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Pastor Ethan's Blog
Thursday, April 26 2018

Hello everyone!

This Sunday at Trinity will be the second to last message in our "Easter 101: All things made new" series, where we have been pushing deeply into the amazing, broad, Biblical truth of Resurrection.  If you have time, I encourage you to listen to these online (links below), as these topics are immensely important for us as Disciples of Jesus, and we honestly don't give them much thought.  In any case, last week we unpacked the different worldviews (Biblical and secular) about how people see the future, and why this matters so much for believers. The bottom-line conclusion we reached was that our world- for all of its brokenness- matters intensely! Rather than naively believing mankind (or even the church) can fix things on our own, or fatalistically rooting for the world's quick demise, Scripture calls us to the Divine work of bringing about God's Kingdom and Will upon this world right now, just as it is in Heaven, right now.

As followers of Christ, we aren't called to just sit around and wait for Jesus's return (or our own departure). Rather, we are called to love, invest in, and make this deteriorating world a better place, daily working to plant the seeds of God's Kingdom by how we live, how we love, and what we say.  The first half of my message Sunday will continue with this thought, focusing very specifically and practically on what this looks like.  Does our theology of Resurrection impact and shape matters such as our idea of environmental stewardship?  Well, actually, yes.  It should.  What about issues such as abortion, religious and political freedom, equality, and justice?  YES.  How we understand Resurrection will impact these issues as well.  In the end (pun intended) the lens of resurrection through which we view the future has great power to change how we live today.  Resurrection not only promises that we will experience transformation (and indeed, that we already are), it also calls us to be agents of transformation.

To try and put it succinctly, the New Covenant truth of Resurrection is not about us one day finally abandoning this world, but rather Christ returning to re-create this world.  Our world is not trash that will one day be forgotten, but rather a treasure, badly damaged as it may be, that was created by God and will one day be restored by God. (Friends, this is a huge concept!) In the meantime, (meaning now), we are called to be God's agents of Resurrection, continuing the work that He started on Easter and will bring to completion in His time.  That will be our first big thought Sunday. (Whew!)

The second thing we will then explore is the under-taught, often misunderstood, but essential reality of Christ's ascension.  This will be a fascinating discussion, and I'll leave it at that for now.  As you gather with your own congregations this week, I ask that you pray for us and how God is leading and growing our church family here in the Mountains of Colorado.

Love you all, and may the immeasurable riches of God's Grace be made known to you,
Pastor Ethan

Jesus was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Acts 1:9-11

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,
Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.

Hebrews 4:14

Posted by: Ethan AT 10:52 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 19 2018

A few years ago we (here at Trinity) went through a study by Andy Stanley in which he would repeat a central thought- "there are things that people resist about Christianity, that Christians themselves should resist."  It's a good and pretty straightforward thought: there are things about Christian culture that drive people away, that themselves are counter to or not consistent with what being a disciple of Jesus really is about.  Examples are easy and numerous, such as legalism, judgmental attitudes, politics, fear of people who are different, moral inconsistency, and a tendency to self-segregate ourselves from the 'bad sinful world.'  Indeed, these are traits of Christian culture that should be resisted, as they are offensive both to the Gospel and the unbelieving world around us.  But there's a reality that Stanley didn't acknowledge (and in fairness, it wasn't his point): as offensive as these things are, they are NOT what is most offensive about Christianity. 

The Gospel and Christian message is offensive to the world because it demands that we acknowledge our sin.  It is offensive because it requires that we surrender our own self-sovereignty and place God on the throne of our lives.  The Gospel is offensive because it unapologetically proclaims that there is a hope, a truth, and a path that leads to rightness with God. In fact, in our post-modern culture, the Gospel is offensive because it asserts that there is such as thing as spiritual truth in and of itself.  But more than all of these, if you look at Christian History starting with Paul standing before the Roman Governor Felix in the book of Acts, the great unforgivable offense of Christianity is our foundational hope of Resurrection.

If Christ is raised from the dead, then everything Jesus taught and claimed is unquestionably true, and He is unquestionably God. A dominant worldview predicated on relative truth and lordship of self will never tolerate this.

If Christ is raised from the dead, and the believer possesses the certainty of this same hope (indeed, that we have entered into this hope already), then we possess a source of Life and hope greater than anything this temporary world can offer.  For a culture demanding we find our life, hope, acceptance and joy in what it offers (at great expense by the way), a people set free from that cultures tyranny of thought, and who don't need what it's selling, is absolutely untenable.

If Christ is raised from the dead, then death itself has been defeated and holds no fear for the followers of Jesus who see themselves as having participated in this same resurrection.  The abhorrence of this to the elites of history and their systems of power cannot be overstated.  To quote N.T. Wright from his book 'Surprised by Hope:'

Who, after all, was it who didn't want the dead to be raised?  Not simply the intellectually timid or the rationalists.  It was, and is, those in power, the social and intellectual tyrants and bullies; the Ceasars who would be threatened by a Lord of the world who had defeated the tyrant's last weapon, death itself; the Herods who would be horrified at the postmortem validation of the true King of the Jews.

Friends, if Christ is raised from the dead, and as his disciples we now share (and will fully share) in the absolute reality of that resurrection, then all the rules that used to govern life- why we have hope, what we do when we are in crisis, the very lens through which we view both history and the future-  have changed!  Quite literally, a new worldview has been introduced, a worldview that springs from the reality of a new creation.  To quote Wright one more time:

This hope is what you get when you suddenly realize that a different worldview is possible, a worldview in which the rich, the powerful, and the unscrupulous do not after all have the last word.  The same worldview shift that is demanded by the resurrection of Jesus is the shift that will enable us to transform the world.

I would add to Wright's statement that this same worldview of resurrection also means that the cultural elites do not have the last word. Sin does not have the last word.  My and your brokenness, weakness, and failures do not have the last word.  Your past, your shame, and fear will not have the last word!  Because Christ IS raised from the dead, and In Christ we too have entered into His resurrection, then Hope has the last word!  Ultimate hope for the world to come, but also hope for you: for goodness, redemption, freedom, and new life, where you are, right now.  Resurrection welcomes us, today, into the land of beginning again! And unlike the political, economic, and cultural Herod's of history, may our response to this amazing truth be Hallelujah, Christ is Risen!  The Lord is Risen indeed, Hallelujah!

With you in Hope,
Pastor Ethan

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable,
and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory!"
“Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”

1 Corinthians 15:54-55 (NIV)

Posted by: Ethan AT 02:54 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 05 2018

WHEW!  We made it through Easter! 

That probably didn't sound right (smile).  It was a wonderful week and Resurrection Day celebration for us here in the Vail Valley, (one of our best attended Easter weekends in years), and I am confident it was a blessed Easter season in your community and home church as well.

So, now that Easter week is behind us, here at Trinity we are continuing our in-depth exploration of the amazing reality of Resurrection. If you have time in your week, I invite you to join us by listening to our messages.  Along the way we will be addressing some of the questions - and dispelling some of the myths- that surround the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  Questions such as "when we die, do we go straight to Heaven, or is there something in-between?"  "What will Heaven be like? Does scripture tell us much about this? Will we just be sitting on a cloud with a little harp worshiping God 24/7 for all eternity?" "Do our loved ones who have already died 'look down' upon us from heaven?"  "What about all the people who lived before the time of Jesus? What is their hope of Salvation and Resurrection?"  And last but not least, "will we see our pets in heaven?"  Before you scoff at that last question, even though it may seem childish, it's been asked of me by many adults over the years, and actually points to one of the wider hopes of Resurrection- the idea of all things made new, which we will unpack in the coming weeks.

Another question arose (pardon the pun) this past Monday when a young woman in our small group shared an experience from a church where they recited the Apostles Creed. (If you aren't familiar with the Apostles Creed, it is an ancient 'this we believe' confession, part of liturgical tradition for centuries.)  She described how everything in the creed seemed perfectly fine, indeed what we do believe, until there arrived the phrase "He (Christ) descended into hell."  Huh?  Where did that come from?  This wasn't something she was certain was in the Bible, and as it turns out, her question was well founded. I asked the question to my men at our breakfast study the next morning... "Does the Bible teach that Jesus descended into hell between His death and Resurrection?"  The answer was the same as my own initial thought- "Well, I'm not sure where the Bible says this, but yes, I'm pretty sure that Jesus did descend to hell, and while there accomplished something significant, although I'm not sure exactly what."  There's much that can be discussed around this statement, and why it is in the Apostles Creed, but here's my point.  For all the tradition that teaches this idea of Jesus descending into hell before his Resurrection, it's simply not Biblical.  There are a handful of verses that have been pointed to over the centuries to try and back the idea up, but upon close examination they fail to make the case.  This isn't a matter of heresy, but an example of many people believing something because of what tradition teaches, rather than what the New Testament actually teaches.

Here's why this is important.  When we consider any Biblical concept, but especially that of Resurrection, we don't want to miss the amazing truth of what scripture actually says.  For just as there are traditional teachings that can't be justified Biblically, there is also life-giving truth in Scripture that is not taught traditionally.  Put another way, while many traditional concepts of Resurrection and Eternity are harmless from a doctrinal standpoint, they can distract our focus from the majestic New Covenant scope of Resurrection God shows us in His Word.  A prime example is Paul's statement in Ephesians 2, that because of His great love for us, God... raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the Heavenly Realms in Christ Jesus, in order that... He might show us the incomparable riches of His Grace.  As we touched on Sunday, this is the reality that In Christ, we have already experienced Spiritual Resurrection, and already taken our first step into eternity. What happened to Christ through His death, burial, and resurrection has also happened to us through our own death, burial, and resurrection. This is a spiritual truth, but with profound implications for how we live right now, in the bright light of our faith in what is, and our Hope of what is to come

Friends, I understand these concepts are difficult to grasp- they certainly are for me!  But life is too important, and the truth is just too good, to settle for unfounded traditions or cartoon concepts of Resurrection and eternity.  As you gather to worship with your church this Sunday, I ask that you pray for us here at Trinity as we cut through the clouds and mine deeply into the richness of God's Word-  the truth of how what happened to Jesus through the cross also has happened to you.

From your friends and church family in the mountains,
Pastor Ethan

For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
2 Corinthians 5:4-6

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Romans 6:5

Posted by: Ethan AT 04:33 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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