence lately either.  A positive cancer diagnosis, with negative outlook led him to the hospital and moved his wife to make a call and request a visit.  It just so happened the congregation had a brand new vicar who had no history with the patient so he was sent to make the call.  “What the heck are you doing here?”  The vicar was asked….he didn’t actually use the word “heck”… I came to pray with you replied the vicar, not really sure what to say nor even what to pray.  

Three decades later that vicar does not remember a single sentence spoken in the supplication…but he remembers like it was yesterday what happened next. The door opened, medical personnel walked in, dumbfounded they explained how the latest scan was clear of any tumors and said there was no explanation beyond the miraculous.  For the first time in quite some time anger left the man; and for the first time in a long time the man attended church on Sunday, reconciled with the staff, was reconnected to his congregational family and knelt at the Lord’s table.  A day later the hospital called, distraught and apologetic to explain that there had been a mix up with the files and that he needed to get to the hospital immediately.  The next time he was in church was for his funeral. 

In between however he asked the pastor to come with communion and welcomed friends from church to stop in for a visit. The vicar learned a best lesson he could about prayer through the event: The power of prayer is NOT in the communicator (the person praying) but the recipient (He to whom our prayers ascend in Christ Jesus).  The purpose of prayer is not in the life of the recipient (God) but the communicant (the one praying) and/or the supplicant (the one prayed for).   The expanded lesson includes the reality that prayer connects us to our Creator and to His creatures and creation; as well as the realization that prayer helps us learn to listen to God and learn to listen to others.  So it goes without say that the Spirit would move the apostle to invoke us in praying… “Devote yourself to prayer…”  Colossians 4:2 
-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, August 26, 2019

The One Year Bible- August 26th

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
There are so many different interpretations of the book of Job that it can be rough trying to figure out what this book is all about. I could give you my two cents from my studies but I came across the following passage in a commentary on the book of Job and I want to share it with you all toady.

Rudolph E. Honsey, in his commentary on the book of Job says the following:

In order to understand and profit from a study of Job, we must come to grips with the question: “What is the theme?” Many suggestions have been given. A common one is “Patience in Suffering.” A more specific theme is “Why Does a Righteous God Permit a Good Man to Suffer So Intensely?” One can also see a three part theme (1) God is worthy of love even apart from the blessings He bestows; (2) God may permit suffering as a means of purifying and strengthening the soul in godliness; (3) God’s thoughts and ways are moved by considerations too vast for the puny mind of man to comprehend.

All of those themes are prominently set forth in the book of Job. Job surely suffered severely, and the troubles he experienced must have taxed his patience to the limit. But we must not overlook the important conversation between God and Satan in the two opening chapters of the book. When God commended Job and referred to him as a God-fearing man, Satan challenged him and asked permission to test him to the limit with severe afflictions. God consented to allow Satan to afflict Job, but added the condition that he must spare his life. God was confident that Job would not loose his faith in him even though he would be severely tried. Job’s faith in God might frequently falter and waver, but in the end it would stand up even against the strongest assaults of Satan.

We must not forget that in the opening verse Job is described as a man who was “blameless and upright” and who “feared God and shunned evil.” In his great suffering and pain Job said things he should not have said and would not have said under other circumstances. He spiritual condition had its ups and downs. But in the end Job humbled himself before God and submitted to his will. He was truly a man of faith and God later blessed him more richly than he had earlier blessed him.

Although Job’s message was originally proclaimed centuries ago, it is a message that continues to fit the conditions of mankind. We can benefit from reading and rereading this book.

Ever since our first parents fell into sin in the Garden of Eden, sin has been very much a part of our experiences. Sin has brought with it many consequences: misunderstandings, troubles, grief, pain, sickness, and death. All of us as sinners are inclined to be judgmental and to point a finger at other as did the three friends of Job. Like them we may be tempted to draw the conclusion that great suffering is a direct consequence of some special sin, which is not necessarily the case. All of us are tempted to make ourselves look better by making others look worse. While it is often true that a person who commits a certain sin may have to suffer the consequences (for example, a drunken driver who has an accident and maims or kills himself), it is also true that God uses troubles and afflictions to test and strengthen the faith of a Christian. That was pointed out by the young man Elihu, who spoke after Job’s three other fiends had stopped speaking.

For Christians today as well as for Old Testament believers the afflictions that God permits us to endure are not punishment but wholesome chastisement, a disciplining exercise to strengthen our faith.
There is more to the book of Job than the story of a good man who suffered many things and engaged in a prolonged dialog with three friends who actually did more harm than good in their attempts to comfort him. This book also has a Messianic content in a number of passages that point to the coming Savior, Jesus Christ. The most notable of these is the great “Redeemer” passage (19:23-27). [See also 17:21]
The book of Job, as does all the Old Testament, points forward to Jesus Christ, who not only frequently quoted from the Old Testament but also stated that those Scriptures testified of him (see John 5:39). Apart from God’s love for us in Jesus Christ we will be unable to grasp the real message of this book. The real contents of the book of Job is the mystery of the Cross: the Cross on Golgotha is the solution of the enigma of every cross; and the book of Job is a prophecy of this final solution.

It is our hope and prayer that God the Holy Spirit will work in our hearts as we read this precious book, a book that is not read as thoroughly or as frequently as it deserves to be read. The apostle Paul’s words about the Old Testament are true also of the book of Job: “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

From: The Peoples Commentary Bible: Job, Rudolph E. Honsey, Concordia Publishing House, p.p.6-9.

What a great way to end our look at Job this week.

The New Testament
I will try to keep this section short since we are heading to a long post already. In our readings this week Paul continued talking about the resurrection of the dead and his words provide confidence that not only has Jesus been raised from the dead, we too will conquer death because of Jesus. Paul quotes from the prophet Hosea when he writes, "Death is swallowed up in victory."  "O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?" (1 Cor. 15:54b-55 ESV) What a great gospel message for us. We tend to read this passage at Easter, but its effects are for every day of the year. Thanks be to God!! Just a few other things; I like the encouragement we read from Paul in chapter 16. It reminds me of what was said by Moses to Joshua in the Old Testament, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men,  be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” ( 1 Cor. 16:13-14 ESV). Thanks for the great words Paul. Verse 21 of that same chapter is pretty cool. It was the custom in Paul’s day to have a professional scribe write your important and official letters. Paul does the same thing but in 16:21 Paul takes the pen and gives a greeting in his own handwriting. I would love to have seen it. This is a very personal touch and shows the love Paul has for this Church. I also found it quite interesting that we read at the beginning of  2 Corinthians about comfort in our troubles. It would have been nice to share this with Job, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God”. (2 Cor. 1:3-4 ESV). Paul spends some time talking about the “Old Covenant”. This is not a simple reference to the Old Testament. It is more about the newness that is in Christ. Many Jewish believers had a difficult time letting go of the Law. To them it was what saves. Paul tells them that even though the Law is good, the new covenant in Christ is much better. I once again thought of Job in the reading for today. Paul’s words give me hope, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Cor. 4:8-10 ESV). WOW!!!! That is some AWESOME stuff. AMEN!!!!!

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We will finish up Job this week and then head on into Ecclesiastes. Here are the vital stats for the book:

PURPOSE: Life without God (i.e., “under the sun”) is empty; the only rescue from such emptiness comes from God as He brings us to fear, love, and trust in Him and His word.
AUTHOR: Solomon
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Solomon’s subjects in particular, and all people in general
DATE WRITTEN: Probably around 935 B.C., late in Solomon’s life
LAW THEMES: For natural man, life and success have no real significance; foolishness hastens destruction; life is dissatisfying.
GOSPEL THEMES: Favoring us on account of  Christ, the Creator graciously provides for us in every season and time; by bringing us to fear, love, and trust in Him, He gives us true wisdom.
SETTING: Solomon was looking back on his life, much of which was lived apart from God
KEY VERSE: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13 NIV).

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of August 18, 2019

Sermon: “Back to School…’er Church. The Three R’s – Reflecting Christ”

The “3-R’s”  Raising, Reflecting, Relaying:

You HAVE BEEN raised with Christ.  A resurrection was needed because you WERE DEAD in your sins and trespasses.  All of us have seen the movie or TV show in which someone who was medically dead, through heroic efforts and intervention was brought back to life.  Such efforts and intervention was needed because the dead cannot bring themselves back to life.  You, I, We were DEAD in our sins.  GOD made us alive.

His effort was heroic: His incarnation and His perfection in regards to obedience to the law, His pure and holy life lived for you, for me, for ALL.  Divine is His intervention:  becoming our substitute and an acceptable sacrifice in our stead.  Along with Him, our sins were nailed to the cross, our guilt as a result God has tossed as far as east is from west, in baptism we were buried with Christ and through the powerful work of the Spirit and His gift of faith God has raised us up!  We were dead in our sins, but God has made us alive in Christ and we have been raised in Him!

As raised people, we are called to RISE.  Rise daily through repentance and contrition and drown the old Adam/Eve.  The apostle says there is a purpose in our rising… “That we might reflect Christ.”  “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, humility, gentleness…and do all you do in the name of the Lord Jesus.”  

Christ Jesus lived for you and He lives in you, He has shown His goodness and grace upon us and He would show His goodness and grace through us and thus we Reflect Christ.  Now, in my opinion Paul isn’t providing a list of actions for us to attempt, a series of characteristics for us to pursue nor an inventory of achievements for us to check off…NO Paul is describing who Christ is in and of Himself, Who Christ is FOR and TO you, and Who Christ is IN and THROUGH you and thus you reflect Him!

He is compassionate.  From a lone leper to the hungry hordes Jesus was filled with compassion for people.  Reaching out and restoring the singular disease stricken man, lifting up the loaves and fish and then filling the bellies of thousands.  In both accounts the two disciple who recorded the event used the same word…Jesus had compassion on them.  Jesus is compassionate…but He doesn’t simply commiserate.   That leprosy is awful stuff, I’m so sorry….He had compassion and reached out, touched the man…who hadn’t felt the warmth of human contact since he contracted the illness and healed him.  Seeing their hunger He didn’t join the disciples and commiserate the situation… your right, they are hungry – let’s send them somewhere to get something…He has compassion – we will feed them.

Jesus Himself when painting the picture of God’s love for His children, erring and wandering as they are prone to be, said and I quote, “When the boy who had run off and squandered his inheritance came to his senses, he said, “I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: I have sinned against heaven and you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired me.”  So he got up and went but while he was still a long way off his father saw him and was filled with COMPASSION; He RAN to his son, threw His arms around Him and Kissed Him.  Jesus told the parable to people who thought some ought not be welcome into His company…His point…this is who God is…it is who we are to be…put on compassion … Reflect Him!

Reflecting upon this it strikes me that Jesus is more than compassionate…He is PRO-Passionate.  He endures His passion for us!  So that our greatest ailment might be cured – Father forgive them – even for the times we’ve looked like the elder son in that story and the Pharisee to whom it was told; Jesus is PRO Passionate – He endures His passion for US; so that our greatest hunger (to be whole and at home with God) might be satisfied, so that the Father might in run to prodigals like us – and in Christ throw His arms open FOR us and then throw His arms around us. 

Jesus is humble.  From the start of His public ministry, in which the baptizer correctly saw the irony of the situation – “You need not repent, for You are the Lamb of God who takes away the world’s sin, and yet You have come to me to be baptized.”  From the start of His public ministry to its conclusion – it was on the night of His betrayal that He took a basin and a towel and the role of the lowest servant and the posture of the lowest slave, “Lord, You surely won’t kneel and wash my feet, I ought be washing yours.”

Humility was His hallmark – humility but He was never cowardly.  “Away from me Satan it is written.”  “I must keep going for no prophet dies outside of Jerusalem.”  “You would have no power over me if it were not given you from above.  Jesus humbled Himself…for YOU.  He humbled himself, wrote Paul elsewhere, and became obedient to death even death on a cross.  Let your attitude by the same as His, is the way Paul introduces Jesus willing humility.  Jesus Himself said it this way…I came NOT TO BE served but TO serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.  Therefore humble yourself before His mighty hand.  Put on humility and Reflect Him.

Jesus was gentle.  That is not to say Jesus was a push over…He pushed over the tables in the temple and pushed back against the teachers of the law…you brood of vipers, hypocrites that you are…but He was gentle.  To the foreign woman who begged for scraps though He had come for Israel’s lost sheep… gently he said, “Your faith is great. Your request is granted.”  To the woman caught in adultery… gently He knelt and whispered “Has no one else condemned you?  Then neither do I.  Go and leave your life of sin.”  To the blind man who had no one to help him get into the Bethesda’s healing pool Jesus gently said, “Pick up your mat and walk home.”  These individuals with child healed, guilt absolved, sight restored understood what Jesus meant when He declared of Himself, “I am gentle of heart.”  That gentleness is extended to us, “take my yoke upon yourself and learn from me for I am GENTLE…” putting on His yoke includes putting on gentleness and Reflecting Him
-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, August 19, 2019

The One Year Bible- August 19th

When I was in fourth grade I was in a school musical called “Esther and the King of Persia”. Now I was only in the chorus, but I had a ball. It was my first time on stage and the first time I remember hearing about the story of Esther. I remember an eighth grader named Johnny, who played to part of the king was awesome and I was scared of the guy who played Hamen. Since that day I have loved the story of Esther. I can still recall many of the songs we sang and some of the hand motions too. It was great to read an entire book in just a few days this week. This will happen again when we get into some of the smaller books of the Old and New Testaments. On to the study...
Seth’s Thoughts
The Old Testament
Like I mentioned last week, the events in the book of Esther take place before Nehemiah. This book was hotly contested when it was time to determine what books were in and out of the scriptures. In about 200 BC, Esther was almost taken out of the scriptures by Jewish theologians. There is no mention of YAHWEH or overt mention of God at all. Many believed it to be a secular historical account of the beginnings of the festival of Purim. One of the big things in the book of Esther for me is the idea that God is moving in history. By His guidance, both Esther and Mordecai were in the right place at the right time. They were used by God to bring about the deliverance of the chosen people and made for sure that the remnant would return. This took place so that prophecy about the Messiah would be fulfilled. Esther gives us insight into how God continues to act in this world for His will to be done. A lasting event from the story of Esther is the celebration of Purim. I found this on Wikipedia:
Purim (Hebrew: פורים Pûrîm) is a joyous Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of Persian Jews from the plot of the evil Haman to exterminate them, as recorded in the biblical Book of Esther. It is characterized by public recitation of the Book of Esther, giving mutual gifts of food and drink, giving charity to the poor, and a celebratory meal (Esther 9:22); other customs include drinking alcohol, wearing of masks and costumes, and public celebration. Purim is celebrated annually on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar. As with all Jewish holidays, Purim begins at sundown on the previous secular day.
We started the book of Job this week as well. I will spend more time in the coming weeks on this book. The one thing I want you to watch out for is you need to know who is speaking. At times it is Job but other times it is his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar or others. Make sure you know who is speaking while you read. We did read about why Job is the way he is. He was a rich man with a big family and a good life. In one day all of that is taken away. This was not by chance, but by a character named Satan (the accuser). Satan talks with God and gets the O.K. to test Job. In Job 9:33-35, I wonder if Job is thinking of Jesus. Read it and let me know what you think. I don’t want to give away too much today but pay attention to how Job reacts at the beginning and how he reacts towards the end of the book.
The New Testament
In our readings from 1 Corinthians, Paul addressed some big issues. Paul warns the church about the divisions that are in it. He mentions that the meal that they share together (called the Lord Supper here) is causing divisions. It is unclear if this was a full-blown meal that the believers shared or if it was just communion. It seems as if Paul thinks it is a full meal. Paul tries to set them straight by reminding them what the Lord’s Supper is all about. He tells of its importance and it is not something to be done lightly. Paul then continues on answering the questions that the church has brought to him. Paul then spends a lot of time talking about spiritual gifts. I think the key comes in when Paul writes, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7 NIV). That is indeed what they are for. They are not to show that one believer is better than another. They are all useful. To show his point, Paul uses the analogy of the human body. This would have worked well for the Greek thinkers in the Church. Like the parts of the body, we all have our place, our unique function within the whole. But most importantly, we need to have love. 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most famous passages in the New Testament because of its content. Love is the key to how we live our lives. It was what drove Jesus to the cross, and what motivates us today. Two more things Paul addresses: speaking in tongues and the resurrection of the dead. It seems like the Corinthians had some sort of obsession with the gift of tongues (some in the church today to as well). In one of the best one-liners in the New Testament, Paul lays out his belief on the subject, “But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (1 Corinthians 14:19 NIV). Way to go Paul!! I can’t agree more. On to the resurrection of the dead; it seems that there was some influence from either the Sadducees or some Greek thinkers who do not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Paul tackles this issue with some good logic. “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.” (1 Corinthians 15:13-15 NIV). Good point Paul.
Bits and Pieces
The New Testament
We will finish off the book of 1 Corinthians and move on the 2 Corinthians. Here are the vital stats for the book:
PURPOSE: To affirm Paul’s ministry, defend his authority as an apostle, and refute the false teachers in Corinth.
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The church in Corinth, and Christians everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 55-57, from Macedonia
SETTING: Paul had already written three letters to the Corinthians (two are now lost). In 1 Corinthians (the second of these letters), he used strong words to correct and teach. Most of the church had responded in the right spirit; there were, however, those who were denying Paul’s authority and questioning his motives.
LAW THEMES: Divisions in congregations; false apostles; human frailty; poverty in sin; generosity; suffering; self-examination.
GOSPEL THEMES: Comfort in Christ; restoration through forgiveness; reconciliation; wealth in Christ; God’s sufficient grace.
KEY VERSE: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20)
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Timothy, Titus, false teachers
KEY PLACES: Corinth, Jerusalem
SPECIAL FEATURES: This is an intensely personal and autobiographical letter.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of August 11, 2019

Sermon: “Back to School..’er Church. The Three R’s – Rising in Christ”

School is starting back up.  "The three R’s" are back in full swing.  Odds are the term "the three R’s" (Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic) was not crafted by an educator but a preacher...in preaching, spelling doesn't count.   St Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, focuses upon the basics of the Christian life: Rising with Christ, Reflecting the Christ, Relaying to Christ.

"You HAVE BEEN raised with Christ."  Have Been.  The term is past and passive.  The author of scripture, the apostle to the Gentiles is not praying that you will be raised, nor hoping this could be in your future.  He declares this is the case already for the child of God.  Not only is this a past action but it is a passive reception for the Christian.  That is, God has done this for us.  He has raised us.  Through a tomb that held no body and a font that held His resurrection promises, God has raised us.   (See Romans 6 for further reading)

Now as those who HAVE BEEN raised, we are called to rise up daily.  In the small catechism Luther writes that Baptism signifies that we are to, "Daily Rise up and drown the old Adam through repentant contrition and then rise up to live before God in righteousness." 
-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, August 12, 2019

The One Year Bible- August 12th

With the calendar still showing August it is hard to think that fall is right around the corner. I am looking forward to fall. I love the cooler evenings, and the regular pace of life that begins once school is in session. Fall brings a new school year, new pencils, new challenges and in our Old Testament readings we will be getting into some new territory. The main narrative story of God’s people is over. We will see some more narrative in the prophets but for a while we will have new things, like the books of Esther, Job, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. We will get into the prophets by the second week of September, but for now, enjoy the change of pace and see what God will reveal to you through His word. On to the study…

Seth’s Thoughts
The Old Testament
We finished up the book of Ezra and began the book of Nehemiah this past week. Ezra was a book about a priest and served as a theological perspective to the return of the Exiles. Nehemiah is more of a political book. Nehemiah was in the service of King Artaxerxes as a cupbearer. This was no small job; it was very important. Nehemiah was one of God’s people in exile. He had heard of the return of some of his own people back to the land to rebuild the temple and now he too desired to go. He asked for and received permission from the king and he went back with the purpose of rebuilding the walls of the city so it would be safe from foreign enemies. This was not popular with the governors of the area and they tried to stop the rebuilding of the walls many times. But God’s plan was for the wall and the city to be rebuilt because of his ultimate plan of sending the Messiah to fulfill prophecy. It took just 52 days to finish the wall and after it was completed, the Law (remember Law = writings of Moses) was read to the people and they all rededicated themselves to the LORD. Nehemiah gives us a good history lesson along the way as he reminded the people of the grace of God and his love for the people in spite of their disobedience. For as important as the ministry of Ezra was to the spiritual lives of the people, Nehemiah was to the political life of Jerusalem. The stage was set, the pieces have been put in place, everything was ready for the events to come to pass just as the prophets had foretold. All that was needed was for the fullness of time and the promised Messiah would come.
The New Testament
In our readings in 1 Corinthians we finished up Paul’s introduction with a message on legal matters. His advice is to stay out of the courts when you have a disagreement with another Christian. It just makes you look bad and is a very poor witness to Jesus. In fact it does not honor God when, in the public eye, Christians can’t get along. Paul then moves on to the questions that the church asked him. We do not have a copy of their letter to Paul but we do know how he answered some of their questions. Paul spends a lot of time dealing with marriage. He does not condemn marriage, but he does give some warning about how the desires of the flesh can get us off track spiritually as well as in our relationships. Paul then spends quite a bit of time on the issue of food. Food is something very important to a person of the Old Testament. Food laws were abundant and issues regarding food came up often in the early church. The root of the problem stems from the fact that the early church was multicultural. There were Jews and Gentiles together who had vastly different ideas about food. What was clean and unclean according the groups differed. God had made it perfectly clear that what ever He made clean was clean. This did not mean the people could go “hog wild” (no pun intended). In fact the church needed to be very careful about what it ate. Some people had a hard time with eating foods sacrificed to idols. They wanted to know if they ate the food were they honoring that idol. Then there was the whole problem of what would people think if they saw a believer eating that food. This is a complex issue. Paul tries to break it down, “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.” (1 Cor. 8:13 NIV). And in the next chapter he says, “We put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.” (1 Cor. 9:12b NIV). The bottom line is, if it causes someone to stumble or struggle in his or her faith we should try to avoid it at all costs. This has implications for us today. Do we have freedom in Christ? Yes! Can we do whatever we want? Yes, but not everything is beneficial. We must be careful of what we do and how that reflects Christ to the world.
Bits and Pieces
The Old Testament
We will read the entire book of Esther next week. We will also get into the book of Job.

Here are the vital stats for Esther:
PURPOSE: To demonstrate God’s sovereignty and his loving care for his people.  To record the Lord’s providential deliverance of the Judeans from destruction by their enemies in the Persian Empire.
AUTHOR: Unknown, possible Mordecai. Some have suggested Ezra or Nehemiah because of the similarity of the writing style.
DATE WRITTEN: Approx. 483-471 B.C.
SETTING: Although Esther follows Nehemiah in the Bible, its events are about 30 years prior to those recorded in Nehemiah. The story is set in the Persian empire, and most of the action takes place in the king’s palace in Susa, the Persian capital.
KEY VERSE: “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such as time as this?” (Esther 4:14 NIV)
LAW THEMES: Weakness before one’s enemies due to disobedience; the Lord thwarts grudges and hatred.
GOSPEL THEMES: Preservation of God’s people from whom Jesus would be born; the Lord works constantly for the deliverance of His people.
KEY PEOPLE: Esther, Mordecai, King Xerxes I, Haman
KEY PLACE: The king’s palace
SPECIAL FEATURES: Esther is one of only two books named for women (Ruth is the other). The book is unusual in that in the original version, no name, title, or pronoun for God appears in it. This caused some church fathers to question its inclusion in the canon. But God’s presence is clear throughout the book.

Here are the vital stats for Job:
PURPOSE: The Lord shows He is our Redeemer, despite what we may suffer in life.  It addresses the question, “Why do the righteous suffer?”
AUTHOR: Unknown, possible Job. Some have suggested Moses or Solomon.
DATE WRITTEN: Unknown. Records events that probably occurred during the time of the patriarchs, approx. 2000-1800 BC.
SETTING: The land of UZ, probably located in northeast Palestine, near desert land between Damascus and the Euphrates River.
KEY VERSE: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.” (Job 19:25 NIV)
LAW THEMES: People suffer unduly in a sinful, broken world;  no one can justify himself or herself before God; Satan can tempt people and inflict suffering.
GOSPEL THEMES: God accomplishes His righteous purposes amid and through suffering; the Lord is our Redeemer; the resurrection of the body.
KEY PEOPLE: Job, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, Zophar the Naamathite, Elihu the Buzite.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Job is the first of the poetic books in the Hebrew Bible. Some believe this was the first book of the Bible to be written. This book gives us insights into the work of Satan. Ezekiel 14:14 and James 5:11 mention Job as a historical character.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of August 4, 2019

Sermon: “The Ultimate Box Score –“

Every true sports fan knows what it is to check out the box scores.  For that matter every fake…I mean Fantasy sports fan knows what it is to check out the box scores too.   If you are neither and thus unfamiliar with the term ‘box score’ - the box score contains the tally of a players accomplishments.  For a game, a stretch of games, or the entire season, a fan can find in the box score the record of a players performance for good or ill.  The box score will record the number of hits, as well as how many times the player struck out.  The box score will list the number of assists, but also the number of turn-overs.  Box scores reflect how many TDs were thrown, and how many INTs were tossed.

Once upon a time, so the story goes, Martin Luther had a dream in which Satan himself was reviewing the Reformers “box score” so to speak.  In this dream the devil began to read the account of the professor’s failures.  “Lusted and lied have you Luther?”  “Is this true?” asked the “father of lies.”    

Sorrowfully, he had to admit that that was the case.  “Martin,” scowled the old evil foe, “have you maligned others and been malcontent with God?”  “Yes” shamefully confessed the monk.   The adversary continued the inquisition, “I see that on occasion you’ve doubted God’s action and been depressed over your situation. Is that the case?  “Occasionally I have” conceded Luther.  The dream continued in this direction, on and on and on; fault, upon failures, upon folly had been recorded.  Again and again and again the Reformer’s response was “yes”.  Satan seemed to have succeeded in bringing Luther to the lowest depths possible when a voice from heaven ran out, “Cancelled!  Everything that stood against him has been erased.  For it’s been nailed to the cross!”

Whether in a terrifying devilish tone or in the familiar lilt of your own conscience, every one of us has lived through such a “nightmare” of accusations.  When such happens heed the voice from heaven, “Cancelled! Everything that stands against you has been erased.  For it has been nailed to the cross!”  Those words are recorded in Colossians chapter 2:14.  The author of those words knew that the result of hearing them would not be a life that ignored the law and sought to embrace “lusting and lying, maligning and doubting” but rather a life, even while yet and ever a sinner this side of heaven, is found striving to be “lived in a manner worthy of our calling.”  Colossians 1:10

NEXT Sunday we start a 3-week series reflecting upon the end of Paul’s letter to the Colossians:  Back to School… ‘er Church.  The Three Rs.  Rising in Christ, Reflecting the Christ, Relaying to Christ.
-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, August 05, 2019

The One Year Bible- August 5th

Time sure is flying.  It is hard to believe that the school year is right around the corner.  I have seen the “Back to School” mailers in my house and the stores are filled with pens, pencils, and paper just waiting to get used. Summer is winding down. School will be in session soon, and before you know it, it will be Christmas time. The narrative story of God’s people in the Old Testament is winding down as well. We are almost done with the story. It doesn’t seem possible does it? We have made it over seven months now and all I can say is that it has gone by quickly. Before it goes by too fast, let’s stop and spend some time studying and meditating on this week’s readings.

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
We finished up the book of 2 Chronicles and like I said last week, we miss a big part of the story. We miss about 70 years while the people are in exile in Babylon. We will catch some of this story when we read through Daniel a bit later this year. For now, we see that the LORD is working to set up the people so that a “remnant” will return and be ready for the coming of the Messiah. The Messiah was prophesied to return to the Promised Land. He was to be born in Bethlehem, of the house of David (the prophets will tell us this). Therefore there must be a plan to bring the people back. To get the people ready, God uses Josiah. Josiah gets the people back on the right path and during his reign, the book of the law was found. This was no small thing. The book of the Law was the foundation for the entire society. Without the book of the law it is no wonder that the people kept going their own way. Under Josiah, the people renewed their covenant with the LORD and promised to remain faithful. The people also celebrated the Passover again. But the people fell away under the leadership of some more bad kings and eventually the people were taken into captivity in Babylon. This should have not come as a surprise to the people, both Isaiah and Jeremiah had warned them. But God used King Cyrus of Persia to bring a remnant back to the land. That is where the book of Ezra begins. Jeremiah has prophesied that a remnant would return and it was so. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel and others, the first wave of exiles returned home to rebuild the temple as well as the city of Jerusalem. The people that were living in the area tried to stop it but they were unsuccessful. Did you catch that this was the time of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah? Make sure you remember this context when we get to these books. Ezra led the second wave of people back to the land. Ezra was a scribe and a teacher of the law. He was given the job to make sure the law was taught to the people who returned. In chapter seven the writing changes from third person (he, she, they) to first person (I, me, we). This is now the story of Ezra. The first bit was the history of the first wave of exiles to return. Ezra brings with him more people and more gold, silver and other riches from the King of Babylon. God sure was blessing the people in their return. But, Ezra soon learns that not all is well back home. The people have started to intermarry with the locals (again!!). This causes him great distress. He prays to God for mercy and forgiveness and is ashamed that even in the midst of grace, the people sin. Sounds like today. We live in the midst of grace every day, yet we seem to fall victim of the grip of sin.

The New Testament
We finished up the book of Romans with a long list of names. We don’t know too much about these people in the list. One name has been seen before in the New Testament. Mark mentions a Rufus who was the son of Simon of Cyrene, who carried the cross for Jesus. Is this the same guy? We don’t know for sure, but it would be a compelling story or conversion. Paul ends this letter with a wonderful phrase of praise to God, To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.” (Romans 16:27 NIV)

To understand Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth we need to get some background information.  The Christians in Corinth were struggling with their environment. Surrounded by corruption and every conceivable sin, they felt the pressure to adapt. They knew they were free in Christ, but what did this freedom mean? How should they view idols or sexuality? What should they do about marriage, women in the church, and the gifts of the Spirit? These were more than just theoretical questions; the church was being undermined by immorality and spiritual immaturity. Living as a Christian in Corinth was difficult and some of them were failing the test.  This is the situation and the reason for the first letter to the Corinthians. Paul is concerned with this church and he wants to try to help them through the difficult times. Paul confronts them (and us) with sin and the need for corrective action. Paul talks a lot about the foolishness of being a follower of Jesus. This is not meant as being a slam on those who believe, but as a way to help those understand why those who believe do so. It does not make sense to believe in Jesus from the world’s point of view. Grace does not make sense to our rational brains. Why would God do such a thing as send his only son to die for us? It makes no sense.

I especially like Paul’s analogy in chapter 3, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-8 NIV). At times in our lives, God has called us to sow the seeds of salvation. At other times we are called to water those seeds. It is rare that we get to see the fruit from beginning to end. When I worked at Arrowhead Lutheran Camp I sowed a lot of seed. At times it was frustrating. I didn’t get to seem much fruit. A few years after leaving camp, I received a letter from a camper who said that because of camp and the Bible studies she was a part of, she know has a close walk with Christ. She thanked me for all my work and says she still prays for the camp and me every day. This letter brought tears to my eyes. I know that it seems that at times we are just spinning our wheels, but let me tell you, the Holy Spirit is doing more than you know.

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We will finish up Ezra and move onto Nehemiah next. Here are the vital stats for
PURPOSE: Nehemiah is the last of the Old Testament historical books. It records the history of the third return to Jerusalem after captivity, telling how the walls were rebuilt and the people were renewed in their faith.  This book shows that all things are possible by God’s gracious and providential care.
AUTHOR: Much of the book is written in the first person, suggesting Nehemiah as the author. Nehemiah probably wrote the book with Ezra serving as editor.
DATE WRITTEN: Approx. 445-432 B.C.
SETTING: Zerubbabel led the first return to Jerusalem in 538 B.C. In 458, Ezra led the second return. Finally, in 445, Nehemiah returned with the third group of exiles to rebuild the city walls.
KEY VERSES: “So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.” Nehemiah 6:15-16
LAW THEMES:  Exile due to sin; illegal marriages; broken faith by failing to keep God’s Word.
GOSPEL THEMES:  God fulfills His promises of grace; God’s providence; restored atonement at the temple; God’s hand guides history and the lives of His people, the remnant.
KEY PEOPLE: Nehemiah, Ezra, Sanballat, Tobiah
KEY PLACE: Jerusalem
SPECIAL FEATURES: The book shows the fulfillment of the prophecies of Zechariah and Daniel concerning the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls.

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