Monday, April 27, 2020

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of April 26, 2020

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Psalm of the Day: Psalm 116:1-14
Holy Gospel: Luke 24:13-35

Message: “But Jesus Drew Near”
Text: Luke 24:15
Masks, they have become commonplace as people venture out during these days of pandemic.  They have been required by some establishments in order to gain entrance, like the grocery store or other essential businesses. 

I’m not sure if you were able to make your own, or have someone give you one (thank you Elisabeth and Karen).  Perhaps you were able to pick some up before the shelves were empty or had a stash in the garage waiting to be used, but masks have become routine.  I saw someone the other day in the grocery store wearing a mask made out of cut off sleeve of an old white t-shirt; not sure that is something I want wrapped around my nose and mouth. 

To be honest I have been guilty of passing judgment on people for how they are wearing their masks.  I’ve seen them slumped under the nose, I’m guessing they thought it was hard to breathe.  I saw the manager at a store that will go unnamed who slid his mask all the way off to use the phone, which another person used not two minutes later; not sure how that helps. 

It may just be in ignorance, or the fact that some people think wearing a mask is dumb or pointless but of course here I am passing judgment on them.  Masks are not anything new. 
If you ever watched any of the numerous doctor shows on TV you remember characters like Hawkeye from MASH, Dr. John Carter from ER, House, Dr. Meredith Grey or countless others donning masks in their vocation. 

Masks can also be used to conceal identity.  I did find it odd the other day as I put on a mask to go into a convenience store.  If I did this just a few months ago it would be seen as highly suspicious behavior, but today it’s totally normal.  I think of others who have worn a mask, like Batman, or the Lone Ranger, or Zorro (now I’m really dating myself). But it’s not just the antagonists on Scooby Doo or comic book super villains who wish to keep their true identity hidden.

The Twitter trolls, anonymous commenters, or owners of burner accounts hide from identification in order to deride, demean, and destroy using words as weapons. In some ways it fosters the negative aspects of social distancing that we find ourselves in today.  When things aren’t going the way we want, people hide. It gives them a sense of power or invincibility.  In a world that is begging for connection, many have become more distanced than ever and blind to the truth.

I think we see a little of that in our Gospel lesson for today.  The third week of Easter usually sees the account of the road to Emmaus as the appointed reading. I don’t know about you but I seem to relate a lot more to the men on the road than to some of the other principle characters in the resurrection account. Not sure I fully relate to the two Mary’s in the story. They felt the earthquake as He gave up His last breath. They peeked into the tomb and saw the angels. And when Jesus appeared to them, they were convinced. They knew it was the Lord.  It is also hard for me to relate to Thomas from last week’s reading.  Despite his initial unbelief—with which I can totally relate—he had the unique and somewhat disturbing experience of physically touching Jesus’ resurrected wounds.  That kind of creeps me out.  In contrast, the men on their way to Emmaus seem… well… normal. They were among His followers, but they were not the famous ones. They encountered Jesus, but they did not know it until He was gone.  But even in their shortsightedness, Jesus made His way into their lives. He walked with them, talked with them, sat down and broke bread with them and gave thanks with them. In the end, He worked the kind of transformation in their lives that He has worked in yours.

On this first Easter these two guys are leaving town wanting to distance themselves from the awful events of the past few days.  They had experienced the loss of their teacher, leader and friend.  Their other friends were hiding in a locked room.  They all wanted some distance from all that had turned their world upside down.  So these two guys skip town, talking to each other about what had taken place in Jerusalem as they walk along the road. And as they do, the text tells us, “Jesus approached them and began walking with them. Although they saw him, they didn’t recognize him. He asked them, “What are you discussing?” They stopped and looked very sad.  One of them, Cleopas, replied, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what has happened recently?”  “What happened?” he asked.” (Luke 24:15b-19)

Now I know it is not always good to read between the lines in the text but allow me to do a bit of that today.  I can just imagine what these two guys thought.  “Who is this chucklehead who doesn’t know what has gone on this past weekend?  Where is he from?  Is he blind, or just dumb?”  Well…at least that is what I would have said. The men believed that Jesus was wearing a mask, not over his mouth but over His eyes. That He had to be someone who lived under a rock to not know what was going on (well He was under a rock…but I digress).  The all powerful, all knowing, ever present Lord of the universe, the One who gave sight to the blind, was accused of being blind; blind to the tragedy, blind to the events, blind to the pain that these men were experiencing.

The English Standard version renders verse 15 this way, “While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.” (Luke 24:15)

These men, distancing themselves from the difficult events of the past encounter Jesus, masked in flesh, who drew near to be socially adjacent and to bring transformation. You see, it was not Jesus who was blind, but the men.  And that is why I think I relate so well to them.  There are so many things that blind me from seeing Jesus as He draws near. We know the theological answer.  It’s the Devil, the World and the Sinful Flesh that mask our ability to see; that distract our attention and fog our vision of who Jesus is and what He has done for us.  But how does that blindness manifest itself?  Like the men on the road to Emmaus that day, I too pass judgment on those who seem to have no clue or who I think are doing it wrong (and it’s not just wearing a mask).  I also pass judgment on those who I feel have the wrong motives or who don’t see things the way I see them. 

What about you?  What masks your vision?  What blinds you from seeing Jesus who draws near? 

  • Is it the fact that we cannot gather in the Lord’s House right now?
  • Is it the rhetoric from news outlets trying to get viewers?
  • Is it a particular style of music played in worship that is not your preference?
  • Is it your desire that everyone think the same as you, or vote the same as you or hold the same values as you? 
  • Would you rather skip town than face the struggles of life?

And like many we wish to keep our faults hidden from others or accuse Jesus of being blind to our pain.  But the amazing part here is that in the midst of our blindness, transformation begins. You see, Jesus doesn’t pass judgment on us, although He could, He took the judgment for us and suffered separation from the Father all because of His love. He came to the world masked in flesh to destroy the things that blind you, to forgive you for your shortsightedness, your judgmental nature, and to cleanse you from all your faults and failures.

On that first Easter, Jesus drew near, and He does so again today.  The story of Easter is that when we want to run, when we are blind to seeing Jesus for who He is, He draws near.  He shows Himself to us over and over again and because of Christ you are forgiven; His sacrifice on the cross and His Resurrection three days later secure salvation for you. Jesus draws near in the common and ordinary stuff of life.  He comes to open your eyes as the Word is proclaimed, He comes in the waters of Baptism and in the breaking of the bread, which is exactly what He did for the men in our text.  But Jesus draws near in other ways too.  In the witness and the work of His children we can see God.  God does these things through ordinary people doing ordinary things. In people fulfilling their God given vocations, Jesus draws near, providing, protecting, and healing.

Martin Luther described this as the “mask of God.” He taught that God is hidden in ordinary people fulfilling their vocations. It’s not just in religious activities that we see the masks of God.  You encounter them every single day.  God is at work in police officers providing protection; He is at work in musicians and artists as they create, in medical professionals bringing health and healing and, as He wears the mask of the chef or grocery worker providing food for your family.

If you have ordered food from a restaurant in the past few weeks you have not only helped support your favorite restaurant, you have experienced the masks of God and have seen Jesus draw near. I love pizza and have ordered a few times recently, but let’s think about ordering pizza for a moment.  In order for me to eat pizza with my family I have to place an order.  Now, I don’t like to talk on the telephone but thanks to engineers, technicians, manufacturers, app developers and web designers I have a smart phone that I can use. In the store my order was printed on a printer that was manufactured by other workers in a factory. I’m sure several employees were involved in making the pizza.  I’m sure none of them grew the wheat or ground the flour or cured the pepperoni so all of that had to be done elsewhere by others and then was transported to the restaurant by a truck driver.  I had the pizza delivered so at some point a car was involved which means somebody had to design the car, somebody had to assemble that car in a plant. People had to test it.  In order for the engine to run someone had to put fuel in the car, which had to be formulated and transported. In order for that car to be safe, somebody had to make sure the city was safe to drive in.  We’re already at hundreds and hundreds of people who were involved, and I’m sure there are many more, just to provide pizza and bread sticks to me and my family.  You could even say that those hundreds of people were unknowingly serving my family, providing our daily bread, wearing the mask of God, and in so doing Jesus drew near. 

Jesus draws near to you in your greatest need.  He comes as you try to run away.  He comes to you even as you stand in judgment.  Jesus draws near in online services like this to forgive your sins.  And Jesus draws near as others wear the masks of God to bless you and your loved ones.  And here is where another transformation begins.  You too get to wear the mask of God as you serve and bless your neighbor, especially during these trying times. That’s the second half of verse 15 from our text, listen to it again, ““While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.” (Luke 24:15)

Jesus has drawn near and He goes with you as you wear the mask of God for others to bring peace and pardon. Masks have indeed become commonplace. They may not always be visible to our eyes as some are these days, but through them Jesus draws near, as He comes to you and will go with you and work through you to transform lives, and that is what Easter is all about.
-Pr. Seth Moorman

The One Year Bible- April 27th

As you heard me say before, “I love the book of Judges”. I have always thought they should make this into a movie. Who wouldn’t want to see the left handed Ehud taking care of the Eglon who was taking care of business on the “throne”, or Samson killing 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey or tying 300 pairs of foxes together, lighting them on fire and setting them loose in the fields? And you can’t forget Gideon and the testing of God and the defeat of the Midionites with just 300 men. Or what about Samson…I think this would be a good task for Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame or maybe even George Lucas, but I digress...... On to the study.....

Seth’s Thoughts:

The Old Testament
I hope you are enjoying the book of Judges as much as I am. Some people get depressed when they read the book because it looks as if the people just don’t get it. They always seem to do evil in the eyes of the Lord and they get handed over to some group and they suffer. But I don’t think that is the point. The point of the book is that God takes care of his people. He loves them so much and he will do anything to save them. We still don’t get the point today. Thank God for sending Jesus to save us.

I want to spend some time talking about Gideon and Samson today. First of all the book of Judges spends more time on these two guys then the others. An angel who seeks him out chooses Gideon. A bit of knowledge would help here. Gideon is hiding. How do I know that? He is in the bottom of a winepress (think big barrel) threshing wheat to hide it from the Midianites. The angel comes to him and calls him a “Mighty Hero”. Of course Gideon tries to talk his way out of it (sounds like Moses). Gideon asks for a sign and he hurries home to get an offering. The angel then burns up the offering and Gideon believes that it was an angel from the Lord. End of story right....not so fast. Gideon seems to be convinced but he tests his appointment two more times with God. Again the point here is not to show how untrusting Gideon was, but to show how patient God is, he patient with us in all things. The rest of the story continues on this theme. God delivers the people with only 300 men so the people would not brag that they did it all themselves. One of the other problems the people get into is that they want an earthly king. They ask Gideon to be their ruler and they have problems. After Gideon died, one of his sons, Abimelech tried to be the king. This only leads to problems because God is the only king the people need. The people lose sight of this and the cycle continues. Eventually God will allow a king but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Samson is another judge that makes for good Sunday school stories. His great strength makes him a good hero. But as you read the story you find out that Samson has some personality issues. He has problems with women and his temper (good movie material). Eventually he is humbled and matures and God uses him to exact some judgment on the Philistines. At the center, these stories are about the mercy of God. He continued to show the people mercy when they did not deserve it. He shows it to us today as well.

The New Testament
We finished up the Gospel of Luke with the familiar story of the passion. The one thing that jumped out at me was in chapter 24. Jesus was walking on the road to Emmaus with some of the disciples and Jesus takes them to task about believing that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus seems a bit impatient but in verse 27 it says, “The Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” What a great teacher. He knew that they still did not get it but he proceeded to teach them. His patience is amazing. In our readings for May 3rd, Nicodemus comes (at night because he didn’t want others to know he was there) to meet with Jesus. During their discussion Jesus mentions a story from the Old Testament. We read this story back in March. The people did not do what God said and he sent snakes into the camp. Moses made a bronze snake and put it on a pole and the people were saved. Jesus takes this story and gives some new meaning to it. “And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.” And right after this is the famous John 3:16. You can’t tell me that the Bible is not one story!!

Bits And Pieces:
We will finish the book of Judges this week and read whole the book of Ruth. Here are the vital stats for the book of Ruth:
Purpose: To show that the Lord demonstrates His faithfulness by providing for Ruth’s family a redeemer, who secures the heritage among God’s people.
Author: Unknown. Some think it was Samuel, but internal evidence suggest that it was written after Samuel’s death.
Date Written: Sometime after the period of the Judges (1375-1050 B.C.)
Setting: A dark time in Israel’s history when people lived to please themselves, not God.
Law Themes: The frailty of life; God allows suffering; selfish disregard for family.
Gospel Themes: The Lord’s kindness; God welcomes the nations by grace; redemption; inheritance; the genealogy of Jesus, THE Redeemer.
Key Verse: “But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.’” (Ruth 1:16)
Key People: Ruth, Naomi, Boaz
Key Places: Moab, Bethlehem

We will also start the book of 1 Samuel. Here are the vital stats for this book:
Purpose: To reveal the Lord’s faithfulness toward Israel in establishing His rule through Samuel, Saul, and David, despite the peoples unfaithfulness.
Author Most likely Samuel himself
Setting: The book begins in the days of the judges and describes Israel’s transition from a theocracy (let by God) to a monarchy (led by a king)
Law Themes: Barrenness; covetousness; neglect of fatherly duties; unfaithfulness; rejection of God’s rule; failure to keep God’s Word; rash vows; jealousy; divination.
Gospel Themes: The Lord provides leaders; the Lord promises an everlasting kingdom and priesthood; victory in the Lord’s name; godly friendship; blessings through the tabernacle; David’s mercy.
Key Verses: “And the LORD told him, ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king....Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do’” (8:7,9)
Key People: Eli, Hannah, Samuel, Saul, Jonathan, David

Monday, April 20, 2020

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

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Scripture Reading: Psalm 100
Holy Gospel: John 20:19-31

Message: “A Word of ‘Peace’ Please!”

“Now Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We’ve seen the Lord!’ ” John 20:24-25.

This Easter event is practically as well known as THE Easter event! Every year, for congregations following the historic lectionary, worshippers hear the account of Thomas’ absence on Easter eve; often following which they hear about the presence of his doubts and demands the subsequent week.  There is some good application and reflection material in there to be sure.
During this pandemic quarantine time we’ve been doing some significant reflection and subsequent application on a portion of the story we’ve perhaps skipped over too quickly before. Where was Thomas? Why was he gone? All of them knew the threat! Each of them was at risk! Martyrdom doesn’t discriminate by age, background, gender, ancestral territory!

Yet, while the others hid indoors to keep safe, Thomas ventured out of that space. Was he picking up supplies, checking in on an elderly believer, keeping a look out for the authorities? Perhaps as interesting as that question is, there is another as intriguing! Why did Jesus choose to enter the room when Thomas wasn’t inside? John tells us it was in the evening when the disciples were together that Jesus appeared. Could they all have been together in that house earlier in the afternoon? Is it possible Thomas was due back but was running a little late? Did Jesus realize that Thomas was absent? (I think we know the answer to that question.) Which begs the former…Why did Jesus choose to join the disciples when one of their number was yet missing?

I can’t help but think that part of that answer is…me…and you. As with Thomas, so with us, His care is intimate and personal. He knows our struggles and cares for us in their midst. He knows our anxieties and doesn’t ignore that they are real. He knows what draws our eyes to ourselves and acts to put them squarely on Him. Let me be His mouthpiece today (or His typist as the case may be)…The Risen Jesus knows your struggles, The Risen Jesus knows your anxieties, The Risen Jesus knows what is obscuring your view from focusing on Him, and this Risen Jesus comes to you presently, personally, and purposefully to grant you that which only He can provide, “Peace be with you! Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:21-22)  Those gathered in that room receiving that message and we scattered in our homes reading this message, can’t help but recall that our Lord used these same words prior to His crucifixion, and they open us to a whole new reality following His resurrection, “Peace be with you; my peace I give you. Not as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

The One Year Bible- April 20th

When I was in college I worked at Arrowhead Lutheran Camp for many summers as a counselor. Right out of college I was hired to be the program director at the camp. I was just a young kid but I had quite a bit of experience working with children. As a counselor I always struggled with finding ways to get my campers to go to sleep. Some other counselors told ghost stories or scary tales but those freaked me out too much. Quite by accident one night I began to read stories from the book of Judges. I started with Gideon. That took about two nights then I went to Ehud, Samson, Deborah and others. My young boys really enjoyed the blood and guts stories that weren’t too scary. I liked them because they also taught that God was in control. Some people have a tough time with the book of Judges because of its violent nature and that is fine, but if you look at the stories through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy you might get some understanding. The key thing to remember is that God has mercy on his people and shows his love to them by sending a judge. Not a judge that comes to condemn, but one that comes to save. Sounds kind of like Jesus doesn’t it? On to the study for this week……

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
As I have alluded to in the opening the book of Judges is all about God’s mercy. It seems like it is about his wrath with some blood and guts thrown in for good measure but when you really look at it you see a familiar pattern emerge with all the judges. We see this same pattern when Jesus is sent as the final Judge. Why was it necessary for the Judges to come anyway? Didn’t the people promise that they would be faithful to God? What happened to the promises they made? In the first part of the book we get the answer. “The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots.” (Judges 1:19 NIV) The story was the same with the other tribes. Reading a bit further, “The tribe of Manasseah failed to drive out the people….” Then the tribe of Ephraim failed, then Zebulen failed, then Asher failed, then Naphtali. Then Yahweh (LORD in all caps) sent his angel (some think this may be the pre-incarnate Christ) to talk to the people. Judgment was to be upon the people. “Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.” (Judges 2:3 NIV) This sums up the problems that the people will encounter the rest of the Old Testament. The people living in the land and their gods will cause major problems for the people. Remember this as we read the rest of the story this year. But the LORD (Yahweh) in his infinite mercy shows love to the people and sends help. The account of each Judge has a similar pattern. It usually begins with, The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, He turned them over to their enemies for so many years. Then the LORD raised up a Judge. The people followed this Judge and were saved. The land had peace for so many years. The Judge dies and the people return to their old ways and do evil in the eyes of the LORD. Get familiar with this pattern. This is some foreshadowing of the New Testament story of Jesus. We don’t have time to discuss each Judge (we will spend more time with Gideon next week) in detail so let me give you some highlights. Ehud is my favorite. He is left-handed. Why does the writer of Judges tell us this? He was able to smuggle his dagger into the presence of the king because, being left-handed he drew it from his right side. Most people carry their dagger or sword on the left side because they are right handed. Ehud was able to get close to the king and kill him because he was left-handed. You see, God uses all things for his good purposes. I also think it is funny that Ehud escapes through the outhouse in the kings chambers and the attendants are so embarrassed to disturb the king when he is in the bathroom. Some commentators even suggest that the king was actually sitting on “the throne” (the one in the bathroom) when Ehud stabs him (you see why young boys like this story?). The account of Deborah is good to show that God works through women as well. God raised her up as a Judge and she led the people in battle. In the story it was another woman, Jael, who took care of the evil Sisera. Talk about girl power (both the boys and some of the girls like this story). The story of Gideon is a bit longer and has some interesting insights for us. We will talk about him next week.

The New Testament
In our readings for this week we begin the story of the Passion. Luke makes an interesting comment about all the praise that Jesus is receiving on Palm Sunday. Some of the Pharisees tried to get Jesus to stop the celebration and Jesus says, “If they keep quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!” (Luke 19:40) This is an amazing statement. We have read in the Psalms that all creation praises the Lord, but here is proof that it can happen. Can you imagine if no one would praise God and then the rocks start to cry out? What a sight that would be!

Luke does a good job keeping the action moving in the story but there are some rather significant things to see when you dig a bit deeper.  When Jesus is before the high priest and is asked point blank if he is the son of God he says, “I am”. OK you say? No big deal? But, the words Jesus used are very important. When he says “I am” not only is he answering in the affirmative, he also is using the name God used when talking to Moses in the burning bush. Remember that God said his name was, “I am”. No wonder the High Priest and the others wanted Jesus dead after he had said this. Jesus goes in there and uses the name of God that the Jews to this day will not even use! Jesus was saying in no uncertain terms that he was the Christ, the promised Messiah. When we get to the Gospel of John we will see seven big “I am” statements from Jesus. Remember them when you read and pour into them the Old Testament meanings. 

Bits and Pieces

We will finish the Gospel of Luke this week and we will start the Gospel of John. As a quick note, the first four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are grouped together and are referred to as the synoptic Gospels. The basically have the same form and tell the same story. They probably leaned on one another for source material. John is its own animal all together. John is the only Gospel that mentions three different Passover celebrations, which is where we get the three-year ministry of Jesus. John does not have a standard birth story. John begins with creation, but more on all this next week. John also makes heavy use of metaphor. We will see Jesus referred to as the door, the lamb, the good shepherd, the gate, the way the truth the life, and others. Here are the vital stats for the book of John:

Purpose: To prove conclusively that Jesus is the Son of God and that all who believe in him will have eternal life.
Author: It is never actually mentioned but most agree that it is John the apostle, son of Zebedee, brother of James, called a “Son of Thunder”
To Whom Written: New Christians and searching Non-Christians
Date Written: Probably between A.D. 85-90
Setting: Written after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and before John’s exile to the island of Patmos
Key Verses: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:30-31
Key People: Jesus, John the Baptist, the disciples, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Jesus’ mother, Pilate, Mary Magdalene
Law Themes: Darkness; slavery to sin; condemnation; demand for signs; death; fleshly desire; unbelief; Judas’ example; spiritual blindness; unclean; command to love; the world’s hatred
Gospel Themes: Light; grace; truth; Baptism; Lamb of God; born or the Spirit; life; resurrection; Jesus’ flesh and blood; the Shepherd’s care; clean; forgiveness; God’s love; sanctification.
Key Places: Judean countryside, Samaria, Galilee, Bethany, Jerusalem
Special Features: of the eight miracles recorded, six are unique (among the Gospels) to John, as is the “Upper Room Discourse” (chs. 14-17). Over 90 percent of John is unique to his Gospel. John does not contain a genealogy or any record of Jesus’ birth, childhood, temptation, transfiguration, appointment of the disciples, nor any account of Jesus’ parables, ascension, or Great Commission.

Have a wonderful week!!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

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

From Easter Sunday
Sunday, April 12th

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1st Reading: Isaiah 65:17-25
2nd Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:19-26
Holy Gospel: Luke 24:1-12, 36-47

“Such a high priest meets our need – one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” Hebrews 7

By His perfect sacrifice and His victorious resurrection Jesus has opened the kingdom of heaven to us, and all believers. We have through the Risen One become a royal priesthood. The Reformers saw in this Scriptural truth something which was out of step with the teaching of the medieval church. The Bible clearly taught that no longer do God’s children require an earthly intermediary to approach their Father, but they themselves have, through faith in Christ Jesus, direct access to God, they can present their petitions to Him, received from Him the fullness of His blessings, and share His Good News with others, without needed mediation of a priest or saint.

Though we are celebrating that Jesus has burst forth from the tomb, we are still, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, entombed in our homes. This is when the priesthood of all believers, what the Reformation dubbed this Biblical teaching, becomes all the more vital to understand, embrace and live out! YOU can go to the throne of God directly, through faith in Christ and for His sake, and bring your prayers and petitions to Him.

Of course, this teaching doesn’t make our faith life a solo event. Far from it, priest of God you can also intercede on behalf of your brothers and sisters.
V  You can, O priest of God, lift up our nation, and world in prayer in this time of need.
V  You can, O priest of God, speak a Word of comfort, peace or promise to troubled hearts, guilty consciences, and lonely spirits.
V  We can, O priests of God, declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light; and who will call us out of this present darkness into the bright future He has in store for His chosen people, His royal priesthood.
-Pr. Kevin Kritzer

Monday, April 13, 2020

The One Year Bible- April 13th

I am not sure if I have mentioned this before, but I have been a big fan of the book of Psalms for many years. Remember, the book of Psalms was like the hymnal for the people of Israel. Unfortunately the tunes have been lost to history but the words are still there. I wish we had more time to dive deep into the Psalms and perhaps someday I will do just that, but every once in a while I want to highlight some things from this great book. This week I want to look at Psalm 86 (April 17). This is a Psalm of David and has some great words of comfort and also can serve to refocus us when things seem to going wrong. In verses 11 & 12 we read, “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.” I think that reading through the Bible from cover to cover is one way that God teaches us His way so that we might walk in the truth. There is just so much to learn from His word.
Lets get going....

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
Many of the readings this week were like a geography lesson. If you are like me it did not make much sense since the geography of the Holy Land is a bit of a mystery. The list of landmarks did not help me very much either. Please don’t get frustrated at this. The best thing to do is go to a map. I found this one on the Internet that shows how the land was divided. You may have one in the back of your Bible as well. For me this visually shows what we have been reading this week.

The geography of the Promised Land will be important later in the story. Eventually this land will become a kingdom under the rule of Saul. Things go well for a while but eventually the land is divided in two. The Northern Kingdom will have ten tribes, and the Southern Kingdom will have the other two (Judah, and Benjamin). Simeon will go with the North. This will be important later because the Northern Kingdom will be taken into exile never to return. A few years later the South will also be taken but some will return. This story points to Christ in so many ways but we don’t have the time to discuss this now. Trust me; we will discuss it later this year. One other note, the tribe of Dan will complain about their land and they will move out and head north to a city known as Dan. This is important because the city of Dan is in the far north of the kingdom and is part of a phrase we will see a number of times. When an Old Testament writer uses the phrase, “From Dan to Beersheba” they mean the entire land, since Dan is in the north and Beersheba is the city furthest south. Both places are on the map.

The New Testament
Jesus seems to talk a lot about money. To Jesus, money is something that can be used for good but it can also be used as something to be worshiped. Jesus said, "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate (remember our discussion of hate from last week?) the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (Luke 16:13 NIV) This was a direct attack on the Pharisees who loved money. The point is that God wants us to be faithful with the monetary blessings that we have been given but they are not to rule us and in reality become an idol that we worship. When Jesus talks to the rich young ruler, money is again an issue. Jesus tells him to sell everything he has and give the money to the poor. This man was not ready to give up his money. We all struggle with money. How much should we give away? How much is too much etc. Many of us are afraid if we do not save money we will not be able to survive. We sometimes forget the wonderful words of Jesus, "What is impossible with men is possible with God." (Luke 18:27 NIV) God will take care of us, we should not have to worry about money because we can focus on money and it will rule us if we are not careful.

Bits and Pieces
We will finish up the book of Joshua this week and begin the book of Judges. Here are the vital stats on the book of Judges:

Purpose: To present Israel’s declining spiritual state and the Lord’s mercy, by which He forgave them and held them together.
Author: Unknown, possibly Samuel
Setting: The land of Canaan, later called Israel. God had helped the Israelites conquer Canaan. which had been inhabited by a host of wicked nations. But they were in danger of losing this Promised Land because they compromised their convictions and disobeyed God.
Law Themes: Israel’s failure to conquer the Promised Land; transgression of the covenant; cowardice; idolatry; unfaithful Levites; doing what is right in one’s own eyes.
Gospel Themes: The Lord provides saviors and judges; the Lord answers Israel’s cry for help; the angel of the Lord; the Spirit of the Lord.
Key Verse: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” (17:6)
Key People: Othniel, Ehud (my favorite Judge), Deborah, Gideon, Abimelech, Jephthah, Samson, Delilah Special Feature: Records Israel’s first civil war

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