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Week 02

Red Couch Theology Podcast

Sermon Conversations with Alex and Aaron

There’s only so much we can cover in a Sunday morning gathering!
Each week, you’re invited to tune into our LIVE podcast at 11 am on Thursdays – recorded (and sometimes prerecorded) for later, online viewing.

What can you expect? Pastors Alex, Aaron and the occasional guest, having a casual conversation diving deeper into ideas related to last Sunday’s teaching:

Pentecost, Life in The Spirit – “Unveiled”

Questions may be sent through
https://redcouchtheology.com/  

Blog sites:

Youtube:  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCWnNSTN-6XA7oYy6TBfS0LAxqxPvxVjH

Apple Podcast:  https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/guys-drinking-tea/id1616539767

Red Couch Theology Podcast2024-05-26T16:56:26-06:00

Transformation Takes Time

The western world  measures time in what we think are universally understood and unchanging increments —  seconds, minutes, and minutes.  Time is a raw material to be used efficiently.  It’s important to remember that God is the author of time.  God’s highest use of time is to transform humans, and He does this at a pace we don’t always understand:

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. 2 Peter 3:9

 

God, creator of all things, designed the natural world. So, many of Jesus’ parables involve agricultural images. He teaches using the rhythms of crops and seasons as illustrations.  The  pace is slower than what we are accustomed to, and different seasons play different roles. For example, some fruit trees need a minimum number of “chill hours” in winter to bear fruit. Remember that the next time you are in a season of dormancy!  

Take, for example, the parable of the lilies of the field which shows how God provides for us. Jesus instructs his disciples to meditate on the natural order, to pray, to seek God’s kingdom as top priority. None of these activities can be completed or indulged in haphazardly. It takes a lifetime of practicing, even making mistakes, allowing oneself to be transformed by this outlook.

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.“ Matthew 6:28-33


What about times that Jesus performed miracles of healing instantly? These instances are a completely different way of relating to time than the world of his day or our modern world.  Time is immaterial in these instances — all that matters is the mighty power of God intervening on peoples’ behalf. Jesus heals a man with leprosy, he heals the Centurion’s daughter. He heals many people possessed with evil spirits and “all the sick” (Matthew 8:16). These examples are very different from the agricultural parables. What stands out in these cases is that Jesus demonstrates God’s power as he heals individuals. But how does this healing transform their lives?  

Where are you in your journey with Christ? What are your expectations for the pace at which He will transform your life? If you have been walking with Christ for many years, have your expectations changed? In what way? Have you learned to grow at His pace? Have you become frustrated and stopped growing altogether?  Do you allow others to grow at the pace God has for them? Ask God for insights about how He transforms believers. 

by Sherry Sommer

 

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the differently formatted web version in your browser.

Transformation Takes Time2024-05-26T16:46:26-06:00

The Unveiling

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.
2 Corinthians 3:12-15

As a midgie, growing up in the 50’s, cartoons were every kid’s forte. An image I saw a lot on Looney Tunes was that of a guy wearing a black and white striped outfit with a black and white striped cap. And there was one other piece to his outfit. A ball and chain affixed to his ankle. The character was always one veiled with fun, but in real life, it is far too easy to find ourselves carrying that ball and chain behind us. Moving at all is tough. And that brings us to the veil referred to in the passage above.

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:6-7


Just what was that gospel; and how does it relate to the veil of II Corinthians 3? It is the need to adhere to the Law. Do this! Do that! If you do, God will smile upon you. But Jesus made it clear that it isn’t about our deeds. There are none righteous. It is about the condition of our hearts.

“If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” Matthew 12:7

Mercy Not Sacrifice

The Galatians had been freed from that burden and were placing themselves right behind it once again. Get rid of that ball and chain. God remade you. Now you ARE good enough!! Jesus says so.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  John 8:36

by Bruce Hanson

 

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The Unveiling2024-05-26T16:33:37-06:00

Much More Glory!

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?  If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!  For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory.  And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
2 Corinthians 3:7-11

Have you ever wondered to yourself, where is the miraculous? You read about it in the scriptures, but you haven’t seen any evidence that God still works in those ways. The text above sent me into a crisis of faith in my early twenties. As I read the passage, I knew that I craved to see the glory it spoke of. The text didn’t just promise glory; it promised that there would be “much more” glory. I had never seen glowing faces or thunderous lightning like in the days of Moses, and I felt like something must be wrong with me or with my faith tradition. Is that what is going on here? 

As I wrestled and prayed about these thoughts of confusion and doubt, I believe God opened my eyes to the “much more glory” I was blind to. My pastor extended an invitation to salvation on a Sunday morning during this season of doubt. He did this occasionally, but that day he didn’t simply invite a raised hand in a room of bowed heads; he asked people to come to the front of the sanctuary. I then watched four or five people come to the front of the room for prayer. Three or four people were middle-aged men who to me looked to be successful. I remember seeing them in their nice suits walking up front. They looked clean-cut and put together, and I remember thinking, this is the “much more glory” of God.

The context of the passage we have read tells us something about what glory looks like in God’s mind. The text says glory is when the word of God is written on the heart rather than on stone. Glory is when the spirit of God changes a life, not just when a face glows. Glory is when a human is humbled by the goodness of God and gives their entire life up to follow Jesus from the heart. Glory is shown in a man who is told to be strong and self-reliant, yet walks to the front of a church to say, I need Jesus because I can’t do this alone. 

Where might you have seen the much more glory of God recently and missed it? When have you seen someone humble themselves or repent? When have you seen what looked like a supernatural change of mind or heart? God is not always as flashy as we want him to be; he wants transformation more than he wants a light show. 

by Aaron Bjorklund

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the differently formatted web version in your browser.

Much More Glory!2024-05-26T16:32:49-06:00

The Power Is in the Spirit

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
II Corinthians 3:2-6 NIV

“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.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:26-27 NIV


As we spend time reading and studying the Bible, we begin to see connections. I love the connections I see between the promises given in the Old Testament and the fulfillment of those promises in the New Testament. Do you notice some of the same language in both the II Corinthians text and the Ezekiel verses above?
Hebrews 8 and Jeremiah 31:31-34 are two more places where this same covenant is promised in Jeremiah and the fulfillment is explained in Hebrews.

“And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws,” Ezekiel 36:27. If you notice, this does not say: “if you try harder, work harder, push yourself to exhaustion, travel to every pilgrimage site, deprive yourself; then you will be able to obey me.” No, what it does promise is: God himself will put His Spirit, The Holy Spirit, in us! Then, with the Holy Spirit in us, He will move us to follow God’s decrees; He will give us the power, the ability, the knowledge, the endurance necessary to be able to obey God. Amazing!

If we try to live the Christian life by striving, by trying to follow every rule, every command in our own strength, we will at some point realize we simply are not able to do it. We will fail, and we will fail again. But that is not what God desires. That is not what God designed. He promised to put His Spirit in us so His Spirit would move us to follow His decrees and to keep His laws. It comes down to surrender, it comes down to allowing the Spirit to move and work in our lives, and each of us being willing and available to be used by Him in that way. Then the power of the Holy Spirit can move, can work, can flow through each of us to impact the world and the people around us. Hallelujah!  

by Grace Hunter

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the differently formatted web version in your browser.

The Power Is in the Spirit2024-05-26T16:32:04-06:00

Trusting God in the Everyday

Sherry Sommer


I like how Alex suggested that we think of faith as trust in God. I can relate to that because my faith journey has been a process of growing in trust. I’ve always loved to read and learn, question, and grow, so I learned to trust God and Jesus intellectually. I’ve been less trusting in applying my belief to everyday life. I’ve needed to learn to live out my faith with wisdom.  Relationships — with God, other people, and with myself — have helped me want to persevere in spite of the inevitable bumps and bruises.  

When I became a Christian, I thought I’d obey and God would make my path straight. However, trust was not automatic.  It’s no wonder; faith is not intuitive. The book of Hebews defines faith as “… confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV.)  Sometimes I would confuse faith with “being impulsive”. Other times I’d retreat like a turtle.  I’ve learned that learning to live by faith requires growing; and growing  involves making mistakes. 

Relationships with other believers have been an anchor as I’ve learned to walk by faith. Hebrews 10: 24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” I’ve found that the most encouraging Christians I know don’t see others as projects. Instead they welcome new people as friends. There is no greater gift a Christian can give to another than their friendship.

My relationship with the Holy Spirit was also essential in learning to trust God. Reading the Bible and Christian books, attending church, and serving were outward activities I did to grow in my faith. Those all are good things. What really sets Christianity apart from other religions and moral activities is that Jesus himself helps, teaches, and comforts us. 

Finally, I’ve learned that having a good relationship with myself is essential to trusting God.  In Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus says, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  I’ve learned that I need to love myself and treat myself gently in order to be able to love others. It has meant remembering  what Paul says in Ephesians 2:10,
“We
are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God has created each one of us for a reason, because he cares about us. I’ve been learning that serving God doesn’t mean exhausting myself by saying yes to every request. There is so much freedom in learning to trust God “in the everyday”. 


Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

Trusting God in the Everyday2024-04-20T19:36:51-06:00

An Intellectually Honest Faith

by Aaron Bjorklund

Christianity has ebbed and flowed in its influence among the scholars of the world. There have been seasons when almost all the greatest intellectuals claimed some connection to Christianity. Then, there have been other seasons when Christians are viewed by the scientific community as ignorant and irrelevant because our beliefs are deemed outdated. The fact of the matter is Christianity itself has not changed in its ability to engage us in conversation at the highest level of every scientific field. What has changed our willingness to do so? Doubt?

There have been moments in scientific discovery when scholars believed they had explained away humanity’s need for religion. That claim has never proven true. Instead, Christianity has proven to be a completely viable worldview, even when considered from scientific, psychological, sociological, and spiritual perspectives. As time progresses, Christianity continues to sit at the table of all these fields. How does this assertion relate to doubt? Being rational doesn’t remove doubt, but it allows us to explore our doubts with little trepidation. 

As science progresses, we also learn how much we don’t understand. Take particle physics for example; even teachers of particle physics don’t understand why particles behave the way they do at a molecular level. Advances in studying the brain also baffle the greatest minds of our day. Science doesn’t have an answer for everything — not even close.

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.  Ephesians 1:13-14


If you struggle with doubt, I suggest you lean on the Holy Spirit of promise. Explore, and ask God to keep you sealed by His love. Learn and grow in your knowledge of Him and of the world around you. God isn’t afraid of his world; why should we be afraid to study it?

Take a moment to pray a prayer like this, “Holy Spirit, because your job is to seal me by love, I pray that you would do just that as I explore my questions. Give me peace to seek and find your answers. Help me to be comfortable on my journey with you as I discover the world and your heart.” 


Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

An Intellectually Honest Faith2024-04-20T19:14:55-06:00

Without a Doubt

by Bruce Hanson

Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’”  Matthew 26:31

“…. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. Matthew 26:55-56

Way, way back in the day, I discovered Josh McDowell’s book Evidence That Demands a Verdict. One of the early sections was entitled “Lord, Liar or Lunatic”.
In that section, Josh contends that one of the greatest testimonies to Jesus’ divinity was the radical change it wrought in His followers. If he had simply been a great teacher, we likely would not have seen the changes that were evidenced almost immediately, fifty days after his resurrection, at Pentecost.

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.” Acts 2:14

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. Acts 2:41

Not even two months after Jesus was crucified — despite Peter’s previous denial, Peter stands up in the very same Jerusalem, a city overflowing with visitors, and leads 3000 to Jesus. Which brings me to one of my favorite passages in scripture.

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.  Acts 4:13

These men had been with Jesus!!
Wowsers!!

Peter and John had gone from doubt to certainty. That self same assurance is ours as well — just like Peter’s and John’s. 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:37-39

My brand (-B

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

Without a Doubt2024-04-20T18:35:05-06:00

The Resurrected Jesus Makes All the Difference

by Grace Hunter

“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” I Corinthians 15:1-8 NIV


In I Corinthians 15:1-8, Paul gave a succinct description of the gospel and listed many of the people who saw the Resurrected Jesus. Paul also mentioned that many of these witnesses were still living at the time Paul wrote the letter of I Corinthians. These witnesses could be contacted and interviewed by the Corinthians and other fellow Christ followers of the time. Let’s take a closer look at James, the brother of Jesus, considering our topic of doubt and faith.

Early in Jesus’ ministry, his brothers accompany Jesus’ mother Mary to the home where Jesus was currently ministering. “Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind,’” Mark 3:20-21 NIV. Jesus’ family did not understand at this time who He was nor what His ministry was about. Jesus’ siblings certainly had doubts about Jesus.

Jesus’ brothers and sisters are mentioned by name in both Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3. In both lists, James is listed first and thus is assumed to be the oldest of Jesus’ siblings. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, before the crucifixion, Jesus’ siblings are not listed as being a part of Jesus inner circle, or even a part of the greater group of Jesus’ disciples.

We can only assume from this that James had doubts about Jesus being the Messiah, the Savior of the Jews. However, take a close look at Acts 12:11-17,
Acts 15:13-21, and Acts 21:18. An incredible transformation had occurred. Now, after Pentecost, James was a leader of the church in Jerusalem. Clearly, Paul also considered him a leader of the church at large.

What changed? Paul tells us that the resurrected Jesus appeared to James. This made the difference. Just as it does with us. When we bring our doubts to the resurrected Jesus, it makes all the difference for us as well.

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

The Resurrected Jesus Makes All the Difference2024-04-21T21:24:54-06:00

A Cup of Love

by Jeanne Melberg

We know the story; from the Garden, the Fall — resulting from Adam and Eve’s experiment with sin; by severing themselves from the “Vine”. There is no life apart from the Vine. The wages of sin being death: with humanity severed from the Vine, you could say, “life was now living under the power of death; the dry bones of consequences”. Thus, a resurrection was in order. This called for reparations.

Therefore, as prophesied throughout the previous ages, God “…made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:7-8).

The root word of crucifixion is crus or crux, meaning “cross”. Cross means to travel or pass over. Coincidentally, crux or cross shares its origin with the word crucible. A crucible is a pot, or CUP in which metals or other substances may be melted or subjected to extremely hot temperatures. A crucible is also defined as a “severe trial” that leads to the creation of something new. Thus, Jesus “drank” the cup, willingly traveling through the crucible of God’s Holy refining fire — his consuming fire; his righteous judgment — in order to pay the wages and bring us New Life.  By “way of the cup” or “the Way”, “… he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3 ESV).

His crucifixion is our crucifixion; His resurrection is our resurrection. As Paul affirms in Galatians 2:20:

“I [We] have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

Therefore, the crucifixion and resurrection seem to serve two purposes, both somewhat of a paradox.

  1. The Deed. Christ took the cup and laid down His life that we may LIVE by grace with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. That same Holy Spirit, in turn, enables us to follow Him: to take up our own cross, to drink the cup given to us.
  2. The Way. Encoded in Christ’s deed, is the Way. Somehow, the ultimate deed of love is not only the way to love, it is THE WAY OF LOVE.


This Way of Love is wonderfully expressed in
The Prophet, by poet Kahlil Gibran, in the following: 

When love beckons to you, follow him, though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you, yield to him, though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you, believe in him, though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden. For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth, so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, so shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth. 

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself. he threshes you to make you naked. he sifts you to free you from your husks. he grinds you to whiteness. he kneads you until you are pliant, and then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast. 

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of life’s heart. But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure, then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor, into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears. 

…. And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. [Emphasis added.]

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

A Cup of Love2024-05-26T11:20:09-06:00
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