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Jan 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Finding God’s Will for Your Life 01/15/2023



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome to RefleXion!    May the Lord be with you.

I often think of my life in Christ as the branch of a tree, my image taken from the passage in John 15 about the vine and the branches.  The tree is the source of my life; my branch has been grafted in, scripture says, because I am a Gentile.  As Chuck mentioned last week, scripture refers to Gentiles as those who didn’t know the God of Abraham.  And now we do know God by the gift of faith.  Romans 11:17 reads, “And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in.  So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.” 

So being grafted in is not the end of it.  Can you picture the grafting in?  The vine promises to hold on to the branch, and the branch must also cling/send its fingers into the vine.  While the root of our tree is Holy, and our branch is made for receiving Holy nourishment, pests and parasites can cause damage, and knots within the branch can entangle and stop the flow of that nourishment.  We all have knots in us. 

Are you familiar with burled wood?  It’s quite beautiful on the outside and highly prized for making furniture and such.  And a burl is essentially a tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner. Burl formation is typically a result of some form of stress such as an injury or a viral or fungal infection, or it could be a genetic disorder.  The burl is the wound response.  When a tree has injury, any disruption of the inner layers interferes with the trees ability to receive nourishment.

Whatever we’ve been through, we remember that we are still beautiful, just as the burl is; but we want to be aware if, underneath that burl, the wound becomes an inner knot, entangling the free flow of Grace.  

And this is why we pay attention to our inner life:  to untangle our knots, to welcome the free flow of Grace, and to share in the promise of the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.

We start with noticing wherever and whenever it doesn’t seem that we are experiencing the flow of Grace.  We start with awareness and then we do our work with God, because we want those pests and parasites to no longer have the ability to impede the Holy flow of our life-in-Christ.

Will you pray with me: 

Father, in our inner being we delight in You.  We pray that, according to the riches of Your glory You may grant us power through Your Holy Spirit in our inner being.  We recognize that we are Your Holy Sanctuary; let it be more wholly Yours.  We pray in the Name of Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Some time after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and his baker committed an offense against their lord the king of Egypt. And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison where Joseph was confined Genesis 40:1-3

Intro: I wasn’t going to mention anything about depression today

Everyone goes through stuff – and we just have to ride it out
– I feel like the poet who in Psalm 13 asks God,
How long, O LORD, Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day? (Ps. 13:1-2)
• my dark cloud persists and I’m not doing my best thinking
• when I begin a new series of talks, I have two concerns:
1. Is there a message God has for us at this given time?
2. What might you need or want to hear?
– for the time being, my brain left me a voice message:
“Currently out of the office. If you have an emergency, hang up and dial 911. You will be notified as soon as I return. For now, direct all personal inquiries to Barbara, your wife.”
• so instead of beginning a new series, I’ll be treading water
• I promise to try to keep it short

My topic is: Finding the will of God for your life

Here’s what preachers do when they know their talk is going to suck:
– they come up with a compelling sermon title
• so you’re not, really, going to learn about finding God’s will for your life
• what I’m going to share with you
◦ are three meditations from my scripture reading this week
– the first one was inspired, in part, by our Lexio Divina meeting on Wednesday night
(this one will be more intense than the other two meditations)
• our passage had to do with sin, lawlessness, and righteousness
◦ those are loaded words—hot topic words
◦ the reason they grate on us, is because we don’t understand them

The morning after our Lexio Divina meeting,
– I came to a passage that helps us see what righteousness means in the Hebrew Scriptures
• in fact, a 20th Century, OT theologian, referred to this story:
“A very extreme piece of evidence for [righteousness] . . . .”
• that’s where we’ll start:

What Gerhard von Rad explained about righteousness

von Rad, “There is absolutely no concept in the Old Testament with so central a significance for all the relationships of human life as is that of [righteousness]. It is the standard not only for [human] relationship with God, but also for [our] relationships to [others], reaching right down to the most petty wranglings . . . .”
– he says we’ve interpreted righteousness according to our Western presumptions
A person’s “proper conduct over against an absolute ethical norm, a legality which derives its form from the absolute idea of justice.”
“Nevertheless, it cannot be held that [the] Old Testament concept of righteousness is specifically forensic, for it embraces the whole of Israelite life, wherever [people] found themselves in mutual relationships.”
• he points out that righteousness, “in particular” is
“conduct loyal to a relationship [and] includes far more than mere correctness or legality . . . .”
• this is a relational righteousness – and it,
“demanded the showing of kindness, faithfulness, and as circumstances arose, helpful compassion to the poor or the suffering.” A person’s “common life was . . . judged from the point of view of faithfulness to a relationship.”
– von Rad illustrates this with the story of Saul and David
• Saul was out to murder David, and David disrespected Saul, but spared his life
“You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you with evil. . . . you did not kill me when the LORD put me into your hands (1 Sam. 24:17-18)
von Rad, Saul “meant that David had taken the relationship existing between the two of them more seriously and given more heed to it than Saul had.”
◦ later, David would say,
“The LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness . . . .” (1 Sam. 26:23)
• that is righteousness; it’s key feature:
◦ faithfulness to what a relationship implies and requires

Four points that the Scriptures make clear:
– every relationship requires people to treat others in a way specific to that relationship
– everyone was constantly engaging in many different relationships
– every day could bring a new relationship
– what applied to human relationships also applied to relationship with God

The problem we’ve had with righteousness is thinking that it is moral, ethical, or legal
– doing what is “right” according to a list of rules
• that is exactly what the Pharisees believed
◦ and it turned them into intolerable fault-finders
◦ it did not make them good people
• biblical righteousness is not moral or legal, but relational

I am going to press the issue further,
– because it radically challenges what’s going on in churches today
• and it radically changes the way we live with others for God
– when Jesus was asked, What is the great commandment in the Law?
He answered, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart . . . soul . . . and mind. . . . A second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets (Mt. 22:36-40)
• Paul echoes this in his letter to the Romans
For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder,” . . . and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law (Ro. 13:9-10)
• Paul could not have said that love fulfills the law unless the law is relational rather than legal

Here’s my short version of the story I read Thursday morning

Jacob was a grandson of Abraham, whose name God changed to “Israel.” Jacob became the father of the nation of Israel and his twelve sons became the twelve tribes of Israel. One of Jacob’s sons was Judah, who married a Canaanite woman and together they had three sons. Afterward, Judah’s wife died.
Judah secured a wife for his oldest son, but he died without having any children with Tamar. At that time, it was the duty of the next son in line to sire a child with the widow in order to provide his dead brother with an heir. But for some reason, this younger brother he avoided getting Tamar pregnant. And what he did was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and he put him to death (Gen. 38:10). Judah was afraid to have his youngest take his older brother’s place and so he withheld him from Tamar.
When Tamar realized Judah was not going to fulfill his responsibility to her, she removed her widow’s clothing, dressed herself as a prostitute, and sat at an intersection where she knew Judah would pass on his way to celebrate with his friends. Seeing Tamar (his daughter-in-law), and assuming she was a prostitute, he gave her in pledge his signet cord and staff until he could send her a proper payment. However, when he left, she returned home and Judah did not hear from Tamar until he learned she was pregnant. When that news came to her, he said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned” (Gen. 38:25–a high price to pay for playing the role of a prostitute!). But that is when she produced his signet cord and staff, saying, “By the man to whom these belong, I am pregnant.” At that, Judah exclaimed, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son” (Gen. 38:26). Gerhard von Rad asks, “But what in the world has this to do with our concept of righteousness?”
◦ the answer is, Nothing! She pretended to be a prostitute and he had sex with her
• our concept of righteousness is off, and we need to correct it
von Rad, “She wanted even by the most extreme of means to raise up descendants for her dead husband’s family, and because she had shown loyalty to her relationship to this family, she was ‘more righteous’ than her father-in-law, who had refused to giver her his youngest son in marriage.”
◦ God’s main concern for us is how we treat others

My second meditation is from the first verses I read (Gen. 40:1-2)

Joseph was this innocent young man
– betrayed by his brothers and maligned by his boss’s wife
• then imprisoned in a foreign land, he dropped to the lowest point in his life
• then one day two new prisoners landed behind bars
◦ Joseph was assigned to their care
◦ this resulted in him being introduced to Pharaoh, and from there he became the second most power ruler in the nation
– it seems to me that the two officers thrown into prison exactly where Joseph was confined was a “fortuitous coincidence”
• my meditation was simple:
“Has it occurred to you that God’s will for your life can find you right where you are?”
◦ we don’t find God’s will for our lives, his will finds us — wherever we are
◦ and our circumstances make no difference — they play into our destiny, they do not prevent it
• later, Joseph will tell his brothers,
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today (Gen. 50:20)

My third meditation is from this same story

Although the cupbearer was key to Joseph’s destiny, he faltered
– this officer enjoyed the status of working for royalty
• peasants were beneath him – prisoners were nothing to him
◦ although Joseph brought him good news and asked to be remembered and mentioned to the Pharaoh, we read,
Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him (Gen. 40:23)
• my meditation was:
“Don’t take it to heart when you are forgotten”
– we disappear behind whatever good we do in the name of Jesus
• the banner that flies over all acts of Christian service the slogan of John the Baptist:
He must increase, but I must decrease (Jn. 3:30)

Conclusion: So here are my three thoughts for today:

Being God’s child is not about being pious, religious, going to church; it’s about being a good person
God’s will finds you where you are now
Don’t take it to heart when you’re forgotten, but
Rejoice that your names are written in heaven (Lk. 10:20)

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