Monday, September 30, 2019

The One Year Bible- September 30th

Tomorrow is October, and nothing says October like the Major League Baseball playoffs or Sunday Football. Maybe it’s dusty corners that turn into pumpkin patch carnivals. But ask any of the readers of “The One Year Bible” and they will tell you October is for the book of Jeremiah. Beginning October 3rd and going all the way until the 28th, Jeremiah holds its spot as the most days spent on any book (other than Psalms and Proverbs which we read every day). So settle in and get comfortable. Get your hot cider and your blanket because it is time to cuddle up with Jeremiah (that is a joke, if you don’t get it, you will soon). On to the study for today...

Where We Have Been

The Old Testament
I said last week I would spend some time talking about the book of Isaiah. I continue to be fascinated with this book every time I read it. There has been much debate on whether Isaiah actually wrote the entire thing. Most of this controversy is not worthy of mention here. In my mind, the arguments are not very convincing. For me, the one thing that really glues the whole book together is the continued mention of “The Holy One of Israel”. We talked about this a bit a few weeks ago. This phrase occurs 26 times in the book and only 6 times outside of the book. The overarching theme of the book to me is one that unveils the full dimensions of God’s judgment and salvation. God is “The Holy One” who must punish his rebellious people, but will afterward redeem them. This not only came to pass with the remnants return to Jerusalem under Ezra and Nehemiah, but also came to pass with the coming of Immanuel, God with us, in the person of the Christ child born in Bethlehem. The parallels are striking. The book of Isaiah refers to the people as evil, wicked, prostitutes, selfish, and [place your own adjective here]. Sounds a bit like the circumstances when Jesus arrived, not to mention today. Isaiah, like no other book, spells out the wonderful plan of salvation in the promised Messiah. Not only was salvation found in the remnant returning, it also was found in the person, work, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. This same salvation can be found today through the power of Jesus Christ, in His word, and through what he left behind, namely baptism and communion. I don’t want to get too philosophical or theological on you, but just stop for a moment and sit in the majesty of God who, in his perfect plan, provided a way for you, a lowly sinner, to be made right with him. How awesome is that. Other main themes in the book include holiness, and hope. God is the one true God, who is holy and desires us to be holy too. There is a wonderful sense of hope in the book as well. Because of the promises from God, we have hope in salvation and hope of eternal life with him forever. Please know I am pouring in some meaning from other parts of the Bible that bring these themes out for me, but that does not change the fact that I believe that Isaiah was talking about them as well.

We will start Jeremiah this week and we will spend quite a while chewing on the topics in this book in the weeks to come. It may sound like Jeremiah keeps repeating himself, and that is true, but only because the people are not listening to the message. They just don’t get it. Look for the following mega-themes to come out in your reading and in our studies: Sin & Punishment (similar to Isaiah), God is Lord of All, New hearts, Faithful service. We will spend some more time on these themes in the weeks to come.

The New Testament
We finished off the book of Ephesians this week with the armor of God. I always thought this was great original imagery from Paul, then I read from Isaiah one day later,
He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head” (Isaiah 59:17 NIV) I guess Paul really knew his Old Testament well!! The idea of the Armor of God is great concrete imagery that can be quite useful in teaching about the faith.

We did get to experience this week one of my favorite things about reading the Bible this way. We got to read an entire book (even though it was a small one) in just a few days. This is cool now but when we get a bunch of small books in a row coming up it will be hard to keep it all straight. The one thing to say about the book of Philippians is, rejoice! It seems to be a recurring theme with Paul in this letter. Paul rejoices for the people in Philippi and he instructs them to rejoice always and in everything. One amazing passage jumped out at me this week, For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” (Philippians 1:21-24 NIV) What a great vision Paul has. Sometimes we get the “poor is me” attitude and it gets us down. Paul takes it the other way and says, “I don’t care what you throw at me, I still know that God will be honored.” I pray I can have that attitude every day. Philippians chapter two has one of the most amazing descriptions of who Jesus is. This is a great passage to share with someone who is just starting the journey of the Christian life. Paul gives us some great words of comfort and of hope in this letter. Two last quotes, But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13b-14 NIV)I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”  (Philippians 4:13 NIV) I can’t say it much better than that. I like to go to this book whenever I need a pick me up. It is full of great phrases and encouragement.

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
Get ready for a steady stream of warnings from Jeremiah about destruction from the North and to repent and turn back to God. We will see this play out over and over again in the next few weeks.

The New Testament
We will finish up the book of Colossians and get into 1 Thessalonians this week. Here are the vital stats for the book:

PURPOSE: To strengthen the Thessalonian Christians in their faith, and give them assurance of Christ’s return
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The church at Thessalonica and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 51 from Corinth; one of Paul’s earliest letters
SETTING: The church at Thessalonica was very young, having been established only two or three years before this letter was written. The Thessalonian Christians needed to mature in their faith. In addition, there was a misunderstanding concerning Christ’s second coming—some thought Christ would return immediately, and thus they were confused when their loved ones died because they expected Christ to return beforehand. Also, believers were being persecuted.
KEY VERSE: “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” (4:14)
LAW THEMES: Imitation; affliction; parental care; God’s Word at work; God’s wrath; idleness.
GOSPEL THEMES: Deliverance; God’s Word at work; resurrection of the dead; salvation; complete sanctification; God’s faithfulness
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Timothy, Silas
KEY PLACE: Thessalonica
SPECIAL FEATURES: Paul received from Timothy a favorable report about the Thessalonians. However, Paul wrote this letter to correct their misconceptions about the resurrection and the second coming of Christ.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of September 22, 2019

Sermon: “The Guest Composer”

To be composed is one follow THE Composer is another altogether. Luther composed the following hymn that can serve as a prayer to those who would be composed by following the Composer:  

Holy Spirit, Light Divine (LSB 496 – stanzas 2 & 3)
Let me see my Savior’s face,
Let me all His beauties trace;
Show those glorious truths to me
Which are only known to Thee.

Holy Spirit, pow’r divine,
Cleanse this guilty heart of mine;
In Thy mercy pity me,
From sin’s bondage set me free.
-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, September 23, 2019

The One Year Bible- September 23rd

A number of years ago I was introduced to a form of devotion and reading called Lectio Divina. In short it is a tool to use when you are reading God’s word. Here is a quick definition: Lectio Divina is Latin for divine reading, spiritual reading, or "holy reading," and represents a method of prayer and scriptural reading intended to promote communion with God and to provide special spiritual insights. It is a way of praying with Scripture that calls one to study, ponder, listen and, finally, pray from God's Word. The past few weeks I have used this tool to stop and spend some time just chewing on God’s word and praying through what we have been reading. I have stopped in various places including parts of Isaiah, Ephesians and especially Psalms. I encourage you to give it a try. One thing you have been doing without even knowing it is something called Lectio Continua which is Latin for continuous reading. It is the discipline of reading the entire Bible without omitting anything. Both Lectio Continua and Lectio Divina can bring some depth as well as breadth to the study of God’s Word. On to the study...
Seth’s Thoughts
The Old Testament
I think I could write a novel on what we found in Isaiah this week. I think I told you that I am putting a star in the margin of my Bible each time I read “The Holy One Of Israel”. Remember that this is a term that points to the coming Messiah, Jesus. One thing to keep in mind is that you need to remember who the “I” is in some of these passages. Sometimes it is Yahweh, other times it is Isaiah. Make sure you know who is talking. This will go far in helping you understand some of the significance of the passage. Some general thoughts; we have entered the second part of the book of Isaiah and we will start to see much more of a prophetic message. Isaiah’s audience has changed from the people living in the Promised Land, to the exiles living in captivity. Here we see a message of hope and promise. Chapter 40 begins the new section with such a message, “Comfort, comfort my people says your God” (Isaiah 40:1 NIV). The people are in need of comfort because of what has happened. The people have been exiled. They are living in a foreign land and they need to hear the comforting words of their God. Chapter 40 gives a hope filled message and ends with a verse near and dear to my heart, “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 NIV). This verse is my confirmation verse given to me by my father. It has been a source of comfort and hope for me for most of my life. I know that God is right there beside me giving me the strength I need to do his will. He promises to be with me when all other things seem to go wrong. Chapter 41 continues this same theme. Some of the most controversial parts of the book of Isaiah come from the sections where he mentions a character named Cyrus. He is called a shepherd, and one who will fulfill the purpose of God. He is also called an ally of God. Some translations use the Hebrew word Messiah to describe him. Cyrus was not a follower of Yahweh, he was the king of Persia, and a Gentile. He was used by God to bring the remnant back to the Jerusalem. Many believe that this name was inserted in later years to make Isaiah look good. There is no proof of this, and we should be careful to say that God was not the one who inspired Isaiah to write about this king. Many years later it would come to pass that King Cyrus would issue a decree that would allow many Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city and more importantly the temple. Isaiah also spends much time on the topic of monotheism. There are so many references to the Messiah in Isaiah it is hard to mention them all. Keep on looking for things that seem familiar to the life of Christ. I will post some of the connections in an upcoming post.

The New Testament
We finished up Galatians and now are in Ephesians. One of the main themes in Ephesians is “The Body of Christ” and the church. One key idea to keep in your mind while reading is one of Paul’s presuppositions of the book, namely that we are “In Christ” and apart from Christ we can do nothing. We are part of Christ by what he did on the cross and by claiming us as his own in baptism. We have been adopted into the family and now we can celebrate with all the rights and privileges as heirs of salvation. This is an amazing gift of God. This idea of “gift” is huge in Ephesians. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV). What a wonderful message. It is not up to us. If it were, I know I would be in trouble! I think I could just give quote after quote from Paul for this post. I have underlined so much in my Bible this week. Here are some of the best in my mind. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13 ESV). “For he himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14 ESV). “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19 ESV). “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6 ESV). “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 ESV). I could go on and on, but you get the point. This book is a deep rich read, filled with so many good things. Don’t just skim over these things. Meditate on them, let them sink in, roll them around you head for a while. You will be blessed by doing so.
Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We will finish up Isaiah this week. I will have a lot to say next week about it. This week we will start the book of Jeremiah. Here are the vital stats:

PURPOSE: To urge God’s people to turn from their sins and back to God
AUTHOR: Jeremiah
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Judah (the southern kingdom) and its capital city Jerusalem
DATE WRITTEN: During Jeremiah’s ministry approx. 627-586 B.C.
SETTING: Jeremiah ministered under Judah’s last five kings—Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. The nation was sliding quickly toward destruction and was eventually conquered by Babylon in 586 B.C. (see 2 Kings 21-25). The prophet Zephaniah preceded Jeremiah, and Habakkuk was Jeremiah’s contemporary.
KEY VERSE: “’Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and relize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the LORD your God and have no awe of me,’ declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty” (2:19).
KEY PEOPLE: Judah’s kings (see list above), Baruch, Ebed-Melech, King Nebuchadnezzar, the Recabites
KEY PLACES: Anathoth, Jerusalem, Ramah, Egypt
SPECIAL FEATURES: This book is a combination of history, poetry, and biography. Jeremiah often used symbolism to communicate his message.

The New Testament
We will finish up Ephesians, read Philippians and start on Colossians this week. Here are the vital stats for Philippians:

PURPOSE: To thank the Philippians for the gift they had sent Paul and to strengthen these believers by showing them that true joy comes from Jesus Christ alone.
TO WHOM WRITTEN: All the Christians at Philippi and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 61, from Rome during Paul’s imprisonment there
SETTING: Paul and his companions began the church at Philippi on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:11-40). This was the first church established on the European continent. The Philippian church had sent a gift with Epaphroditus (one of their members) to be delivered to Paul (4:18). Paul was in a Roman prison at the time. He wrote this letter to thank them for their gift and to encourage them in their faith.
KEY VERSE: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (4:4)
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus, Euadia, and Syntyche
KEY PLACE: Philippi

Here are the vital stats for the book of Colossians:

PURPOSE: To combat errors in the church and to show that believers have everything they need in Christ.
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The church at Colosse, a city in Asia Minor, and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 60 during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome
SETTING: Paul had never visited Colosse—evidently the church had been founded by Epaphras and other converts form Paul’s missionary travels. The church, however, had been infiltrated by religious relativism, with some believers attempting to combine elements of paganism and secular philosophy with Christian doctrine. Paul confronts these false teachings and affirms the sufficiency of Christ.
KEY VERSES: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (2:9-10).
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Timothy, Tychicuys, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Mark, Epaphras
KEY PLACES: Colosse, Laodicea
SPECIAL FEATURES: Christ is presented as having absolute supremacy and sole sufficiency. Colossians has similarities to Ephesians, probably because it was written at about the same time, but it has a different emphasis.

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of September 15, 2019

Sermon: “The Parable of the Wolf and the Shepherd”

Shepherd and sheep imagery is common in the pages of scripture.  It was a vocation and experience that was relate-able for the first readers of the text.   Jesus is referred to as both the Good Shepherd and the Lamb of God.  He says that His sheep know His voice and follow Him.  Allow me to share a tale of the work of our Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God for us.  This story is not my own, but I have adapted it for us:     

Once upon a time there was a wolf. He was a fat, old thing. You see he had it pretty easy. Whenever he wanted to eat, he only had to walk out the door of his den and look at the sheep that gathered in the pasture outside. He'd eye this one or that one. And then would slowly stalk and unexpectedly pounce, and with minimal effort or struggle, he'd kill and feast.  The more that he ate, the bigger he got, and the bigger he got, the hungrier he grew.

He was a wicked old thing; sometimes he'd just poke his head out the door and howl. All the sheep in the pasture would shiver at the very sound of his voice. He'd chuckle to himself. "Yes, you better be afraid, you stupid little sheep because one of these days I am going to eat you, each and every one of you, and it won't be pleasant."

This big, bad wolf, you see, had a name, a name that incited fear. The sheep had only to think of his name and they'd go wobbly in the knees or faint right there in the pasture.  His name, you see, was Death. And Death was always hungry and never satisfied. Always devouring sheep and always wanting more. And… he reeked. The very smell of him was worse than his name or his howl. He was altogether dreadful! He was the one in charge in the pasture and he made sure all the sheep knew it and they cowered in his presence.

One day the wolf was feeling hungrier than usual. He poked his head out of his den to roar and howl and select his next victim… and he stopped, almost dead in his tracks, for there at his door step, like a gift given to him by a good friend was one of the fattest, juiciest sheep he'd ever laid his eyes on. He drew in a breath that filled up his putrid lungs and then let out a stone-splitting howl. All the other sheep in the vicinity turned tail and ran. They were mortified of Death and filled with fear. All but this one, who continued to quietly graze just outside, barley noticing the vile stench of Death.

The wolf became irate.  He came bounding out of his deep, dark, dank, den and right up to that cool, composed, and quiet animal.  Again he filled his lungs and this time he let loose right in the sheep's face.  The sheep looked up as the hideous stench of decay wafted in its nostrils. Totally unconcerned the sheep blinked and then went back to grazing on the green grass of the pasture.

Now the wolf was getting himself into quite a tizzy. "Don't you know who I am?" he snarled. The sheep looked at him and calmly, peacefully retorted, "Yes. I know." The other sheep began to slowly creep back into the pasture keeping their distance but wanting to watch. They couldn't believe what they were witnessing. "Well," snarled the Wolf, "aren't you afraid?" The sheep looked at Death, that old wolf, right in the eyes and said: "Of you? You have got to be kidding!"

Now the wolf was absolutely livid and he began to speak in a low, menacing rumble, "You, my friend, are in for it. You are not going to have it so easy. I'm going to take you out slowly and painfully." There was a moment of silence and then the sheep said: "I know."  The other sheep had never heard or seen anything like this before and were memorized by the words of this lamb who was one of them. But at that moment the wolf pounced and they scattered away in fear.

A great sadness filled them. They had thought that this time Death wasn't going to get his way. But their hopes were soon dashed in a flurry of fur and fangs. It was an awful and an ugly sight. The wolf devoured the lamb slowly, methodically, piece by piece, all afternoon long, and it was painful, just like he said.  And in the end, there was nothing left of that sheep.  Death had swallowed him up.  He turned his vulgar, boorish face, stained red with the blood of his victim towards the other sheep, and let out an insolent and menacing howl. The sheep scattered once again in all directions not wanting this day to be the day that they too met Death face to face.

As the wolf sauntered back into his den, he thought that he'd never tasted a sheep that was quite so delicious before. There was nothing tough about that meat. It was tender and rich and really altogether satisfying. This hit him with great surprise. It was almost as though his insatiable hunger had actually been quenched for a moment. The longer he thought the more it struck him as odd, but soon enough he put it out of his mind and off to bed he went.

When the morning came the wolf felt something he hadn’t felt before.  It was almost as though his stomach was upset.  Most mornings he would wake up ravenous and would peer out his den, select his next victim in the pasture and gorge himself on the flesh of the innocent sheep. But not this morning; his tummy was grumbling AND gurgling.  By noon he was feeling more than discomfort. He was feeling positively ill. He who had brought such pain on those poor sheep, was getting a taste of pain himself and it was most unpleasant.  He kept thinking back to that impolite, rude and disrespectful sheep he had eaten the previous afternoon, the one that had tasted so strangely good.  Could it have actually been poisoned?

It wasn't long before he stopped thinking altogether. The pain was just too great. He rolled around on the floor of his den and he howled and squealed and yammered. The sheep heard the sound and didn't quite know what to make of it all. They crept cautiously nearer and nearer to the door of his den and turned their heads listening intently.  What could it mean?

Day soon turned to night and in the darkness the wolf let out a shuddering, painful, fearful howl. The next day and night would be a blur to the wolf.  He moaned and he groaned, he shivered and he shook, he howled and he hollered.  And in the darkness, just before the dawn, something struck him that shook him to the core. Something seemed to be alive and moving around in his gut.  That something pushed and poked and prodded until with a sudden burst, his insides became his outsides. His abdomen ripped open, punctured through.  And something…rather, someone stepped right out through the hole, right out of has massive, stinking, stench infested, death filled bowels. The wolf felt like he was dying. And I suppose in a way he was. The figure that emerged from the wolf's belly was totally unknown. The wolf squinted and strained, crooked his head to the side and tried to focus, and from what his canine brain could make out, he was staring at a shepherd.  He'd heard of such a critter, but had never actually met one. With a staff in his hand the shepherd sauntered around and then stood face to face with the wolf. And the shepherd began to laugh. He laughed and laughed and soon the sound of his laughter burst open the door to the den. This both startled and intrigued the sheep in the pasture. They were filled with fear and bewilderment wondering what was going on in there.  The Shepherd laughed and laughed and then he looked the wolf right in the eye. "So, you don't recognize me, do you, old foe? It was I whom you ate outside your den three days ago. ‘Twas I that you promised would die slowly and painfully, but here I am. What do you propose to do about me now?" "You?” The wolf gasped. The voice was the same; he recognized it. This shepherd was indeed the lamb whom he had tortured, killed and swallowed. "You!?! But how?” The shepherd smiled and said: "Well, I think you're pretty harmless now, my friend. Go on and try to take down some of my sheep. I promise you that as fast as you swallow them down I will lead them right out through the way I made in your stomach. And you'll never be able to touch them again!"

The wolf howled in fear and anger and rage, but there was nothing he could do. The Shepherd had the last laugh.  The shepherd provided a way to defeat the wolf named Death. And then, the Shepherd stepped outside of Deaths den and called the sheep together. They knew His voice too. They'd heard it before. They could hardly believe their eyes and they stood before the Lamb who had become the Shepherd and they listened as He told them what would happen. "You'll die too. He'll come out in a few days and he will be hungrier than ever. He'll swallow you down. But do not fear. I have made a way.  I have punched a hole right through his belly and I promise you I'll bring you out again. Death can no longer harm you.” And the Shepherd told the sheep to tell the rest of the flock and for parent to tell their children that Death had lost its power and was not something to fear.  And in that moment Death was finished forever.

As you have probably guessed the Shepherd is our Savior.  Our Good Shepherd has provided a way to defeat the enemy named Death.  And the promise given to His sheep still holds true today, for you!  The Shepherd has provided a way, a way that brings life from death, forgiveness of sin and peace and pardon. Death has lost its sting, and each and every day the Shepherd seeks you, finds you, and brings you back to this place to hear his voice, to partake in His promises and to comfort you and forgive you even when you stray.

This promise was made to you from the mouth of the Shepherd Himself, "My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me and I give them eternal life and they shall never perish neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand."  This Shepherd who leaves the 99 to find the 1, this Shepherd who joyfully puts that one on his shoulders and carries it home is here again today to find and forgive, to call and to comfort you!

This is the comfort of the Resurrection, that Christ who has defeated death, satisfying the will of the Father; comes to you anew in this place.  It reaches all the way to you in His Supper. Where you taste the body and blood that went into the wolf's mouth, but which the wolf could not hold.  As you eat and drink you have the same promise: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life!"

Let the old wolf howl and snarl all he wantsl. You know about the hole in his tummy. You know about the Sheep who is the Shepherd. Your Good Shepherd who seeks and finds, heals and forgives.  

-Pr. Seth Moorman

The One Year Bible- September 16th

There is an art to discipline. Being a classroom teacher for many years always reminded me that for every student there is a way of dealing with his or her behavior. Sometimes they need to be yelled at, other times they need to feel loved. But there is always that one child where nothing seems to work. No matter what you say, they still make poor decisions; they still put their foot in their mouth. While reading through Isaiah, I get the feeling that he tried everything to get the people to listen. He used harsh words, he used loving words, and nothing seemed to work. His message was very important for their well being. If they would listen, they would be saved. At times it seems like Isaiah (and the other prophets as well) is just repeating himself. What else could he do? He was called by God to be His mouthpiece. Sometimes it comes down to being faithful to the calling you have received and not worrying about how the message is received. That’s my two cents for the day. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts
The Old Testament
The major theme of Isaiah is the proclamation of what will happen to those who do not put their trust in Yahweh. Isaiah has a simple message for all the countries: you will be destroyed. This same message is for Israel as well, with one caveat; there will be a remnant. This faithful remnant will return to the Promised Land ready for the coming of the Messiah. One neat thing I read this week revolved around the idea of applying the book of Isaiah to our lives in the 21st century. The book was not initially written to us, but it is preserved for us. The question is why? Many things come to light when answering this question. First of all, Isaiah’s warnings should ring true for us today. The same warnings he gave to Israel, we should heed today. We must put God first, and look to him for wisdom and strength. Second, Isaiah is preserved because of its wonderful Messianic prophecy. Can you imagine Christmas or Easter without quotes from Isaiah? A third thing I read, and I am still digesting, is the idea that just as Israel needed to watch its alliances with other countries, because of the problems that can develop (think about Isaiah’s warnings about Egypt), we also need to watch what things we ally ourselves with. We need to watch who we hang out with and spend time with. We must be careful of those close to us and their influence upon us. Chapter 36 begins a narrative section that gives some insights on the events from the reign of King Hezekiah. This is a neat section that shows how even when all seemed doomed, God rescued his people. Even after this, a few years later Jerusalem is destroyed and the people are taken into captivity.

The New Testament
I love Paul’s letter to the Galatians!! Many Bible scholars see the wonderful theology of Romans in an infant form in this smaller letter. Galatians shares many of the same themes and analogies as the longer letter to the Romans. Remember that Paul was not writing to one church. This letter went to all the churches in the area that Paul founded on his first missionary journey. I am sure Paul had fond memories of his very first mission trip and the people he saw and taught. These were memories he would cherish his whole life. I will never forget my very first class of students as a teacher. Some of the other years are a bit fuzzy at times but that first class will always be with me. Paul has some strong emotions for what he has heard from the believers in Galatia. Right from the get-go Paul tries to snap them out of the influence of a group known as the Judaizers. This group of people demanded that to become a Christian, one first had to convert to Judaism. The person must fulfill all the requirements of the law before being allowed to become a part of the community of believers. Paul was strongly opposed to any such group. He believed that these people were taking the free gift of God and turning it into a work. This was quite contrary to the message of Jesus Christ. The argument was settled by the church at the first Jerusalem council where it was agreed that one did not have to first become Jewish before believing in Jesus as the Messiah. The balance of the letter addressed this same issue. In Chapter one Paul lays it down, But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!(Gal. 1:8-9 NIV). Strong words from a passionate man. Paul goes on with saying that faith in the Law is worthless. Trying to gain salvation by the Law is hopeless for sinful people. Paul reminds the people of Abraham, the father of the promise. The Jews considered Abraham to be one of the big guys and we now live according to that same promise because of Jesus. In one of the best passages in all of Paul’s letters we find this, But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” (Gal 4:4-7 NIV). I could probably write a dissertation on these verses!!! To me they spell out the clear message of salvation. We were slaves, but Jesus adopted us as sons and we now enjoy all the blessing of being his own. I can’t imagine better news!!! Most of the rest of the letter spells out the difference between following the law and the ideas of the Judaizers in contrast to living in the Grace of Jesus Christ. One quick note on the fruit of the spirit; notice it does not say fruits (plural), it says fruit (singular). The Holy Spirit produces all of these things in our lives!!

Bits and Pieces
The Old Testament
We will be finishing up the first part of Isaiah and start the second (remember the divisions from last week). The second part, which starts at chapter 40 is more focused on future events. Isaiah will be writing about things that will happen beyond his own lifetime. There will be a lot said of Israel’s salvation and savior. The return from exile will be a major theme with an emphasis on redemption. Isaiah will still give warnings but his audience has changed and so has his message.

The New Testament
We will finish up Galatians this week and jump right into Ephesians. Here are the vital stats for the book of Ephesians:
PURPOSE: To Strengthen the believers in Ephesus in their Christian faith by explaining the nature and purpose of the church, the body of Christ
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The church at Ephesus, and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 60, from Rome, during Paul’s imprisonment
SETTING: The letter was sent with Tychicus to strengthen and encourage the churches in the area. Paul had spent over three years with the Ephesian church. Paul met with the elders of the Ephesian church at Miletus (Acts 20:17-38)—a meeting that was filled with great sadness because he was leaving them for what he thought would be the last time. Because there are not specific references to people or problems in the Ephesian church and because the words “at Ephesus” (1:1) are not present in some early manuscripts, Paul may have intended this to be a circular letter to be read by all the churches in the area.
KEY VERSES: “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (4:4-6 NIV).
LAW THEMES:  Rivalry between believers; grieving the Spirit through unfaithfulness; marital unfaithfulness; spiritual warfare.
GOSPEL THEMES: Baptism; election by God’s grace; justification by grace alone; the mystery of Christ revealed; unity in Christ’s body.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Several pictures of the church are presented: body, temple, mystery, new man, bride, and soldier. This letter was probably distributed to many of the early churches.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of September 8, 2019

Sermon: “More To It Than That”

In addressing His chosen people, in which direction they are to go, God leaves no nuances, no shades of gray and nothing left open for interpretation.  “Today I set before you Blessings …. AND ….. Curses; Life ….. AND ….. Death.  Choose life, that your children may live, The LORD is your life.  If your hearts turn away, if you’re drawn a different direction it will lead to destruction.  So walk in God’s ways and in His commands” (Deuteronomy 30:15ff). 

Stark is the contrast, obvious is the difference, unquestionable is the conclusion.  Now, it is fair to admit that not all choices in life are quite that easy.  Ask anyone who, two bites in (while dining out at a restaurant where the bill will be as much as your car payment), has said, “I should have ordered that!”  Ask anyone who invested their portfolio with Bernie Madoff a year before his arrest or in their fantasy football league drafted Andrew Luck a day before his retirement. This is not a case like those.  Here the contrast is stark, the difference obvious, the conclusion unquestionable; when given the choice between blessings and life or curses and death there is only one choice to be made. 

Now before we ponder some of the choices of the chosen people let’s remember that God Himself has made a choice.
V  After Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, God chose to promise a child born to crush the head of the serpent, bringing the couple into grace, covenant and each other’s arms again.
V  God chose, in Christ, to leave the land of eternal promise and enter this world, to walk the path He and He alone could navigate.
V  Christ chose to obey His Father’s will without question, to follow His Father’s course without detour, to “walk in God’s ways and commands.”
V  Jesus chose life … a perfect ONE and a pure ONE. 
V  Jesus chose not to depart from the path of the cross.  He chose to take the place of each and every one who has at one point chosen to go the wrong direction; He chose to suffer for all who wander!   And who hasn’t? 

Like the Israelites before us, we the chosen people of God are directed to choose blessings and life and to walk in the way of God.  Yet, we the chosen people, like the children of Israel, go astray, wander and head the wrong direction over and over again.  The internal compass of fallen creatures like us is drawn to a false north – ourselves.  In fact, to be “turned in on ones-self” is one of the definitions of original sin.  In sin we so often choose to deviate from God’s ways and commands.  We choose to listen to the GPS’ of this world: the Goading Pernicious Snake, the Global Persistent Sirens; the Gluttonous Penchant Self (or as the catechism identifies them: the devil, world and own sinful flesh). The trio often cry, “Go that way, come this way, venture the other way”. Yet, it’s always the same direction:  the created over the Creator, the temporal rather than the eternal, the self above HE who is sovereign. 

Yet HE in love chose us! 
In grace He continues to choose to make His goodness known in Christ, experienced in ministry and delivered to His chosen people through His chosen means.  And once again, to His Chosen People God says, CHOOSE!  There are no nuances here, no shades of gray, nothing open for interpretation.  Serve Him only.  Pick up your cross daily; Fix your eyes on Jesus.  While still bombarded with the voice of those GPS’ identified above; while as fallen creatures still bearing broken internal compasses, as His chosen people we are also a new creation who have been provided better GPS’ (if you will) and had a new true north set before us – God Himself. 

Who directs us by a Guiding Promised Spirit, Who grants us the Girding Pure Scriptures and Who lives within us as our Governing Personal Savior Guided by the Promised Spirit:  Jesus promised said Spirit to His chosen disciples.  “I will send you the Holy Spirit.  He will lead you into all truth.  He will live within you.” 
Girded by the Pure Scripture:  The Lord Himself has not left us to wonder about His goodness and grace, nor His will and ways.  His Word is a lamp to our feet, a light to our path, able to make us wise unto salvation and useful for our learning, correcting and training. Governed by a Personal Savior:  Universal and Cosmic is His reign; yet the corporate magnitude of His rule is also intimate and individual.  (As the children songs goes:  “He is the King of the universe…and He is the King of me!”).

Chosen people, Choose Life!  The Lord is your life!
-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, September 09, 2019

The One Year Bible- September 9th (On time!!)

This is my 15th year in a row reading through The One Year Bible.  Each time I do it I see new things and my routine of reading is a bit different.   Most days I have been pretty good about reading in the morning right when I get to the office.  As soon as I get in I close my door, and vow not to turn on the computer or listen to voicemail until I have done my reading.  This has worked pretty well but there are times I like to do my reading while I’m having breakfast at home.  There is no right way to do this.  I hope you are finding a time and a routine that is working for you.  It is amazing how God continues to speak to us through his word every day.  I hope you are finding that being in the word has been a blessing to you and your life with Christ.  On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
The book of Song of Songs is unique to scripture. It my mind it is like a Broadway Musical (but rated at least PG-13). We have the lovely song of the young woman, with a response from her true love. The chorus comes in on occasion to fill out the story. I love the point, counterpoint of the verses and the overarching theme of love. On the surface this book is all about young love. Going a bit deeper, there is another story at work. A frequent image in the Old Testament of the relationship between God and Israel is that of husband and wife. God loves his chosen bride, Israel and would do anything to keep that relationship in tact. God continues to care for Israel no matter what. But Israel is unfaithful. She goes off and does he own thing. She gets into trouble and turns her back on God. But God’s love is amazing. It continues to love in all circumstances. This theme will be played out in the book of Hosea as well. This relationship is also seen in how Jesus relates to his bride the church. When all is going well, love abounds and beautiful music is made. But often times we, as the church, mess things up. We fall away and become unfaithful. The moral of all the stories is God is faithful no matter what. His love endures to the ends of the earth and conquers time and space.

The book of the prophet Isaiah is considered by many Biblical scholars to be the theological textbook of the Old Testament. Many key doctrines and themes that form the foundation of faith and relationship to God are found within its pages. Martin Luther says that the, “chief and leading theme of all the prophets is their aim to keep the people in eager anticipation of the coming Christ.” Isaiah is an amazing book. Let me give you a few of my personal insights and some key themes this week. We will have plenty of time to talk about this most wonderful book. First of all Isaiah did not sit down and write the book in one sitting. This is more like a journal of the prophet and his dealings with God and the kingdom of Judah. The events take place over the entire life of the prophet. It is important to have this perspective when reading. There is a marked division in the book. Chapters 1-39 are directed to the time of Isaiah. Chapters 40-66 are a vision of the future captivity in Babylon. The second part is filled with figurative language as Isaiah struggled to relate his visions to his contemporaries. I find it interesting to note that there are 39 chapters in the first part and 27 chapters in the second part of Isaiah. Remember there are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. Pretty cool, huh?? Some have even called Isaiah “The Bible in Miniature”. Now I would not press the analogy too far but it does make one stop and think. One other thing of note is the mention of “The Holy One of Israel”. Most theologians agree that this term makes reference to the Messiah. This is the one who will deliver the people from oppression and bring about an eternal kingdom. When you come across this term, spend some time looking at the context and see if you can see Jesus there. I will have a lot more to say in the next few weeks.

The New Testament
We will finish up 2 Corinthians this week, and what a finish. Paul gives some great instruction right at the end. One thing we have heard here at Bethany is the idea of “my stuff is not my stuff”. Paul tells the Corinthians just this same thing in Chapter 9. Giving to God comes from the heart. In chapter 10 Paul spends some time on boasting. He says that boasting about what has happened within the boundaries of the work of God is a good thing. We must rejoice in what God is doing, and we can boast in Him at all times. In Chapter 11 Paul gives his defense for being an apostle. Paul lays it all out on the line and asserts that his message is valid and useful. Paul’s over all theme here at the end is about being proud and arrogant. He gives us a glimpse into his personal life when he admits to some sort of “thorn in the flesh”. We are not sure what this was. Speculation ranges from an ulcer, to a mental disability, to a physical deformity. What is was is beside the point, the fact is it has kept him humble and focused in service to his Lord. Paul wraps it all up in Chapter 13. I love his closing words, Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”  (2 Corinthians 13:11 NIV). In just a few sentences, Paul summarizes what it means to live the Christian life.

Bits and Pieces
The Old Testament
Remember to read Isaiah like you just picked up the journal of the prophet. This week we will read entries that contain prophecies against Moab, Damascus, Cush, Egypt, Babylon, Edom, Arabia, Jerusalem, and Tyre. Isaiah will enter some songs of praise to God and deliverance of Israel. There will be woes to Ephraim, David’s city, the obstinate Nation, and to those who rely on Egypt. Chapter 36 begins a section of prose and gives some of the historical context for the prophecy. Keep looking for “The Holy One of Israel” as you read.

The New Testament
We move on to the book of Galatians this week. Here are the vital stats for the book:

PURPOSE: To refute the Judaizers (who taught that Gentile believers must obey the Jewish Law in order to be saved), and to call Christians to faith and freedom in Christ
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The churches in southern Galatia founded on Paul’s first missionary journey (including Iconium, Lystra, Derbe), and Christians everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 49 from Antioch, prior to the Jerusalem council (A.D. 50)
SETTING: The most pressing controversy in the early church was the relationship of new believers, particularly Gentiles, to the Jewish laws. This was especially a problem for the converts and for the young churches that Paul had founded on his first missionary journey. Paul wrote to correct this problem. Later, at the council in Jerusalem, the church leaders officially resolved the conflict.
KEY VERSE: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (5:1)
LAW THEMES: The threat of subtle false teaching; hypocrisy; works cannot justify; the Law’s curse; works of the flesh; the Law of Christ.
GOSPEL THEMES: One saving Gospel; God’s gracious call; justified through faith in Christ; the gift of the Spirit; adoption as God’s own sons; freedom in Christ.
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Peter, Barnabus, Titus, Abraham, false teachers
KEY PLACES: Galatia, Jerusalem
SPECIAL FEATURES: This letter is not addressed to any specific body of believers and was probably circulated to several churches in Galatia.

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