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Jul 9 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 7, 2019

The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month.
Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the LORD said to me,
“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatsoever I command you, you shall speak.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the LORD.”
Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me,
“Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow,”
to build and to plant.”

Jeremiah 1:1-11

Intro: In the Hebrew Scriptures, the prophet’s call was an important event

Each of the three major prophets tell elaborate stories of their initiation
– typical features of a prophetic call include:
• a God-encounter
• instructions regarding their ministry and message
• a warning of what they are up against
• an attempt on the prophet’s part to dodge the call
◦ they argue their disqualification
• God rejects their disqualification and “qualifies” them
• they then receive their first vision, word, or revelation
– Jeremiah begins with the story of his call and apprenticeship

Jeremiah appeared at a critical time in Israel’s history
– he would live to see his nation come to an end
• God was going to make a clean slate of Jerusalem and Judah
• then, after seventy years, he was going to start over
– before reconstruction there would be demolition
• before planting there would be a thorough weeding

Our summer project has been to explore “repentance

So far we’ve seen, the changes God wants to see in our lives
– require us to change what goes on inside our brains
• neural circuits have been formed by habit to run automatically
◦ for instance, we don’t have to think about losing our temper
◦ in fact, usually we don’t think about it until afterward
• an owner’s manual has been written into our brains
◦ we have learned that it is important to learn how to read it,
◦ to identify what needs to be removed from it,
◦ and then begin rewriting it

The nature of Jeremiah’s ministry offers a familiar template
– old structures have to be pulled down
Break up your fallow ground, and do not plant among thorns (Jer. 4:3)
• fallow ground was the surface layer of soil
◦ it would bake in the hot sun and become like hardened clay
• this is a good illustration of how thought habits solidify in the brain
◦ we have to “break up” the negative, self-destructive circuits
◦ then begin to wire together new healthier circuits
– Jesus took apart a lot of the old systems
• he changed religion — the “old wineskins” (Mt. 9:14-17)
• he changed many of the rules — regarding the Sabbath (Mt. 12:1-8)
◦ Jesus changed people, and he wanted their participation
◦ there was the time in Jesus when Jesus asked the cripple,
Do you want to be healed? (Jn. 5:6)
Jesus was saying, in effect, Life did this to you, but now I’m offering you something else

Last week this meant to put off the old self and put on the new self
– Paul provides specific instructions for specific issues, like anxiety:
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Php. 4:6-7)
• he told the Philippians what they had to stop doing
• then, how to stop (bring everything anxious thought to God)
• and then what to use to replace their anxious thoughts
whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Php. 4:8)

What does this mean in terms of rewriting the brain’s owner’s manual?

We have to cut some wires
– we’ve seen how habitual thoughts, emotions, and reactions,
• are wired into our brain cells
◦ that neurons wire together to form circuits
• whenever the circuit is triggered, it produces the same response
◦ the same feeling, the same emotion, the same mood,
◦ the same unwanted experience
– the neurons in those circuits need to be disconnected
• that can happens naturally – we experience it as forgetfulness
◦ it is not difficult to let go of some things
one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal … in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way . . . . (Php. 3:13-14)
• other things are not so easy, and so require heavy artillery
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:4-5)

If we can stop our brains from using the same neural pathways,
– the connections between neurons will wither
• but there are two problems we have to solve:
◦ these circuits operate apart from our conscious control
◦ when we try to disconnect them we will experience resistance
• we’ll take these problems one at a time

The first problem: we are unaware of our brain is doing

We can be lost in a thought or feeling without being aware that we are
Daniel Siegel asks, “. . . how do we actually develop the ability to perceive a thought—not just have one—and to know it as an activity of our minds so that we are not taken over by it? How can we be receptive to the mind’s riches and not just reactive to its reflexes? How can we direct our thoughts and feelings rather than be driven by them?”
– his answer, is by developing a seventh sense
(the first five senses receive information from the world outside the body, the sixth sense receives information from the interior of the body)
• he refers to the seventh sense as “mindsight”
◦ the ability to observe what goes on in our minds
Siegel, “. . . when we develop the skill of mindsight, we actually change the physical structure of the brain. Developing the lens that enables us to see the mind more clearly stimulates the brain to grow important new connections.”
– anyone here can develop this awareness–after all, it’s your brain!
• my mind is engaged in thought, but I’m not aware that I’m thinking
• it seems more like I am perceiving something than thinking it
◦ so I mistake the thought for reality
◦ or I mistake what I feel for what I am
– Fr. Romuald said when he caught himself identifying with a thought or feeling, “I switch levels”
• that is, he would take a step back from his thought and look at it
◦ I can be aware of my thought, and aware that I am thinking it
◦ I can aware of what I’m reading, and that I am reading
• when we develop this kind of awareness,
◦ we begin to catch our brains in the act
◦ and in that moment, we have a choice
• if we continue with it, we reinforce the neural circuit that produces it
◦ if we move from our thought to the present moment experience of the body,
◦ we break the circuit and begin forming new circuit
(the new thought habit)

The second problem is our the resistance of our addictions

How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God (see Mk. 10:17-23)
For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do (Gal. 5:17)

Addiction may sound like a strong word and seem irrelevant to you
– but bear with me
• the reason opioids produce pleasure is because the brain has opioid receptors
◦ with thought alone we can release chemicals into the brain and nervous system,
◦ that reduce pain, comfort and soothe, or give us a feel-good kick
• demanding jobs that require lots of ongoing creativity,
◦ can create a natural adrenaline addiction
• jobs that give us the opportunity to nurture and care for others
◦ can also provide feel-good rewards
◦ but if we become addicted to the care of others, we can burn out
(in the field of healthcare, this is known as Compassion Fatigue Syndrome)
– if we can become aware of what triggers our addictive thoughts and feelings,
• then we can learn to become aware of when a trigger occurs
◦ this gives us the freedom to choose
◦ we can let go of our addiction to anger, greed, fear, ego needs, etc.
• the Bible doesn’t use language of addiction
◦ but it uses words with similar meaning, like bondage or slavery
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Ro. 6:16)
Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin (Jn. 8:34)

Conclusion: I’ve printed a simple prayer exercise

It’s one of many ways to practice bringing our inner life into awareness
– simply closing our eyes and taking a couple cleansing breaths,
• instantly affects the nervous system
• making it easier to be more aware, to see more clearly
– there’s an extra energy and even joy in being in silence with God,
• both God and I observing my thoughts, feelings, and emotions
• in his presence, the process is less threatening, less discouraging
◦ and more loving and hope-filled

You can do this
All you need is the right perspective and attitude
and the willingness to practice and not give up,
even if at first it seems you are making little progress

The way of the sluggard is like a hedge of thorns,
but the path of the upright is a level highway
(Pr. 15:19)

Do not get stuck obsessing over the thorns,
but look at the highway stretching ahead to freedom
With the old self in your rear view mirror,
begin to imagine the joy waiting for you on the horizon
God’s new creation

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
he or she is a new creation.
The old has passed away;
behold, the new has come
(2 Cor. 5:17)

Silent Prayer Exercise

If you have not already found your own way of sitting silently in God’s presence, you may find the following exercise helpful.
When praying this way, we have no other goal than to bring our full attention to the present moment. Our hearts, mind and bodies are open and receptive to God.
We are not trying to do anything, rather our intention is to be still and know God’s presence here and now.

Preparation
1. Choose a time and place that assures stillness and quiet
a. Reduce or eliminate distractions (turn off cell phone)
2. Sit in an upright yet comfortable position
a. Rest your hands on your lap
b. Wherever you are, notice the space your body occupies
3. Release any muscle tension you feel in your body
a. If it helps, do a little, gentle stretching
4. Present yourself to God with a simple prayer
a. For instance:
Father in heaven, this moment is Yours.
Lord Jesus, my heart and mind are Yours.
Holy Spirit, awaken me to Your presence.

Begin
1. Take three deep cleansing breaths
a. Notice your breath entering and leaving your body
b. Notice the space inside your body that your breath fills
2. Beginning with the top of your head say,
“The peace of the Lord be with you”
a. Allow yourself to feel God’s peace rest on your head
b. Gently move your awareness down to your eyes and say,
“Peace”
i. Feel your eyelids and the muscles around your eyes relax
c. Move down and say, “Peace” to your nose and sinuses
d. Move down to your mouth, lips, tongue, teeth and jaw
i. Say, “Peace,” and feel those places relax even more
e. Move awareness to the side and back of your head
i. Say, “Peace” to your ears and neck
f. Continue to move down to your shoulders, back, etcetera
i. Speak peace to your entire body, one part at a time
3. Think of your busy brain and tell it,
“The peace of the Lord be with you”
a. Speak peace to your brainstem and spinal chord
b. Speak God’s peace to each of your organs or “systems”
i. For instance, nervous, respiratory, cardiac system, etc.

Settle in
Take a moment to enjoy your heart, mind and body at rest
1. Become a spectator of your present moment experience
a. What sensations do you feel in your body?
i. Do not attach any significance to them, simply notice them
b. What emotion do you feel?
i. If nothing, simply notice that you feel nothing
c. What thoughts come to you?
i. Ask, “What am I thinking right now?”
ii. Observe the thought without being dragged into it
2. If in your body there is pain, discomfort, the jitters,
Or your emotion is one of anxiety, discouragement, sadness
Or if your thought is negative, dark, or upsetting
a. Be aware of the unpleasantness
i. Acknowledge it for what it is
b. But do not judge yourself for what you experience
i. You are a spectator, not a judge
ii. Let God’s compassion fill you

Wrapping it up
1. Thank God for this time in his presence
2. As you stand up, be aware that you are standing up
3. Do not rush into your next activity
a. Move mindfully into the next thing

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