Tuesday, October 29, 2019

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

Thank you, thank you!  Like the apostle, at Bethany we give thanks for all of you in our prayers!

A special word of thanks this morning for everyone who made both our 75th anniversary and Oktoberfest celebrations such joyous and wonderful occasions!

Of course every day is a day to celebrate the truth that Jesus loves us and Jesus lives for us!  Jesus died for us and Jesus rose for us!  Jesus speaks to us and Jesus saved us!  Jesus also CHANGES us!  Jesus transforms us!  

In fact, Jesus works a Renaissance within each heart that holds Him, and into which He is planted, as Lord and Christ.  The heart of the Renaissance is Jesus and His Word.  In His Word Jesus goes to work, like a master artist, shaping and transforming us! 

As Jesus’ words are put into practice, we find His renewing Renaissance work ever on-going in and through us.

Last month (October) during our First Sunday of the month Evening Service (YES, we have a Service on the First Sunday of each month at 6:30PM) we explored the Scripture that declares our Renaissance begins with “receiving.”

We used the following prayer to help us receive:
“Gracious Lord Jesus, take from me my sin,
Relieve me from all that burdens me, lighten all that weighs heavily on my heart, mind and spirit.  
I am ready to receive what You have to give.   
Grant me Your forgiveness anew. 
Give me strength to believe Your Word, regardless of what my experience is saying.
Give me strength to follow where You lead, no matter what the cost.
Give me strength to resist temptations, however great they may be.  

Dear Lord, I come to You that I might receive all You have to give:
Your grace for one as guilty as me
Your wholeness for all my brokenness
Your abundance ------ for I lack so much
Your faithfulness ----- though I am prone to stray
Your love that exceeds comprehension.

Dear Lord I come to You that I might receive all You have to give
….for only then can I be prepared to give as I have received.
This month Sunday November 3rd at 6:30PM we hear Jesus call to “abide” in Him.  A Renaissance of the Heart begins with “receiving” and it continues and grows as we “abide” in Him.
-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, October 28, 2019

The One Year Bible- October 28th

With Halloween and Reformation Day upon us, All Saints day coming up, and Thanksgiving and Advent on the horizon, it goes without saying that this is a busy time of the year.  It seems that life gets more hectic every year.  Perhaps you feel like you could write your own lamentations today.   But even in the midst of the tough times of life we praise God by saying, “Great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23).  Let that be our guide today. On to the study...

Pastor Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament

This week we will dive into the book of Lamentations. I was thinking that this book is like the soundtrack to the book of Jeremiah. If they ever made a movie (more like a miniseries) about Jeremiah, the music would have to be influenced by the book of Lamentations. In David M. Gosdeck’s commentary on the book he says the following:

The Hebrew title for this book of the Bible is taken from the first word, “How”. When, during the Intertestamental Period, the Jews translated this book into Greek they gave it the title, “The Tears of Jeremiah”. When the Greek was translated into Latin, it was named “The Lamentations of Jeremiah,” the title we use today. Lamentations consists of five individual poems. The first four (chapters 1-4) use a poetic device known as “acrostic”. In an acrostic each new line of poetry begins with a successive letter of the alphabet. In chapters 1,2, and 4 each verse begins with a new letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Since the Hebrew alphabet has twenty-two letters, each of these chapters has twenty-two verses. In chapter 3 the author triples the acrostic. Every three verses begin with a new letter of the alphabet, so chapter 3 has sixty-six verses. In the face of Jerusalem’s destruction, the prophet encouraged the believers to keep on clinging to the Lord. The nation was without excuse. It has plenty of time to repent, but it chose the path of sin. Not its sins had brought the present terror. On its own, the nation could not deliver itself. Its only hope lay in a return to the Lord, and the Lord did not fail. Even in this disaster, believers could see his gracious hand. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). Even under suffering, the believer can confidently wait for the salvation he knows will come.

The New Testament
By the end of the week we will have read two letters in their entirety (Titus and Philemon) and will be into the book of Hebrews. Titus is known as one of the Pastoral letters (along with 1 & 2 Timothy) and has much advice for pastors and church leaders. The following is from Armin W. Schuetze’s commentary on Titus:

Since Paul calls Titus “my true son in our common faith” (Titus 1:4), he know doubt was one of Paul’s converts. He may have been from Antioch, where Paul had worked for an entire year before his missionary journeys (Acts 11:26). We find Titus there when Paul and Barnabas “were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders” about the necessity of circumcision for salvation (Acts 15:2). Paul mentions Titus as someone he had taken along as a test case and reports that “not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised even though he was Greek” (Galatians 2:1,3).

Later Paul found Titus to be a valuable and trusted associate whom he sent to Corinth to settle the problems that had arisen in this congregation. In all of his Corinthian assignments Titus proved to be an evangelical, trusted, and respected “troubleshooter”.

After Paul’s release from his first imprisonment, he may have met Titus when he came to the island of Crete. Paul left Titus there to complete the organizing of the church (Titus 1:5). This was not an easy assignment because of trouble makers who needed correction (Titus 1:10-16). Paul promised to send a replacement to Crete so that Titus might join him again at Nicopolis where Paul intended to spend the winter (Titus 3:12).

Titus must have been with Paul in Rome during a part of his second imprisonment, for Paul sent him from Rome to Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10). We know nothing more about this assignment.

Titus was no doubt younger that Paul but very likely older than Timothy. He did not need the kind of encouragement that Paul gave his younger “son” Timothy. The advice Paul gave Titus for his work on the island of Crete continues to be a blessing to the church and its pastors as they read, study and apply his inspired words to themselves and the church of all times.

The book of Philemon is very short but very profound. The following is from the intro to the book in “The Life Application Bible”:

This is a personal letter sent as a plea for a runaway slave. Imagery and parallels abound in this short letter. Paul writes to Philemon and reintroduces Onesimus to him, explaining that he is sending him back not just as a slave but as a brother. Tactfully he asks Philemon to accept and forgive his brother. The barriers of the past and the new ones erected by Onesimus’s desertion and theft should divide them no longer for they are one in Christ.

This small book is a masterpiece of grace and tact and a profound demonstration of the power of Christ and of true Christian fellowship in action. As with Philemon, God calls us all to seek unity, breaking down walls and embracing our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I will have plenty to say about the book of Hebrews in the next two weeks.

Bits and Pieces

The New Testament
As we look at the book of Hebrews this week, don’t forget the audience of the book.  They are Jewish Christians who are in danger of going back to Judaism. Keep this in mind so it will hopefully make more sense when you read language like “greater than Moses”, “high priest”, “Melchizedek”, “covenant”, “tabernacle”, “sacrifice” etc. I will spend a lot of time in the next two weeks talking about this book. It is one of my favorites.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

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

Sermon: “Connecting Deeply”

"You do you!" is not a new concept.  Though recently becoming a common colloquialism, its origin is much older...depending on its meaning. 

If by "you do you" one means, "Do whatever you please, regardless of Divine commandments or earthly consequences;" its origins go to The Garden's center, the serpents "invitation" to Adam and Eve, and humanities fall.

Of course, some say those words meaning, "Stand up for the truth even if it might mean ridicule." 

In a manner of speaking we find St. Paul encouraging young Timothy (2 Timothy 3) and simultaneously directing all the recipients of his letter (including us) to be - or "you do you" - by being who God has created him (you, us) to be, called him (you, us) in Christ to be and was currently changing and shaping him (us, you) to be by the Spirits power.  Then Paul identifies the means through which God works such an outcome.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul makes it clear that "A Renaissance of the heart" truly starts and we by the Spirit's power became more and more who He has created us to be, called us to be in Jesus and is changing and shaping us to be through the Spirit as we connect to heaven's ears (prayer) 2 Timothy 1: 3 & 18, as we connect to the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16ff) and as we connect to fellow believers (2 Timothy 2:2, 3:10)

-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, October 21, 2019

The One Year Bible- October 21st

I have always been a fan of the morning prayer service known as Matins. This service has a rich tradition in the Church. This service is filled with singing, prayer and other music. Growing up Lutheran I have seen many versions of this service. But regardless of what hymnal it comes out of the words are very powerful and have great meaning for me. We will read one of the central passages used in Matins this week. Lets use these words as our focus today.
 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;    let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;    let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God,    and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth;    the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it,    and his hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down;    let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God,    and we are the people of his pasture,    and the sheep of his hand.--Psalm 95:1-7 ESV

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
As we keep plugging away at Jeremiah I saw some great glimpses of gospel this week. Here are a few that hit me:

“Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security.  I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first.  I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.”  Jeremiah 33:6-8

“For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the LORD.” Jeremiah 33:11b

And then a great Messianic promise: “In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.”  Jeremiah 33:15-16

We have come to the point in the story where there is more narrative than prophetic. Many historic details are filled in and give us a better picture of some of the events that took place right before the exile. We don’t usually get many of these stories in Sunday School. I had forgotten that Jeremiah gets thrown into a mud pit and almost dies. And that the king burned up the scroll that was written almost in spite of the message it contained. Eventually we see the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple itself. It was a sad day in the life of the people. I put quite a few frowning faces in the margin of my Bible this week. Another bit of the story that I forgot about was that of those who were left in the country and not taken into exile. I found it very interesting that the Lord promised protection for these people through Jeremiah as long as they stayed in the land. But, like what seems to happen again and again, the people do not listen and head to Egypt for what they think is “safety”. Their self-centeredness was their destruction.

Most of the rest of our readings this week were pronouncements of judgments on the surrounding countries. The Lord will finally punish all the other countries for their unbelief. It is sometimes hard for us to read about all this destruction, but we need to remember that God has every right to punish us for our sins. We need to have a good grasp on this so we can see that the gift of Jesus Christ is so amazing. We are not treated as we deserve. We have been given a wonderful gift in Jesus…you see, I told you this book was Christ centered.

The New Testament
As a pastor I really feel that Paul is talking to me through the words of 1 and 2 Timothy. But just because you are not a “pastor”, does not mean you cannot benefit greatly from these two letters of Paul. I kind of see these letters as letters of encouragement, sort of like Paul is the coach and Timothy is the player. Paul can’t do the work for him but he can give him some great advice. One of the most famous phrases of encouragement comes from 1 Timothy 4, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”  What awesome encouragement! Paul goes on to say, “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.”  Paul also reminds us all, “You can’t take it with you.” We need to learn to be content where God has placed us. In 2 Timothy 2 Paul makes a connection to the Old Testament. He writes, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel”   (2 Timothy 2:8 ESV). This is a flashback to the good old Davidic covenant that we have seen in Jeremiah recently. Once again it all comes back to a story about Christ. I love all the “trustworthy sayings” in these letters. The one on the unity we have with Christ gives me great comfort and hope. “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us;  if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.”  (2 Timothy 2:11-13 ESV) There are some big passages in 2 Timothy for us in our Theology. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV) This passage forms the basis for our belief in Scripture. We believe that the Bible is the only rule and norm of faith. It comes from God, and is useful for all sorts of things regarding our faith. It gets us ready to respond to God in good works as well. This is one of those passages that should be committed to memory!!! The end of 2 Timothy shows us some of the humanity of Paul. He is stuck in Rome, under arrest, and many of his followers have left him. Only Luke remains. Paul asks for Timothy to come to visit with him. It shows us that Paul not only cares for his good friend and partner in ministry but he misses him terribly and desires his companionship. I hope you have good friends like this; I have been blessed with many of them.

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We will finish up Jeremiah this week and move on to the book of Lamentations followed by the book of Ezekiel. Here are the vital stats for the books:

PURPOSE: To teach people that to disobey God is to invite disaster, and to show that God suffers when His people suffer.
AUTHOR: Most likely Jeremiah
DATE WRITTEN: Soon after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
SETTING: Jerusalem had been destroyed by Babylon and her people killed, tortured, or taken captive.
KEY VERSE: “My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city.” (2:11)
LAW THEMES: The Lord pours out His anger against the kingdom of Judah; Judah finds no comfort; she cries, mourns, weeps, and laments the siege and exile.
GOSPEL THEMES:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; great is His faithfulness; wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord; he has redeemed you.
KEY PEOPLE: Jeremiah, the people of Jerusalem
KEY PLACE: Jerusalem
SPECIAL FEATURES: Three strands of Hebrew thought meet in Lamentations—prophecy, ritual, and wisdom. Lamentations is written in the rhythm and style of ancient Jewish funeral songs or chants. It contains five poems corresponding to the five chapters.

PURPOSE: To announce God’s judgment on Israel and other nations and to foretell the eventual salvation of God’s people
AUTHOR: Ezekiel—the son of Buzi, a Zadokite priest
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The Jews in captivity, in Babylonia, and God’s people everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: Approx. 571 B.C.
SETTING: Ezekiel was a younger contemporary of Jeremiah. While Jeremiah ministered to the people still in Judah, Ezekiel prophesied to those already exiled in Babylonia after the defeat of Jehoichin.
KEY VERSES: “For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all you idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (36:24-26)
LAW THEMES: Death and God’s wrath come to Israel by the sword; Israel has not walked in God’s statutes; in anger, God withdraws His glory and blessings; idolatry as spiritual adultery; defilement; exile; famine and pestilence.
GOSPEL THEMES: God keeps His covenant; new hearts; gift of the Spirit; the Good Shepherd; cleansing; restore the fortunes; God’s glory returns; the new temple.
KEY PEOPLE: Ezekiel, Israel’s leaders, Ezekiel’s wife, Nebuchadnezzar, “the prince”
KEY PLACES: Jerusalem, Babylon, and Egypt

The New Testament
Here are the vital stats for the next three books we will read in the New Testament:

PURPOSE: To advise Titus in his responsibility of supervising the churches in the island of Crete
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Titus, a Greek, probably converted to Christ through Paul’s ministry (he had become Paul’s special representative to the island of Crete), and to all believers everywhere.
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 64, around the same time 1 Timothy was written; probably from Macedonia when Paul traveled between his Roman imprisonments.
SETTING: Paul sent Titus to organize and oversee the churches on Crete. This letter tells Titus how to do this job.
KEY VERSE: “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I direct you” (1:5)
LAW THEMES: Be above reproach; rebuke; the pure and the defiled; submissiveness; devotion to good works.
GOSPEL THEMES: Election; soundness; God’s grace; redemption; washing and renewal; justification.
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Titus
KEY PLACES: Crete, Nicopolis
SPECIAL FEATURES: Titus is very similar to 1 Timothy with its instructions to church leaders.

PURPOSE: To convince Philemon to forgive his runaway slave, Onesimus, and to accept him as a brother in the faith.
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Philemon, who was probably a wealthy member of the Colossian church, and all believers.
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 60, during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, at about the same time Ephesians and Colossians were written.
SETTING: Slavery was common in the Roman Empire and evidently some Christians had slaves. Paul does not condemn the institution of slavery in his writings, but he makes a radical statement by calling this slave Philemon’s brother in Christ.
KEY VERSES: “Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good—no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord (verses 15-16)
LAW THEMES: Usefulness; imprisonment; service; debt; partnership
GOSPEL THEMES: Comfort/refreshment; reconciliation; forgiveness.
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Philemon, Onesimus
KEY PLACES: Colosse, Rome
SPECIAL FEATURES: This is a private, personal letter to a friend.

PURPOSE: To present the sufficiency and superiority of Christ
AUTHOR: Paul, Luke, Barnabas, Apollos, Silas, Philip, Pricilla, and others have been suggested because the name of the author is not given in the Biblical text itself. Whoever it was speaks of Timothy as “brother” (13:23)
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Hebrew Christians (perhaps second-generation Christians) who may have been considering a return to Judaism, perhaps because of immaturity, stemming from a lack of understanding of Biblical truths; and all believers in Christ.
DATE WRITTEN: Probably before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70, because the religious sacrifices and ceremonies are referred to in the book, but no mention is made of the temples destruction
SETTING: These Jewish Christians were probably undergoing fierce persecution, socially and physically, both from Jews and from Romans. Christ had not yet returned to establish his kingdom, and the people needed to be reassured that Christianity was true and that Jesus was the Messiah.
KEY VERSE: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (1:3)
LAW THEMES: Retribution for disobedience; slavery to death and the devil; and unbelieving heart; rebellion; obligation to sacrifice; repentance from dead works; crucifying Jesus again; the living God’s vengeance; struggle against sin; discipline; obedience to leaders.
GOSPEL THEMES: God spoke through Jesus; purification for sins; inheriting salvation; our High Priest and Mediator; sanctification; God’s promises; Melchizedek; sprinkled and washed; assurance of faith; the founder and perfecter of our faith; the great Shepherd.
KEY PEOPLE: Old Testament men and women of faith (see chapter 11)
SPECIAL FEATURES: Although Hebrews is called a “letter” (13:22), it has the form and content of a sermon.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

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

Sermon: “Connecting Deeply”

There are lots of phobias out there.  Personally I suffer from basophobia.  Anyone know what that is?  It’s the fear of falling.  It’s associated with acrophobia or the fear of heights but it’s the falling that really gets to me. 

I learned about another phobia this week that I did not know existed.  It’s called nomophobia which is the fear of being out of mobile phone contact.  It is a relatively new phobia but can cripple many in our ever-tethered society.   If one suffers from nomophobia it might just be a symptom of autophobia or the fear of being alone and one might argue is at the root of all spiritual journeys. The idea that you will be left alone, out of contact, and isolated brings fear and dread to many. We have a God who desires just the opposite who desires connections with each of us for that is what our journey in this world all about.

According to a recent study by researchers at San Diego University, the average American today is bombarded with an average of 100,500 words and digests around 12 hours of information and media every single day.  And if you think about it, 12 hours isn’t so far off. With notifications, emails, texts, voicemails, “likes”, tweets, Instagram pics, comments, tags and posts, as well as, photos, videos, headlines, blogs, subscriptions, downloads, uploads, ads, ringtones, mp3’s, apps, games, usernames, passwords, captchas, folders, files, feeds, searches, and poke’s … it’s hardly surprising why we seem to be so deeply connected. 

We live in an extrospective society as opposed to an introspective one.   Many believe that true happiness is found in the outside world.   We tend to believe wholeheartedly that the more we cram every living moment with outside sources of enjoyment, excitement and pleasure, the more we’re living.

We are living in the surround-sound generation with thousands and thousands of channels and websites.  We want to feel everything all the time.  Going for a walk isn’t just a walk anymore, it’s a music concerto with our headphones in our ears, while sipping a venti iced soy half-caff caramel macchiato, all while getting your steps in, with your electronic heart-monitor, and admiring the passing carnival of humanity. Creativity and thought have become subservient to the singular ambition of saturating our senses.  Stimulation has become the new world order.  The irony of all of this is that we have more “friends” and know more about their activities and interests than ever … by spending less time with them.  We are more connected and more alone at the same time.

Jesus gathered friends around Him as well.  They were true, deep and meaningful connections and it gives us a glimpse of how Christ desires to connect to each of us, deeply and authentically in our journey on this earth.

Our text this morning is our Gospel lesson for today from Luke 17, but to understand that particular account we need to go back a bit, to the moment the disciples journey with Jesus began. 
Back in Luke 5 Jesus was on the shore with a large crowd gathered around Him.

Simon and the other fishermen were there and had been out all night and caught nothing.  They were busy washing their nets, most likely frustrated by what had taken place the prior evening.  At this time they were disconnected to Jesus.   After teaching, Jesus asks Simon to put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch.  I can just hear Simon, “But we just finished washing the nets!  This is a terrible time to fish, and didn’t you hear, we didn’t get anything last night and I doubt we will now.”  But Simon relents, “…but if you say so I’ll lower the nets.” (Luke 5:5b)

In that moment Simon was deeply detached and profoundly frustrated but something amazing happened.  In a moment the nets were full, so full that they had to signal to the others on the shore to bring out the other boat so they wouldn’t sink. It didn’t make sense. At this Simon Peter fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord!  I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8b)  Simon Peter realized that he was deeply afflicted by sin.  Instead of honoring the request, Jesus speaks words of life and connection to Simon, “Don’t be afraid, for now on you will catch men!” (Luke 5:10b)  In that moment, the fear of disconnection was destroyed, a journey of connection commenced and life in Christ was made manifest to Simon and those first followers of Jesus. 

If you page through the Gospel of Luke from this point on you see the same situation play out time and time again.   We see people who are deeply disconnected and deeply frustrated, who find themselves deeply afflicted by sin and then in an encounter with Christ they are deeply connected to the One who will ensure they are never neglected by the Father and completely forgiven on account of Christ.  The disciples were witnesses to some amazing events as Jesus healed and taught, comforted and walked all the way to the cross and the open tomb. 

Our Gospel lesson today from Luke 17 comes in the middle of that journey.  Earlier in this story Christ encounters 10 men suffering from a skin disease and He finds that these men were deeply disconnected.   They had been separated from their families because of the law. They were frustrated at the situation they found themselves in. They were afflicted by a disease that made them unclean. Talk about nomophobia.  They were not just out of mobile phone contact, they had no contact with the outside world, something they desperately wanted, and urgently needed.   As the men shout, Jesus connects.  In a blink of an eye all the men are healed and made clean and the disciples were witnesses of it all. 

Time and time again I have heard exposition on this text that focuses on the last part of the story; that one Samaritan who praised God, bows at Jesus feet and thanked Him, and the moral of the story is, “Be thankful!”  But I think that totally misses the point.  “Go show yourselves to the priests” Jesus calls out and the men start to scurry away to the temple.  For at the temple is where they believed they would be restored and reconnected to that which they ultimately desired.

But something dawns on the one.  Could it be that he realized something that the others completely missed?  Could it be that when he saw that he had been healed he realized that the locale of God’s presence has shifted from the temple in Jerusalem to the body of Jesus?   In a moment of worship this hated foreigner, finds himself deeply connected to Christ, falls at His feet and praises God and thanked Him. 

It’s my belief that Jesus is not chastising the man when He asks about the others but simply wondering why the others did not come to the same conclusion.  This Samaritan had faith that God’s presence is now in Jesus and with that presence comes the full measure of God’s mercy and cleansing, health and healing, and a deep connection to Him personally and freedom to reconnect in thanksgiving to those with whom He had been disconnected for so long. 

We too run after things and places in hopes for deep connection but we don't find it in places or things but in a person and His name is Jesus Christ!  For like those in Jesus day, sin has left you deeply disconnected. And trying to fix it on your own has left you deeply frustrated and you know you are deeply afflicted.  I know you are holding on to something because I know I am too. 

Sometimes we just want to shout from a distance “Jesus, teacher, have mercy on me” keeping Jesus at arm’s length. But Jesus has a different plan.  The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  Jesus Christ took on human flesh, became one of us to connect deeply with us. 
He is not satisfied with just being on the outside of our lives, He deeply desires to be connected with us personally and intimately. 

Jesus true man and true God was afflicted for all the disconnection and frustration sin brings into the world.  He suffered and died so that you would never be alone and His promise that in three days He would raise the temple of His body so that we would be connected to Him, to His life and resurrection for all eternity.  Jesus has healed all that afflicts you and just as the Samaritan who was healed we too know that He is the center and location for our worship and praise.

And this is not some far off promise.  Jesus still comes to connect to you deeply.  Every time you hear the Word proclaimed, remember your baptism or take into your palm the temple of His body and His blood broken and shed for you He comes for you so that you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are forgiven. 

Connecting deeply is the beginning and the end of our journey in the Bethany Blueprint. 

For as Christ connects deeply to you, you too are driven to your knees to praise God and worship faithfully, and seek to be formed spiritually, to serve passionately, give proportionately and share intentionally and in so doing you too are deeply connected to Christ and your neighbor as you serve them.

As His forgiven eternally connected children we are called to connect deeply to one another, to be united with one another just as Christ has been united with us and with the Father, for connecting to Christ is what your journey is all about. 
-Pr. Seth Moorman

Monday, October 14, 2019

The One Year Bible- October 14th

Today I want to encourage you to keep up the good work and remember that we are almost done with the book of Jeremiah.  After this book we have 14 more books to read in the Old Testament and 8 weeks to do it.  Needless to say the books will be coming fast and furious the last few weeks of the year.  We are in the home stretch, but stay strong.  On to the study…

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
I hope you have been enjoying digging through Jeremiah and finding the nuggets of grace. There were quite a few this week. We continue to see that even with the oncoming disaster, God has mercy and promises to save the remnant and bring them back. We also read some prophetic words about the Messiah as well, more on that later. There were a few other things that hit me this week and I would like to share. First of all there was mention of the Davidic covenant in a few places this week. We first met this covenant back in 2 Samuel chapter 7. God promised to David that, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16 NIV). Now of course you remember that the earthly kings of Israel are long since gone. They were in their twilight in the time of Jeremiah. But this covenant had much more than just earthly meaning. Like many of God’s plans, they are much deeper and more amazing than we think. The true line of David would be fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus was the one who was born of the house and line of David who now sits on the throne of the universe. This is a big deal! Jesus reigns at the right hand of God today!! Even when we think God does not fulfill his promises, we find out that not only is this not true but it is even better than we imagined. Speaking of Jesus, in my digging for nuggets this week I came across a passage in Jeremiah that speaks of the coming Messiah. Chapter 23:5-6 again mentions David’s line as well as a king who will, reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.(Jeremiah 23:5 NIV). This person is called, “The LORD is our Righteousness.” This is most definitely a reference to Jesus as the Messiah.

In Chapter 30 Jeremiah gives some practical advice to the people. In short, he says for the people to “Bloom where they are planted”, be that in Israel or in exile. He tells the people that the exile will last for 70 years so keep doing what God wants. Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.  Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." (Jeremiah 29:5-7 NIV). In this context comes one of the more famous passages from Jeremiah, For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV). I hope I am not sacrificing any sacred cows in your world with my next statements. This passage was not written for us to use at graduations or for people who are going through hard times.  This passage has been pulled out of context so often many have forgotten what it really means. When we look at this verse we have to remember the original context in which it was written. This verse was written to give the people hope in a time of great despair. It was a message of grace in a time of punishment. We must remember that God was talking to a stubborn people who had consistently gone against his will. These people deserved to go into exile. Even in the midst of this, God gives grace and mercy. Now, that being said, can we apply this verse to our lives today? Sure! But don’t forget the original context and remember that we are not living in that same context today. It is a stretch to use only this verse and make major applications to us today.  If you plan on using this verse make sure you put it in context and then related it to the current situation. 

The other big thing in our readings this week is the idea in Chapter 33 about the New Covenant. Remember there was nothing really wrong with the old covenant. It simple, as Jesus summarizes it when he says, “Be perfect”. That’s all, no big deal!! (please sense the sarcasm in my tone.) The Old Covenant was not broken by God, but broken by man and the sinfulness that we bring to the table. We are incapable of following what God desires. This New Covenant was not to be sealed in the blood of animals but in the blood of Jesus Christ. This New Covenant would transcend space and time and even Abraham would live under the New Covenant (even though he never knew it, see the book of Romans)  I would like to spend more time on this but I fear that if I continue I will either confuse you or bore you with the details. If you have questions, please let me know.

The New Testament
I want to take a look at parts of three letters today.  There is no way to cover all of the material, so if you have any specific questions, please feel free to email me or use the comment section on this blog.

1 Thessalonians
At the beginning of the book, Paul and his companions try to validate their ministry. They do so relying on Jesus and their track record of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus. After getting on some firm ground and giving some positive encouragement, Paul gets to the point. He tells the Thessalonians what will happen when Jesus returns. It will not be some secret event. And all those who have already died in the faith will be raised back to life. It will be a wonderful time. In the mean time Paul has some advice, And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14-22 NIV)

2 Thessalonians
The main thing to remember about this book is to not be idle in your journey of faith. We do not know when Jesus will return so we must keep working so as many people here the message as possible. Paul tells the people not to think that Jesus has already come and they somehow missed it. Paul mentions a character called “the man of lawlessness”. This person is often called the Antichrist. It is the work of the Devil in the world today. Paul says that he is at work right now in the world. He will win some battles but he will be destroyed by the power of Jesus. Paul gives a great word of hope in Chapter 2, So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15-17 NIV). Great words to end on for this book.

1 Timothy
This is Paul’s instruction to young Timothy. There are some great instructions for all who serve in the church in this letter. Paul states his purpose right at the beginning, The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5 NIV) There are many “trustworthy sayings” in this letter that should not be ignored. They all read like little sermons for Timothy. One thing that has caused much confusion is the definitions of what an elder is and what a deacon is. They seem to be quite similar but Paul treats them as two different things. Theologians have spent countless hours trying to figure this one out and we don’t have time to get into all the details but in my humble opinion, both sets of requirements are useful for anyone who does work in the church. They are the standard that we should strive for, but we must remember that forgiveness must fit into this somehow, someway. More about this book next week...

Bits and Pieces

The New Testament
We will finish up 1 Timothy and move on to 2 Timothy this week. Here are the vital stats on 2 Timothy:

PURPOSE: To give final instructions and encouragement to Timothy, pastor of the church at Ephesus
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Timothy, and all Christians everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 66 or 67, from prison in Rome. After a year or two of freedom, Paul was arrested again and executed under Emperor Nero.
SETTING: Paul was virtually alone in prison; only Luke was with him. Paul wrote this letter to pass the torch to the new generation of church leaders. He also asked for visits from his friends and for his scrolls, especially the parchments—possible parts of the Old Testament or other Biblical manuscripts.
KEY VERSE: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2:15 NIV).
LAW THEMES: Judgment Day; suffering for the Gospel; charges and commands.
GOSPEL THEMES: The appearing of our Savior; sound words of the Gospel; the gift of the Spirit; the good deposit; rescue.
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Timothy, Luke, Mark, and others.
KEY PLACES: Rome, Ephesus
SPECIAL FEATURES: Because this is Paul’s last letter, it reveals his heart and his priorities—sound doctrine, steadfast faith, confident endurance, and enduring love.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

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

Sermon: “Connecting Deeply”

The Renaissance of our sacred spaces at Bethany is nearly complete, however the Renaissance of the soul is ever on going in the life of God’s children. Here at Bethany we pledged our church calendar, our labor, and our financial resources to the renewal of our property; yet the greater renewal to which we’ve pledged ourselves is that of us personally! That God would work His transformative power, His restorative Spirit, His … Renaissance in us and then through us has been our prayer.  Guess what?  It was also Jesus’ prayer!

He was preparing to return to the Father who sent Him; the shadow of the cross and the brilliance of resurrection light were drawing near and Jesus gathered His disciples and prayed.  He prayed for their “renaissance” and ours!  Such starts, according to His prayer, with a connection.

God deeply connected to us in Christ!  Jesus became our human brother to become our Savior! He was one in the human experience.  Jesus knew what it was to be hungry and happy, to be cold and lonely yet also warm and welcomed.  He was cherished…”the babe the Son of Mary.” 

He was cheered, “Hail, Hosanna to the Son of David.” He was belittled by His brothers, “No one who wants to be a public figure stays in the shadows…” and He was betrayed by a disciple, “Judas with a kiss?”  Jesus was one with us in the human experience. 

He was filled with compassion for the woman caught in adultery and He was filled with righteous indignation towards those caught turning the Temple into a “robber’s den”; Christ connected with us deeply!  He faced temptations, “Turn these stones to bread, jump off this pinnacle, bow down and worship me.”  He faced temptation, yet was without sin.   He knew adulation as well as opposition.  He was praised for what He did and plotted against because of what He was doing.  Jesus has shared our human experience.  By His incarnation He has connected to us, to humanity – universally; and through the work of His Spirit, gift of faith, He has connected to YOU personally!   And He in His last official prayer during His earthly ministry prayed that you would connect deeply.

You can read this prayer in John 17

Jesus prays that we would be deeply connected to God Himself!  “Father, I pray that they may be one; just as You are in me and I am in You.  May they also be in us!”  (vs. 20-21)  Jesus is talking about connection, relationship.  He and the Father are indeed One, One God.

Though Distinct persons, (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) there is only One Divine Being or “substance”.  {For more about the Holy Trinity see your small catechism, in the explanation of the Apostles’ Creed section}  

Thus, when Jesus prays for our unity with God He is talking relationally, not “substantially”.  That we Connect Deeply to God in and through Christ is what Jesus Himself prays for.  He also prays that we Connect Deeply with one another.  “Lord protect them by the power of your name – the name you gave me – so that they may be one as we are one.”  (vs. 11) Jesus gave you His name too!  When His Word was connected with the waters of your Baptism, His name was written on you!  His name given you!  You became His child, and He became Your God.  Thus, He prays that all of His children would be one, connected deeply with each other. Of course, those not connected to Him by faith are ultimately disconnected from everything that matters!

Hence Jesus prayed for them too!  “Father, as You sent me into the world I am sending them.” (vs. 18)  We are Jesus’ intended answer to His own prayer!  He send us to connect deeply with our calling in our community (communities).  To connect the disconnected to God and His children
-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, October 07, 2019

The One Year Bible- October 7th

A number of years ago I taught a class at Bethany called “The Divine Drama” which studied the overarching themes found in scripture and how the Bible tells one story of salvation. One of the lessons in the study is about the prophets of the Old Testament.  In the text book the author, Rev. Dr. Harry Wendt, gives some good info that we can use as we study the prophets. 
 The prophetic books constitute one-third of the Old Testament, or one-quarter of the Bible.  They empower people today to hear, in astonishing ways, the passionate proclamations of those to whom the LORD revealed his truth and will.  To understand the message and mission of Jesus the Messiah, we must understand the ministry of Israel’s ancient prophets.  After all, Jesus was that expected Final Prophet (see Deuteronomy 18:15, Mark 9:7)

To really understand Jesus we need to understand the prophets, and when we understand the prophets we will fully understand the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ.  On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
This week I have been searching for the nuggets of grace in Jeremiah. All too often we get bogged down with the repeated message of the coming doom and destruction. I hope you can start seeing the nuggets of grace as well.

“’But even in those days, declares the LORD, I will not make a full end of you..”—Jeremiah 5:18 ESV

Here Yahweh gives some hope to his continued message of exile and punishment. This faithful remnant would return to the Promised Land and set the stage for the coming of the Messiah.

“‘But let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD..’”—Jeremiah 9:24 ESV

Yahweh describes his true character in this verse. Even though punishment is coming (and it is deserved) he still is full of love. The exile showed his justice. It was not a good time for the people but it was to benefit them as a whole and again make way for the Messiah.

“‘Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.  He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit..’”—Jeremiah 17:7-8 ESV

God is the one who has planted us; his living streams water us. When we stay connected to this living water we continue to grow and we have nothing to worry about. When we think we can go on our own, we start having problems.

I have said it before and I will say it again now, don’t get discouraged by hearing all the gloom and doom news from Jeremiah. Try to mine the gems of good news.

The New Testament
In my studies this week I found some great information in “The Peoples Commentary Bible” by Harlyn J. Kuschel. The following paragraphs are from that book:

Only two of the thirteen letters of the New Testament authored by Paul we addressed to congregations he had not founded and most of whose members he had never met. One was Romans the other was Colossians. About four or five years after the founding of the church in Colosse, its pastor Epaphras came to Rome to visit Paul. Why would he make the 1300 mile journey just to see Paul? There were some problems with the church in Colosse. They were being influenced by some ideas that mixed Judaism, Pagan religions, and Christianity. Thier message included a belief in self-salvation. This was a danger to the true teaching of Jesus. Epaphras wanted to discuss this with Paul personally. In the letter Paul does not directly address those who are teaching falsely in the church. He simply overwhelms their errors by confronting the Colossians with the full riches of the Gospel of Christ. Throughout the letter there is constant emphasis on the greatness of Christ. Paul knew that the more thoroughly the Colossian believers understand the person and work of Christ, the better equipped they will be to recognize and reject errors like the one seeking to win its way into their congregation.

From the time that this epistle was written to our own day the clear message of the gospel and salvation by grace through faith in Christ has been obscured by many false teachers. In Colossians Paul cuts through all the confusion of human laws and ideas and simply and directly points us to Christ. Christ is sufficient for our eternal salvation, and he is sufficient for our day-to-day living as his children.

One of the things that struck me this week as I was reading through Colossians is the wonderfully clear view of Christ it presents. We see that Jesus was fully God and fully man. He was the Messiah and salvation comes only through him. His ministry was one of love and caring so that “Christ is all, and in all.” (ESV) or as the New Living Translation says, “Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us” (Colossians 3:11b NLT).

Chapter 4 has one of the best messages of evangelism in the entire New Testament. “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.(Colossians 4: 5-6 NIV). We all should live our lives in such a way.

I know we got into 1 Thessalonians a bit this week too but I will hold my comments on it until next week.

Bits and Pieces

We will finish 1st as well as 2nd Thessalonians this week. We will also start on 1 Timothy. Here are the vital stats on 2 Thessalonians:

PURPOSE: To clear up the confusion about the second coming of Christ
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The church at Thessalonica, and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 51 or 52, a few months after 1 Thessalonians from Corinth
SETTING: Many in the church were confused about the timing of Christ’s return. Because of mounting persecution, they though the day of the Lord must be imminent, and they interpreted Paul’s first letter to say that the second coming would be at any moment. In light of this misunderstanding, many persisted in being idle and disorderly, with the excuse of waiting for Christ’s return.
KEY VERSE: “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance” (3:5)
LAW THEMES: Steadfastness; affliction; eternal destruction; man of lawlessness; idleness.
GOSPEL THEMES: The Gospel message; God’s righteousness; Jesus gathers us; the Spirit sanctifies us.
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Silas, Timothy
KEY PLACE: Thessalonica
SPECIAL FEATURES: This is a follow-up letter to 1 Thessalonians. In this letter, Paul indicates various events that must precede the second coming of Christ.

Here are the vital stats for 1 Timothy:
PURPOSE: To give encouragement and instruction to Timothy, a young leader.
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Timothy, young church leaders, and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 64, from Rome or Macedonia (possibly Philippi), probably just prior to Paul’s final imprisonment in Rome
SETTING: Timothy was one of Paul’s closest companions. Paul had sent Timothy to the church at Ephesus to counter the false teaching that had arisen there. Timothy probably served for a time as a leader in the church at Ephesus. Paul hoped to visit Timothy, but in the meantime, he wrote this letter to give Timothy practical advice about the ministry.
KEY VERSE: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” (4:12)
LAW THEMES: Charged/Appointed with service; thread of false teachers; management.
GOSPEL THEMES: The glorious Gospel; salvation through Christ, our Mediator; hallowed by God’s Word/grace.
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Timothy
KEY PLACE: Ephesus
SPECIAL FEATURES: First Timothy is a personal letter and handbook of church administration and discipline.

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