Week 03

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 – “It’s an All-In Game”
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 Theology2023-04-30T00:13:04-06:00

Paul’s Recommendations for Widows

The verses I’m writing about this week are 1 Corinthians 7:39-40, which state part of Paul’s advice regarding marriage. I usually check different Bible versions to find one that might express the scripture clearly in a slightly unfamiliar way. This might give distinctive perspectives for a woman whose husband dies. These four versions do that for me.

A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 7:39-40 NIV

A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but only if he loves the Lord. But in my opinion it would be better for her to stay single, and I think I am giving you counsel from God’s Spirit when I say this.
1 Corinthians 7:39-40 NLT

A wife is bound as long as her husband lives. But if the husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, only in the Lord. But in my judgment she is more blessed if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.1 Corinthians 7:39-40 NRSV

A wife must stay with her husband as long as he lives. If he dies, she is free to marry anyone she chooses. She will, of course, want to marry a believer and have the blessing of the Master. By now you know that I think she’ll be better off staying single. The Master, in my opinion, thinks so, too. 1 Corinthians 7:39-40 MSG

Paul covers a lot of subjects in 1 Corinthians 7, and these two verses are no exception. What is common to all four versions is the statement that the woman, after the death of her husband, “is free to marry anyone”, provided that the man is a believer who belongs to and loves the Lord. However, Paul presents another option which he strongly recommends as coming from his understanding of the Spirit of God. She is also free to choose to remain single.

An example of a single woman who may have been a widow, and a group of women who may have included some widows is found in Acts 16:12-15

From there we [Paul and Silas] reached Philippi, a major city of that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. And we stayed there several days.

On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. She and her household were baptized, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.

It appears that Lydia was a woman of independent means, possibly having inherited the business and was highly esteemed in the community. Paul and Silas respected her, too.

Acts 16:16-39 tells the story, familiar to most of us, of Paul and Silas being imprisoned in Philippi.

When Paul and Silas left the prison, they returned to the home of Lydia. There they met with the believers and encouraged them once more. Then they left town. Acts 16:40 NLT

There are other stories of faithful women mentioned in the Bible. Take some time this week to read about: Anna, an elderly widow prophetess, Luke 2:36-38, and Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas) Acts 9:36-42. It doesn’t say if she is a widow or not, but she is described as, ”a believer who was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor”.

Paul’s Recommendations for Widows2023-04-29T23:58:30-06:00

Shattered Relationships

When I saw the following inscription on a jar containing Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses which were displayed on the desk of the HR Administrator in my workplace, it resonated with me: “Easy Answers”.

Most of us hope for easy answers to life’s most rewarding but complicated relationships. Those of us eager to please God search for techniques promising certain spiritual success. But sometimes, what we imagined to be God’s perfect plan goes awry. In the following passage Jesus gave us not only God’s ideal, but his way of grace when that ideal is shattered.

Then some Pharisees came to him in order to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful to divorce a wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

…Now I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another commits adultery.” Matthew 19:3-6, 9 NET

This “seeming” contradiction prompts a question: After presenting such a high view of God’s design for marriage in verses 3-6, was Jesus advocating a lesser view of marriage in verse 9? Let’s take a closer look at that verse.

It’s clear verse 9 doesn’t command divorce when a husband (or wife) has been betrayed and damaged by a spouse’s immoral sexual behavior. Instead, Jesus’ answer provides a way to relief and restoration for those who will suffer even more damage if there is no remedy. But that restorative path is never easy.

Maybe you are seeking easy answers from Jesus about the complex moral issues of our day. As Creator and sustainer of our world, Jesus has viewed the full spectrum of immorality and has spoken with surprising clarity in many areas. These issues are of grave concern to him. Take a look at this ancient state of affairs:

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. Genesis 6:5-6 ESV

Here’s the way God handled his grief and disappointment:

So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” Genesis 6:7 ESV

Reading further, God manifested his grace when he spared Noah and his immediate family along with a small group of animals so life on earth could continue – not an easy solution. Thank God for his grace.

I invite you to be even more specific in your gratitude. Give thanks that Jesus has provided betrayed spouses a reprieve from domestic landscapes shattered by unrepentant, sexual immorality. In addition, thank him for providing the Holy Spirit’s power to forgive repentant wrongdoers. Meditate on this phrase:

“Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Matthew 6:10 ESV

Shattered Relationships2023-04-29T23:34:40-06:00

The Only One Who Completes Us

One statement Pastor Alex gave us in his sermon on marriage was that often when we are single and wish to be married, we look for “someone who will complete [us]”. When I look at the marriage relationship between Jacob and Rachel, this statement applied. Jacob loved Rachel, wanted her as his wife, and seemed to view her as the “the one who will complete me.”

Their marriage story is found in Genesis 28-35. Isaac and Rebekah had hoped to provide a good wife for Jacob, sending Jacob to his uncle, Rebekah’s brother, to find a wife. But her brother had deceived Jacob by giving him Leah instead of Rachel on their wedding night (Genesis 29:23).

Jacob was certainly aware of his parents’ faith and trust in God. But, for 20 years Jacob relied on himself, his own schemes and his own abilities to gain advantage, wealth, and wives.

Deception, trickery, lying and maneuvering to gain advantage were typical of Jacob’s relationships with his father, brother and father-in-law. Jacob had deceived Esau to get his blessing from their father (Genesis 27:18-29). Even Rachel deceived her father, by stealing the supposed blessing of his household gods and lying to her father about stealing them (Genesis 31:19, 35).

Rachel and Leah also operated this way with each other, especially in determining who would spend the night with their mutual husband Jacob (Genesis 30:13-16). Leah desired to be loved by Jacob (Genesis 29:32). Rachel desired to give Jacob children (Genesis 30:1). Rachel and Leah themselves acted out of jealousy of each other over Jacob. There is not much in these marriage relationships which reflects that “they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

Note that Jacob does not address God as his own God in this narrative until after he spent a night wrestling with God (Genesis 28:20-22 and Genesis 31:5-7). And because Jacob was quite fearful of encountering Esau – whom he had deceived — Jacob prayed to God. He asked for protection as he wrestled with God all night (when God changed his name to Israel). God used Jacob (the deceiver) to build his nation of Israel through Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah, who gave Jacob 12 sons who became the 12 tribes of Israel. However it was Leah (the unloved one) the mother of Judah from whom came King David, Solomon and the Messiah, Jesus.

We don’t need to look for another human being to complete us. Instead we need to pray, read God’s word, and ask Him to complete us. God is the only one who sees the whole picture, who can form us into the complete person He already sees.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-6 NIV’

The Only One Who Completes Us2023-04-29T23:23:01-06:00

Covenantal Marriage: What It Means to be All In

Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our ancestors by being unfaithful to one another?

Judah has been unfaithful. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the Lord loves by marrying women who worship a foreign god. As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the Lord remove him from the tents of Jacob—even though he brings an offering to the Lord Almighty.

Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring.[d] So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. Malachi 2:10-16 NIV

Throughout the Bible we see God working toward an extremely high standard for our broken world and fragile relationships: shalom (peace) – His kingdom coming to earth – He does so through covenantal relationships between Himself and people and between people. While God is absolutely Holy, the people He works through are fragile and flawed. Covenants are relationships that embrace God’s holy standards and our weaknesses.

I won’t pretend to be an expert on the differences between a contract and a covenant. However, I believe the gist is this:

A contract is a legal agreement that is broken when the rules are broken by parties to it.
A covenant is a pledge meant to be maintained even if the parties to it violate their commitments.

Like the relationship between God and his people, marriage is a covenant designed to endure for the long haul and to withstand stress, and even become stronger with testing.

What does this mean for us as we work toward God’s holy standards through the messiness of our marriages? There are no easy answers or neat lists of techniques for understanding how we are to live within the covenant of marriage. One thing is certain, that understanding requires a level of wisdom that can’t be found by reading books or successfully having navigated other types of relationships. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread – I’m going to propose some explanations but am not posing as an expert!

Covenants keep the long term in mind: While contracts are fairly black and white, covenants are designed for long term relationships and are able to tolerate more ambiguity. Every misstep is not grounds for termination/divorce.

Covenants mean our actions matter: While covenants are better able to handle missteps and mistakes, the parties’ actions still matter. It is clear from the passage in Malachi that God detests unfaithfulness to covenants. A covenantal relationship like marriage is not something one party can take for granted, leaving all the burden of maintaining the commitment on the other — both parties need to be committed.

Covenants — Are they perpetually valid? This is a subject that is way beyond my pay grade. We know that God has extremely high standards for covenantal relationships, but there are grounds for breaking them. In what circumstances does the Bible allow divorce? Is adultery the only permissible way out of a harmful marriage? Is it enough for only one spouse to be all in in a marriage? Or do both have to take responsibility for being “all in”?

Covenantal Marriage: What It Means to be All In2023-04-30T23:03:46-06:00

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. We expect to record our podcast “live” every Thursday at 11am.

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, “Imagery from Jeremiah” – A Lenten Sermon Series,
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 Theology2023-03-11T10:03:45-07:00

Open the Cage

As Americans, we seem obsessed with the concept of freedom from constraints. But how should Jesus’ followers practice freedom? Free to do what? Free to indulge our own desires, or free to obey and serve the one true God and those he has created?

In Jeremiah 5, the prophet gave a harsh description of the inhabitants of Judah. They had let their desires run amok – greedy to indulge themselves. Although poor and rich alike gave way to pleasure, the clever acted like fowlers – caging their fellow citizens like birds.

Indeed, there are wicked scoundrels among my people.
They lie in wait like bird catchers hiding in ambush.
They set deadly traps to catch people.
Like a cage filled with the birds that have been caught,
their houses are filled with the gains of their fraud and deceit.
That is how they have gotten so rich and powerful.
That is how they have grown fat and sleek.
There is no limit to the evil things they do.
They do not plead the cause of the fatherless in such a way as to win it.
They do not defend the rights of the poor. Jeremiah 5:26-28 NET

In my earlier years, I lived with a family in Chevy Chase, Maryland, a wealthy suburb located on the western border of our nation’s capital. I observed crosstown buses disgorging large groups of older, black women, each weekday morning. They cleaned houses for the wealthy and returned each evening to the poor side of the city. I had conversations with friends who came from other countries to act as au pair nannies to children of the affluent – for little pay to undergo near captivity. These inequities upset me.

Similar employment inequities came to national attention during a scandal called “Nannygate”. Although the talented, ambitious people involved were poised to assume high office in Washington, D.C., their opportunities vanished when their egregious employment schemes were reported. Did that unmasking prompt legislation ending the practice of taking advantage of vulnerable people for difficult and dirty tasks? Sadly, even if laws are enacted to curtail such oppression of the poor by the clever, they seem to have a built-in “whack-a-mole” feature.

So should we give up on stemming the tide of these injustices? As followers of Christ, how can we act to guard ourselves against the all-too-human inclination to cage others into service for our own ends? I suggest we do what Jesus’ followers have always done when social and political systems seem irretrievably corrupt. Ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and hearts to care for one person at a time.

Application: Practice generosity as a stopgap for greed.

If you already have ongoing relationships with those God has been calling you to serve – simply continue or expand those relationships – no guilt trips please. If someone whose cage needs opening comes to mind, try a dignifying “hand up” approach rather than a one-time, dismissive “handout”.

If you haven’t reached your full capacity for serving those in need, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to someone unlikely to be spotlighted for help. Don’t seek publicity, payback or a tax write-off for yourself. Give attention to non-monetary ways to care.

Open the Cage2023-03-11T10:18:55-07:00

Too Much and Never Enough?

“What do people mean when they ask, ‘Do you have enough?’” inquired a pastor at a church I used to attend. He followed up with, “Enough of what?” The answer to the question was obvious. Have we saved enough for retirement, enough to pay college tuition, enough to ensure we have freedom and peace and safety and whatever else we’re hoping to pin down? Humans like to quantify, to count, to control. The pastor was asking us to question ourselves, to ask what we hoped would fulfill our deepest longings for security and peace, He was also asking if money can be measured in terms of being “enough”? Are there cases when money might actually work counter to our goals of freedom and peace? Is the stuff we collect even ours?

Wealth is not bad or good in itself, but our attitude about wealth and the way we acquire it certainly can be damaged. Because the people of Judah had stopped thinking that God was enough, an insatiable and callous pursuit of wealth had taken hold of them:

For wicked men are found among my people; they lurk like fowlers lying in wait.[a]
They set a trap; they catch men.
Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of deceit;
therefore they have become great and rich; they have grown fat and sleek.
They know no bounds in deeds of evil;
they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper,
and they do not defend the rights of the needy.
Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the Lord,
and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?”  Jeremiah 5:26-29 ESV

Like fowlers who trapped birds destined for sacrifice or food, the wicked set traps for the weak and poor so they could use them for their own advantage. The hunters’ bags are full of helpless prey that will never fly free again. Their houses are compared to a cage full of deceit. Jeremiah seems to be painting a picture of the grand houses of the wicked as places where the hunters will become hunted; they have invited deceit to live with them. They have trapped the innocent but in the process become enclosed in a cage of their own making, and it’s one infested with deceit. What troubling images!

Because it’s so normal for people in general to wonder, “do we have enough?”, it’s easy to become callous. When the bottom line is “enough”, the “bounds of deeds of evil” can slip. We can be indifferent to the plight of those who are being taken advantage of – we ourselves can fall into the fowlers’ traps. Jeremiah reminds us that a society that’s based on acquiring wealth and on survival of the fittest, this attitude may seem to nurture some successful people. In the end, accepting this mentality as the status quo will lead to an unjust society and God’s eventual judgment.


Pray for a better understanding of what “enough” is for you. Is your view healthy? Does “enough” include the perspective that all we have is a gift of God? Could faithful giving be more of a source of “enough” than clinging to our possessions as our own? Ask God for guidance in this process.

Too Much and Never Enough?2023-03-11T09:08:10-07:00

No Fear of the Lord in Judah

Alex introduced in our first week of lent the idea that there is a way to live that seems good but leads to death. This week we are focusing on Jeremiah 5.
I encourage you to read chapter 5 this week. It gives a good overview of Judah’s true spiritual situation.

“The house of Israel and the house of Judah have been utterly unfaithful to me,” declares the LORD. They have lied about the LORD; they said, “He will do nothing! No harm will come to us; we will never see sword or famine.”  Jeremiah 5:11-12

The leaders: the priests, the kings, the rulers in Judah believed they were the chosen people of God, that they would be forever protected by God, never destroyed as a nation. (They conveniently forgot the earlier destruction of the northern country of Israel.) They believed that they could act in any manner they wished. God had promised punishment for their sins against him – many times — but had relented from actually bringing destruction to Judah repeatedly in the past. Why wouldn’t he relent again? Jeremiah records God’s answer to that sort of faulty thinking,

“Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear: Should you not fear me?” declares the LORD. “Should you not tremble in my presence? I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross. The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it. But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts; they have turned aside and gone away. They do not say to themselves, ‘Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.’ “  Jeremiah 5:21-24 NIV

This is the crux of the problem. The leaders of Judah and most of the people no longer feared the Lord. What does that mean? Deuteronomy lays it out clearly for us.

And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name.  Deuteronomy 10:12-20 NIV

What about you and me? Do we fear the Lord? Do we believe everything will continue on as it always has? Will the evil and injustice in our world ever come to an end? How are we as followers of Jesus to behave in the world we live in today?

LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.  Psalm 15 NIV

Take another look at Jeremiah 5, Deuteronomy 10:12-20, and Psalm 15. Notice how they address the fear of the Lord. Ask God to show you how you might not have been fearing the Lord in your life and how He is asking you to do so in the future. Pray about it; step into that. May we all heed the warning to Judah to ”fear the Lord our God”.

No Fear of the Lord in Judah2023-03-11T08:48:35-07:00

Everything Is Awesome…Or is it?

“Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city.”  (Jeremiah 5:1)

The irony of Chapter 5 is that the chapter’s content doesn’t match the city’s view of its situation. We start chapter 5 with this image of Jeremiah walking the streets, looking for someone honest or seeking truth. He doesn’t find anyone. What is worse, Jeremiah finds more evil the more he walks. First, we learn that he considers evil among the poor. He then wonders if they are only doing wrong because they don’t know better. Jeremiah decides to go to the wealthy and educated but finds evil among them too. The chapter seems so bleak.

The twist is that this chapter is written in a city that believes everything is going well. The problem is that the people don’t see the state they are in because they are comfortable, well-fed, and wealthy.

What does this have to do with us? The question we can ask is, how are we similar to this city? Are we living in relative comfort and safety while ignoring the risks of our way of life? Take a moment to ask the spirit to walk the streets of your heart. Ask the spirit to do what God tells Jeremiah to do in this opening verse. Confess the evils God finds and step into the invitation to a new way God offers. That is what repentance is all about.

Everything Is Awesome…Or is it?2023-03-11T08:15:21-07:00
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