Penticost 2023

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.

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Red Couch Theology2023-05-27T11:29:31-06:00

Where Do We Put Our Faith?

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:10-14

What does a Spirit filled life look like? What is it to experience that kind of life? I don’t know about you, but I’ve focused too much on verses 12 and 13 in the past: Jesus’ disciples “will do even greater works than [he has been doing]” and Jesus “will do whatever [we] ask in [his] name”. I’ve focused too much on my own ability to assess the quality of “greater works” anticipated by God, or those that quantify as “great” -– while I rely on my own success in asking or pressuring God into answering these prayers in the way that seems best to me.

Upon closer reading (and after a lot of extra effort), I’ve realized Jesus isn’t asking us to focus so much of ourselves to try to quantify the greatness of good works -– our own or anyone else’s. So what is he saying?

10 “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11a Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”

    • We need to understand that the Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — is relational in itself. “Relational” is an often used word in Christianity: I understand what this means by contrasting it to ”transactional”, where everything is done to obtain something – where “relationship” is a means to an alliance in companionship.
    • Just as Jesus relates to his Father, we need to be in relationship with the Holy Spirit, learning, growing, obeying — not using God as a means to attainment — even while we’re doing good.

11 “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.”

If it’s too difficult to understand the nature of the Trinity, Jesus gives us option B, which is to believe the evidence of the works he has done.

Sometimes I’ve looked at works of people (who have claimed to be “filled with the Spirit”), more than at Jesus. The first time I remember this happening was when my Dad would watch Catherine Kuhlman on TV. She’d say, “I bee-LEEVE in miracles!”, and I’d think, “that seems a little strange!” Living the life of a TV faith healer did not appeal to me at all. Jesus is asking us to focus on Him, His works and how He interacted with people.

12b “they will do even greater things than these”

    • People by nature like to gauge success, control results, and conform to techniques and formulas. I believe Jesus is asking us to accept this statement by faith – not to analyze what it means in practice. Personally I find faith really exciting because it’s saying we can anticipate seeing the greatest surprises in our own lives and in the lives of other believers.

14 “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

    • Finally, Jesus tells us that prayer is the way to a life filled with the Holy Spirit’s help and guidance. We don’t need to do good works in playing a mysterious cat and mouse game with God; we really need to pray.

Application: Are there areas in your life that you’re trying to manage on your own? I know I have them! Instead try praying that the Holy Spirit will guide and help you in these areas.

Lately my interpretation of praying in faith is to pray about a situation and then just leave it to God. I don’t keep revisiting the topic as if my extra effort and words would sway God. Instead I ask ‘agog’ that He would help me believe He will answer the prayer I would pray if I knew all that He does.

Would that be something that you might want to try as well?

Where Do We Put Our Faith?2023-05-31T13:34:04-06:00

Jesus, With His Father

The Gospel of John chapters 13-17 are particularly close to my heart. I have wondered what it would have been like to be in that room, at that table, and to have heard what Jesus was telling the disciples and to have seen what Jesus did.

Because I have the luxury of moving back and forth in scripture, reading about what took place in the past and knowing what is coming next, it is easy to forget that the disciples lived only in the moment. Also that, theirs was an oral society, so it would be easy to forget some of what Jesus said and did during the three years they followed him around Galilee and the surrounding countryside.

From John 13:1-14:3, we see Jesus doing an unexpected thing, telling his disciples some hard to understand things. Picking up at John 14:4, Jesus says, “You know the way to where I am going.”

“Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where You’re going. How can we know the way? ” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you know Me, you will also know My Father. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.”

“Lord,” said Philip, “show us the Father, and that’s enough for us.”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves. John 14:4-11 HCSB (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Jesus reminded Philip and the other disciples there of times when he had spoken of and to his Father. Below are three familiar incidents that would much later be remembered and written for us to read.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21 NIV

At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, because this was Your good pleasure.”

“All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal Him.” Matthew 11:25-27 NIV

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.
Matthew 16:15-17

Question: What do you think the word, “way” means? For Thomas it meant: What road are we taking to get to where you haven’t told us yet?

  • Take some time to think about what it means that Jesus is the “way”.
  • Also, think about what it means that “Jesus is In the Father and the Father is in him”
Jesus, With His Father2023-05-27T11:22:45-06:00

Jesus’ Wedding Plans

This past January, my daughter and her fiance became engaged and began planning their August wedding. She was surprised that her fiance (an introvert) wanted thirteen groomsmen. They settled on nine attendants each – which was more than my daughter (an extrovert) had anticipated. This brings up a question. Do men dream about their weddings? Apparently so.

When you read the following part of Jesus’ farewell discourse found in John, chapters 14-17, tune your heart to hear Jesus laying out his wedding plans.

“Do not let your hearts be distressed. You believe in God; believe also in me. There are many dwelling places in my Father’s house. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going away to make ready a place for you. And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too. And you know the way where I am going.” John 14:1-4 NET

His language evokes classic, first century, Jewish betrothal (engagement and marriage) customs. Here’s the full article regarding the above passage. This portion is most relevant:

…the groom would return to his father’s house after the betrothal to prepare a bridal chamber. This process traditionally took a year or more (the length of time being dictated by the groom’s father). When the place was complete, the groom would return and fetch his bride. The bride would not know the day or hour of her husband-to-be’s return, so the groom’s arrival was usually announced with a trumpet call and a shout so the bride had some forewarning.

Go to Matthew 24:29-44 to find more wedding language (with the trumpet call included), and notice this nugget about the groom’s (Jesus’) Father in Heaven:

“But as for that day and hour no one knows it—not even the angels in heaven—except the Father alone.” Matthew 24:36

As the Bride of Christ, we find ourselves in a lengthy (to us) period of waiting. But we are not in a vacuum of waiting. It’s our preparation season. While we wait, we anticipate the most intense level of his glorious presence – the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Because the Father is the sole determiner of the time, Jesus has sent his Holy Spirit to show us how to prepare for The Big Day.

Then I heard what sounded like the voice of a vast throng, like the roar of many waters and like loud crashes of thunder. They were shouting:

For the Lord our God, the All-Powerful, reigns!
Let us rejoice and exult and give him glory,
because the wedding celebration of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
She was permitted to be dressed in bright, clean, fine linen”
(for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints).

Then the angel said to me, “Write the following: Blessed are those who are invited to the banquet at the wedding celebration of the Lamb!” He also said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Revelation 19:6-9 NET

Read Matthew 25:1-13, the parable of the ten virgins, to more fully understand how actively we must prepare for the day we meet Jesus face to face.

Applications: Do you have friends who grew up and married in a different culture with ancient marriage traditions? Ask them about their engagement period and marriage ceremony. If you don’t have such friends, search the internet for still existing engagement and marriage traditions in empire cultures such as India, Turkey, and Iran. Be especially aware of preparation requirements for the bride. Alternatively, contemplate meeting Jesus face to face with Sandi Patty’s version of We Shall Behold Him.

Jesus’ Wedding Plans2023-05-27T10:41:22-06:00

Believe God – Believe Also In Me

For the next three weeks we will be using the Gospel of John to focus on the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of John is unique because it has several miracles and events recorded in it that are not included in Matthew, Mark or Luke. John uses the words “love, light, life, word, world, witness, testify, and believe” many more times than any other New Testament writer and often repeats these words in order to emphasize the point he is making. John stated his purpose in writing his gospel as being:

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30-31 NIV

The section we are focusing on is found in chapters 13 and 14 of John. They are within a larger section that is called the “Upper Room Discourse” that includes chapters 13-17 of John. This conversation Jesus had with his disciples during the last supper they shared together is only found in John.

“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”
Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” John 13:33-14:1 NIV

Jesus was still with the disciples, but soon wouldn’t be. He was teaching them about how He wants them to treat each other when he is no longer there, but Peter focused on the wrong thing – that Jesus was leaving. Then Jesus told Peter he will deny him very soon. There is quite a contrast between the Peter shown in the Gospels and the Peter we see in Acts 2:14-41 and in the rest of the New Testament. The difference is the empowering of the Holy Spirit. In John 13 Peter did not have the power of the Holy Spirit in his life yet. Jesus did tell him and the others how the Holy Spirit would change things for them.

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:10-14 NIV

This is really quite amazing! Jesus told his disciples they will do even greater things than He has done! That is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus also told them to trust in God, to not be troubled. This is something we all need to remember each and every day. Since we have the power of the Holy Spirit, if we believe in Jesus as our Savior, then we should not let our hearts be troubled, but instead trust in God and in the power of the Holy Spirit to be at work in our lives. Read Psalm 56. Listen to why the Psalmist says we should trust in God. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to your troubled heart and to enable you to trust in God today.

Believe God – Believe Also In Me2023-05-28T14:04:51-06:00
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