Monday, November 25, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of November 24, 2019

Sermon: “Long Live the King!”

In early September I made my way into Hobby Lobby to pick up something for Kids Bible Discovery.  The weather was warm, the great feeling of being done with a busy summer and the hope of a new school year were on my mind.  The sun was high in the sky and with a smile on my face I strode into the store only to be confronted with…Christmas. 

Before a single leaf had started to turn, my vision started to burn.  Well ahead of sweater weather, and before I could prepare whatsoever, my eyeballs were accosted by red and green tinsel, giant blow up snowmen, and twinkling trees ready to welcome the newborn King.

I’m never in a great mood when Christmas comes too early.  In my house we don't decorate for Christmas until after Thanksgiving.  Now, don't get me wrong, I love Christmas.  I love everything about it.  The gifts, the decorations, the food, and the time spent with family, but there is a time and place, and that time is not now, and that place is not here…yet.

All that being said, I want to turn your attention this morning to the season of Advent, and the celebration of Christmas.  Now before some of you roll your eyes because it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, hear me out.  And I’m sure some of you are saying, “Finally!  I’ve had my tree up since All-Saints Day!”

This past Sunday was Christ the King Sunday.  It’s also the last Sunday of the Church year, or the 24th Sunday after Pentecost.  This coming Sunday will be the beginning of a New Church year as we begin the season of Advent.  The Church year is more than just a way to pass the time, mark the seasons, or give the altar guild something to do to change the paraments in the church.  The Church year can instruct, enlighten and help us see the grand narrative played out in the pages of Holy Scripture. 

This past Sunday, November 24th is the culmination of the celebration that began almost a year ago.  To understand Christ the King, we need to go back to the beginning of Luke’s Gospel to see how this all began. 

In the first chapter of Luke we see the angel Gabriel paying a visit to a young virgin named Mary, “Do not be afraid, Mary” the angel said, “For you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:30-33) 

In the Church year, this text foreshadows today, Christ the King Sunday, but there is more.  In Luke 2, that famous Christmas Gospel we hear more about this child.  As an angel visits some shepherds they hear, “Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be or all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

Now, it might not be as overt in the text, but the shepherds got the message loud and clear.  A baby born in the hometown of King David who is called the Christ, this must be a king.  Christ is the Greek word for Messiah which means “the anointed one”.  People set apart were anointed, like prophets, priests and kings.  This anointed one would fill all three positions as the Christ of God, the Savior of the world.

Paging through Luke’s Gospel we see a number of other instances where Jesus is called a king. In fact at His two trials, that is the accusation; that He is the Christ, the King of the Jews. 

That brings us to our Gospel lesson from Luke the 23rd chapter, and without the context of the Church year it might sound out of place. Luke writes, 33 When they came to the place called The Skull, they crucified him. The criminals were also crucified, one on his right and the  other on his left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” Meanwhile, the soldiers divided his clothes among themselves by throwing dice. 35 The people stood there watching. But the rulers were making sarcastic remarks. They said, “He saved others. If he’s the Messiah that God has chosen, let him save himself!” 36 The soldiers also made fun of him. They would go up to him, offer him some vinegar, 37 and say, “If you’re the king of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 A written notice was placed above him. It said, “This is the king of the Jews.” (Luke 23:33-38)

Doesn’t sound like the story of most royalty?  His reign seemed to be coming to an end before it even began.  There would be no shouts of “Long live the king!”  Instead there would just be insults and mocking towards the one whose head wore a crown of thorns.

That phrase, “Long live the king!” has been used for centuries in the western world at the coronation of a new monarch.  It seems to have its roots in France at the coronation of Charles VII (7th) in 1422.    Perhaps you know it spoken in jest by Scar in the Lion King, as he sends Mufasa to his death, but I digress. 

There are some long reigning monarchs in western history.  The longest being Louis XIV (14th) of France who reigned for 72 years 110 days.  Louis the XIV (14th) was known as the Sun King for he thought so highly of himself that as the planets revolved around the sun, all of France revolved around him.

The longest currently reigning monarch is Queen Elizabeth II who has reigned for 67 years 286 days and counting.  She has celebrated her Silver, Golden, Diamond and Sapphire Jubilees, during her long reign.
But how long was Jesus’ reign?  The promised descendant of King David lived a mere 33 years.  The Messiah that was foretold by the prophets never had a coronation celebration or a jubilee festivity. Or did He?

Jesus truly begins His reign precisely at the moment when He suffers the deepest humiliations.  The inscription over the cross, meant to mock His messianic claims, speaks the very truth.  Jesus, the Messiah and King is saving sinners.  As King eternal He could save Himself, but in love He will once again not give into the temptations of Satan. 

In fact, on the cross He shows what He will do for all humanity.  Luke continues, 39 One of the criminals hanging there insulted Jesus by saying, “So you’re really the Messiah, are you? Well, save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal scolded him: “Don’t you fear God at all? Can’t you see that you’re condemned in the same way that he is? 41 Our punishment is fair. We’re getting what we deserve. But this man hasn’t done anything wrong.”42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.” 43 Jesus said to him, “I can guarantee this truth: Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)

This criminal on the brink of death and hell, suffering for his own sin is the first to come face to face with Jesus’s announcement that sin is forgiven by virtue of the cross.  This sinner is embraced by the One who saves, the Christ, God’s anointed Messiah, the King of the Jews.  As the King takes his last breath and dies, sin’s reign is finished and the Messiah’s begins.  Three days later death’s power is shattered and the reign of love, mercy and grace explode upon the world in powerful, transformational ways and we all cry “Long live the King!” Next week as green gives way to blue and a new Church year begins, we move into the season of Advent where we wait with eager expectation for the return of the King.   And in this grand story we find ourselves as one of the players. 

We are like that criminal hanging on the cross, trapped by our sin, unable to save ourselves.  Our punishment is fair, we are getting what we deserve, but in Christ the King, something amazing happens.  And like that criminal, we too are freed from our condition by a word of Grace and an act of love. “Today you will be with me in paradise!”

At the cross, Jesus is King; in this place in Word and Sacrament the King is here to confirm His promise to His own, that on account of Christ your sin is forgiven. And here we hear the words spoken to sinful criminals, “Today you will be with me in paradise!”  And this promise is a certainty.  The King has decreed it to be, His words are truth and that truth will set us free. The reign of the true Son King has begun and will continue far beyond that of Louis the XIV (14th) or Elizabeth II. 

When we shout out “Long live the King!” it is with the knowledge that as sons and daughters of the King, we proclaim what Isaiah foretold, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

And we are heirs to eternity as Peter writes in his epistle, But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)

Christmas is never too early for the children of the King.  So, feel free to decorate early, you even have my permission to keep your decorations up all year in celebration of Christ to King who comes to us not just in Advent and Christmas but all year, every day, in so many ways.  Next year when I go to Hobby Lobby I will do my best to remember that it’s never too early to celebrate.  And as we finish the church year we see the culmination of the story that began in Bethlehem and was fulfilled on the cross as Jesus cries out, “Today you will be with me in paradise!” And in many ways, Jesus says to you, His chosen people and royal priests, may you live long with the King!
-Pr. Seth Moorman

The One Year Bible- November 25th

The Holiday season is in full swing and now more than ever your Bible reading time may be impacted. With so many things to do and gifts to buy it might be easy to forget your readings. If this happens don't worry. First of all you may need to be even more deliberate in your planning for time in the Word and if you fall behind remember my easy rule, just read two a day until you catch up. Don't kill yourself trying to get all the readings done in a day. Maybe you can take your Bible to the mall and take a shopping break and do some reading. This could be a great witness of your faith and may even spark a discussion with someone else. You can tell them about the real meaning of the season. Speaking of shopping, this may be the time to think about next year and your Bible reading habits. Perhaps you want to do this again but this time read a different version. I will be doing this same study in 2020 so you can do it again with me if you would like. Here is another idea. Ask a friend of yours to read with you. You can look at each week’s study and then talk about it over coffee or lunch or even via email. There are many ways to continue this great habit you have begun. You could also look at reading a book like “The Story” that uses just the narrative of the Bible text to tell the chronological story found in Scripture.  I will keep trying to motivate you as we hit the stretch run and push on through to 2019 but for now, on to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
We finished up the last part of Ezekiel with the end of the vision of the New Jerusalem and Ezekiel gave a reminder to the people of God's commands including the keeping of the Passover. Ezekiel makes reference again to the three fold promise that was given to Abraham when the land was again divided among the tribes. Ezekiel ends with a sense of hope and looking forward to the return of the remnant back to Jerusalem. But it doesn't stop there. The hope of a continued future for God's chosen people goes beyond the return and into the future where there will be an even greater Jerusalem. I think we talked about this before but I will say again, to remember this vision of Jerusalem, because we will see a very similar one in the book of Revelation.

The book of Daniel once again picks up the narrative story of the people of Israel in captivity in Babylon. We see four important characters right away, Daniel, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego). These were all young healthy men that were put into the service of King Nebuchadnezzar. They all had special gifts from God, "To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds." (Daniel 1:17 NIV). The story reads like a novel and is easy to follow. There are some great Sunday School stories in its pages as well. One thing that struck me this time was that the story of Daniel has a lot of parallels to that of Joseph. Both of them were sent to a foreign country under duress. Both interpreted dreams. Both became important political members in their new country. Many of the other stories are familiar to us such as the fiery furnace, the hand writing on the wall and Daniel and the Lions Den. Each story seemed to point to the fact that God was still involved and cared about his people. He was active in creation and wanted the whole world to bow down and worship him. 

The New Testament
So many great visuals to use when reading 1 and 2 Peter; for example the living stones (1Peter 2:5) reference really hits home with me. We are all just one piece of the puzzle that is part of the spiritual temple that is the church. We may look different and have different strengths and weaknesses but we are all important. Peter likes to use many references from the Old Testament in his letters. He uses them in great ways. Peter reminds us that we are “aliens and strangers” (1 Peter 2:11 NIV) and we are to conduct ourselves in a manner that will honor God. We must always love on another and not worry when we suffer, and we will suffer. Peter makes the connection between Noah and baptism in 1 Peter 3. This is important because it gives us an Old Testament story to describe a New Testament activity. This gives more substance to the teachings of the New Testament. The book of 2 Peter talks a lot about our response to God’s promises (2 Peter 1:5). As Christians we are not called to static, stoic lives. We are called to action in response to what God has already done for us. We must now work hard in the life we have been given, knowing that God will take care of us. Peter also gives us a glimpse of the spiritual war that rages beyond Earth. In 2 Peter 2 he references hell where the angels that sin were sent to. We never get a full picture of this struggle, but we know it was bad and nothing we want to be a part of. One of the greatest parts of 2 Peter is when he writes, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8-9 NIV). There were some in Peter’s day (and in our day as well) that can’t seem to wait until Jesus returns. They think he should have come back a long time ago. Peter wants to tell these people that it is not that God has forgotten; it is just that he wants as many people to be saved as possible. The longer he waits the more people will be in heaven. How long will he wait? Only he knows. Praise God for his patience!!!

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We will finish up Daniel this week and move on to the book of Hosea. We will really start getting through the books in a hurry coming up. Here are the vital stats for Hosea:

PURPOSE: To illustrate God’s love for his sinful people
AUTHOR: Hosea son of Beeri (“Hosea” means “salvation”)
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Israel (the northern Kingdom) and God’s people everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: Approximately 715 B.C. recording events from about 753-715 B.C.
SETTING: Hosea began his ministry during the end of the prosperous but morally declining reign of Jeroboam II of Israel (the upper classes were doing well, but they were oppressing the poor). He prophesied until shortly after the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C.
KEY VERSE: “The Lord said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another adultress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods.’” (3:1)
KEY PEOPLE: Hosea, Gomer, their children
KEY PLACES: The northern kingdom, Samaria, Ephraim
SPECIAL FEATURES: Hosea employs many images from daily life—God is depicted as husband, father, lion, leopard, bear, dew, rain, moth, and others. Israel is pictured as wife, sick person, vine, grapes, early fruit, olive tree, woman in childbirth, oven, morning mist, chaff, and smoke to name a few.

The New Testament
We will read through 1 John and get into 2 John this week. First the vital stats on 1 John:

PURPOSE: To reassure Christians in their faith and to counter false teachings
AUTHOR: The apostle John
TO WHOM WRITTEN: This letter is untitled and was written to no particular church. It was sent as a pastoral letter to several Gentile congregations. It was also written to all believers everywhere.
DATE WRITTEN: Probably between A.D. 85 and 90 from Ephesus
SETTING: John was an older man and perhaps the only surviving apostle at this time. He had not yet been banished to the island of Patmos, where he would live in exile. As an eyewitness of Christ, he wrote authoritatively to give this new generation of believers assurance and confidence in God and their new faith.
LAW THEMES: Sin; walking in darkness or light; God’s commands; hatred; death; deceit; antichrist(s); love one another; lawlessness; deceivers; wicked works; imitate God, not evil.
GOSPEL THEMES: Christ, the atoning sacrifice; our advocate; eternal life; God perfects His love in us; light; born of God; children of God; truth; fellowship;  reward; abiding in Christ’s teachings; Christ has come in the flesh.
SPECIAL FEATURES: John is the apostle of love, and love is mentioned throughout this letter. There are a number of similarities between this letter and John’s Gospel—in vocabulary, style, and main ideas. John uses simple words and brief statements, and he features sharp contrasts—light and darkness, truth and error, God and Satan, life and death, love and hate.

And here are the vital stats for 2 John:
PURPOSE: To emphasize the basics of following Christ—truth and love—and to warn against false teachers
AUTHOR: The apostle John
TO WHOM WRITTEN: To “the chosen lady” and her children—or possibly to a local church, and all believers everywhere.
DATE WRITTEN: About the same time as 1 John around 90 A.D. from Ephesus
SETTING: Evidently this woman and her family were involved in one of the churches that John was overseeing—they had developed a strong friendship with John. John was warning her of the false teachers who were becoming prevalent in some of the churches.
LAW THEMES; see above
GOSPEL THEMES: see above
KEY VERSE: “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love” (verse 6).

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of November 17, 2019

Sermon: “Worshipping Faithfully”

Did you catch it?  Worship is NOT about location!  “The day is coming when you will worship neither this mountain nor in Jerusalem.”  The Samaritans had long roots for their worship address.  Abraham had offered Isaac on an altar there.  It wasn’t like the Jewish community were newcomers to their address either.  David had offered to build God a house and Solomon had completed the construction project.  Yet, Jesus, now declares that address doesn’t grant access; worship is not bound to location but the incarnation.  God is now, in Jesus, tabernacling in the flesh, and this Jesus ushers us into God’s presence.  A presence that is not isolated to here or there propositions.  Of course, the worship conversation came up in a way because the woman was attempting to detour Jesus.  He was in Samaria because He took a detour, if you will; Jesus didn’t “have to” go through Samaria to get to Galilee.  It wasn’t as if it were required of Him in terms of circumnavigation.  Jesus “had to” go through Samaria John tells us; and it appears this is the reason why!  His purposeful meeting of the unexpecting water gathering Samaritan. 

Often we too are caught off guard by divine encounters.  Even when we head to the “location”, “address”, of His presence i.e. church.  It is possible on occasion you’ve come to church like the woman, feeling unwelcome, an outsider among your own.  At times perhaps like her, you’ve viewed heading to church a chore that must be accomplished.  There may even have been moments when somewhat like the disciples, “You’ve wondered what in the world is that person doing talking with Jesus?”   Regardless of how we arrive, Jesus purposefully meets us!  He won’t let us hide our guilt from Him, even if we’ve managed to keep it well concealed from everyone else.  In fact, that is what He “had to do.”  He came to deal with her sin, and ours, on a different Mt. Calvary.  Having done so successfully, having paid the price for our sin, Himself a perfect sacrifice and pure offering, His resurrection assuring us that sin, and death and devil are defeated, He comes to meet us where we are, and opens our hearts and minds to where we go when we enter worship.  

-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, November 18, 2019

The One Year Bible- November 18th

With thankful hearts, family events coming up, the anticipation of Advent and eyes cast upon Christmas it may be hard to find time this holiday season to read your Bible every day. It seems that every year there is more to do and less time for our own interests. Make sure you have a plan before your time runs short and you find yourself so busy with holiday preparations that other things don’t get done. Make sure that you carve out (pun intended) some time each and every day to spend time in God’s word. On to the study…

Seth’s Thoughts 
The Old Testament
The book of Ezekiel is winding down. This week we got to probably one of the most famous parts of his prophecy, that is the Valley of the Dry Bones. From Kieth Kuschel’s commentary on Ezekiel:

The faith of the child of God is constantly threatened by two opposing dangers: overconfidence and despair. It was to the second of these dangers that God’s message in Ezekiel 37 is addressed. In the previous chapter God had assured his people that the exiles now in Babylon were not forever gone, but that “they would soon come home” (38:8). God’s people were so depressed by their situation, however, that they found it difficult to believe God’s promise. They said: “Our hope is gone; we are cut off” (37:11). To reassure his people God granted Ezekiel a remarkable vision: the vision of the valley of the dry bones. God’s question of Ezekiel—“can these bones live?”—normally would have been answered in the negative. Ezekiel’s reply was interesting. He said, “Only the Person who made all those bones could make them alive.” Only the God who made man from the dust of the earth could make something living out of that valley full of bones which represented the whole community of exiles. The Lord promised to do for these bones just what he had done for the dust formed into a body in Eden: “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). At the Lord’s command, Ezekiel prophesied to lifeless bones and a miracle happened. There was a rattling noise as bone came together to bone. To Ezekiel the valley seemed no longer to be full of disconnected bones but of skeletons. God’s miracle continued, “Tendons and flesh appeared on them.” Now the valley resembled a battlefield littered with corpses. But God’s miracle was still not over. At God’s command Ezekiel continued to prophesy, and breath entered that army of corpses, and they came to life and stood up. Through a vision Ezekiel saw how God would re-create his people now apparently hopelessly lost in Babylon. Ezekiel carried out his orders and the Lord kept his promise. This ought to be a description of our lives: We carried out the Lord’s orders and the Lord carried out his promises. Knowledge that we are doing the Lord’s will in our lives is what takes away the boredom and drudgery. We are not just working for a paycheck. We are serving God and supporting our families as God expects. We are not just studying. We are using our minds to the maximum capacity because the Lord has called us to be good managers of our intellect. We are not just taking care or the kids. We are shaping the souls of God’s own children by letting them learn of Jesus from the way we talk and act. And the Lord keeps his promise, just as he did when Ezekiel preached to those dry bones as he was instructed to. After Jerusalem had fallen and the rest of the nation had joined them in exile, the Jews in Babylon had given up hope. “As a people and a nation we are just as good as dead.” they said. To which the Lord replied, “I can change that. I can raise you from the dead! I can return you to your land. Nothing is impossible for me.” This vision of the dry bones might have been the basis for the New Testament picture of the spiritual status of all people. St. Paul, for example, wrote, “You were dead in your transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). By nature everyone is spiritually dead, unable to do anything pleasing to God. But in his might and mercy the Lord has made us “alive with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4). This makes it possible for us who were “foreigners and aliens,” exiled from God because of sin, to become “fellow citizens with God’s people” (Ephesians 2:111-13, 19).

The New Testament
James is one of those books that has a checkered past in the history of the Church. It was one of the books that underwent a tough fight before it found its place in the New Testament. Many of the objections to the book revolve around the issue of good works. From a quick reading, it does seem like the book preached a faith and works salvation. This problem cannot just be swept away easily. Martin Luther called James an “epistle of straw”, meaning that it had not much substance or worth according to him. This viewpoint has not been held tightly even in the Lutheran church, although many of the teachings of the book are very difficult to translate. The one big way to help bring about understanding, at least for me, is to think of the works portions as a natural result of faith. When we look at good works as the logical outcome of living a life of faith then it is only natural to think that if there are no works there must not be true faith. I don’t know if this helps you or not but it works for me. Another way to help is by reading the book of James through Ephesians 2:8-10, “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. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

From The Life Application Bible intro to the book of James:
Genuine faith will inevitable produce good works. This is the central theme of James’s letter, around which he supplies practical advice on living the Christian life.James begins his letter by outlining some general characteristics of the Christian life (1:1-27). Next he exhorts Christians to act justly in society (2:1-13). He follows this practical advice with a theological discourse between faith and action (2:14-26). Then James shows the importance of controlling one’s speech (3:1-12). In 3:13-18, James distinguishes two kinds of wisdom, earthly and heavenly. Then he encourages his readers to turn from evil desires and obey God (4:1-12). James reproves those who trust in their own plans and possessions (4:13-5:6). Finally, he exhorts his readers to be patient with each other (5:7-11), to be straightforward in their promises (5:12), to pray for each other (5:13-18), and to help each other remain faithful to God (5:19,20).

This letter could be considered a how-to book on Christian living. Confrontation, challenge, and a call to commitment awaits you in its pages. Read James and become a doer of the Word (1:22-25).

Bits and Pieces
The Old Testament
We will finish up Ezekiel this week and start on the book of Daniel. Here are the vital stats for Daniel:

PURPOSE: To give a historical account of the faithful Jews who lived in captivity and to show how God is in control of heaven and earth, directing the forces of nature, the destiny of nations, and the care of his people.
AUTHOR: Daniel
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The other captives in Babylon and God’s people everywhere.
DATE WRITTEN: Approximately 535 B.C., recording events from about 605-535 B.C.
SETTING: Daniel has been taken captive and deported to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 B.C. There he serves in the government for about 60 years during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus.
KEY VERSE: “He [God] reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him” (2:22)
LAW THEMES: Babylon holds Judah captive; Judah has failed to obey God’s voice and has violated God’s covenant; open shame; apocryphal events, including the profaning of the temple and the abomination that makes desolate; God’s final judgment of mankind; everlasting contempt.
GOSPEL THEMES: The Most High God rules the kingdom of men; He keeps his covenant; mercy for the oppressed; His Anointed One will rule a kingdom that shall never be destroyed; an everlasting dominion; everlasting life.
KEY PEOPLE: Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, Shadrach, Mexhach, Abednego, Balshazzar, Darius
KEY PLACES: Nebuchadnezzar’s palace, the fiery furnace, Belshazzar’s banquet, the den of lions.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Daniel’s apocalyptic visions (chapters 8-12) give a glimpse of God’s plan for the ages, including a direct prediction of the Messiah

The New Testament
We will finish up 1 Peter and get into 2 Peter this week. Here are the vital stats for 2 Peter:

PURPOSE: To warn Christians about false teachers and to exhort them to grow in their faith in and knowledge of Christ
TO WHOM WRITTEN: To the church at large, and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 67, three years after 1 Peter was written, possibly from Rome
SETTING: Peter knew that his time on earth was limited (1:13-14), so he wrote about what was on his heart, warning believers of that would happen when he was gone—especially about the presence of false teachers. He reminded his readers of the unchanging truth of the gospel.
KEY VERSE: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and goodness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (1:3)
LAW THEMES: Exhortations to virtue; warnings against false prophets; ignorance; nearsightedness; forgetfulness; fiery judgment; destruction of the ungodly.
GOSPEL THEMES: God’s sure Word; the Spirit’s work; Christ cleansed us from our former sins; eternal kingdom; God promises new heavens and a new earth; God does not wish any to perish.
SPECIAL FEATURES: The date and destination are uncertain, and the authorship has been disputed. Because of this, 2 Peter was the last book admitted to the canon of the New Testament Scripture. Also, there are similarities between 2 Peter and Jude.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of November 10, 2019

Sermon: “Worshipping Faithfully”

Last week we talked about the “we” in worship.
  • Worship is a “we” event as we are all gathered together in His name both with the saints on earth and those above.  
  • Worship is a “wee” moment, a small slice of your daily lives, and
  • Worship is a “weeeee” experience, that thrilling rush when we realize that God himself and His gifts come to us here. 

Today we will see that worship is a “to be” reality.  We are all called to be living sacrifices and live a life of worship with our whole being and that is what worshiping faithfully is all about.

To begin I want to start by looking at our Old Testament lesson from Sunday.  From Exodus chapter 3, “Moses was taking care of the sheep of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian.” (Exodus 3:1a)  Let’s stop right there. 

I’m guessing that many of you know the story of Moses, but let me sum it up for you.  Since the time of Joseph, Jacob’s family had lived in Egypt.  They grew in numbers and the promise given to Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation was coming to pass. The new Pharaoh soon became leery of the Israelites and ordered all the male children born to God’s people to be killed in hopes of destroying them. But when Moses was born his mother hid him in a basket, set him in the Nile and was spared; the Pharaoh’s daughter eventually discovered him and Moses grew up in the court of the king and became a powerful person in Egypt.   One day Moses sees an Egyptian mistreating an Israelite so he intervenes. In doing so he commits murder and runs away to the land of Midian.  Back to the text…

 “As [Moses] led the sheep to the far side of the desert, he came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  The Messenger of the LORD appeared to him there as flames of fire coming out of a bush.  Moses looked, and although the bush was on fire, it was not burning up.  So he thought, ‘Why isn’t this bush burning up?  I must go over there and see this strange sight.  When the LORD saw that Moses had come over to see it, God called him form the bush Moses, Moses!  Moses answered, ‘Here I am!’” (Exodus 3:1b-4)

You heard the rest of the text; Moses encounters God visibly and tangibly.  Moses takes off his sandals because he was standing on holy ground.  In this text we see that God calls, God redeems, God loves and God sends his people to be.

The great “I AM” calls Moses “to be” with the people, to stop running away, and go with confidence to be a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. 

Moses was a runaway.
  • He ran from his trouble thinking they would disappear.
  • He fled from those who sought to bring him to justice
  • He attempted to justify his behavior in order to gain his freedom and ultimately…
  • He was a prisoner of his disobedience, separated from God, but God had other plans.

His story is not unlike your story.  Your inclination and mine is to run from trouble, flee from the things that seek retribution or justice and justify behavior in order to be free.  But it doesn't work. 

What have you done or left undone that has put you on the run?   So often our feet do not stand on holy ground and attempt to make an end around.  The calling “to be” is replaced by the desire to just be me.    What have you put your trust in that makes the worship of the great “I Am” something that is done only out of compulsion or habit? What is calling after you and enticing you to follow the things of the world?

Like Moses, you have been called, you have been redeemed, you have been loved and you have been sent to be.  This begins in this place, here in worship and with those around you as the church.  The word we translate as church in the New Testament has the idea of both being called out and called together. It is Christ who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light, did so through his nail scarred hands.

Without Jesus, the problem of sin and its vile handmaiden, death would run rampant in the world.  God himself had to enter the world of real sin and unrelenting death in order to bear its responsibility and pay its price. It’s through Christ’s body, beaten and broken and then raised to new life for us, that the enemies of this life and the next are defeated so that we might obtain the gifts of resurrection and everlasting life.

While our sin continues to distract us with salvation attempts that avoid all suffering because of the things we have done, it is the cross that counters all earthly attempts at justification.  It seeks all who have run away and run after.  It is at the cross that Christ saves through suffering and weakness rather than victory and strength. At the cross, Christ conquers what we cannot and redeems what we would rather worship. The scars of his hands become the sign of his victory, for by his wounds you have been healed. In Christ you are forgiven!! His cry of “It is finished!” is the call to be gathered together to worship faithfully. 

The church is that community that God has called out of the world, out of death and sin and hell, and into Christ, his mission, his ministry, his message and is sent to the ends of the earth.  And in worship is where we are called out, called together and called to be.  From this “we” moment we are “to be” in the world.  Like Moses at the burning bush, in worship we too come face to face with God’s mercy and grace, which fundamentally changes who we are and what we do. 

Word, Spirit and Sacrament come to us in real, tangible, objective ways when we are gathered in this place.  Here week after week, we hear the call again and are gathered into Christ. In worship we are most at rest and most alive.  As we worship we receive and we offer back what we have first received.  We sing in celebration because God has given us a song.  We recite and speak the Word because we have received all the promises of the Word made flesh, in Christ.  We proclaim the forgiveness of sin because we have received forgiveness at the cross and we proclaim the passion, the death and the resurrection of our Lord because through him we have been raised to newness of life. As we worship Christ himself arrives and is genuinely and truly present with us.  He is not present is some strange spiritual or metaphorical sense. 

When Christ says he is present, he doesn't mean he is symbolically present.  When we tell our kids, “Don’t worry, I’ll pick you up at five” we mean what we say.  This is not a symbolic promise.  My kids would not stand for this and in worship we shouldn’t either. Christ really comes to you here in this place. 

In word and sacrament, the Lord who calls and gathers, arrives. Here God himself is present and beyond our comprehension the sacraments unveil themselves, unmasking their appearance with profound comfort, not bread and wine alone, not water alone, not just words on a page of ancient writing. No!  He is here!!

In worship we are not alone, Christ is here and to be with Christ means we receive the forgiveness of sins, the Spirit of truth, the holiness of righteousness, the life that never dies, the Father who never leaves, the Spirit who enlivens us to understanding, the faith that rests on God’s words, and the brother and sister next to you who need you, because you bring Christ to them.

Worshipping faithfully is much more than just the “wee” hour you are here in this place.  Scripture describes our spiritual act of worship is “to be” living sacrifices to those next to you.

In his letter to the Romans Paul lays out what worship looks like every day when he writes, “Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

Worship is a “to be” reality not just in the wee moment you are here but “to be” in every moment.

We live in a world where oh so many are alone, running from their sin and hiding in the lifeless desert of life.

God calls us to be with them, partnered with one another and enjoined to an intimate fellowship of Christ’s own making that preserves, admonishes, forgives, encourages, proclaims, and strengthens to be Jesus to them.

Today we stand on holy ground for here in this place we encounter the very presence of God and are given all the gifts of Christ himself and everything we need to be living sacrifices; you for me and me for you; us for the world; us with Christ out in the world as living sacrifices holy and pleasing…this is our spiritual act of worship. 

In Christ, the span of separation is overcome; the chasm of sin is crossed.  As we become living sacrifices for others we bring the gifts of Christ to the world.  We are Christ’s and he is ours and the world waits for the gifts of Christ that are given to you here because the world longs for the news that death is no more and that evil is condemned.

The world waits even if it is not aware its waiting, to make the confession that is already on your lips, that in Christ sin has been destroyed and through you he is calling the world, redeeming the world, loving the world as you are sent to be, this is living a life of worshiping faithfully.

-Pr. Seth Moorman

Monday, November 11, 2019

The One Year Bible- November 11th

If this is your first year reading through the Bible you may be tempted at the end to do what you do with a good book.  Some people like to take a weekend or a slow evening and finish it up in one sitting or in a few hours.  It is tempting to do, especially when you see that there are just a few pages left.  Some days I feel like that with our Bible readings but I want to give you some advice. If you want to finish reading the Bible in the next couple of days, do so. You will feel very accomplished, but then go back each day and review the readings. I kind of like to think that Bible reading is kind of like eating cheesecake. It is really good in small doses. If you try to eat the whole cake in one sitting you will get a tummy ache. It is way too rich and complex to try to digest all at once. If you can’t help yourself, go ahead and indulge. It really can’t hurt you, but you will get more out of your readings when you pace yourself. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
We keep plugging along in Ezekiel. This week’s readings seemed to be more “normal” than last weeks. Just the run of the mill judgments on Israel and the other countries (note the hint of sarcasm in my voice). I found one of the best nuggets of grace this week. At the end of Chapter 18 we read, “Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!.” (Ezekiel 18:31-32 NIV) Remember our discussion a few months back (I don’t exactly remember) when we talked about repentance and confession? This passage goes into that category. By this I mean that repentance and confession occur because of what God has already done for us. It is God who turns us by his word, and his Spirit. Another thing that I did not mention before is that God refers to Ezekiel by the phrase, “Son of Man”. Most scholars believe that when Jesus starts using this same term in reference to himself he was giving us an indication of his own character. By saying he [Jesus] was the Son of Man, he was saying that he is human. He has a human nature in addition to the divine. This is the same usage as God uses it in reference to the man Ezekiel. 

One other thing we saw this week and we will see again before the end of the book is the idea of “The Day of the Lord”. Whenever you see this phrase you should think: Judgment. This almost always refers to what will happen after the patience of God runs out and his punishment comes. Ezekiel was using in Chapter 30 in reference to what will happen to Egypt, but later it will be used in reference to the whole world. The New Testament picks up this same idea in Revelation.

A quick note here; did you catch that reference in Psalm 110 to Melchizedek? Like we talked about last week, this is a reference to the Messiah. Note the difference between LORD and Lord in this chapter. If LORD is Yahweh then Lord (at least in this chapter) could be the pre-incarnate Jesus. Neat stuff!!!

The New Testament
Where do I start? So much here, I want to talk about it all, but I do not have the time or the space to do it. So let’s start with the idea of the High Priest. I know we talked about it last week but here is some more info. When we teach children and new believers about the Faith we usually end up talking about the “offices” of Jesus. By this we do not mean the corner office in the company, we mean his jobs. We often say that he is prophet, priest, and king. The last two are very evident in the book of Hebrews. As a Jew, your only hope of forgiveness of sins lies with the High Priest. He is the only one that could go to God on your behalf and offer a sacrifice for the forgiveness of your sins. Jesus is now our high priest. He went to God for us and offered himself as the sacrifice. The author of the book of Hebrews really hammers this point home by discussing it over and over. This would have been a huge deal to a Jewish person. They are hard-wired to accept the idea of sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. Many Jews struggle with the idea that the Temple is no longer standing. Quite literally, in their view, they have not been able to have forgiveness of sins since 70 A.D when the Romans destroyed the temple. Jewish Christians can find comfort in the fact that the sacrifice has been done in the person of Christ and this is once for all! It does not need to happen over and over again. The destruction of the temple would have been a very convincing argument for the writer of Hebrews so many scholars feel that this book was written before that. Another thing to mention is the idea of shadows here on earth and the real temple being in heaven. This is rather Aristotelian as far a philosophy goes (no time to get into that here) but we can all try to understand what that means. Temple worship on earth was never meant to be “the-be-all-end-all” of the life of faith. It served to foreshadow what was to come. All good books have some foreshadowing. What is present on earth will be fulfilled and completed in the heavenly realms. It ends up being a matter of Faith, which is what comes next in the book. Chapter 11 of Hebrews is often called “The Faith Hall of Fame”. It tells of the accomplishments of many of the saints that have gone before and tells how they too believed in the promise of the Messiah. They did not know about the person of Jesus but they did know about the promised Messiah. Their actions to keep faith alive were credited to them as righteousness from God. The obeyed even though they never saw, heard, touched, or experienced the Messiah. How much more should we hold on in faith since we know all about Jesus and he promised he would be with us always. We get to spend some intimate time with him each time we partake in communion. We know him and he knows us!! Let us then hold firm to the faith we have been given!! “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV). 

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We will continue in Ezekiel and we will get to the famous dry bones story as well as the description of the new city of Jerusalem which has some parallels to Revelation; a lot to say about these in a later post.

The New Testament
We will read through the book of James this week as well as start 1 Peter. Here are the vital stats on James:

PURPOSE: To expose hypocritical practices and to teach right Christian behavior
AUTHOR: James, Jesus' brother, a leader in the Jerusalem church
TO WHOM WRITTEN: First-Century Jewish Christians residing in Gentile communities outside Palestine, and all Christians everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: Probably A.D. 49 prior to the Jerusalem council held in A.D. 50
SETING: This letter expresses James's concern for persecuted Christians who were once part of the Jerusalem church
LAW THEMES: Must keep the whole Law; death; works required for salvation; sinners judged by Law as transgressors; faith apart from works is dead.
GOSPEL THEMES: Good and perfect gifts from the Father of lights; brought forth by the Word or truth; heirs of the kingdom; counted as righteous; the coming of the LORD, compassionate and merciful; forgiveness; because of Christ’s death and resurrection, sinners are judged under the “law of liberty”.
KEY VERSE: "But some will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do" (2:18 NIV)

And here are the vital stats for the book of 1 Peter:

PURPOSE: To offer encouragement to suffering Christians
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Jewish Christians driven out of Jerusalem and scattered throughout Asia Minor, and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 62-64, possibly from Rome
SETTING: Peter was probably in Rome when the great persecution under emperor Nero began (Eventually Peter was executed during this persecution). Throughout the Roman empire, Christians were being tortured and killed for their faith, and the church in Jerusalem was being scattered throughout the Mediterranean world.
LAW THEMES: Sin; ignorance of foolish people; perishable; disobeying God’s Word; darkness; judgment; fiery trials.
GOSPEL THEMES: Christ bore our sins in His body; He suffered for us; He ransomed sinners; He is imperishable; Christ’s death involved a righteous man dying for unrighteous people (the great exchange); marvelous light; stand firm in God’s grace; God’s Word is the living and abiding Word; good news; royal priesthood; holy nation; chosen race.
KEY VERSE: "These have come so that your faith...may be proved genuine and may result in priais, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1:7 NIV)
KEY PEOPLE: Peter, Silas, Mark
KEY PLACES: Jerusalem, Rome, and the regions of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia Minor, and Bithynia
SPECIAL FEATURES: Peter used several images that were very special to him because Jesus had used them when he revealed certain truths to Peter. Peter's name (which means "rock") had been given to him by Jesus. Peter's conception of the church- a spiritual house composed of living stones build upon Christ as the foundation- came from Christ. Jesus encouraged Peter to care for the church as a shepherd tending the flock. Thus it is not surprising to see Peter use living stones (2:5-9) and shepherds and sheep (2:25; 5:2,4) to describe the church.

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