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Week 04

The Character of God, and The Cross

I’ve forgotten the actual date, but I think it was Good Friday,1993, when we had a pageant that included a crucifixion. Our worship area at that time was rather patched together and we did a lot of unusual, creative building when we wanted to do something extra special and dramatic. This production included three crosses and special slots built in a double stage into which the crosses could be dropped after they were lifted up.

The arms of the men who played Jesus and the two thieves were stretched along the cross pieces and tied firmly and their feet rested on little shelves and their legs were tied to the upright.  The choir was hollering “Crucify him, crucify him” as several soldiers lifted Jesus’ cross up and dropped it in the slot, then for each of the thieves, and dropped theirs in.  My most vivid memory was the heavy thud and the cry from the men as each of their crosses dropped in and stood upright on the stage.

When I read The Old Testament prophets, God is speaking through them warnings of coming trouble unless the leaders and people return to God and follow the Commandments given to Moses: first what God had done for Israel bringing them out of slavery; and how they were to relate to God and to each other as people; also, what was going to happen if the people didn’t turn back to the Lord. 

Ezekiel 33:11 tells me a lot about God’s heart’s desire for his people: 

“Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?’”

In the New Testament I see more about the heart and character of God in John 3:16, which is one of the first scriptures I memorized as a child.

 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:16-17 ESV [Emphasis added.]

Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem

From what I’ve read, the word translated,”wept” did not mean just a few tears, but meant gut wrenching grief, because the people, especially most of the leaders of the temple and synagogues refused to turn to Jesus.  

 

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41-44 ESV

I remember someone I knew many years ago “advertising” that he “had the mind of Christ,” but his consistent words and actions did not match what is described in Philippians 2:5-11.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Philippians 2:5-11 ESV [Emphasis added.]

As I read this, I have to ask myself some hard questions about my heart and mind and my willingness to be obedient to what God asks of me.  Philippians 2:1-5 are some of the questions to ask ourselves.

by Carolyn Schmitt

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

The Character of God, and The Cross2024-05-04T11:32:30-06:00

God Is God and I Am Not

What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,
    “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
        and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. Romans 9:14-16 NIV



Have you ever had doubts about God’s goodness? Have you ever wondered why God allowed something to happen in your life or in the life of a loved one? When we have these kinds of questions or doubts, what do we do with them? Ignore them?

Let me give a little background. On June 13, 1998, our youngest son Joshua was born via an emergency C-section because his heart rate dropped, and he was in distress. His lack of oxygen during birth caused a severe brain injury called cerebral palsy. This was a defining moment in our marriage and family; nothing has ever been the same since. Both my husband and I had our faith in God shaken because of having an extremely needy special needs child, in addition to our
5-year-old and 3 ½ year old twins who were already a part of our family.

Both my husband and I dealt with questions of: why did God allow this? Why doesn’t God heal him? Is God good? Because of our young family, and our son who had constant medical needs, we processed our grief over the birth of our son over the course of many years. We also met with some more mature Christians who helped us work through our questions and doubts. It took time, but eventually we came to a place where we could give our questions to God, leave them there, and trust in Him that He had a purpose for us, for our family, and for our son exactly as he was. Many of our questions won’t be answered on this side of heaven, just as Job’s questions were not answered. He said during his grief, But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell? …”The fear of the Lord-that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.” Job 28:12, 28b.

Job talked to God; as did Jeremiah. He tells us, “Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord.” Lamentations 2:19. Doubts, grief, questions are all a part of a Christian’s life. One of the messages I value in the book of Job and in Lamentations is that God welcomes our honesty. He wants us to come to Him with all of it. Job and Jeremiah both knew God — that God is God, and I am not. God is the source of wisdom, mercy, and love, even amid difficult and grieving circumstances. My husband and I came to the same conclusion. Take some time to read this story in John 9:1-41. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you as you read. Look for God’s compassion, notice the difficult circumstances and who recognizes God working. Thank God for His mercy and compassion.


by Grace Hunter

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

God Is God and I Am Not2024-05-04T11:03:09-06:00

Getting from Point “a” to Point ”b”

My friend Martha and I have a lot in common — we’re both believers,  we both have an adventurous streak, and we share a truly terrible sense of direction.
We swap stories of amazing feats of getting lost, even when we have a map or phone with an interactive map at hand. 

Most people are better at getting from point “a” to point ”b” than either of us are. However, when it comes to walking the path of life with faith, all people
get confused and turned around along the way. It’s the human condition to misunderstand God’s character when we see injustice or experience harsh circumstances. We may think God is a punishing and cruel overlord or that He just doesn’t care.  It might seem that we’re in a battle of darkness and light and that the outcome is uncertain. 

Fortunately for us, God hasn’t just left us with a map; He sent us his son, Jesus, to help us find our way. The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus doesn’t just have a family resemblance to God — He is exactly like his father.

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.  The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. Hebrews 1:3

I’ve loved God all of my life, but this still comes as a wonderful revelation when I think of it:  God isn’t distant; He cares for us in exactly the same way and to the same degree that Jesus did. Although Jesus lived a fully human life and died a human death, yet he was with God at creation and lives eternally through the resurrection. In Hebrews 1: 10-12, in the NIV, He also says, 

“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands.

They will perish, but you remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment.

You will roll them up like a robe;
    like a garment they will be changed.
But you remain the same,
    and your years will never end.”  

 

That’s amazing!

 When we see or experience injustice and when life is difficult, we can get worn down and our faith and trust in God can waver. It can seem like God either doesn’t love us or that He’s not strong enough to protect us.  I love this passage from John 1 because it reminds me that God’s love, light, and goodness shown through Jesus, are  unimaginably great, and nothing can dim or extinguish them:

 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5

by Sherry Sommer

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

Getting from Point “a” to Point ”b”2024-05-04T12:07:57-06:00

Either … Or??   Nah!!

This week we are looking at the second half of Genesis 18, the story of Abraham, God, and Sodom and Gomorrah. The question I was given to explore has to do with God’s character. Do I want a God of mercy or a God that is just? And this was the sidebar that goes with that question. When we have been wounded,
we want the just God but if we have been the wound giver, we want the merciful God. Before responding, I want to share the first two places in scripture that God took me.

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew,
to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.
1 Corinthians 9:19-21

Paul is describing his own persona, but if it is true for Paul, it is certainly true for his heavenly Father. Paul was whatever people needed him to be. It was about them. Not about him.

And the second scripture was this one.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

That is true for Jesus and it is also true for His Father. 

So let me go back to the question that was posed to me. I desperately need a God who is all those things. I need Him to be consistently just. Even if His justice might result in a black eye on my part. I need to know that I can always trust God’s justice. The same yesterday, today, and forever. It isn’t dependent on
my moods, my thoughts, or my actions. But before looking at mercy, let me add one more verse.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16

When I am lonely, God understands. When I feel a failure, God will console me. When I stumble, God forgives me.

This is all pretty simple, but immeasurably wonderful!! I desperately need to know that I have a heavenly father who meets me exactly where I am and knows exactly what I need, even before I know. No matter what!

I love you Jesus for being all that I need!   All the time!


by Bruce Hanson

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

Either … Or??   Nah!!2024-05-04T10:56:28-06:00

The Problem of Evil

One of the oldest arguments against the existence of a good God is the philosophical conundrum, the problem of evil. It goes like this:

If God is all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful, how can evil exist in the world? In other words, God knows something bad will happen; he is good enough not to want it to happen, and he is strong enough to stop it. Why doesn’t he stop it? This question remains one of the go-to arguments against a Christian concept of God, and it has also shaken many Christians’ faith.

My aim today, as you read, is not to offer one or several of the dozens of philosophical or theological answers to that question, but instead, I invite you to wrestle with it. There are theological and philosophical arguments that engage that question well, but I’ve found they are often insufficient to meet us in the emotional spaces of our doubt. Instead, I believe that Jesus would invite you to address your questions to him. If God was afraid of our questions, he could find a way to eliminate them for us. Perhaps a healthy way to explore your questions and doubts is to pray a prayer like this:

“God I don’t understand why you do the things you do the way you do them. Help me understand. Guide my wandering heart to your mind and heart through my questions. Give me peace as I go on the fear-filled journey. Amen”

by Aaron Bjorklund

The Problem of Evil2024-05-04T10:01:44-06:00

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 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:


Sermon on the Mount

 

Matthew 7:9-11

Feel free to ask questions about the sermon series
  — before or during the live Thursday conversation.

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 Podcast2024-02-17T18:18:42-07:00

Wonder Bread

by Bruce Hanson

“Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11

B&W-Wonder Bread

Back in the 50’s, sitting in front of our tiny black and white television, there was a commercial that seemed to show up constantly:  “Wonder Bread builds strong bodies twelve ways.” Now they never told us what any of those twelve ways were, but the implication was that we truly couldn’t live without it. That claim was not especially accurate, but there IS a bread we can’t live without.

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”  John 6:35

Living in a nation where I have always had bread to eat, I have never really thought of the bread in the Lord’s Prayer as that which I might consume. That cannot be said for many in the Middle East who are trying to survive on cattle feed. I pray that God’s daily bread could make its way to them. But this is the bread I am especially craving right now. 

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Matthew 4:1-4

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

And I am particularly taken by the use of the descriptor DAILY.  Jesus didn’t say weekly, monthly, or yearly bread. 

We are living in times that I truly believe to be unrivaled in history.  Literally days ago, a candidate in Slovakia lost an election to a candidate of Vladimir Putin after a fake recording was circulated that purported to be him claiming to have rigged the election, and horrors: that he was raising the price of beer. It was his voice, but it wasn’t him. He lost!!

We are beyond blessed to have this.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

This is our bread. The Word of God. It isn’t like that Wonder Bread that we wondered whether or not it was bread.  In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we are told  that our bread is God-breathed. It is our one trustworthy constant in a world of rampant uncertainty — The Word of God. Never Miss a Meal!!!

“Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11

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

Wonder Bread2024-02-17T18:09:34-07:00

Jesus is the Bread of Life

by Grace Hunter

Give us today our daily bread. Matthew 6:11 NIV

“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:27-29 NIV

As I read through John chapter 6, I see several themes. One of them is bread. John 6:1-15 relates the feeding of the 5000 with five barley loaves of bread and two fish. Starting in John 6:25, Jesus teaches using bread and manna as metaphors. Many in the crowd at the feeding of the 5000 wanted Jesus to explain the phenomenon of how he got to Capernaum, while others wanted Jesus to simply perform even more miracles and signs. But Jesus chose to use manna and bread to describe himself, to plainly describe God’s gift of manna, and to teach about eternal life.

Jesus made several profound “I” statements in this chapter. “I am the bread of life,” John 6:35a, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me,” John 6:38, “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life,” John 6:47. 

Again Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world,” John 6:48-51 NIV.

Jesus called himself the bread of life, living bread and bread that has come down from heaven. He goes on to elaborate on what is required of us in order to obtain eternal life. The crowds were primarily interested in seeing more signs and wonders, but the Pharisees understood Jesus’ references to himself — calling himself the Son of God, and as having come from heaven.

I suggest you read through the whole chapter of John 6. Look for the many references to bread. Notice what Jesus calls himself and what He says He will do on behalf of those who believe in Him. Take note of how Jesus says God draws people to Himself. When Jesus instructed His disciples to pray: “Give us today our daily bread”, I believe He is talking about our daily need for Himself, for His teaching, for His influence in our lives, in our decisions, in our attitudes. As you read through John 6, ask the Holy Spirit to teach you and reveal to you what you need to see and understand in this passage today. Then thank Him for drawing you to Himself.

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

Jesus is the Bread of Life2024-02-17T14:54:02-07:00

Our Daily Bread

by Kathleen Petersen

Give us today our daily bread. Matthew 6:11 CSB

This portion of the Lord’s Prayer confirms Our Father in Heaven’s desire to daily provide for his children. But which concerns are most critical — physical issues or those centered in the mysterious, unseen realm? A contest between “sacred” and “secular” is unnecessary. The term for this false struggle is Dualism. Here’s a definition:   

Dualism is the idea that all of life can be separated into two main categories: the sacred and the secular. This fragmented vision of reality puts “spiritual” things in the “sacred” category and “worldly” things in the “secular” category.

Scripture makes no such division. In the first chapters of Genesis, God declares both his physical creation and his simple spiritual order as very good.
Genesis 1:31

As we observe and experience the continuing chaos ensuing from man’s attempts to disengage from God, we are presented with a variety of approaches to settle the resulting discomfort. For instance, if your personal chaos is related to a physical illness, does it display greater faith to ask for a certifiable miracle or is it more practical to skip that step and enlist the nearest competent medical professional? Is it okay to relieve emotional distress with just the right amount of counseling, pain relievers or engrossing entertainment or should your first action always be scripture, prayer and fasting?

Here’s another angle to consider. If you have an overabundance of food squirreled away and overstocked grocery stores nearby, praying “Give us today our daily bread” seems extraneous. But if you focus on the “us” part, the petition may morph into “Lord, what do you want me to do with my excess?

In summary, this part of Jesus’ model prayer encourages meditation on how to use God’s intertwined physical and spiritual resources. Furthermore, it prompts us to serve the broken world around us. 

Just for today, look in the refrigerator, freezer or food storage areas of your home while you pray this line of the Lord’s Prayer. Tell a family member or friend about your experience.

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

Our Daily Bread2024-02-17T14:10:59-07:00

Manna – Daily Bread in the Wilderness

by Carolyn Schmitt

Exodus 16:1-36 and Numbers 11:1-34 both tell about the Israelites complaining to Moses and Aaron about not having the kind of food available to them when they were slaves in Egypt. 

And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger. Exodus 16:3

 

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.” Exodus 16:4-5

 

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “I have heard the complaints of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. And you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’ and in the morning the dew lay all around the camp. And when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance, as fine as frost on the ground. So when the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.

And Moses said to them, “This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat. This is the thing which the Lord has commanded: ‘Let every man gather it according to each one’s need, one omer for each person, according to the number of persons; let every man take for those who are in his tent.’ ” Exodus 16:11-16

 

In the Lord’s Prayer there is a change in pronouns: The first three petitions have the pronoun “your”, about God’s name being hallowed, His kingdom coming and His will being done on earth as it is in heaven. The next three pronouns are “us”, about our need for daily bread, forgiveness of our debts, and protection from temptation.  The first three are a request for what happens in heaven that it will also happen on earth, and the next three are what is needed by us who live on earth. 

In the request, “Give us this day our daily bread”, my research brought to light a variety of responses to what it meant when Jesus spoke it to the people then and what it may mean to us in our time.  Taken literally, it might  mean that we should only have on hand what we can eat up in a day and we should not be making sure that we have food on hand to fix for us or our family the next day or beyond.  

I remember on our farm we always kept what are called, “staples” in the house.  They were basic ingredients that we could use to make various kinds of bread. They included flour, salt, yeast, baking powder, lard, and milk from our cows, eggs from our chickens, butter and buttermilk from our own making.  Our farm was 10 miles from town, so it would have been unrealistic to go somewhere every day to get our “daily bread”.  

I lived  for a time in a small town where  the grocery store was walking distance from our house. Even after moving to Denver in 1953, the grocery store was only 4 blocks from home.  Food still had to be prepared.  There were no fast food or take out shops for convenience.  

Something that was mentioned in several sources was that this prayer might mean praying for how God makes it possible for farmers to grow food and for people who do the work of processing, packaging, transporting and making food available to buy.  

It might mean that, unlike the Israelites who complained about what they didn’t have,  we are to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness to God for all who labor for what we do have.

I had forgotten until I looked it up that the Israelites only received the food the Lord provided them from heaven during their 40 year sojourn in the wilderness. 

 

Now the children of Israel camped in Gilgal, and kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight on the plains of Jericho. And they ate of the produce of the land on the day after the Passover, unleavened bread and parched grain, on the very same day. Then the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year. Joshua 5:10-12

 

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

Manna – Daily Bread in the Wilderness2024-02-17T13:25:26-07:00
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