Monday, January 27, 2020

The One Year Bible- January 27th

At the end of the week we will have finished one month reading through the Bible and I hope it has been a blessing to you.  I have been thinking about the over arching story of the Bible.  As we journey in the Bible this year we will see narrative sections as well as prescriptive sections.  The narrative portions get the big billing since they tell the “story,” but don’t just skip past the other sections.  There is some good stuff in there.  Just over 40% of the Old Testament is devoted to telling the narrative story.  The following Old Testament books are largely or entirely composed of narrative material: Genesis, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Jonah, and Haggai.  Also, Exodus, Numbers, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Job contain substantial narrative portions.  People like stories, and the stories in the Bible are important.  They are purposeful stories that tell the historical events of the past and are intended to give meaning and direction for a given people in the present.  There is a difference in the Bible’s stories for they tell God’s story.  As the book How to Read the Bible for all Its Worth says, “The Biblical narrative tells the ultimate story—a story that, even though often complex, is utterly true and crucially important.  Indeed it is a magnificent story, grander than the greatest epic, richer in plot and more significant in its characters and descriptions than any humanly composed story could ever be.” (How To Read the Bible for All Its Worth, p. 90)  Enjoy the stories and remember to try to see the overarching story of God’s love for his creation and his desire to save us from sin. 

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
Exodus is a well written book that is foundational for the faith of both Christians and Jews; within its pages lie some of the key elements of our faith (the Passover, the 10 commandments a.k.a. the 10 words). A reading of this book is not complete without seeing the awesome wonder and power of God. One of the key words in the Old Testament is translated as “remembered”, as in God remembered his people, the people are to remember to celebrate the Passover etc. This is a theologically significant word in that it shows God’s grace and his love for his people. This theme will be carried out to completion as God “remembers” his people once again as they are slaves to sin and provides redemption through his son. Before we get to the Passover lets take a closer look at one of the most famous sections in the book, namely the plagues. Much has been made of these events in movies and other media but they show how God works in systematic ways. One thing to remember is that even when God showed his mighty wonders, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. He said the right things but went back on his word. I think at times we are all a bit like Pharaoh. We like to have things our own way and when things are going badly we will promise everything. Things ease up and we go back on our word. Eventually this will end up badly for us. But I am getting off track, so back to the plagues...

Before the first plague Moses and Aaron have a confrontation with Pharaoh and his magicians. We see here that Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them. By looking at the first nine plagues in groups of three we can see some interesting things.

The Plagues:

1. Blood (7:14-25)
2. Frogs (8:1-15)
3. Gnats (8:16-19)

4. Flies (8:20-32)
5. Animal Disease (9:1-7)
6. Boils (9:8-12)

7. Hail (9:13-35)
8. Locusts (10:1-20)
9. Darkness (10:21-27)

In each series the first and second plagues are announced to Pharaoh in advance. The third is given without previous warning. The series of 3 x 3 leads up to a climax in number 10—the number that is the symbol for completeness. Within the plagues themselves there is a progression, an increase in severity. The last three are especially severe and destructive. The Egyptian magicians vie with Moses in duplicating the first two plagues. At the third they try but no longer succeed in their magic arts. They must confess, “This is the finger of God.” Beginning with the second group of plagues (4,5 & 6) a distinction is made between the Israelites and the Egyptians. The land of Goshen where the Israelites live is spared. The first nine plagues deal with phenomena that have to do with nature. Since the Egyptians worshiped the powers of nature, what more effective way could God display his power over all things, which they looked upon as deities? The tenth plague was the plague of the firstborn. With this plague all the first-born were to be killed. But the angel was to “pass over” the homes of the Israelites.

The Passover presents to us one of the most important Old Testament types of the Savior Jesus Christ. As we look at the directions for preparing the Passover meal, we see step by step how the entire ritual points to Christ, our Passover lamb. The Passover lamb was to be a year-old male. John the Baptist tells of the Messiah who was to be the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." In Corinthians, Paul says, “For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.” God directed that this Passover lamb was to be “without defect.” Peter wrote that we were redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” The Passover lamb was to be slaughtered as a sacrifice. Paul reminded his people “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”. The writer of the book of Hebrews repeatedly refers to Christ as an “offering” and “sacrifice”. “Do not break any of the bones.” This was direct foreshadowing of Jesus. The Israelites were to “take some of the blood and but it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses.” God said, “When I see the blood I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” This points to the teaching that we are redeemed from the power of sin, death and Satan with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. God tells the people that they are to remember the Passover for “generations to come”.
I hope you can see how the Passover celebration is important to our understanding of who Jesus is and how he is the culmination of Gods redeeming work on earth. It is no coincidence that Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples the night before he was betrayed. Again it is no coincidence that Jesus instituted another celebration that is to be celebrated for “generations to come” as he gave his disciples the first communion feast.

The New Testament
I want to spend a little bit of time talking about parables this week since we have seen so many of them in the book of Matthew and we will see more as we go through the Gospels. In my seminary classes on the New Testament we spent quite a bit of time on parables because of their wonderful content and use for us not only as preachers but also as Christians. Today I would like to share with you some material from an article written by Dr. Erich H. Kiehl who was a professor at Concordia Seminary St. Louis for many years. He wrote an article titled “Why Jesus Spoke in Parables” in which he said:

A parable may be defined as “a story with a puzzling quality which confronts the hearer with the need to make a decision for or against Christ through the Spirits work.” Perhaps the most helpful is the more usual definition: “A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly (spiritual) meaning” with the addition “in the sense that it confronts the hearer with the need to make a decision for or against Christ through the Spirits work.”
An analysis of the content of the Gospels indicates that about one-third of the Gospel accounts are parables. Aside from their theological importance, parables shed much light on life in the New Testament era. Except for the Egyptian papyri, which emphasize life in Egypt, the parables are the best source of information about life in the Near East in the New Testament era. They reflect the innate love of graphic, pictorial speech and the great delight in a story, which is still true of life there today. Jesus’ parables demonstrate everyday experiences and events in the world of nature.

Since Jesus’ hearers would not listen to him on his terms, that is, the true meaning of the kingdom of God as revealed in Scripture, Jesus then began to speak to them in parables. His hearers had an innate love for graphic stories and pictorial speech. Jesus used this appealing parabolic approach to catch their attention and to seek to get them to ponder the true meaning of what he said. As people wondered and pondered what Jesus was telling them in his parables, the Holy Spirit could work in their hearts, seeking to lead them to the proper Biblical understanding of His message. In time, as the Spirit penetrated the hardness of the heart, hearers could grow in understanding of the true meaning and nature of God’s kingdom and of life in the kingdom. Crucial in this was the Spirit leading them to understand who Jesus truly is in His ministry and teaching as the fulfillment of the prophecies in his person and work, and its decisive implications for their life as members of God’s covenant people.
From The Concordia Journal July 1990 p.248-249.

Dr. Kiehl continues in his article to develop the skills of determining what Jesus actually meant when he told his parables. He warns us not to try to put our own meaning into the parables but to strive to find the true meaning, the one that Jesus meant for us to have. This is no easy task, especially when Jesus does not explain the meaning of the parable. Don’t worry too much if some of this flies over your head. The main point is not to force our own thoughts and insights on the text and miss the true point of the parable. When in doubt, pray, meditate, or ask your pastor if you don’t fully understand.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of January 19, 2020

Sermon: “Serving Passionately – SHAPE & PLACE”

When I was in college I didn’t have much money for anything.  I didn't own a car because I couldn't afford gas, or insurance so getting a job was difficult.  I was always grateful for events on campus that provided food.  You know the key with students, “If you feed them, they will come.”  There was this great Bible study on campus called “BuRPE”.  It stood for “Bible, readers, pizza eaters.”  It was the perfect Bible study for me, but it was only once a week. 

A friend of mine told me about a job that quite a few other students from school were doing.  It sounded wonderful to me.  It was a four-hour shift, not too far from campus.  They fed you every time you worked and all you had to do was talk to people on the phone.  “Where do I sign up?’  It sounded great.  Sure, I don't really like the phone much, but I could get a ride, I got fed, sounded great.

My friend who was working there told me come along with him.  I was figuring there would be an interview, or some form of hiring process, there wasn’t, I just had to give them my name and address. Looking back, that should have been my first clue.  I was then welcomed, given a script and a headset and strapped to a computer that started making robo calls to unsuspecting households.  Yes, I was that guy.  I had no idea what to do, no training to do it, and it was incessant.  As soon as someone on the other end hung up, and it was often preceded with some un-pleasantries the computer dialed a new number.  There was no rest.  It was awful.  My belly was empty, my anxiety was rising, and I was ready to cry.  About 90 minutes into this hell on earth I was given a break.  In an adjacent break room there were a few boxes of cold stale pizza.  I grabbed about four pieces and walked out the door and didn't stop until I got back to campus…about 90 minutes later.  I was not fit for that position.  It was not a place I wanted to be. I was like the proverbial square peg in a round hole.  It was like jamming one of these pieces into the wrong place.   

SHAPE and PLACE, it's the key to Serving Passionately.  Before we go any further lets dig into Scripture. 

All three of our readings this morning reveal to us God’s shape and God’s place, for us.  In our Old Testament lesson for today the prophet Isaiah wrote, “He shaped the earth and all that comes from it.” (Isaiah 42:5) This hearkens back to the Garden of Eden where God got His hands dirty and formed humanity from the dust of the ground and breathed into them the breath of life.  God shaped Adam and Eve in time and space and placed them in the best place to serve passionately.  God shaped Isaiah for a purpose and gave him a place in which God’s power and provision would be displayed. He does the same for you, but let’s look at the second lesson.

As Paul opens his letter to the church in Corinth he reminds them, “Through Christ Jesus you have become rich in every way—in speech and knowledge of every kind.  Our message about Christ has been verified among you.  Therefore, you don’t lack any gift as you wait eagerly for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” (1 Corinthians 1:5-7) The church has been given everything it needs.  In Christ we have become heirs of salvation and given every good and perfect gift.

In our Gospel lesson today we see John the Baptist pointing to Jesus and says, “Look! This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29b) John was perfectly shaped and divinely placed in time and space to do God’s work…that is to point others the Messiah…so have you. 

What do we see next in John’s Gospel?  The next day Jesus begins to form a group of those He will SHAPE and PLACE to further the kingdom as He calls His disciples, those who would follow in pointing others to Christ.  And he does the same for you and for me.

So, it’s easy, find your SHAPE and know your PLACE, right?

Perhaps it’s not that easy.  So how do you know your SHAPE and how do you define your PLACE?

In his book SHAPE, Erik Reese describes how to uncover your God given shape.  Without going into great detail here, he writes that your SHAPE consists of:

  •  Spiritual Gifts - those things given to you by God to serve your neighbor. 
  • Heart - those things that excite you and get you up in the morning or keep you motivated at all times. 
  • Abilities - the talents that God has given you, mental and physical. 
  • Personality - how God has wired you to view the world and through which you interact with others. 
  • Experiences - those things, good or bad that have made you into the person you are today.  

If you want to dive deeper into this let me know.  I have a whole bunch of videos and activities you can do.  But more than just your SHAPE you need to know your PLACE. What do I mean by your PLACE? 

Your PLACE includes,
  • Your Position - what many refer to as your vocation.  It could be as a parent, employee, student, child, boss, grandparent, etc.
  • Your Location - where God has physically placed you including your neighborhood, your family, your role as a citizen, etc.
  • Your Area of Influence - those people who listen to you or follow what you say or do.
  • Your Circumstances - The reasons you are where you are, what you are doing, and who you can influence.
  • Your Endeavors - what you do with your time, hobbies, clubs, activities like going to the gym, coaching little league, volunteering.

But as many of you are feverishly taking notes let me stop you as perhaps we have gotten ahead of ourselves.  All this talk about our SHAPE and our PLACE us may give the wrong impression.  I’m not here to give you a spiritual self-help pep talk.   It wouldn't do any good anyway. The truth is that we are all misshapen by sin.  We have been twisted and turned in ways that take us far from what God intended.   And it’s by our fault, our own fault, our own most grievous fault.  In thought, word and deed we fall short of the glory of God.

If you are worried that you don’t know your shape and can’t find your place you may be struggling trying to push a square peg in a round hole.  The more you work, the more frustrated you get. The true place we find ourselves is not on the path of righteousness but on the highway to destruction.  The truth we find in Scripture is that your shape and your place find meaning and value in another shape and another place.

At the cross the mess of sin, yours and mine is nailed with Christ buried in the earth and destroyed by the open tomb forever.  Only Jesus was perfect shaped to be the Messiah.  John gave witness to this as he called out, “Look! This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29b) Only Jesus was perfectly placed in time and space to take the pain of sin from you.  It's a job we could never do. It’s not what you do, or how you struggle, for that can never justify your shape or your place.

Serving passionately takes place at the intersection of shape and place.  The shape?  The savior!  The place? The cross!

The shape of the Savior and the place of the cross come together at the perfect moment and at this intersection salvation is secured and peace is provided.  Christ’s passionate service for you has been revealed in the pages of the Bible.  This revelation is what the season of Epiphany is all about.

“Through Christ Jesus you have become rich in every way—in speech and knowledge of every kind.  Our message about Christ has been verified among you.  Therefore, you don’t lack any gift as you wait eagerly for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” (1 Corinthians 1:5-7)

At this intersection of SHAPE and PLACE we are given everything.  In Christ we lack nothing.  The passionate service of Christ intersects with us as he shapes us and places us where he wants to be remember the words of Isaiah, “He shaped the earth and all that comes from it.” (Isaiah 42:5)

Now that we have seen the intersection of His Shape and His place we can move forward with our own SHAPE and our own PLACE so that God’s glory may be displayed through us.  You see God works through means and stuff.  Words on a page, simple water, bread wine and one another.  Through this stuff God calls and sends. 

Like the disciples you have been called.  Called by water and Word and Christ’s shape and His place as Redeemer of the world calls you to share your SHAPE in a particular PLACE.  This is what Serving Passionately is all about.   To Serve Passionately is to do what John the Baptist did, using your SHAPE (all those ways God has formed you) and your PLACE (all those ways God has positioned you) to point to the savior.   At this intersection, your words become Christ’s words, your hands His hands, your feet, His feet, to forgive and to free.  In words on a page spoken to your heart; in water that washes away every sin even committed; in wine and bread which literally bring you back from the dead, the shape of Christ flows through you to others.  That is what Serving Passionately is all about.  It’s for others!

Don’t get bogged down in the details, you don't lack any gift so put your faith in the sure and certain hope that in this place the shape of the Savior is placed in your ears as you hear, and in your hands so you know that you are perfectly positioned to use your own God given SHAPE and PLACE to serve your neighbor, to display God’s glory and to say, “Look! This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29b) every day and in every way, this is serving passionately!
- Pr. Seth Moorman

Monday, January 20, 2020

The One Year Bible- January 20th

We are almost one month in to our year-long journey in the Bible and this week we will finish the first book of the Old Testament. This is no small accomplishment. Genesis is a long book, filled with important stories that serve as important pieces to the overall story of the Bible. We will make reference to many of these stories and events as we go along. Each time we reach a milestone in our journey we should celebrate. As well as finishing the book of Genesis we will also finish one month in the word. Give yourself a pat on the back and you should feel good for your accomplishments. I also want to encourage you to keep going. If it is not already, your daily reading will become habit and spending time in God’s Word is one of the best habits you could ever have. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
We will wrap up the story of Joseph this week. It has been a longer story than most and there is good reason for it. First of all, this is the back-story for the most important event in Jewish history, the Exodus. The Exodus tells of God’s love and mercy for his chosen people and how he redeemed them from slavery in Egypt. As a New Testament Christian this story foreshadows the story of how Jesus redeemed us from the slavery of sin. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As we read the Old Testament we see many similarities between it and some stories in the New Testament. I believe that this is one purpose. Theologians call this Biblical Typology.

I found this description of typology in a resource I have entitled “Fellowship With God” written by Rev. Henry F. Fingerlin:“The Bible is an amazing book. But something not too commonly know is that the Bible contains a unique kind of prophecy that no other book contains or could contain, namely, Typology. In Romans 5:14b St. Paul says that “Adam...was a type of the one who was to come.” (That is Adam was a type of Christ). In I Peter 3:21 Peter tells us that Baptism “corresponds” to Noah’s ark in which 8 persons were saved through water. The word translated “corresponds” in the Revised Standard Version is antitype in Greek. There are many such “types” and “antitypes” in the Bible. For example the Passover Lamb and the scapegoat, who bore the sins of the people, are types of Jesus; and the work of the High Priest in making sacrifice for the sins of the people is a type of his saving work. Types, copies, shadows, miniatures, scale model, partial, earthly, temporal, limited, imperfect—these are the people, observances and events of the Old Testament. Fulfillment, spiritual, eternal, perfect, unlimited—these are the realities, the completion, the fulfillment brought into being through Jesus and the New Covenant. This is the way Jesus and the Apostles understood the Old Testament and its fulfillment in the New. Only God who knows the future and also brings it to pass, could so thoroughly detail through prophecy and types all that would transpire through John the Baptist, Jesus, and the beginning of the New Covenant.”

There is much to say about Biblical typology but one thing to remember is that Old Testament Biblical types are always less than the New Testament antitype. As Paul writes in Colossians 2:17, “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”  How does this relate to the story of Joseph? Some theologians see Joseph as a “type” or Christ. Here are a few examples:
- Joseph is the “beloved” son of his Father(Gen. 37:3)—Jesus is the Father’s “beloved” son (Matt. 3:17
- Though innocent, Joseph is sold for silver (Gen. 37:28)—Jesus is betrayed and sold for silver (Matt. 26:15)
- Joseph finds himself in prison with two other criminals (Gen. 40)—Jesus suffered death (a kind of prison) between two criminals (Luke 23:32-33)
- Joseph foretells death to one prisoner and release and restoration of the other (Gen. 40:9-19—Jesus tells one of the thieves that he will be with him in paradise while the other dies in his sins (Luke 23:42)
- Joseph is freed from prison by a decree of Pharaoh (Gen. 41:37-41)—Jesus is freed from the prison of death by the Fathers decree of Life, Resurrection, for His Son (Acts 2:24)
- Joseph is exalted at Pharaoh’s right hand and given a name that is above all names (Gen. 41)—Jesus is exalted to his fathers right hand and given a name that is above every other name (Phil. 2:9-11, Acts 2:33-36)

There are others that we could talk about but these are the big ones. I will be highlighting some more typology as we go this year. Let me know what you think about typology. Remember you can't always say that something is a “type” of Christ, but if you see something that you may think is let me know and I will do some investigating for you.

The New Testament
We read a few more parables of Jesus as well as read about some miracles including the feeding of the 5,000 and just as amazing, the feeding of the 4,000. One of the most powerful passages we read came in Ch. 16. Peter’s confession of Christ is a powerful witness to the divinity of Jesus and his claim to be the Messiah. After hearing Jesus preach and witnessing his miracles he boldly professes, “You are the Christ (Messiah) the Son of the living God." Either Peter was crazy or he was convinced that this simple man from Nazareth was the promised Messiah.

Bits And Pieces

We will dive into the book of Exodus this week and here are the vital stats:

PURPOSE: The Lord reintroduces Himself to Israel, rescues them from Egypt, and gives them a covenant of laws and sacrifices.
KEY PEOPLE: Moses, Miriam, Pharaoh, Pharaoh’s daughter, Jethro, Aaron, Joshua
KEY PLACES: Egypt, Goshen, Nile River, Midian, Red Sea, Sinai Peninsula, Mount Sinai
LAW THEMES: Plagues against unrepentant Egypt; God gives the Ten Commandments and requires an oath to fulfill the Law.
GOSPEL THEMES: God remembers and fulfills His promises to the patriarchs; atonement through sacrifice.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Exodus relates more miracles than any other Old Testament book and is noted for containing the Ten Commandments

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of January 12, 2020

Sermon: “Watermarked”

Baptism is passive and promissory.  That is, in Baptism we receive, without any deserving or striving on our behalf.  In Baptism all our Lord has accomplished for us through His perfect life, innocent sacrificial death and victorious Resurrection from the grave became our own.  As St. Paul put it, "All of us who have been into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death....If we have been united with Him in a death like His (through baptism) we will certainly be united with in a resurrection like His."  Romans 6:3&5

Baptism is practiced and participatory.  That is, Baptism calls us to rise to newness of Life in Christ.  Like our Lord's so to our own, as Baptized children of God, are to be lives of trust and love, service and sacrifice, humility and dedication.  As St. Paul puts it, "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."  Romans 6:4

Jesus' own baptism is indicative and analogous of our own.  As He was being baptized the spirit of God fell on Jesus in the form of a dove and the voice of heaven declares that He was God's own beloved Son.  Then that same Spirit led Him into the wilderness, where the devil tempted Him; but Jesus not once favored the adversary's offer nor failed to rely on God's power; in the Word and thus words, "It is written" He stood firm.

While the dove went unnoticed and the decibel level did not register, the same Spirit that fell on Jesus fell in you in Baptism, Jesus identity and victory became your own, and the same voice proclaimed you a beloved child of God.  Baptism is passive and promissory.  That same God calls you His baptized child, to follow Him, journey with His Spirit and rest secure on His Word will traveling through the wilderness.  Baptism is practiced and participatory. 

Unfortunately, while Jesus holiness and righteousness have become our own in Baptism, our original nature yet remains.  Thus the reason on occasion (intermittently? frequently? constantly?) we find ourselves favoring tempting offers and failing to withstand the adversary as God's beloved child with God's all sufficient Word. 

That's why Luther when reflecting upon Baptism's gift and the baptized's life noted that, "Baptism indicates that we should daily drown the old creature in repentance and contrition and daily emerge and rise to live before the Lord’s holiness and righteousness." 

Because, after all:
V  Baptism is passive and promissory - receive that gift anew this and every day!   
V  Baptism is practiced and participatory - rise in the gift this morn and each morn to walk in newness of life!
- Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, January 13, 2020

The One Year Bible- January 13th

In seminary I took a class called Biblical Theology and Exegesis.  Don’t get too impressed.  I am convinced that theologians want to sound smart, so they use technical names for most of the classes.  For example in Seminary I took:  Hermeneutics, Homiletics, and Old Testament Isagogics.  In regular English that means I took Bible study, preaching, and Old Testament history (I hope I didn’t give away any company secrets).  Anyway, part of Biblical Theology and Exegesis is seeing the whole story of the Bible.  My textbook gave this definition, “Biblical theology is principally concerned with the overall theological message of the whole Bible.  It seeks to understand the various parts in relation to the whole.”  This is exactly what I try to do each week with our studies.  I guess I didn’t even know that I have been teaching a class in Biblical Theology every week on the internet for over five years.  Well, I hope that through these studies you will start to see the whole picture and the overall theme of God’s Word.  At the end of the first chapter of my textbook it says, “The Bible is about humankind falling into sin, and God’s determination to put things right.  It is about salvation, God’s rescue plan for human beings under judgment.  It is about the worship of the one true God and the rejection of the gods that fail.”  Lets all try to keep this in mind as we journey in God’s Word together.

Seth’s Thoughts
Old Testament
The opening stories of the Old Testament revolve around what we call the Patriarchs. This includes Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph. The first week of the year we sped through many generations as well as many years but this week we have been focusing on one family. This family has some issues.  Jacob is encouraged by his mother to pretend to be his brother so that Isaac will give him the family blessing.  If this sounds dysfunctional you are right. We will see plenty of dysfunctional behavior in the Old Testament. Remember the Old Testament is setting the stage for the coming of the Messiah, the one that was to save the people. Just wait until we get into the book of Judges and then we will see some real dysfunctional behavior. That PLR (people, land, relationship) promise that we talked about last week comes back (in whole or in part) quite often.  We saw it multiple times this week.  Each time I read it I put the letters PLR in the margin. I hope you begin to see that this is an important promise. This becomes the foundation for all the other promises that God will make in the Old Testament, including the coming of the Messiah. We read about Jacob and his rather strange relationship with his father-in-law, and then his odd relationship between him and his bickering wives. Once again we see some facets of dysfunctional behavior, but we also see that God will be faithful and keep his promise. The story of Joseph is one of the longest stories in the Old Testament. I will have more to say about this story later. For now be sure to catch all the details and see if they remind you of any other stories in the Bible.  Perhaps some of you are familiar with the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical called Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  This musical is a pretty faithful rendition of the story and if you get confused you may want to rent the movie version.  It stars Donny Osmond (don’t let that scare you) and has an appearance by Joan Collins (don’t let that scare you either). 

New Testament
In our readings from this week we find that Jesus still continues to teach, and heal and now he is starting to generate some interest. John’s disciples start to question him about things and we get a deeper glimpse into the ministry of Jesus. Chapter 10 has some interesting things to say about going out and speaking about Jesus, but remember that Jesus was speaking to 12 Jewish men in Israel almost 2000 years ago. It can be dangerous to make some one for one comparisons with these teachings and today. One very interesting section in our reading is found in chapter 12:13. Jesus uses some Old Testament stories to bring light to his earthly ministry. He gives us some clues about the end of his earthly ministry as he compares himself to Jonah. This is a fascinating passage for theologians as it sheds light not only on the work of Jesus but also the reason that the book of Jonah is in the Old Testament.  For those of you at Bethany, we will be studying the book of Jonah this Lenten season.  In that study we will explore this relationship ever further. Jesus also says that he is greater than Solomon. This was a big claim because no one was a wise as Solomon especially in the eyes of a Jewish person.  It is also another place that shows the relationship between the Old and New Testaments.

Bits and Pieces
One thing I think I forgot to mention last week. Every time you read the word LORD (in all capitals) in the Old Testament, the translators are saying this is the proper name Yahweh. It is God’s personal name. Remember that Moses is the one writing the first five books and he was the one to whom God revealed that name. So it makes sense that he uses it in his writing.
Another thing I want to point out to you is the use of names.  Names are important in the Bible.  like I just said above LORD is translated from Yahweh which means “I Am who I Am”.  It sounds rather nebulous to us but how could you try to contain God in a few letters no matter what language it is in.  On to my point, we have seen quite a few names, the names of people and places.  If you are reading through the NIV or the ESV you will notice that every time we encounter a new name there is a footnote.  If you follow those footnotes you will find some more information about the name.  For example, when Isaac was born we read in the footnote that Isaac means “he laughs”.  Some of these names have some theological significance.  The name Jacob means “he grasps the heel” which is an idiom for someone who deceives which is just what he does to his brother twice.  Later in the story we will get to Joshua.  His name means “the LORD saves”.  This is the same name that is translated as Jesus in the New Testament.  Makes sense doesn’t it.  The phrase Jesus Saves is almost redundant.  I will try to point out some of these names when they come up but feel free to follow the footnotes to get some more information. 

That is about all for now, but one word of encouragement. If you get behind in your reading don’t try to catch up all at once. Just double up your readings each day and soon you will be back on track. The other option is to just let some of the readings go, like water under the bridge and just pick up on the current day. Either way you are still in the Word, and that is a good thing. Have a great week and look for a new post next week!!

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of January 5, 2020

Sermon: “Resolutions Made & Resolutions Kept”
Text: Matthew 2

The gifts Jesus received on The Epiphany are a revelation of the gifts He gives; and tell us who He is while He is too young to yet make manifest these truths.

Gold: a present for princes.  This gift reveals to the Bethlehem family what the Magi had communicated to Jerusalem's leaders, "He is born to be king of the Jews."  Of course, Jesus is not only Israel's king; He rules and reigns over all!  A fact He will unveil to church and state rulers alike.  "You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of a God the Father."  "My kingdom is not if this earth."

Frankincense: a donation to Deity.  This gift reveals that this child is both human and divine at the same time:  100% man, 100% God.  The truth manifest at the beginning of Jesus' life is proclaimed again and again, to friend and foe alike, towards the end of His ministry.  "Flesh and blood has not revealed this truth to you Peter (the truth that Jesus is the Son if the Living God) but my Father who is in heaven."  "Before Abraham was I am!"

Myrrh: a contribution to corpses.  This gift reveals the purpose of His birth.  While the Magi secretly go home without sharing with Herod their discovery of the child.  Thus Jesus escapes Herod's evil intentions and heinous crime; so that He might later be sacrificed on account of ours.  When grown He will reveal the nature of His mission, "I have come to give my life as a ransom for many."

The gifts Jesus received reveal the gift He brings; and the gifts the Magi (and we His people) bring reveal the gift they have received in Him.

- Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, January 06, 2020

The One Year Bible- January 6th

We are six days into the New Year and I hope your reading plan is going well. If you missed last week’s post, I would highly encourage you to go back and read it as well.  Each week I will kick off our study with a short thought or some general words of encouragement. This week I want to give you some information about how our weekly studies will be arranged. Each week I will give you my thoughts on the week’s readings. I will not be commenting on all the readings but I will be giving some general comment as well as highlighting specific passages and trying to make some connections for you. My quotes from the readings will almost always be from the NIV. Please don’t get discouraged if I don’t write about certain parts of the reading. You can always ask me questions via the comment section or by email. If you want some more detailed comment on a particular reading you can visit The One Year Bible Blog ( I visit this site regularly to get some insight as well.

Each time we start a new book of the Bible I will give you some vital stats for it in the Bits and Pieces section of the post. This will help you get your bearings as you begin to read. The most important thing I will say today is that we must remember the context of what we read. The Bible is a Christ centered book and it tells one overarching story. Try to keep that story in mind as you read. My posts will try to help with that as well. Keep up the good work and be ready to let God lead you as you immerse yourself in His Word. On to the study for today…
Seth’s Thoughts:
The Old Testament Like any good book the Bible begins with some great storytelling and some drama. The reason for the whole book is right there at the beginning. Because of mans fall and the steadfast love of God, a series of events takes place that will have an impact on the world and all humanity forever. In fact, the first promise of a Savior is found in Genesis. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel" (Genesis 3:15 NIV). The story of God’s love continues with Noah. God saw how sinful the world had become so, in his love, he destroyed those who disobeyed yet saved Noah and the promise of his love became more fully known. One of the great Old Testament words we see early on in Genesis and will have great meaning later is the word we translate as “remember”. God remembered Noah, he remembered his promises to Abraham; later in our story God will remember his people in Egypt and in exile. He will remember his promise from Genesis and send a savior for the world.
One thing to keep in mind while reading through the Old Testament narrative is that you need to try to keep the characters straight. Think of it like a program at the ballgame or the theatre. If you need to write down the characters and how they are related that might help out. This brings me to my first point about context. If you missed the fact that Lot and Abraham are related, you don’t quite get their relationship. Abraham loves his nephew so much and that relationship enters in to his decision making process.  Also, two times Abraham tells others that Sarah is his sister and at first it looks like he is flat out lying but in Chapter 20 we find the following passage, “Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife” (Genesis 20:12).  Now this may seem gross or unthinkable to us but remember we need to read this within the cultural context of the day and this sort of thing was O.K.  It can be dangerous to impress our 21st century American culture upon a people and a land far remove in time and place and make judgments.  This sort of thing will come up again and we must place ourselves in the culture of the day to understand.  We don’t have to like it, heck there are a lot of things in the Bible I don’t really like, but it is God’s Word.
The New Testament
The first thing I need to say about reading the Gospels is that they are not always written in chronological order. I hope I am not sacrificing any sacred cows for you with this but it is difficult to put a time line and chronology together when looking closely at the text. For example, in the book of Luke Jesus seems to be jumping all over the place in Nazareth and Judea. One moment he is teaching by the Sea of Galilee, the next moment he is in Jerusalem, and then he is back again. Many scholars (and I agree) tend to see the Gospels written from a thematic point of view. They take the stories and events and use them to not only tell the story but to highlight certain events. Taking a look at the Gospel of Matthew we see that it was written to a Jewish audience. How do we know that? First of all Matthew was a Jew so it makes sense to write to an audience that he knew. Secondly, Matthew places the events of Jesus ministry into an order that the Jews would see as very interesting. First of all Matthew tells us that the baby Jesus was taken to Egypt. Right after the family comes back from Egypt, we get the story of the baptism of Jesus then immediately to the desert for 40 days. A Jew of Matthews day would most likely see the connection to the Exodus story of the people coming out from Egypt and going through the waters of the Red Sea and then into the desert for 40 years. It is no coincidence that Matthew uses this series of events to bring a greater meaning to his Gospel to the Jews. A casual, non-Jewish reader might miss this connection. Matthew also leans on many of the Old Testament prophecies that his audience would be well aware (especially in the birth narrative). As you read in Matthew try to remember his audience of the first century and try to see how we can gain even more understanding by studying the book as a whole instead of taking parts out and studying them in isolation.
Bits and Pieces
-Begin your time in prayer and ask God to send His Spirit to guide you as you read.
-Find a place to read that is relatively free of distractions.
-Read the passage aloud and slowly if necessary. The goal is not just to finish, but to understand.
-Make some notes in the Bible and underline key verses. Look back at them later.
-Remember the Bible tells one story. That story is about redemption from Sin by the work of Jesus. Keep that in mind as you read.
-Take your Bible to Church and read along to see what comes before and after.
-Keep a journal about what you read and how it has affected you.
-Memorize key verses.
-Look at a children’s Bible storybook to get a mental image of the stories. This is especially helpful for the Old Testament stories.
-Teach what you have been reading to your children. This will help reinforce the stories for you and introduce them to your children.
-Share what you are reading with coworkers or friends who are not Christians. This can happen especially if you are reading during your lunch hour at work. If they are interested in the Bible point them to 1 John and to Mark.
-Use a daily devotional book (Portals of Prayer, Strength for the Day, etc.) in addition to your reading.
-Look at some Bible maps and get a layout of the land. This is important when talking about events in the Old Testament.
-Don’t worry if you miss a few days. Just double up your readings for a while until you catch up. Don’t try to read it all in one day.
-Some questions to ask as you read: What is the Biblical context of this passage? What is the historical context? Who is speaking and to whom are they speaking? How can I use this information today? Don’t worry if you can’t answer all the questions.

After God dispersed the people at Babel, he called one man, Abraham and gave him a promise. We will come back again and again to this promise. It is a three-fold promise that I like to call the PLR promise. We first see it in Genesis 13, but it will come back over and over again. The promise is that God will make Abraham into a people, a nation set apart, he will give them land, and he will have a relationship with them (PLR = people, land, relationship). This three-fold promise will not be fulfilled in Abraham’s day. The only piece of land he will ever own is a grave. But this promise will be fulfilled as the story continues with the people of Israel under the leadership of Moses and Joshua. It will be expanded in the New Testament era as we are all called to be God’s people, our land is in heaven, and we have a relationship with Jesus because of the empty tomb.

Last week I gave you some helpful tips as you begin your journey and I want to repeat them here again.  I know that some of you have just started this week and may have missed last weeks post. 

Tips for Comprehension

Have a great week and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

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