Monday, October 26, 2020

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of October 25, 2020




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V  V  V


Message: “Certainty in Uncertain Times”

Text: Philippians 4:4-9


When we began our fall series we quickly realized that the apostle Paul’s desire expressed in his letter to the Philippians is that though we are not Philippians we (Christians, Lutherans, Californians – we are all of those things) will Grow Through What We Go Through.   Though we are at the end of our fall series, we are not at the end of that which we are going through; and thus we will continue to grow through the same.  One of the ways we will grow is by embracing and understanding Paul’s call to “Rejoice in the Lord, Always!” 

Of course, it is hard to rejoice when things are uncertain, unpleasant or utterly unpredictable.  We live in uncertain times!  There is no denying that reality.   I must confess that in these uncertain days I’ve done as much recoiling as rejoicing and as much lamenting and exulting.  You too?  It’s important to examine the words of Paul once again!  Paul does not say, “Rejoice…in male pattern baldness.”   The apostle does NOT tell us to rejoice in…separation from co-workers, class-mates, family members or fellow worshippers brought about by pandemic.  The mouthpiece of the Master does not instruct us to rejoice in societal chaos or the collapse of polite public discourse; we are not commanded to rejoice in an anti-social, social media driven agenda.  Nor are we told to rejoice in how it is driving us further apart from one another.  Rejoice in isolation and loneliness not in the text.  Rejoice in lost employment, lost income, lost relationships, lost hopes, nope.  Rejoice in global upheaval all around us or a spirit that is downcast within us is not what He says!   Say it with me, “Rejoice IN THE LORD ALWAYS…again I’ll say it, Rejoice!”  WHY?   Because, “THE LORD IS NEAR!”  

This truth moved the Reformers to proclaim and confess this Scriptural promise in their days filled with uncertainty.  Yes, they also lived in uncertain times. They endured a pandemic of their own, the black plague, their society was collapsing and wars were raging, the social media of the day (wood cuts) were often far from flattering of their opponents, excommunications and threats abounded, the days of the Reformation were uncertain.  

Yet, the Reforms said all the certainty needed God has provided in His Word.  How certain, in the midst of such uncertainty, were the Reformers?   Their anthem answers that question, “Were they to take our house, goods, honor, child or spouse, though life be wretched away, they cannot win the day, the kingdoms ours FOREVER!”  Now that is certainty in an uncertain world.  

We, children of the Reformation, have a certainty midst uncertain days.  It rests not on a nail that held words to a church door; but in nails that held the Word made flesh to the cross.   Rejoice THE LORD IS FOR YOU!  Rejoice this same Lord is NEAR YOU!  In an uncertain world, the annual celebration of the reformation calls us to take a stance of certainty ourselves on the Word of God, incarnated (Jesus) and “inscriputrated” (The Bible).   


Of this one thing you can be sure, this is utterly dependable, God is pleased with you in Christ, though undeserved God has drawn near to you in Jesus, though unworthy of the gift our of pure grace and love God has bestowed on you a name (Christian) a title (child of God) and a Kingdom (His) without end. 


That is all we need to find ourselves “Rejoicing in the Lord Always!”  And the more we do so midst the uncertainty of life the more we shall find ourselves Growing Through All We Go Through


-          Pr. Kevin Kritzer


Worship Resources for Sunday, November 1st will be up on Bethany’s website by midday Saturday, October 31st.

The One Year Bible- October 26th

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


Pastor Seth’s Thoughts


The Old Testament

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


The Hebrew title for this book of the Bible is taken from the first word, “How”. When, during the Intertestamental Period, the Jews translated this book into Greek they gave it the title, “The Tears of Jeremiah”. When the Greek was translated into Latin, it was named “The Lamentations of Jeremiah,” the title we use today. Lamentations consists of five individual poems. The first four (chapters 1-4) use a poetic device known as “acrostic”. In an acrostic each new line of poetry begins with a successive letter of the alphabet. In chapters 1,2, and 4 each verse begins with a new letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Since the Hebrew alphabet has twenty-two letters, each of these chapters has twenty-two verses. In chapter 3 the author triples the acrostic. Every three verses begin with a new letter of the alphabet, so chapter 3 has sixty-six verses.


In the face of Jerusalem’s destruction, the prophet encouraged the believers to keep on clinging to the Lord. The nation was without excuse. It has plenty of time to repent, but it chose the path of sin. Not its sins had brought the present terror. On its own, the nation could not deliver itself. Its only hope lay in a return to the Lord, and the Lord did not fail. Even in this disaster, believers could see his gracious hand. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). Even under suffering, the believer can confidently wait for the salvation he knows will come.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Bits and Pieces


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

Monday, October 19, 2020

The One Year Bible- October 19th

I have always been a fan of the morning prayer service known as Matins. This service has a rich tradition in the Church. This service is filled with singing, prayer and other music. Growing up Lutheran I have seen many versions of this service. But regardless of what hymnal it comes out of the words are very powerful and have great meaning for me. We will read one of the central passages used in Matins this week. Let’s use these words as our focus today.


 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
   let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
   let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the LORD is a great God,
   and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
   the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
   and his hands formed the dry land.

 Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
   let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God,
   and we are the people of his pasture,
   and the sheep of his hand.--
Psalm 95:1-7 ESV


Seth’s Thoughts


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Bits and Pieces


The Old Testament

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



PURPOSE: To teach people that to disobey God is to invite disaster, and to show that God suffers when His people suffer.

AUTHOR: Most likely Jeremiah

DATE WRITTEN: Soon after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

SETTING: Jerusalem had been destroyed by Babylon and her people killed, tortured, or taken captive.

KEY VERSE: “My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city.” (2:11)

LAW THEMES: The Lord pours out His anger against the kingdom of Judah; Judah finds no comfort; she cries, mourns, weeps, and laments the siege and exile.

GOSPEL THEMES:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; great is His faithfulness; wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord; he has redeemed you.

KEY PEOPLE: Jeremiah, the people of Jerusalem

KEY PLACE: Jerusalem

SPECIAL FEATURES: Three strands of Hebrew thought meet in Lamentations—prophecy, ritual, and wisdom. Lamentations is written in the rhythm and style of ancient Jewish funeral songs or chants. It contains five poems corresponding to the five chapters.



PURPOSE: To announce God’s judgment on Israel and other nations and to foretell the eventual salvation of God’s people

AUTHOR: Ezekiel—the son of Buzi, a Zadokite priest

TO WHOM WRITTEN: The Jews in captivity, in Babylonia, and God’s people everywhere

DATE WRITTEN: Approx. 571 B.C.

SETTING: Ezekiel was a younger contemporary of Jeremiah. While Jeremiah ministered to the people still in Judah, Ezekiel prophesied to those already exiled in Babylonia after the defeat of Jehoichin.

KEY VERSES: “For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all you idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (36:24-26)

LAW THEMES: Death and God’s wrath come to Israel by the sword; Israel has not walked in God’s statutes; in anger, God withdraws His glory and blessings; idolatry as spiritual adultery; defilement; exile; famine and pestilence.

GOSPEL THEMES: God keeps His covenant; new hearts; gift of the Spirit; the Good Shepherd; cleansing; restore the fortunes; God’s glory returns; the new temple.

KEY PEOPLE: Ezekiel, Israel’s leaders, Ezekiel’s wife, Nebuchadnezzar, “the prince”

KEY PLACES: Jerusalem, Babylon, and Egypt

The New Testament

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



PURPOSE: To advise Titus in his responsibility of supervising the churches in the island of Crete


TO WHOM WRITTEN: Titus, a Greek, probably converted to Christ through Paul’s ministry (he had become Paul’s special representative to the island of Crete), and to all believers everywhere.

DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 64, around the same time 1 Timothy was written; probably from Macedonia when Paul traveled between his Roman imprisonments.

SETTING: Paul sent Titus to organize and oversee the churches on Crete. This letter tells Titus how to do this job.

KEY VERSE: “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I direct you” (1:5)

LAW THEMES: Be above reproach; rebuke; the pure and the defiled; submissiveness; devotion to good works.

GOSPEL THEMES: Election; soundness; God’s grace; redemption; washing and renewal; justification.

KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Titus

KEY PLACES: Crete, Nicopolis

SPECIAL FEATURES: Titus is very similar to 1 Timothy with its instructions to church leaders.



PURPOSE: To convince Philemon to forgive his runaway slave, Onesimus, and to accept him as a brother in the faith.


TO WHOM WRITTEN: Philemon, who was probably a wealthy member of the Colossian church, and all believers.

DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 60, during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, at about the same time Ephesians and Colossians were written.

SETTING: Slavery was common in the Roman Empire and evidently some Christians had slaves. Paul does not condemn the institution of slavery in his writings, but he makes a radical statement by calling this slave Philemon’s brother in Christ.

KEY VERSES: “Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good—no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord (verses 15-16)

LAW THEMES: Usefulness; imprisonment; service; debt; partnership

GOSPEL THEMES: Comfort/refreshment; reconciliation; forgiveness.

KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Philemon, Onesimus

KEY PLACES: Colosse, Rome

SPECIAL FEATURES: This is a private, personal letter to a friend.



PURPOSE: To present the sufficiency and superiority of Christ

AUTHOR: Paul, Luke, Barnabas, Apollos, Silas, Philip, Pricilla, and others have been suggested because the name of the author is not given in the Biblical text itself. Whoever it was speaks of Timothy as “brother” (13:23)

TO WHOM WRITTEN: Hebrew Christians (perhaps second-generation Christians) who may have been considering a return to Judaism, perhaps because of immaturity, stemming from a lack of understanding of Biblical truths; and all believers in Christ.

DATE WRITTEN: Probably before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70, because the religious sacrifices and ceremonies are referred to in the book, but no mention is made of the temples destruction

SETTING: These Jewish Christians were probably undergoing fierce persecution, socially and physically, both from Jews and from Romans. Christ had not yet returned to establish his kingdom, and the people needed to be reassured that Christianity was true and that Jesus was the Messiah.

KEY VERSE: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (1:3)

LAW THEMES: Retribution for disobedience; slavery to death and the devil; and unbelieving heart; rebellion; obligation to sacrifice; repentance from dead works; crucifying Jesus again; the living God’s vengeance; struggle against sin; discipline; obedience to leaders.

GOSPEL THEMES: God spoke through Jesus; purification for sins; inheriting salvation; our High Priest and Mediator; sanctification; God’s promises; Melchizedek; sprinkled and washed; assurance of faith; the founder and perfecter of our faith; the great Shepherd.

KEY PEOPLE: Old Testament men and women of faith (see chapter 11)

SPECIAL FEATURES: Although Hebrews is called a “letter” (13:22), it has the form and content of a sermon.


Monday, October 12, 2020

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of October 11, 2020




Link to Worship Video for 10/11/20 – HERE

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V     V     V


Sermon Message:

Keeping the Primary Thing the Primary Thing


Text: Philippians 3:4b-12


Fill in the blank: In order to even think about attending, or becoming a member of, a church, it has to ___________________.


On Wednesday of this past week, I was driving through the neighborhood of The Gathering and I saw a group of guys hanging out in front of the convenience store located at 10th and Myrtle. Because I’ve walked the neighborhood countless times, I decided to park my car and go say hello, masked of course. As I approached the group of guys, I saw one gentleman, they call him Snake, standing against the wall enjoying an adult beverage in the warm afternoon sun. Snake is a character. He loves to laugh and joke around, some might call him the life of the party. It seems that everyone knows Snake and Snake knows everyone. I hadn’t seen Snake in several months and so we started talking. About two minutes into our conversation, Snake looked at me and said, “I need you to come with me and meet my wife. I’ve told her about you and your church, but I don’t think she believes me.” So, Snake and I turned the corner, and headed down the alley to his apartment. When we get to his apartment, he walks in, introduces me to his wife, and says, “This is the pastor I wanted you to meet. We need to go to his church! He told me I ain’t got to get dressed up and I can just wear what I got on. I don’t have to wear my hard shoes and suit.” You see, somewhere down the line, Snake got the impression that you have to act or dress a certain way before you can belong, or even attend, a church. To put it another way, he learned that it was more important that you fit in with everyone else than it was what you actually believed in, or even wanted to learn about, Jesus. It’s sad that anyone would think that, but, to be honest, many times, without even knowing that, churches give that impression. We may not mean to give the impression, but sometimes we do so unknowingly. As a result, we come off as saying, either by words or actions that a person needs to belong, to be like us and/or do what we do, before they can become a part of our community, regardless of what they believe about Jesus.


This was the battle that Paul was facing in Philippi. After Paul planted the church, and then continued on his missionary journey, a group of individuals, called Judaizers, came along and tried to infiltrate the church. The Judaizers were a group that said, in order to truly believe in Jesus, these Gentile Christians need to take on Jewish religious and social practices. Basically, the Judaizers taught that in order to follow Jesus, to be in His good graces, these Gentile Christians needed to assimilate into the Jewish way of life. These individuals were more concerned with these new Christians belonging to something, and doing the “right” things, than they were them believing in Jesus.


Our text today was Paul’s response to what was going on in the Philippian church. Paul wrote to the church, and I’m paraphrasing here, “The person writing you this letter did all he could to belong. I jumped through all the hoops, went through all the classes, knew the way to do things and did it perfectly; but when I truly met Jesus, and experienced His true grace and mercy, everything changed. After my encounter with Jesus, I realized that all that stuff I did to fit in, to belong, didn’t matter and even pales in comparison to knowing Christ, or more importantly being known by Christ. So, as I go out and preach about Jesus, I’m going to focus on Jesus and His death and resurrection. That’s the main thing! That’s the only thing that matters!”


Those things that Paul once considered valuable, fitting in with the religious group and doing the right things, he suddenly considered worthless compared to knowing Christ and experiencing Christ’s love, forgiveness, and new life that was given freely through faith. Paul would much rather know Christ, or more specifically be known by Christ. Knowing that Christ gave up everything to suffer death on the cross, so that you and I might be reconciled with the Father, was a game changer for Paul. Realizing that God considered Christ, His own Son, as rubbish as Christ hung on the cross in order for us to have a relationship with Him, meant that Paul was willing to give up all his accolades and needing to “do things by the book.” It was because he knew he didn’t need to jump through hoops to have God’s approval that was given to him freely through Christ Jesus.


Now, this did not mean Paul no longer obeyed God, quite the contrary, but his motivation to obey God changed from doing things to please God to doing things because God was pleased with him through Christ Jesus. Paul switched from looking at God as the supreme overlord who is looking to smite him anytime he get out of line, to realizing that He is a loving Father who cared for him and wanted the best for him. Because Paul knew and experienced this, he wanted to share it with everyone he came in contact with! He didn’t want to burden them with do’s and don’ts, he wanted them to experience God’s grace and mercy; and Paul was willing to do whatever it took so that others might know Jesus, regardless of whether it made him comfortable or not. He kept the primary thing the primary thing!


That’s why he writes in 1 Corinthians 9, and I’m reading from The Message version again… Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)


So, can I ask, how did you filled in the blank? “In order to even think about attending, or becoming a member of, a church, it has to ___________________.”


Did you answer, something to effect of… “It has to purely preach the Gospel and rightly administer the Sacraments” or, to put it plainly (and not in so much Lutheran-ese), it has to be all about Jesus in what it says and does?


Well, that would be the right answer. Here’s the deal, if you said that it has to have traditional worship, contemporary worship, a phenomenal choir, an awesome Children or Youth ministries, dynamic preachers, evening worship, morning worship, or any number of other things that people often want in a church; then, to be honest, you’ve kind of switched the primary thing for something (though not inherently bad) that is not the primary thing. The things I listed are simply ways we use to communicate the primary thing, Jesus, to others.


This is the journey that the folks at The Gathering have been on for the past five years. We have come to realize that if we truly want to reach the community that God has placed us in with the Gospel, if we want to connect our neighbors to Jesus, we must recognize where we have been more concerned with people fitting in with our congregation than we have been with them meeting and growing in their faith in Jesus.


Sure, we all have our preferences of what we think a church should have on its menu of programs and ministries, but we have been coming to the realization, all be it slowly at times, that those are OUR preferences. They may not necessarily be the best way to proclaim the Gospel to the community in which God has us planted. We have had to ask ourselves, what are we willing to give up, to count as rubbish, so that others may come to know Christ and experience the love, forgiveness, and freedom as we have? We have been going through a process of building relationships with the people around us and learning how to read our community because we know that it is the first step in establishing relational trust. Building that kind of trust fosters a greater openness to a discussion of deeper, spiritual needs, and the ability to share about Christ. We have agreed to put everything on the table, except for Jesus, and, as we build relationship with our neighbors, to toss out those things that we find out are getting in the way of proclaiming the Gospel in our community and adding those things that will help.


Now, I have to admit, it has not been an easy journey, for others nor for me, and we have made a lot of mistakes along the way. There have been times where we took one step forward and three steps back.


Yet, it is one where we are learning to hold our doctrines and beliefs tightly but the way we express those beliefs, our practice, loosely. It has been a journey of learning to keep the primary thing, The Primary Thing, and that is JESUS.


Why are we doing this? Well, we are doing this so guys like Snake will feel like they have a place to go and discover who Jesus is and how much He loves them, has forgiven them, and wants to give them new life. We are doing this because we have come to realize that the community around us changed and we really hadn’t. We realized if we wanted to truly impact our community with the Gospel, we are going to have to count some things that we held as important, some of the ways that we had done, as rubbish.


So, let me ask you, what are we willing to give up, to count as rubbish, so that those around you where you live, learn, labor, or laugh may come to know Christ and experience the love, forgiveness, and freedom just as you and I have? Know that the answer to that question takes time, and it is a process. Know that you are going to get it wrong at time. Yet, also know that, even when you do get it wrong, you are still loved, forgiven, and made new in Christ Jesus. Know that you are still part of His family, and there is nothing that you can do to keep Him from loving you. Amen


- Pastor Kyle Blake



Worship Resources for Sunday, October 18th will be up on Bethany’s website by midday Saturday, October 17th.


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