Pastor Ethan's Blog
Thursday, February 22 2018
It’s a story we hear every Olympic games. A true story heard anytime a successful athlete, artist, musician, (or just about any person who has accomplished anything) is asked about how they got here. It’s the story of the people they couldn’t have ‘done this without’. “I wouldn’t be here without the support of my parents.” “I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of my coach.” “I can’t imagine this day without the amazing, sacrificial love of my family over all these years.”
They are compelling stories! Can you imagine getting up at 4:00 am every morning for years, to drive your child to the morning practice at the ice rink? The untold financial sacrifice to provide your child with the training, the equipment, the medical bills... so they have an opportunity to develop a gift into a skill capable of competing at such a high level? The tears, heartbreak, fear, and sheer emotional exhaustion when failure and injury inevitably happen? All of that, and more, for years. What would motivate a person to sustain that level of self-sacrifice?
The answer, of course, is easy. It’s Love. This is what love does. And we don’t just see it in sports. Any place we see a person serving, giving, supporting, cheering, sacrificing, working their tail end off… for the benefit of someone else- that is Love!
This Sunday we will take an in-depth look at one of the most profound attributes of Love described in 1 Corinthians 13. The NIV says it this way: “Love protects. Always.” Love sincerely cares about the well-being of others, and acts on it, even sacrificially. But the idea we see here in verse seven is even stronger than what the NIV translates. The verb ‘protects’ is rendered across different translations as ‘bears up under’, ‘covers over’, ‘never gives up’, ‘accepts all things’, ‘puts up with all things’, ‘is supportive’. The Greek word ‘stegei’ has a connotation of building a roof, a covering over something, or providing a support underneath. That’s an image! Love builds a roof. Love lays a foundation. And inseparable from this is the powerful Greek adjective ‘panta.’ ‘Always… in all things’. To take a shot at my own paraphrase: In all things, at all times, in every circumstance, with every person.. love sacrificially gives of itself to bring life, healing, patience, protection, acceptance, support, security, encouragement… to another person.
That’s what love does.
Unfortunately, this miracle of love seems to be fading in our culture. Maybe that’s why we love to hear these stories when we watch the Olympics, or any similar event. We want to be reminded of what sacrificial love can do, because so often we see the opposite. More and more, it seems like these stories could move from the Olympics channel to the National Geographic channel, as an explorer searches the depths of western culture for the incredible, rare, endangered heart that does what’s best for the other person.
Church, this should be our heart, it must be our heart, because it is the heart of Christ within us! As we’ve discussed multiple times in this series, we all are on a journey, we all have our brokenness, and God’s purpose through His word is always about conviction and redemption, never about condemnation. If we struggle with being self-serving, self-promoting, and self-protecting, it’s because we come by it honest. These are the core traits of fallen humanity into which we were born. But In Christ, this is no longer who we are! We have been reborn, set free, and given a new nature in which we will increasingly see every day the glimpses of Love we occasionally see in the best of humanity. Agape Panta Stegei. The Love of God, in all things, bears up and covers over. This is who God is! And friends, as we daily grow in our relationship with Christ, this is who we are as well.
Alive In Christ with you,
Love patiently accepts all things
1 Corinthians 13:6 (new century version)
Wednesday, February 14 2018
Hello Trinity! Happy Valentine’s Day!
This Sunday is week SIX of our ‘Reflecting Jesus’ series, in which we have walked through the ‘Love passage’ of 1 Corinthians 13, one adjective at a time. By this point, some of you may be thinking, “Six weeks?! How can you spend six weeks in a passage that is only 4 verses long, and still not be done!” “I mean, sure, it’s a great passage, and we’ve all heard is a millions times… ‘Love is patient, love is kind, blah blah blah…’ I think we get it!”
Have you thought that, just maybe? Do we really need to take what will end up being TEN weeks talking about these different descriptive words that follow the almost cliché phrase, “Love is…?” It has struck me in my own study for this series (and in conversations with some of you) that what on its face may be one of the most rote passages in the New Testament is actually one of the most intensely practical and profoundly challenging statements in Scripture for how we actually live. That is, IF we stop and take the time to actually consider the bombshells Paul drops here, one descriptive phrase at a time.
I make this point because in this week’s phrase, Paul (God writing through Paul) takes his description of Love to a whole new level.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.
I’m going to skip the ‘delight in evil’ part for now, and cut straight to the statement that will keep you up tonight if you really take it seriously. Love rejoices with the truth. Really? In our society today, we seem to be terrified of the truth. I once saw a cartoon where there were two booths (think Lucy’s counseling booth from ‘Peanuts’), with one labeled ‘difficult truths’, and the other ‘comforting lies’. Care to guess which booth had a long line of people? Any entry level human psychology course will tell you about the incredible delusional tools of our own consciousness to protect us from the truth. My favorite of these is called the fundamental attribution error, by which we convince ourselves that what is inexcusable and immoral for another person is justified for ourselves. We all do it. If you look at our culture (and ourselves) with any level of scrutiny, it seems that truth is something to hide from, not rejoice in seeing. You don’t have to look too far to find supposedly credible voices telling us that deception (at least subtly) is actually an expression of love, as who would want to always be told the truth about their actions, appearance, and perspective? NOW, as good Christians, we may tell ourselves that truth is always best, but be honest! If there were such a thing as a ‘Truth Flashlight”, I guarantee that we would want to be the one holding it! It’s just a human reality (including Christians) that there are few people who don’t utilize some scale of deception to protect themselves, protect others (at least we tell ourselves this), avoid conflict, or just smooth over things that would be hard to deal with. I recently heard a commentator who said ‘deception is the lubricant that makes the gears of society run smoothly’. Or, as ‘The Fonz’ said in a classic 1974 episode of ‘Happy Days’, “Bull makes the world go round”.
In contrast stands the audacious claim from the heart of God, that Love rejoices with the truth! In Colossians 3, when Paul proclaims that In Christ we have taken off our old self, and put on the New Self which increasingly reveals the image of our creator, what characteristic does Paul choose to describe how the New Self is so different? We don’t lie to each other.
I hope you are able to be with us Sunday as we push deeply into this profound, practical, and ultimately freeing truth. Until then, here’s the challenge. Starting with the rest of today, and then the rest of the week, sincerely ask the Holy Spirit to show you the ways you might be using deception as a means of getting through the day. Then ask, “why do I do this?” “What is going on in my heart and my mind that leads me to lie?” What would happen if you told the truth? What is our motivation for telling the truth? What about when we sincerely believe that ‘the truth’ would hurt someone? Are somethings better left unsaid? What is the balance between ‘all truth all the time’ and good judgment? If this is even valid, how do we make those judgment calls? What is the consequence when we do this? (Convince ourselves it’s ok to lie) Is this just rationalization? Can being a ‘truth teller’ veer into legalism? How does LOVE play into all of this? What does it really mean, in our actual daily lives, to rejoice with the Truth?
If we are honest, it turns out that living in truth might be a little more complicated that it first seems. Or is it?
Trinity, I love you all… and that is the truth!
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth
1 Corinthians 13:6
If you always tell the truth, you don’t have to remember what you said
Thursday, February 08 2018
Last Sunday I asked the question “do we really believe that how we live out the Love of Christ- in our daily lives- has the power to change things? Simply put, do we have the power to influence people in a way that makes their lives better? It’s not just a rhetorical question, because life often can lead us to be pessimistic about this… that few people really change, and that we really don’t have much ability to fight against the darkness in our culture, our own community, and sometimes in our own homes. Yesterday, this seeming power of darkness asserted itself again in the suicide death of a young person in our community. 2017 saw an almost record number of suicides in Eagle County, but this one hits closer to home, as the young person was well known to multiple people in our church family. Just weeks ago another member of our church family lost a life-long friend through still not fully known circumstances, again right here in our valley. If this valley is your permanent home, you almost certainly saw the news story about two weeks ago when a local resident- a believer who was an active member of one of our sister churches here in the valley- was murdered in her own home.
How do we fight against the darkness? Do we really have a chance to make a difference? Friends, there are two opposing answers to this question, and one is a lie straight from hell. This is the enemies accusatory lie that we can’t make a difference. C’mon. People don’t change. Get real. Who are you, and who are we as Christian hypocrites burdened with our own behavioral and emotional issues to make a difference in the lives of others? Church, this is a lie. We can make a difference, and the love of Christ- when really lived out in the lives of ordinary believers- changes lives every day. May we never doubt that this is true.
There’s another answer we hear, and this is the voice of what actually is. It’s the reality that while people can change, and the Love of Jesus is powerful to make a difference, that many people in fact don’t change, don’t forgive, and don’t emotionally and spiritually mature. While not as discouraging as Satan’s lie, this perspective offers little in the way of hope, it’s pessimistic by nature, and still part of the enemies desire to deceive us. Could things get better? Sure. Will they? Probably not.
Then there’s the Truth – not of what is, but of what may be. This is the answer of Hope, of optimism, and of scripture. It is the voice of the Spirit calling us to not just to know what is possible through God, but to base our lives-our choices and actions- upon what God has said He plans to do. And friends, what God has said He plans to do is nothing short of the redemption of the world. As we have explored through the past five weeks of our current message focus, God is working to reveal His Glory to His world through His Children. Through His Disciples. Through US. Christ one day WILL return, and in the words of N.T. Wright “put all things to rights.” AND until then, we- the Church- are called to be preparing the way, by how we live! Right now. We are agents of the future, called to bring about on earth (starting with our own little piece of earth) that which is already true in Heaven.
Church, may we never shirk back from our present Hope of Resurrection, and the Truth that through us God will continue His work of redeeming this world! And here’s the deal. If we DO believe this, it will get really practical, really quick. It will influence how we spend our time. Where we spend our money. It will make us people who really want to listen. It will open our eyes to the pain of those around us, and open our hearts to extend compassion. Wisdom in how to respond? Yes, of course. Willful blindness to people’s desperate need for real Hope? May it never be!
Friends, the Love of Christ we have been exploring will lead us to be patient, kind, humble, and to always push against the darkness of anger, pride, dis-honor, and grudges. It will lead us to be sharer’s of the Gospel of Forgiveness, Hope, Freedom, and New Life in Christ. It will lead us to grow in our own spiritual and emotional health. It will lead us into Freedom and Joy, and in all things, God’s Glory will be seen. Though you and I. Today.
Walking with you as we increasingly Love God, Love People, and Live Free,
The disciples… said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”