Week 02

The Lectionary for Ordinary Times, July3

Introduction: For hundreds of years many Christian traditions have read passages of scripture using a tool called a lectionary. During this ordinary season, our devotional team decided to resource you with selections from the Revised Common Lectionary. You will encounter texts from the Psalms, the Prophets, and the New Testament as well as formal prayers.

Source: the Revised Common Lectionary Year A

(Note. If you desire to read these passages in a different version of the Bible, this link will provide all the readings for week 2 in ESV in Bible Gateway where you may also choose other versions of these passages.)

Genesis 22:1-14
22:1 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

22:2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.”

22:3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him.

22:4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away.

22:5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.”

22:6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together.

22:7 Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

22:8 Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

22:9 When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.

22:10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.

22:11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

22:12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

22:13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.

22:14 So Abraham called that place “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”

Rembrandt’s painting of Abraham and Issac is a masterful study of the technique known as chiaroscuro, Italian for “light-dark”. Chiaroscuro uses strong contrasts between light and dark to achieve a bold effect. I love how Rembrandt used this technique in this painting because the style  reflects the subject, the light of God’s direction and the darkness that must have weighed so heavily on Abraham as he prepared to obey God on the mountain.

Take a moment to reflect on the scripture and on the use of light and darkness in this painting.

Psalm 13
13:1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

13:2 How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

13:3 Consider and answer me, O LORD my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,

13:4 and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.

13:5 But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

13:6 I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Application: In only six verses, the psalmist moves from thoughts of being abandoned by God, to sorrow, despair, humiliation, trust, and rejoicing. While it is short, each verse is profound.

Is there an area of your life that brings you feelings of abandonment and sorrow? Take the time to unpack your hurts and loneliness and bring it all to God.
Go through each verse of this psalm, one by one. Take your time and reflect on each step you travel.

The Lectionary for Ordinary Times, July32023-06-16T10:46:09-06:00

Red Couch Theology

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 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.

Ask Questions about the Sermon Series, PENTECOST – “Jesus in Us — So Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled
by texting 720-316-3893 prior to, or during the “LIVE” Thursday podcast.

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 Theology2023-06-08T09:16:27-06:00

Mystery of the Trinity

During Jesus’ “Last Supper” with his disciples, they celebrated the Passover meal, a remembrance of the supernatural Exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt. The ceremony is brimming with symbolism meant to lead participants into an appreciation of God’s faithfulness and power as well as an expectation of his tangible presence. During this extraordinary commemoration, Jesus spoke these mysterious words to his disciples:

“…. And I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”

“A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” John 14:16-21 NKJV

His words reveal a life-changing truth about our connection to the unseen world. His words are simple, yet complex and difficult to grasp. They disclose that Jesus will enable his disciples to more fully experience the relationship they have observed him enjoying with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

So, does our daily experience of inclusion with his life turn out to be as straightforward as these words suggest? Hardly — all Christians are perplexed by and marvel at the mystery of the Trinity. Daily interaction with God as more than one person is rarely crisply delineated in our experience. For that reason, familiarizing ourselves with this mystery is worth pursuing.

Indulge me as I share this story:

When I lived in Washington DC, I had a close friend who lived with her parents. The interior of their home disclosed a mystical world crowded with ancient tapestries, paintings, religious icons, and samovars. She told me these objects were inherited from both sets of her grandparents who were exiled along with other Czarist associates during the Communist takeover in 1917. Her family continued the Russian Orthodox practices of their ancestors. During one visit, she explained that Orthodox icons were not idols, but images designed to bring the viewer into a worship experience. At the time, I was skeptical of her claims.

In subsequent years I’ve developed appreciation for ancient Christian practices that hold rich symbolism (such as the Passover meal). I’ve asked myself, “was my friend right to hold that icons serve a greater function than being admired for their aesthetic beauty?”

Spiritual Practice:

I invite you to explore aspects of an Orthodox icon with me as a way to further appreciate the mystery of the Trinity. This icon entitled “Holy Trinity” was painted by 15th Century Russian Orthodox monk Andrei Rublev. It depicts Abraham’s three visitors from Genesis 18. Since today’s text is about our participation in the Trinity, try using this icon to help you reflect on the words of Jesus in John 14. Here is a 17 minute audio narrative explaining the purpose of icons in general along with ways you might incorporate the Rublev icon in your contemplation of the Trinity. Another illustrated explanation of the layout of the icon itself as well as its intended position in a church building provides additional insights.

Mystery of the Trinity2023-06-05T15:02:00-06:00

No Orphans in the Kingdom

For this devotional, which has been a hard one for me to write, I have used the Amplified version of the Bible, because it includes the different ways that other versions describe or expand on what I hope to share here.

Jesus, in the upper room, is talking to his disciples, and because we can read what he said, he is talking to us, too. In John 14:18 he says, “I will not leave you as orphans [comfortless, bereaved, and helpless]; I will come [back] to you.”

As an adult, I have learned to understand what Jesus was saying, but as a child who was an orphan, I didn’t. I have written in former devotionals about my father dying when I was four and my mother dying when I was eleven. I’ve also written in more detail about the various places and family members I lived with as I was growing up. The ten years from when my mother died and my 21st birthday when I moved out on my own were particularly difficult.

“Do not let your heart be troubled (afraid, cowardly). Believe [confidently] in God and trust in Him, [have faith, hold on to it, rely on it, keep going and] believe also in Me”. John 14:1 AMP

There were many times I was afraid in those years and definitely cowardly in my fear. The only help was that our neighbors took me to church, and, though the aunt and uncle I was living with didn’t go, I was allowed to. It was there that I found a “safe place” for a while each Sunday and sometimes other times in the week.

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), to be with you forever—the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive [and take to its heart] because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He (the Holy Spirit) remains with you continually and will be in you”. John 14:16-17 AMP

“Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby)—the Spirit of Truth.” In 1953, there were no people available, either in the church or out of it, who could be any of these descriptions for a grieving, lonely, emotionally and sometimes physically abused orphan living with blood relatives.
My aunt enlisted some of her friends to remind me how grateful I should be that she and my uncle took me in when I had no one else who wanted me.

I was thirteen when I gave my life to Jesus and, as I describe it, “He welcomed this not-so-docile lamb into His fold”. My circumstances did not change, in fact, my aunt got more verbally abusive, but I was still allowed to go to church. Since that time, I have slowly begun to understand and live in his comforting message:

“After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. On that day [when that time comes] you will know for yourselves that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you. John 14:18-20 AMP

How about you? In your life story, have you been able to see how God (Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit) are working in you in ways you were not aware of at the time? Take some time to ponder all of John 14:1-31 and ask Him to bring his truth into your life, your mind and heart.

No Orphans in the Kingdom2023-06-04T17:51:14-06:00

Who is the Advocate?

Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend. Job 16:19-21 NIV

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. John 14:16-17 NIV

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. I John 2:1-2 NIV

Our current sermon series is focusing on the Holy Spirit. In John 14:16 Jesus called the Holy Spirit our Counselor (Paraclete). This Greek word Paráklētos, can also be translated as helper or advocate. While our son Joshua was alive, my husband and I had many opportunities to be an advocate for him. Our son was non-verbal, so could not express his wants and needs in the same way other children could. Our son could communicate, with sounds and facial expressions, but in meetings with school staff he needed us to be his advocate, to speak on his behalf, to ensure that his needs were addressed and were taken into account.

But take a look at I John 2:1-2 above. In these verses John told us that Jesus speaks to God on our behalf, that He defends us before God the Father. So, is the Holy Spirit our advocate or is Jesus? Perhaps they both are, in different ways.

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Romans 8:33-34 NIV

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men–the testimony given in its proper time. I Timothy 2:5 NIV

These verses tell us that Jesus intercedes for us and because of the cross, is the mediator between us and a Holy God.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. Romans 8:26-27 NIV

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26

The Holy Spirit also intercedes for us, especially when we have no words to express our grief, pain or distress. The Holy Spirit’s role is to teach us God’s truth revealed to us in His Word, to help us appreciate and appropriate the truth already revealed in the Bible.

Who is the Advocate?2023-06-03T15:10:52-06:00

Receiving the Spirit in the Lord Jesus

In John 1:1-13, the Apostle John introduces Jesus to the world as the pre-existent “Word of God”, and in 1 John 1:1, as the “Word of life”, whom the apostles “have heard…seen…touched” — as a man. John has also revealed to us that the Word was the life that was “the true Light which enlightens every [person]…“


11 “Unto his own he came and His own people did not receive Him.” 


12 to all who did “receive him”, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born…of God.
John 1:11-13

Maybe these are the passages where we got the clue that Jesus was meant for us.

Maybe you first heard about Jesus as you sang “away in the manger”? Later, you might have memorized John 1:12 in Sunday school like I did, along with
John 3:16. Did these verses open the door to your heart that showed you that you can sing, “Yes, Jesus loves me”?

After you received Jesus, did you wonder as I did, whether it might not be such a free gift. I certainly was too “bad” to be worthy. If it would depend on me,
I haven’t even come close. How about you?

So, is the gift of the Spirit contingent upon our obedience and not really a gift? Or does the Spirit actually empower obedience, when we first receive the gift, the promise of eternal life, as he then continues to empower us as we submit to Jesus in faith? Read Galatians 3 to inform your belief:

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?

Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith — just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Gal 3:2, 5-6 ESV

In this passage, Paul confirms that when we receive Jesus (repent of our sins, believe in his substitutionary “gift” of forgiveness and accept him as our Lord),
we are baptized into Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection by his Holy Spirit.

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Galatians 3:27

Then we go on living in his Spirit as he abides in us.

The Holy Spirit is always actively involved in promoting the promise of the Gospel, convicting the world of unbelievers of our need for a savior.

“…. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come [at Pentecost], He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. John 16:7-11  (Emphasis added.)

So when Jesus emphasizes righteousness, what does he teach us about why we are accepted by him?

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” John 6:29

During his farewell address to his disciples, Jesus shared how he will be our companion even when he is with the Father:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
18 “I will not leave you as orphans (comfortless); I will come to you.  John 14:15-18  (Emphasis added)

Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.  John 14:22-23 KJV (Emphasis added)

So when Jesus said “[he] will come to [us]” (John 14:18), and “we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23): he is referring to abiding, through his Holy Spirit, in any who believe. And this is Christ in us:

“…to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To whom God would make known the glorious riches of this mystery among the nations, who is Christ in you, the hope of the glory. See, Colossians 1:21-28 (Emphasis added.)

This mystery is revealed in us who believe. Meditate on the miracle of the Holy Spirit living in you, revealing Christ to those around you.

Receiving the Spirit in the Lord Jesus2023-06-04T23:45:40-06:00

Red Couch Theology

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 podcast at 11 am, on Thursdays – also recorded 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.

Ask Questions about the Sermon Series Between You and Me – “Psalms For Thee and Me”
by texting 720-316-3893 prior to, or during the “LIVE” Thursday podcast.

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 Theology2023-04-22T14:55:33-06:00

Praying Psalm 139 for Me and You

During the fall of 2011 through spring of 2012, I had the privilege of being on a pastoral search team. As the resumes came in, we prayed for each as a group as well as by ourselves at home. As I read each resume, and when I got to watch the person preach online, I asked the Lord how to pray for them from what he knew of them. He brought to mind Psalm 139, which has been a life psalm for me, because it reminds me of all that God knows about me, inside and out.

Then He would give me an idea of how I can pray for others in ways that reminds me of how he knows them in all the ways I cannot.

Because I am showing the method that was brought to my mind to use, I won’t present the whole psalm. There are, I think, six sections to the psalm:

  1. Introduction to God’s knowing me, vs 1-4;
  2. Impossibility of escaping his care vs 5-12;
  3. His creation of me, vs 13-16;
  4. His thoughts toward me, vs17-18:
  5. My hatred of wickedness, vs 19-22: and
  6. A request, vs 23-24.

So I will give the lead verse 7or each.

In order to facilitate the method, I wrote the whole Psalm 139 NIV, out like this: `

You have searched _____, Lord, and you know ____.
You know when ______ sits and when ____ rise[s];
you perceive ______ thoughts from afar.
You discern ______ going out and _____ lying down;
you are familiar with all ____ ways.
Before a word is on _____ tongue
You, Lord, know it completely.
You hem ____ in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon ____.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for ____,
to lofty for ____ to attain. Psalm 139:1-4 NIV

Where can ___ go from your Spirit?
Where can ____ flee from your presence? v 7

For you created ____ inmost being;
you knit ____ together in _____ mother’s womb. v 13

How precious to ____ are your thoughts, God!
vast the sum of them. v 17

If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from ____, you who are blood thirsty! v 19

Search ____, God, and know ___ heart;
Test ____and know ___ anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in ___,
and lead ___ in the way everlasting. vs 23-24

Then I typed it out, changing the verbs from 1st person to 3rd person as needed (i.e., in verse 1 from rise to rises). I made multiple copies for my use as I prayed for the candidates. I also use it to pray for my family and friends, church staff, elders and missionaries. I write each person’s name in the first space on the first verse and sometimes elsewhere in the psalm, and use the appropriate pronouns in the other spaces.

I find now that I often start praying for people using this method, even if I don’t write their names on the form. I am reminded each time of all God knows about them – that I can’t possibly – and it frees me to commit them to his knowledge, care and love for them.  

I’ve also found that praying other psalms (even hymns that are written in first person), can be changed to the name of someone else.  Try it with Psalm 23. One of my favorite hymns for this is “Be Thou My (___) Vision”.  It’s a joy to sing it as a prayer for someone.

Praying Psalm 139 for Me and You2023-04-22T14:42:40-06:00

Unless the LORD Builds the House

A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. Psalm 127:1-5 ESV

This Psalm is at the center of the 15 Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120-134) sung by Jewish pilgrims making their way up to Jerusalem’s heights to celebrate one of the three main harvest festivals of Israel. It is the only Psalm of Ascent written by Solomon.

The phrase “builds the house” raises common images of either a physical, residential structure or of a flourishing, extended family. The hearts of the early pilgrims also might have anticipated an experience similar to the one that occurred in Solomon’s Temple just after it was finished:

And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD. I Kings 8:10-11 ESV

Note the words and phrases: “Unless the LORD”, “he gives”, “a reward”, “Blessed” and “He shall not be put to shame” – they highlight the sovereignty and protection of God over his people and his generosity to them. I imagine sizable, extended families of pilgrims pausing to dance and shout as they sang this psalm in anticipation of their arrival in the Holy City to worship at the House of the Lord.

But it’s also likely a few of them experienced moments of reflection and sobriety as the words “in vain” and “anxious toil” reminded them of failures to trust the adequate provision of their majestic God.

Psalm 127 reminds us that we are not the sole architects of our spiritual walk, nor can we generate strength to bring that walk to fruition. His indwelling Spirit is ever alert to guide and empower us to carry out his earthly assignments and bring us to our longed for destination — his glorious, unrestrained presence.

As you listen to Psalm 127 set to music, give God the vulnerability and failures you’ve experienced in projects and relationships as well as your struggles to build a desirable spiritual life. Dance, or just raise your hands, as you anticipate his guidance and power in your circumstances.

Unless the LORD Builds the House2023-04-22T20:07:05-06:00

Trust in the LORD and Do Good

Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:1-4 NIV

Psalm 37 was written by David and has been a favorite of mine since I was a teenager. It instructs us in Godly wisdom similarly to Psalm 1, 34, 73, 91, and 119. I see two dominant themes in this Psalm. The first one is the contrast between the righteous and the wicked. Another theme is — commands given to us by God describing Godly living and the promises of how God will respond if we obey His commands.

One way to see these themes clearly would be to make some charts. Put “the wicked” on one side and “the righteous” on the other. Then go through each verse and add words or phrases on each side of the chart to compare and contrast them. Did you notice that the wicked plot and scheme, default on debts, use raw power to gain advantage, and seem to flourish? But did you notice the ultimate end of the wicked?

Label another chart with “God’s commands” on one side and “God’s promises” on the other. Go through each verse and put words or phrases on each side that are commands or promises. Do you notice what kinds of commands are given to us in order for us to act righteously, to display righteousness? Some are positive commands – things for us to do, or to think. Others are actions we are not to take, things for us to not focus on with our thinking.

Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil. Psalm 37:5-8 NIV

Perhaps you see other themes in this Psalm. Are there words or phrases in this Psalm that stick out to you as you read it and study it? Make note of those words and phrases, listen to them, to their intent, to what God is calling you to do or not do, to say or not to say. One that gives me strength, comfort and hope is this,

The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him. Psalm 37:39-40 NIV

Trust in the LORD and Do Good2023-04-22T13:31:37-06:00
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