Tuesday, July 28, 2020

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

Link to Worship Video for 7/26/20 – HERE
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Link for printing Sunday’s Bulletin for 7/26/20 – HERE
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Link to Bible Discovery Resources for 7/26/20 – HERE
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V     V     V

Romans 8:28-39

“In all things we are more than conqueror through Him who loved us and gave Himself up for us.”   At first glance, through present experience, one might question the validity of Paul’s assertion.  There are moments, hours, days in which I’m feeling more like one who has been conquered, than one who is a conqueror.  A global pandemic, national panic; surges in violence, surges in positivity rates; falling hopes, falling bank accounts; rises in depression and debt, anxiety and addiction; there is plenty that might leave one feeling weaker by the week.  Yet, Paul asserts that we are more than conquerors in … not something, not many things, not most things … but ALL things!

The Greek word Paul uses here for conqueror is “nike”.  We’re familiar with the word when capitalized and accompanied by its famous swooshing symbol.  Most of us, even if we’ve never bought a pair, can declare the slogan – “Just do it!”  The Lord through the apostle to the Gentiles has already proclaim in the letter to the Romans that we are “just” (that is right with Him and in His sight) because Jesus has “done it!”    He loved us so much that He became one of us, lived a perfect life for all of us, suffered and innocent sacrificial death on account of us and in place of each of us!  He loves us so much that He rose again for us and ascended into heaven where He yet in love intercedes for us!  That is love… and Paul reminds us in these words that NOTHING can separate us from that love, nor the one who loves so, the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Even if things look bad; heck even if things are bad nothing can separate us from God’s love.  Think about it, there is nothing intrinsically good about persecution or pandemics; famine nor fiscal pain, danger nor depression, sword of the state or street on which bullets and molotov cocktails fly.  Yet in spite of it all, we are promised that God’s love cannot be torn away from us, nor we from His love.  The Lord through these words that become more precious to us each time we hear them today assures us that which He did when our Covid captivity began:  He’s Got This, He’s Got Us, in Christ We’ve Got Him, and with that being the case, His victory is ours and that makes us conquerors! 

-- Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, July 27, 2020

The One Year Bible- July 27th

Can you believe that July is almost over?  Where has the summer gone?  I hope the busy summer had not got the best of you and your time with God’s Word.  Don’t worry if it has.  Like I have said before, when you get behind (and you will get behind) just try to read two days worth each day until you catch up, or if you would like, you can just pick up the readings on the day you begin again and try to catch the readings you missed next time.  Either way, it is important not to beat yourself up over missing the readings or to get so frustrated that you give up.  Keep up the hard work and let me know how I can help.  On to the study…

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
This section of 2 Chronicles spent a lot of time listing the various kings, how long they reigned, what they did, etc.. Some kings were good and some were bad. One character that is important in this section is Isaiah. We will be spending quite a bit of time with Isaiah a bit later in the year but try to remember that this is his context: near the end of the kingdom of Judah. We will see some of these stories again when we are in Isaiah. One king to focus on is Hezekiah. He was only 25 when he started his reign and he immediately went to work. The first thing he did was to reopen the Temple. The Temple had become a place for various idols and the worship of false God’s. By reading this section, it is obvious that the Temple was a mess. It took 7 guys 16 days to clean it. If it takes me more than two days to clean my garage, I get a bit upset. At least there was some good motivation for getting the job done. After the job of restoring the Temple was done, it was time to celebrate. For the first time in a while, the people celebrated Passover. Hezekiah did a good job of getting the people back on track. Some Bible scholars think that God was getting his people ready for the exile that was to come soon. With the work of Hezekiah, the remnant would be prepared to return and rebuild the temple. There will be one great story of grace and mercy coming up on August 2nd.  In that reading we heard that king Manasseh did evil in the eyes of the LORD. God even audibly spoke to him but he did not listen. The Assyrian army took Manasseh prisoner, pierced his nose (to mark him as a slave), bound him in chains, and took him to Babylon. While in Babylon, Manasseh realized that he was in trouble and he prayed to YAHWEH, who was moved by his prayer and had mercy on him. Manasseh was brought back to Jerusalem because of God’s mercy. “Then Manasseh knew that the LORD is God.” (2 Chronicles 33:13b NIV).  God’s mercy sure is awesome! 

The New Testament
In our readings from Romans we read these wonderful words from Paul, "
How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!(Romans 10:15b NIV) Paul continues a few verses later by saying that “Faith comes from hearing”. It is not any action that we do, or any magic pill. Faith is a gift of God. It comes in hearing the message of Salvation from Jesus Christ. I had a seminary professor who told us that when his kids were born, the first thing he did was to whisper into their ears that Jesus loved them. I had never thought of doing this before. We also read about one of the great analogies about being in the family of faith. Paul says that the Gentiles (which includes me) have been grafted into the family and now receive all the benefits of being part of the whole. We are now full partners in the blessings of Abraham as we live connected to God’s special olive tree. Paul then moves on to talk about being living sacrifices. This seems contradictory but in view of God’s mercy we offer everything we have to God as an offering to him. This becomes a part of our worship life. Paul then moves to the body analogy. It is not the only place Paul uses this but the point is that we are all part of one body. We are all connected in Christ.
Psalm 22 is known as a Messianic Psalm. Jesus quotes from this Psalm when he is on the cross. Go back and read verses 14 to 18 and think about the story of Jesus on the cross.  We also read the 23rd Psalm which is one of the most well known of all the psalms.  I really like the NLT translation of verse 6, “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life.”  What a great image, the love of God pursues us!  It does not just follow us, but is actively seeking us out, even in our sinfulness.

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We will finish the book of 2 Chronicles this week and start the book of Ezra. A lot of time will have passed between these two books. We will see the downfall of Judah and their exile to Babylon. If you are dying to know what happens there you can read the book of Daniel. Ezra begins the story of the return of the exiles back to the promised land. This promised “remnant” will provide the opportunity for the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy with the birth of Jesus. Here are the vital stats for the book of Ezra:

PURPOSE: To show the Judeans how God controls the nations of the earth for His saving purposes.
AUTHOR: Not stated but probably Ezra
DATE WRITTEN: Around 450 B.C. recording events from about 538-450 B.C.
SETTING: Ezra follows 2 Chronicles as a history of the Jewish people, recording their return to the land after the captivity.
KEY VERSES: “So the Israelites who had returned from exile ate it [the Passover], together with all who had separated themselves from the unclean practices of their Gentile neighbors in order to seek the LORD, the God of Israel. For seven days they celebrated with joy, the feast of unleavened bread, because the LORD had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria, so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.” Ezra 6:21-22
LAW THEMES: Exile due to sin, persecution, broken faith by illegal marriages
GOSPEL THEMES: God fulfills His promise of mercy, God providence in restoring the temple and its sacrifices of atonement, the hand of God guides history for the sake of His people, the remnant restored.
KEY PEOPLE: Cyrus, Zerubbabel, Haggai, Zechariah, Darius, Artaxerxes I, Ezra
KEY PLACES: Babylon, Jerusalem
SPECIAL FEATURES: Ezra and Nehemiah were one book in the Hebrew Bible, and, with Esther, they comprise the post-captivity historical books. The post-captivity prophetic books are Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Haggai and Zechariah both prophesy during the period of the reconstruction.

The New Testament
The book of Romans comes to a close this week with some greetings to some people in Rome. Our journey with Paul will continue with the letters to the Corinthians. Along with Romans, these letters give a good taste of Paul’s theology. Paul wrote these letters to a church that was having some problems. We will spend time with these issues because many are the same that we face today. Here are the vital stats for the book:

PURPOSE: To identify problems in the Corinthian church, to offer solutions, and to teach the believers how to live for Christ in a corrupt society.
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The church in Corinth and Christians everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 55, near the end of Paul’s three year ministry in Ephesus, during his third missionary journey.
KEY VERSE: “ I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” 1 Corinthians 1:10
LAW THEMES: Rebukes against divisions, foolish human wisdom, struggles with sexual immorality, idolatry, and spiritual pride; the Lord’s Supper abused; doubting the resurrection.
GOSPEL THEMES: Saved by Christ crucified; God’s wisdom in Christ; the Spirit’s work; Gospel ministry through the apostles; sanctified through Baptism; God’s unity; the Lord’s Supper; resurrection hope.
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Timothy, members of Chloe’s household.
KEY PLACES: Worship meetings in Corinth
SPECIAL FEATURES: This is a strong, straightforward letter.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

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

Link to Worship Video for 7/19/20 – HERE
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Link for printing Sunday’s Bulletin for 7/19/20 – HERE
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Link to Bible Discovery Resources for 7/19/20 – HERE
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V     V     V

"Grown as We Groan" - Romans 8:18-27

You walk through a darkened hallway and come to a door at the end, you turn the knob, slowly open the door and step through.  You find yourself on a stage, in front of a large audience,  the lights are bright, the crowd grows silent and everyone is looking at you.  Is this nightmare, or a challenge?

It has been said that one of the most nerve-wracking things to do is speak in public.  It is the rare individual that will willingly stand up in front of a large group to communicate.  Gratefully it does not bother me too much, but I do have the occasional nightmare of standing in front of a congregation with nothing to say. 

If speaking to an audience gives you the chills, how about speaking to an audience of one? 
·         Is it easier?
·         Does the topic matter? 
·         Does it change if the subject matter is politics? 
·         What about faith?
·         Does it change if that audience is God?

A nightmare or a challenge? 
Intriguing or debilitating?

Let’s face it, talking to the creator of the cosmos, the almighty, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God should fill you with a healthy dose of awe and trepidation. But in His Word, we are called to do it.  Jesus’ disciples wanted to know how to do this was well so He told them, “…when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father” (Matthew 6:6)  Sounds easy enough, right? Now, what do you say?  After those words, Jesus gave his followers the words we know as the Lord’s prayer.  Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a great prayer, but if you are like me, you are at a loss of what may come next.  “Now I lay me down to sleep??…Come Lord Jesus, be our guest???…”

This summer we continue looking at Paul’s letter to the Romans.  As we ponder it, consider it’s message and roll it over in our minds I hope it has become sweet to you.  Today we find ourselves in Chapter 8 again and in this section the Apostle Paul has our back.  He writes, “At the same time the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we don’t know how to pray for what we need. But the Spirit intercedes along with our groans that cannot be expressed in words. 27 The one who searches our hearts knows what the Spirit has in mind. The Spirit intercedes for God’s people the way God wants him to.” (Romans 8:26-27)

Our text begins, “At the same time…” and to understand the context we need to ask, “At the same time as what?”  We have to go back to verses 22 & 23 were Paul writes, “We know that all creation has been groaning with the pains of childbirth up to the present time.  However, not only creation groans. We, who have the Spirit as the first of God’s gifts, also groan inwardly.” 

We groan all the time don’t we? 
·                     We groan when the alarm clock goes off on Sunday morning. 
·                     We groan when we see the brake lights on the commute to work. 
·                     We groan when people let us down. 
·                     We groan when things don’t go our way.
·                     We groan at having to wear a mask or at others who aren’t.
·                     We groan at comments and posts on Social Media.
·                     We groan at decisions made by elected leaders. 
·                     We groan, and complain, and lament at just about everything.   

Groaning is something humans have been doing since the fall.  There have been groans in the delivery room and the boardroom.  Groans have been heard from sandy shore to the trading floor. We groan at the test scores and the box scores.  We groan about the things of the past and what the future might hold.    All of creation groans.  But God hears the groans of His people. Peter writes in his letter, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) 

What do you groan about? (Take a moment and ponder)

You are in good company.  God has heard the groans of his people for generations. 

As God’s servant Moses was walking in the desert working for his father-in-law, hiding from his family in Egypt, the Lord came to him and asks him to go to Pharaoh and speak.  Almost at once we hear the groans of Moses, “What if they won’t believe me or listen to me?  What if they say, ‘The Lord never appeared to you’? O Lord I am not very good with words…I get tongue tied and my words get tangled…Lord, please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:1)  It was not long before the people the Lord sent Moses to were the ones groaning.  “Moses, did you bring us out into this desert to die?  It was better back in Egypt where we had three squares and a place to sleep.” But God hears the groans of the people.  You know the story…the story of redemption in the desert.

It was groans of another kind, begun in a garden, amplified on the cross that were also heard by the Lord.  As Jesus, groaned under the weight of our sins, his groans served to bring creation back.  On the cross we see a picture of a God who hears the groans of His people.  It was creation that groaned in the sound of an earthquake three days later that announced an end to all groaning, and the beginning of new life for all who believe in Him.  In the groans of Jesus, we see the defeat of sin, death, and groaning forever.  In the groans of Jesus your sins are forgiven, you have been made new, your groaning’s have been heard and answered and there is nothing to fear.

So, back to our bedroom prayers…in this life we are still subject to sin, our weakness is evident.  Just go back a little bit in the book of Romans for a reminder.   All too often we are at a loss for words but Paul writes, “At the same time the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we don’t know how to pray for what we need. But the Spirit intercedes along with our groans that cannot be expressed in words.” (Romans 8:26)

Paul realizes that we are not capable to pray for what we need.  We have been crippled by sin, but in our weakness, the Spirit, sent from the Lord groans our requests to God. When life is overwhelming, when you don’t know what to say, when all you can do is groan, the Spirit groans for you.We have a God who hears the groans of His people.   Help in prayer is a service that the Holy Spirit renders to all Christians. 

That does not release us from God’s command and encouragement to pray, but it does cover us for when we do it poorly or too little.  And unlike our bumbling prayers, the Holy Spirit’s prayers for us are always on target.  I know it can be hard.  When all you feel like doing is complaining and groaning, when the world seems to be unfair or sin seems to be so strong, I ask you to groan.   Even in your weakness, the Spirit helps, groans, and intercedes for you!

And in our groans we are grown.  As we groan in prayer, We grow in faith.  We grow in our trust of God’s will for us.  We grow as we share our faith, as we go to Him in prayer, as we hear his word, as we come to his table as we serve our neighbor

In our groans, we are grown.  We are grown into the people God has called us to be, not living in fear, but loving one another with the love that has been shown to us in Christ.

As we close allow me to give you a few things to ponder and to meditate upon on this week.

First, if all you feel like doing is groaning, I invite you to Go into your room, close the doors, and groan away.  As you groan know that you are being grown into the person God wants you to be.  And he has invited you to groan.  It is not a nightmare, but a challenge that he has set before us and in this process we can share the love of God. 

Second, make a list of those people and situations you want to bring to God in prayer.  When you groan in prayer look over the list and know that God will hear your groaning. 

And third, when your present sufferings get you down, stand with Paul and confess, “I consider our present sufferings insignificant compared to the glory that will soon be revealed to us.”  (Romans 8:18) 
-- Pastor Seth Moorman

Worship Resources for Sunday, July 26th     
will be up on Bethany’s website by midday Saturday, July 25th!

Monday, July 20, 2020

The One Year Bible- July 20th

There have been times in my life where I can just feel the presence of God.  At times I can hear his call and he seems close.  But there are also times when God seems distant and far removed from my daily life.  Have you ever felt this way?  Remember that it is all just a matter of perspective.  In reality in our sinfulness we are the ones that drift away.  Sin takes us far from God and in our own minds we try to blame God for leaving us.  Some times I would like God to give me a big sign in the sky to tell me his plan or that he is right there.  The people of the Old Testament got a visual show.  When God’s presence came to earth, the people would see it in the form of a thick cloud.  God revealed himself to his people visually so they could believe.  He did the same when he sent his son Jesus.  Jesus became the walking temple for all of us to see.  Today we can see him every time we partake in the Lord’s Supper, every time we read His Word, and every time he calls another child his own in baptism.  When you think that God is distant, remember that he is right here, closer than you think.  On to the study…

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
Some good stories this week in the Old Testament. Most of the counting and lists are done with and the narrative picks up in earnest. You may not have even been aware that we started 2 Chronicles this week. Solomon continues to build the Temple for the LORD. It was an impressive structure! There was so much gold used it could not be counted. Silver meant nothing and bronze was almost worthless. It is interesting to note that the curtain of the temple is mentioned. It is what separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. This is the curtain that tore in two (in a different temple mind you) when Jesus died. Jesus’ death brings Holy God and sinful man back into a relationship again. It must have been an awesome sight to see the thick cloud of YAHWEH filling the temple. This was the first time in a while that there had been a physical manifestation of God on earth. Solomon’s prayer was a good one and got the people back on track. God’s response to Solomon was also quite amazing. All was good during the life of Solomon but soon he would be buried with his fathers and his son Rehoboam would become king. Rehoboam did not fare to well. He did not listen to his father’s advisors and soon the kingdom was split. Civil war then raged and the Northern Kingdom went on a road to destruction as they worshiped idols and bowed down to other Gods. King Asa tried to get things right with God but it did not last. Jehoshaphat tried to do what was right but we will soon find out that he has troubles as well. Here are the vital stats for the book of 2 Chronicles:

PURPOSE: To unify the nation around true worship of God by showing his standard for judging kings. The righteous kings of Judah and the religious revivals under their rule are highlighted, and the sins of the evil kings are exposed.
AUTHOR: Ezra, according to Jewish tradition
DATE WRITTEN: Approximately 430 B.C., recording the events for the beginning of Solomon’s reign (970 B.C.) to the beginning of the Babylonian captivity (586 B.C.)
SETTING: Second Chronicles parallels 1 and 2 Kings and serves as their commentary. Originally 1 and 2 Chronicles were one book. It was written after the exile from a priestly perspective, highlighting the importance of the temple and the religious revivals in Judah. The northern kingdom, Israel, is virtually ignored in this history.
KEY VERSE: “If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV).
KEY PEOPLE: Solomon, the queen of Sheba, Rehoboam, Asa, Jehoshephat, Jehoram, Joash, Uzziah, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Josiah
KEY PLACES: Jerusalem, the temple
SPECIAL FEATURES: Includes a detailed record of the temple’s construction

The New Testament
Paul really gets on a roll in this weeks readings. If you were not convinced you were a sinner before, I bet you are now. Romans six deals with the idea that those who have been united with Christ have been united with him in his death and more importantly in his resurrection. This is great news because now those who are “in Christ” (one of Paul’s favorite phrases) will receive all the benefits of God. Those who are in Christ are dead to sin and alive in Christ. We do not have the freedom to just continue sinning. We are no longer slaves to sin. But then Paul brings up a good point. This is a confusing passage (especially in the NIV) but the NLT (New Living Translation) is a bit clearer for me. “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead I do what I hate...I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it” (Romans 7:15,18b-20 NLT). Paul realizes that in this world, we are so interwoven with sin that it is impossible to extract ourselves. We are in dire straights! We cry with Paul. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24 NIV). In the end it is all about Jesus. He is the only one that can free us from this problem. His death and resurrection make it possible for us to leave the sin of this world behind and live for Him in all we do. We now live our lives by the Spirit of God and we have been adopted into his family. And we can call him Daddy (Abba, Father). This relationship cannot be broken. It holds firm even when sin attacks. Therefore do not worry about your status in the world. The important thing is that we are part of the family of God. On the 27th we will read that being a member of this family is easy, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9 ESV). Good news indeed!!!  Now this verse has been used by many Christians to support a view that human beings must do something in order to become a Christian.  This is not a new idea.  Now days we call it “decision theology” but this has been with the Faith for a long time.  To use a $2 word it is called syncretism.  This means that in some way we have to cooperate with God in some way shape or form for our salvation.  When we make some sort of an effort towards God then he will have mercy on us.  The point of view goes something like this:  We encounter the message of salvation and then we need to make a decision to accept this good news.  The power of God does not begin in our lives until we make a conscious choice to follow him.  Until then we are lost.  This point of view is prevalent in many Christian circles.  Those who hold this view are big believers in altar calls and praying the “sinners prayer” in order to become a believer in Jesus.   There are two passages that help me understand that this is not how God operates.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3 NIV)  Paul also says in Romans 8, The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7-8 NIV)  When we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, is cannot be an act of a sinful person, because this pleases God.  There must be something that was working in us before we could even do this.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit.  He works in us before we even know who Jesus is.  He comes to us in the waters of baptism before we can even talk.  He starts working on our sinfulness even before we know.  There is no way we can cooperate with God.  Salvation is his action and his action alone.  I could go on and on with this one but I think you get the idea.  Please let me know if you have any more questions about this. 

Thursday, July 16, 2020

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

Link to Worship Video for 7/12/20 – HERE
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Link for printing Sunday’s Bulletin for 7/12/20 – HERE
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Link to Bible Discovery Resources for 7/12/20 – HERE
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Romans 8:12-17

“I consider our present sufferings are insignificant when compared to our future glory.”

I suppose if Paul’s medium used to write the inspired Word of God were Twitter he would have faced significant backlash when, even though moved by the Spirit, he said, “I consider our present sufferings are insignificant…”  Yes, we know the rest of the sentence, it’s even printed above… but in a sound bite, twitter, post driven world the black lash would probably have been swift. 

Of course, on the one hand we can understand that can we not?  To make light of another’s sufferings makes one insufferable.  (‘tis true that making more of one’s sufferings that the data supports makes on unbearable & inventing sufferings in order to cause others to suffer makes one intolerable) that said, making light of another’s sufferings makes one insufferable.  That’s obviously not what the apostle was doing.  Paul knew all about sufferings, both communal (the church was always under suspicion, the threat of persecution was always at hand, and the state was none too friendly to this new institution) and personal (“I have worked hard, been flogged more severely, been exposed to death again and again.  Five times I received the forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked… I have been in constant danger, known hunger and faced daily pressure of my concern for the church…”) and he knew that his sufferings were significant to the Lord, significant enough that He came to share in them and make them His own.  Your sufferings, whatever they are, are significant to the Lord.  Significant enough He comes to make them His own.   Yes, our sufferings are significant, yet they are insignificant when compared to the glory that awaits us. 

The glory of eternal days in which anger and animosity are absent forever; where neither tears nor hopes fall, when disease, depression, distress, distrust and divisions disappear to never been known again, when sin and death are no more and God who is all in all is worshiped by all in the unity of the Son, a unity that belongs even now to His heirs. 

That future glory does change our present reality.  If God identifies with us in our sufferings ought we not identify with others in theirs?  We’ve been put in community to hurt when others hurt, to cry when others cry and to console others with the consolation we ourselves have received from God. 

-- Pastor Kevin L. Kritzer

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

Link to Worship Video for 7/05/20 – HERE
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Link for printing Sunday’s Bulletin for 7/05/20 – HERE
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Link to Bible Discovery Resources for 7/05/20 – HERE
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What a Miserable Person I Am -- Romans 7

Tommy Lasorda, the former Los Angeles Dodgers manager, once described his battle with bad habits this way, “I took a pack of cigarettes from my pocket, stared at it and said, “Who’s stronger, you or me?” The answer was me. So, I stopped smoking. Then I took a vodka martini and said to it, “Who’s stronger, you or me?” Again the answer was me.  So, I quit drinking. Then I went on a diet. I looked at a big plate of linguine with clam sauce and said, “Who’s stronger, you or me?” And a little clam looked up at me and answered, “I am.” I can’t beat linguine.”

Is there a battle in your life that you know you just can’t win?  Paul describes one such battle in the text from Romans chapter 7. 

This summer we have been walking through the book of Romans and today we catch a glimpse at the personal struggle of sin.  Paul describes that internal monologue we have all had in regards to giving in to the temptations of sin. 

In Romans 7:15-19, Paul writes, “I don’t realize what I am doing. I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do what I hate.  I don’t do what I want to do, but I agree that God’s standards are good. So I am no longer the one who is doing the things I hate, but sin that live in me is doing them.  I know that nothing good lives in me; that is, nothing good lives in my corrupt nature.  Although I have the desire to do what is right, I don’t do it.  I don’t do the good I want to do.  Instead, I do the evil that I don’t want to do.” 

It is said that opportunity knocks only once in life, but temptation bangs on the door for years.  Paul describes that battle that takes place in the body, soul and mind of every single person on earth as we lament upon the struggle of sin. 

Earlier in the letter Paul reminded us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

Following that logic, we all struggle with doing what God requires.  In fact, Paul turns up the heat and reveals what we all know already.  Even when we know what we should do, we don’t do it. 

What temptation is banging on the door of your heart?  I know there is at least one.  What is that sin that you seem to come back to over and over again?  You know it’s wrong, you know God would not approve, let alone family or friends.  What are those temptations you give in to time and time again?

English poet Frederick Locker-Lampson once wrote, “The world is as ugly as sin, and almost as delightful.”  Sin is alluring and powerful and a force given into by each and every one of us each and every day.  Paul continues in verse 21, “So I’ve discovered this truth: Evil is present with me even when I want to do what God’s standards say is good.  I take pleasure in God’s standards in my inner being.  However, I see a different standard at work throughout my body.  It is at war with the standards my mind sets and tries to take me captive to sin’s standards which still exist throughout my body.  What a miserable person I am!”  (Romans 7:21-24)
When the bright light of the law shines in the dark corners of our lives we become keenly aware of our sin filled lives.  Try to hide it, try to deny it, we are all miserable people, wrapped up in the wretchedness of sin, giving in to temptation and wallowing in our inadequacies.  Perhaps you remember saying these words as part of the liturgy of the church, “I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto you…” 

We are engaged in a battle that we are incapable of winning.  You are a poor miserable sinner, stuck in the same self-centered spiral that brings guilt, pain, separation, and self-loathing.  What a bunch of miserable people we are!  You may try to find a way out on your own.  You may think you can work off the guilt, sweep away the sadness or try and forget the failures, but I have news for you.  You can’t do this on your own!  You may even believe that this battle with sin is within you and something for you to conquer, but it's not.

The life of a Christian is not a call to do more. Please hear that statement again, The life of a Christian is not a call to do more.  It’s not a self help program or a process of personal redemption.  The Christian life is coming face to face with the one who has done it all.  For there is another battle that has taken place where the outcome is vastly different, the champion has already been crowned and the victor stands in glory. 

Perhaps the words from the second verse of Martin Luther’s famous hymn "A Mighty Fortress" will help you remember.
“With might of ours cannot be done,
            Soon were our loss effected;
But for us fights the valiant one,
            Whom God himself elected.
Ask ye, who is this?
            Jesus Christ it is!
Of Sabaoth Lord, and there’s none other God
            He holds the field forever.”   (LSB 656)

While Paul laments over the struggle of sin that we all face, he is confident in hope.  This is not the end.  Like Paul, we find victory over sin in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

If sin has the best of you, if you feel like there is no hope for a miserable person such as you, listen to the good news.  Who you really are has nothing to do with you—how much you can accomplish, who you can become, your behavior (good or bad), your strengths, your weaknesses, your sordid past, your family background, your education, your looks, and so on.  Your identity is firmly anchored in Christ’s accomplishment, not yours; His strength, not yours; His performance, not yours; His victory, not yours.  Your identity is steadfastly established in His substitution, not your sin.

Hear these words, on account of Christ, your sin is forgiven!  That is grace!  That is life!  In Christ alone we have our identity. There are 2 questions for thought this week...

#1 – What are some of those things that you have done in your life, that for the life of you, you just cannot understand why you did them?  Say them aloud.
#2 – How does coming to the realization of verse 18 and what it means give you hope?  Here is the verse, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but cannot carry it out.”

The late Christian author Brennan Manning once wrote, “To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark.  In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means…My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”

The church is not in the business of doing all things in the proper way such as believing, behaving, worshiping, etc. in order to get right with God.  The church instead is in the Gospel-proclaiming business.  The church is not here to proclaim that God will think kindly of us only after we have lived up to certain creedal, liturgical, or ethical standards; it’s here to bring the good news Scripture proclaims, that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” 
The church is here, in short for no pious purpose at all, only to announce the Gospel of free grace won in the person and work of Jesus Christ and given to us freely without any merit or worthiness in us.  With that understanding we can cry out with great hope and in boldness along with Paul, “Who will rescue me from my dying body?  I thank God that our Lord Jesus Christ rescues me!”  (Romans 7:24b-25)

That is grace!  That is Gospel!  That is forgiveness and that is freedom, which is all yours, even as a miserable sinner, in Christ!

Let us pray…
Heavenly Father, we realize that we are such poor, miserable sinners.  We know that we cannot free ourselves.  We know that only You can give us what we need for Eternal Life.  Thank you for sending your one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to be our substitute and take all of your wrath upon himself.  It is only through Him that we will one day worship you around your throne, singing your praises forever and ever.  Amen.
-- Karl Fink

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