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Feb 15 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 11, 2018 – Exodus 4:18-31

Return to Egypt

So Moses went back home to Jethro, his father-in-law. “Please let me return to my relatives in Egypt,” Moses said. “I don’t even know if they are still alive.” “Go in peace,” Jethro replied.
Before Moses left Midian, the LORD said to him, “Return to Egypt, for all those who wanted to kill you have died.”
So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey, and headed back to the land of Egypt. In his hand he carried the staff of God. Exodus 4:18-20

Intro: Two warnings before we jump into this passage:

First, the sequence of events is jumbled
– perhaps the storyteller squeezes all of it together to create an effect
• biblical authors were not restricted to reporting events in linear time
◦ their narrative does not always go “this, then this, then this”
◦ historical cause and effect was not a rule they felt bound to follow
• their concern was to make a point, bring out an insight,
◦ or to reveal, highlight or illustrate a truth
◦ so we are looking for the truth that is the truth revealed in this passage

Second, embedded in this passage is perhaps the most confusing story in the Bible
– that’s all I’ll say about it for now
– at any rate, God is greater than the stories in scripture can communicate
• I love the stories, but they are here to get us to God
• if we get stuck in the story, we are not allowing it to do its job

Going through these verses will be like turning pages in a photo album
– we thumb through six photographs and each one tells a story
• Moses appears in each of them with someone else
• five of these encounters are positive, only one is negative

18 The first positive encounter: Moses and his father-in-law

Moses wanted Jethro’s permission to return to Egypt
– the reason he gives is to see if any of his people are still alive
• however, he said nothing about the burning bush, and we do not know why not
• I have thoughts about that, but none of them are worth our time
– Jethro gave Moses his blessing, Go in peace
• this peace (shalom) refers specifically to what existed between them
• it did not guarantee a peaceful journey or what he’d find when he reached his destination

19-20 The second positive encounter: Moses and Yahweh

This is a footnote to catch us up on local Egyptian news
– the message was intended to give Moses reassurance
• he had not left Egypt on the best of terms
• God let him know he did not have to worry re: prior issues
– so now Moses has everything packed
• with his staff in his hand and his sons in their donkey seats, they hit the road
◦ only now the staff he carried is referred to as the staff of God
◦ it’s still a stick, but now it belongs to God
• when Jacob was old, and blessing is twelve sons, we’re told he leaned on his staff (He. 11:21)
◦ I think that’s what the staff was for Moses
◦ something to lean on, something to prop him up
(or prop up his faith and confidence)

21-23 The third positive encounter: Moses and Yahweh

read more…

Feb 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 4, 2017 – Exodus 4:1-17

The Preacher In Me

(My intention with this message was to continue teaching through the Book of Exodus. However, three verses we will come to are so tantalizing that I could not resist the preacher’s urge to elaborate and load more meaning into them than they were originally meant to communicate. Here in my notes, I will give you fair warning when I go off on my cherished tangents.)

But Moses protested again, “What if they won’t believe me or listen to me? What if they say, ‘The LORD never appeared to you’?”
Then the LORD asked him, “What is that in your hand?”
“A shepherd’s staff,” Moses replied.
“Throw it down on the ground,” the LORD told him. So Moses threw down the staff, and it turned into a snake! Moses jumped back.
Then the LORD told him, “Reach out, and grab its tail.” So Moses reached out, and grabbed it, and it turned back into a shepherd’s staff in his hand.
“Perform this sign,” the LORD told him. “Then they will believe that the LORD, the God of their ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—really has appeared to you.”
 Exodus 4:1-5

Intro: We pick up where we left off last week

God is recruiting Moses for his life’s mission and Moses is trying to dodge it
– the two most serious issues have been settled already:
• who is Moses?
◦ God’s answer was (basically), That is irrelevant for now
◦ Moses will discover his true self by doing God’s will
• who is (this) God? the answer is, Yahweh, the eternal “I AM”
◦ the One who is everywhere and always present to his people
– but Moses isn’t ready to move out just yet
• he is still raising objections

1-5 Moses is doubtful everything will go as God has said

This is, in fact, the theme of this chapter
– it begins with, What if they don’t believe?
– it ends with, Then the people of Israel believed

God had just told Moses, the elders would listen to his voice (3:18, literal)
– but Moses questions that assertion and asks, Well perhaps, but what if they don’t?
• I hope this sounds familiar – we are all pretty good at doing this
◦ for instance, if I do not want to face a particular challenge, I play the “what if” game
◦ what if it doesn’t work? what if something breaks? what if no one shows up?
• our brains can crank out failure scenarios all day
– literally, Moses asks, What if they will not listen to my voice?
• “voice” is a key word

God will repeat this word three times in his response to Moses:
If they do not believe you and pay attention to your voice . . .
they will believe in your voice . . .
And if they don’t believe you or listen to your voice . . . (vv. 8-9)

◦ the voice is what carries communication
◦ a message, information, a question, a command, etc.
• in his next objection, Moses will make speech deficiencies an issue
◦ for a voice to be heard and followed, it must carry weight

In answer to Moses’ question, God asks him, What is that in your hand?
– it was his shepherd’s staff; an object so common no one would need ask
• but God intends to do something with it that Moses would’ve never guessed
• Moses did not need new and spectacular resources
◦ all that he needed was already in his hand
Throw it down
• Moses did not have to understand why God told him to do that
◦ we have introduced a complication into obeying Jesus
• we feel we must understand what God is doing before we comply
◦ “How is that going to work?”
◦ waiting to act until God forces an explanation through our brains limits what he can do with us (Mk. 6:5)
(By the way, if you ever have to pick up a snake, don’t grab its tail!)
– God assures Moses that the people would then believe the voice of the sign

The preacher in me cannot help but hear a whole sermon in the question, “What’s in your hand?” Almost everyone in scripture that God called into his service felt that they were inadequate to the task. They were unknown, came from a humble background, were not good (holy) enough, or old enough, lacked the experience, and on and on. It did not occur to them that God, who created something out of nothing, was able to amplify anything they had on hand. When Jesus told his disciples he wanted to feed a large crowd, they asked How are we supposed to find enough food to feed them out here in the wilderness? Jesus then asked them, How much bread do you have? He then took the seven loaves and did the impossible (Mk. 8:1-9). Do you see what I am getting at? A whole sermon that keeps repeating the theme, “What’s in your hand?” Because God is able to use whatever is in your hand.

read more…

Jan 29 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 28, 2018 – Exodus Chapter 3

God Encounter — Part 1

One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”
When the LORD saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
“Here I am!” Moses replied.
“Do not come any closer,” the LORD warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your father–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God. Exodus 3:1-6

Intro: In the Book of Exodus, Moses has two extended dialogues with God

And both are radiant with profound revelations of God

  1. The first is here in chapters 3-4:17
  2. The second is found in chapters 32-34
    With Moses, we have a vivid experience of God

– personally speaking, I do not find abstract theology compelling
• it’s true that the Bible is packed with theology
◦ but for the most part it is communicated through story
◦ God revealed himself in dynamic encounters with his people
• truth is first experienced then, perhaps, digested with mind
◦ its essence is not philosophical, but relational

In The Varieties of Religious Experience, America’s brilliant philosopher/physician/psychologist, William James wrote, “What keeps religion going is something else than abstract definitions and systems of concatenated adjectives, and something different from faculties of theology and their professors. All these things are after-effects, secondary accretions upon those phenomena of vital conversation with the unseen divine . . . .”  “In the religious sphere, in particular, belief that formulas are true can never wholly take the place of personal experience.”

– as important as it is that we can identify and articulate our beliefs,
• knowing theological concepts is never as important as knowing God
• and knowing him in the firsthand experience of our encounters with him

This first dialogue is critical because it raises important questions
• the remainder of Exodus provides the answers to:
◦ who is Moses?
◦ Who is this God?
◦ Who are God’s people and what defines them as such?
◦ What is God’s overarching purpose?

1-7 Moses, grandson of Pharaoh, has achieved the status of a shepherd

The first sentence is one of those that make you back up
– there’s some confusion regarding Jethro’s identity
(his name given in ch. 2 was Reuel, which might cause us to wonder whether this is the same person)
• not only that, Hebrew text does not say Sinai, but Horeb
(cf. Ex. 17:6; Deut. 1:6, etc. — this might make us wonder if this is another mountain or another name for Sinai)
◦ both the man and the mountain have two names
◦ and both have titles:
Jethro, the priest of Midian
Sinai [Horeb], the mountain of God
• we have to re-read chapter 2 and research elsewhere to work this out
◦ the mix-up (if that’s what it is) has us thinking about names and identities
◦ we are being prepared for the encounter
– we’re also told that Moses led Jethro’s flock far into the wilderness
• literally, behind the desert (the King James Version as backside of the desert)
◦ it is an odd geographical reference
• perhaps it is an indication of geographical space that was “spooky”
◦ moreover, it is the mountain of God, before anything ever happened there
◦ were there already local legends about the sacredness of this place?

Moses saw something uncanny – something that made no sense
– Hebrew, “he saw and LOOK!” or “Behold”
• we’re supposed to visualize what the storyteller points out
• on the mountainside he saw a fire that burned, but did not consume
◦ had to take a closer look, but approaching it, he was warned not to come closer
– this scene illustrates an experience of the sacred
• it is all mystery — an exposure to the supernatural
◦ how did Moses respond? With reverence
he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God

God’s call from the flames and Moses’ response tells me something about prayer

read more…

Jan 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 21, 2018 – Exodus Chapter 2

Safe and Sound

Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to find out what would happen to him.
The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, with her maidens walking alongside the Nile; and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid, and she brought it to her. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call a nurse for you from among the Hebrew women that she may nurse the child for you? Exodus 2:1-7

Intro: In chapter 1, we saw how severe discomfort forces us to change

Here, in chapter 2, we see how comfort tempts us to settle in
– the plot in today’s episode is keeping Moses alive
• suspense is raised at his birth and resolved three months later
• then, in his early adulthood, suspense rises when his life is again in jeopardy
◦ it is resolved when Moses finds a home in the Sinai Peninsula and settles down

1-4 Pharaoh’s command (the baby should have been thrown into the Nile)

Later on, we’ll learn the names of Moses’ parents
– but for now, they remain anonymous — they are “stock characters”
• the storyteller wants to focus our attention on the baby
• it is not difficult to imagine what went through the mother’s heart
◦ beautiful (Hebrew, tov): good, healthy, put together well–a keeper
– so she gathered papyrus from Nile, wove a basket and waterproofed it
• KJV “ark” same word as Noah’s boat and later on the Ark of the Covenant
◦ a box or chest – the items placed in each ark were precious
◦ the purpose of placing items (persons) inside was to preserve them
• “technically,” she did place her baby in the Nile
◦ we learn that the baby had an older sister who stuck around
◦ for the time being, the baby is relatively safe floating in the reeds

We’re still at beginning of story and two interesting developments emerge:

  1. the conflicts that drive the plot are caused by men
  2. the heroes who resolve the plot’s tension are all women
    • beginning with the midwives in chapter 1
    • now Moses’ mother, his sister and soon . . .

5-10 Of all people, it was Pharaoh’s daughter who discovered the baby

She came with her entourage of maidens to bathe in the Nile
– in every other instance of bathe in Exodus, it refers to a ritual purification
• Pharaoh’s daughter spotted the small basket stuck in the reeds
◦ she sent one of her servants to fetch it
◦ when she removed lid, the baby cried
– she recognized this as one of the Hebrew’s children
(who else would have risked setting their baby adrift in the Nile?)
• right then, Moses’ sister appeared and volunteered to find a Hebrew wet nurse
◦ Pharaoh’s daughter gave a one word answer, Go!
◦ not a negotiation, but a command
• the girl ran off and came back with her mother
◦ so Moses’ mother was paid to nurse and raise her own son

The child grew – this is another way to say, “Time passed”
– but we notice the passing of time without our attention moving from the child
• the storyteller uses the same device in verse 11, where the child is suddenly an adult
• we have not witnessed forty years pass,
◦ we have witnessed the child grow into adulthood by stages

read more…

Jan 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 14, 2018 -Exodus Chapter 1

Thorns In the Nest

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we. Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.”
So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel. Exodus 1:8-12

Intro: Recently, an idea has been nagging at me

Namely, that I should be taking you through the Old Testament (maybe not the whole thing)
– the New Testament (NT) presents itself as a continuation of the Old Testament (OT)
• there are parts of NT we cannot understand with out OT (e.g., the Book of Hebrews)
• besides that, there is the explicit statement of Jesus

. . . all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled (Lk. 24:44)

– one meaning of fulfilled is that predictions regarding the Messiah found fulfillment in him
• but there is another meaning: to bring something to fullness, to completion
◦ to actualize its latent potential

As Jonathan Pennington observes, the gospels “explicitly connect the events of Jesus’s life to the ‘fulfillment’ of the Scriptures. This at times refers to ‘fulfillment’ in the sense of prophecy completed but more often means rather that Jesus deepens, explains, fills out, and reveals the true intent.”

• there is an orientation and richness we lose in the NT without the OT

When it comes to the OT, Most of us have been exposed to wrong ideas or poor teaching

A wrong idea: God is presented differently in OT than NT
• for example: the angry deity of the OT through Jesus became a loving Father
Poor teaching: This usually results from a lack of appreciation for what the OT is in itself
• some Bible teachers try to find Jesus in every verse of OT
◦ so they read him into the OT or make superficial connections between the old and new
◦ what they produce adds nothing to our understanding of OT or NT

How does the NT identify itself with the OT? In 3 primary ways:

  1. With texts – direct quotations
    This was to fulfill what was spoken . . . (Mt. 4:14)
    Abraham believed God, and it was credited . . . (Ro. 4:3)
  2. With types – Gal. 4:24, “allegory”; He. 11:19, “type”
  3. With copies and shadows and symbols
    – the physical sanctuary and its worship were modeled according to a spiritual pattern
    . . . who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things (He. 8:5; 9:9, 23, 24; 10:1)

– we can draw straight line from these examples to the OT
• but there is also an indirect relationship between the New and Old Testaments
◦ this is easy to understand if you think of a road in relation to a destination
• the OT is the road that takes us to our destination in Jesus

The Bible tells a story

The Bible is not (as many assume) a book of religious rules and doctrines
– its setting is always in real life and involves real people
• so what is the grand story of scripture about?”
• theologians tell us, “Redemption,” that it is a record of “salvation history”
◦ although this became popular in the 20th century,
◦ 300 years earlier, someone else had discerned the same overarching story

read more…

Jan 11 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 7, 2018 – 1 Corinthians 11:23-31

First Supper of the New Year

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 1 Corinthians 11:23-31

Intro: I had a hard time pulling myself together this morning

I’ll just say, yesterday was tough – lingering emotional residue from yesterday
– stumbling around in the dark, my first thought was that I did not want to be here
• that I’d rather find a quiet spot near the ocean
• and just sit with Jesus for awhile
◦ that I could really use his company and his strength and wisdom
– but when my brain started waking up,
• I knew this was exactly where I wanted to be and needed to be

Paul was not with Jesus and his disciples for that last supper
– he heard the story from the apostles who were there
• so he observed Communion the same way we do
• as a ritual re-enactment of that hour in the upper room
– Paul fully understood (and felt) the sacredness of Communion
• and he gave specific instructions to treat it with reverence
• as strong as his words sound to us, this is not a warning to back away
◦ it is an invitation to come, to eat and to drink
◦ but to do it with full awareness and receive its full value

To observe Communion with reverence is to discern the embodied presence of Jesus
– the Lord’s Supper celebrates our union with God
• a (common)union we enjoy with undying gratitude

Let me remind you of the Bible story that defines Reflexion

The Sunday following Jesus’ crucifixion,
– two disciples were on the road going away from Jerusalem
• however, they could not leave behind what happened there
◦ I imagine their feverish conversation as they tried to make sense of Jesus’ death
• as they walked together, another traveler approached them, perhaps from a side road
◦ it was Jesus who joined them, but they did not recognize him

Jesus: “Listening to your voices, it sounds like an intense conversation. What are you guys discussing?”
One of the disciples: “You must be only visitor to Jerusalem who knows nothing of the things that have happened there these last few days”
Jesus (innocently): “What things?”
They ran through the brief history they had with Jesus, describing him as a mighty prophet and the hope they had placed in him, but how it all collapsed when he was arrested, tried and crucified. They also mentioned the news brought to them by the women who were at the tomb early that morning, but it is apparent that they really did not know what to make of that.
Jesus: “ ‘O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures’ ” (Lk. 24:25-27)
Arriving at their destination, it looked as though Jesus was going to continue his journey, but turning to him they begged him, “Please stay.”
When dinner was served, Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight (Lk. 24:31)
Immediately they ran back to Jerusalem, where they reported their encounter with Jesus to the apostles and explained how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread (Lk. 24:35)

read more…

Jan 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 31, 2017 – Matthew 7:24-27

Now What?

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.
Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall 
 Matthew 7:24-27

Intro: We have some unfinished business before exiting 2017

We have come to the end of the Sermon On the Mount
– the question raised in this last lesson is, What will we do with the Sermon?
• Jesus says, “Build something on it. Construct a life”
• by the way, it’s never too late to do this
– Jesus presents two options, using a recognizable pattern
• namely, contrasting characters in the Old Testament wisdom writings

A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil,
But a fool is arrogant and careless (Pr. 14:16)

The pattern goes something like this:
1. Observe the behavior of the wise and foolish (or righteous and wicked, etc.)
2. Pay attention to how it turns out for each of them
3. Then decide which one of the the two paths you will take

• the pattern works, because it simplifies the nature of our choices
◦ the smart choice is to build our lives on this foundation

But here we run into a snag
– the pattern appears as simple logic – like working out a math problem
• typically, preachers and Bible teachers feel their work is done for them
• they merely reiterate what Jesus said and tell us,
“So lay your foundation on Jesus’ teaching!”
◦ and it would be just that easy–if we were calculators and not people
– what we are not told is how much work this takes,
• or how long it takes, or even how to do such a thing
• I hope to offer you some help with that part
◦ it is, in fact, what Jesus’ entire Sermon has been doing for us
◦ taking apart the old religious foundation and constructing a new one

24-25, Responding to the whole Sermon all at once

. . . these words of Mine
In this sentence, “Mine” is emphatic!
– the words are important because they are his
• it will be the authority of his teaching that amazes the crowd afterward (vv. 28-29)
• Jesus has given us a lot of information

read more…

Dec 25 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 24, 2017 – Luke 2:6-14

A Christmas Eve Meditation

While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
 Luke 2:6-14

Intro: Something ordinary was going on in Bethlehem

A woman was giving birth to her first child – a son
– she is young, she has made a long journey, and she is far from home
• now she caresses and nurtures this new life
– I wonder if she is holding on to her awareness of the supernatural presence
• or is she preoccupied with exhaustion, busyness, and the ordinariness of it all?
• has she momentarily forgotten the angel and what he said?
◦ I wonder if she could use a reminder right about now?

Meanwhile, in the same region, something extraordinary was going on
– if you lived in that culture and at that time
• and you were responsible for making a big announcement,
◦ shepherds would be the least likely audience you would choose
◦ the are not the spokespersons in the Bible — not like priests or prophets
• but in the heart of God, they were the perfect candidates
– some biblical heroes were shepherds before becoming prophets, priests or kings
• what God loved about shepherds was their care for their flock
◦ God had little interest in leaders who used people to create armies, build empires and enrich themselves
◦ he loved the good shepherd who would willingly lay down his life for the sheep
• a poet-shepherd from Bethlehem wrote,

The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul . . . 
(Psa. 23:1-3)

◦ it was an analogy that God was pleased to adopt for himself

So the shepherds outside Bethlehem were graced with a revelation
– this is fitting, because Luke takes special interest in outcasts
• he emphasizes the way Jesus associated with the non-religious, diseased and sinners
– maybe, when shepherds barged in on Mary and Joseph with their story of angels,
• Mary was reminded of the miracle she was living
◦ maybe she was reawakened to the supernatural
• we know, at least, she recorded all these things in her heart’s journal

Now I will come to the point

There are four statements In verse 7 I want to emphasize:

  1. she gave birth
  2. her firstborn son
  3. wrapped Him in cloths
  4. laid him in a manger

– simple and straightforward, right?
• but now I will jump to the end of the story
◦ Joseph of Arimathea received permission to bury Jesus’ body
• in Luke 23:53 there are four statements I want to compare and contrast with Mary

  1. Mary gave birth, this Joseph took it down–i.e., Jesus’ corpse
  2. it (not a baby, not even a person, but a body)
  3. and wrapped it in a linen cloth 
  4. and laid Him, not in a manger, but in a tomb

– Luke has taken the same actions from the birth scene and applied them to the burial scene
• in fact, he is deliberate in tying the two ends of the story together
(notice also how his story begins in the temple in Jerusalem and ends there)

There is something else I want to show you
– the shepherd’s were frightened with a great fear when the angels appeared
• they were told about Jesus and that they could find him
– there are four statements in verse 12 I want to emphasize:

  1. you will find
  2. a baby
  3. wrapped in cloths
  4. lying in a manger

◦ a manger would be a familiar landmark for the shepherds
◦ in itself, it indicated to them where they should look

Again, I am going to jump to the end of the story (Lk. 24:1-9)

read more…

Dec 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 17, 2017 – Matthew 7:15-23


Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. Matthew 7:15

Intro: Last week, Jesus left us at a crossroads

One road was broad and led through a wide gate to destruction
The other road was narrow and led through a small gate to life
– someone listening to Jesus might ask,
• “If the roads are that obviously different, how could we go wrong? How could there be only a few who find it?”
• that is the question Jesus answers in this passage
◦ some people out there are selling the broad road as the true road
– the problem of false prophets is addressed many times in the Old Testament

Thus says the LORD of hosts,
“Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you.

They are leading you into futility;
They speak a vision of their own imagination;
Not from the mouth of the LORD” (Jer. 23:16)

• Jesus warns the crowd that this will continue to be a risk for them

“Beware of the false prophets”

Notice the animal metaphor that Jesus uses to illustrate the risk
– compare this with his warning to the disciples before deploying them:

Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men (10:16-17)

• this is a similar analogy with reference to animals
◦ but in spite of the potential danger of aggressive wolves,
◦ it’s men that pose the greatest threat
• Jesus is watching out for his followers; he is warning them
– in the 1960’s and 70’s, many Christians wanted to learn about biblical prophecy
• they wanted to know how the world was going to end
◦ and if they could fulfillment of Bible predictions in the daily newspaper
• the disciples were curious too about when the end would come and what signs would precede it
◦ when Jesus answered their questions, the first words out of his mouth were:

See to it that no one misleads you (Mt. 24:4)

• isn’t that interesting?
◦ his first concern was that their fascination over fulfilled prophesy would be used to deceive them
◦ this is an ongoing danger that Jesus saw as a serious threat

Sheep appear harmless, vulnerable, fragile
– a perfect disguise for deadly religious predators

To conservative Christians, the danger is false doctrine
– but that is not always the case — the person who brings the message can be false
• false prophets can talk about God while promoting themselves

Many popular teachers make bold promises when selling people on their books, seminars, conferences, and recorded messages. They advertise their literature and lectures as providing buyers with the biblical principles necessary to divorce-proof their marriages; drug-proof their children; make rapid and pain-free progress in their spiritual journey; or attain all the material wealth every Christian should enjoy. Their spiel is so authoritative and promising, it is difficult to resist the broad path they promise the Christian consumer.

• more than once, prophets and people conspired substitute easy bromides for hard truth

An appalling and horrible thing
Has happened in the land:
The prophets prophesy falsely . . .
And My people love it so! (Jer. 5:30-31)

You must not prophesy to us what is right,
Speak to us pleasant words,
Prophesy illusions (Isa. 30:10)

– the truth about the false prophets: inwardly they are ravenous wolves
• “inwardly” has been one of Jesus’ main points in the Sermon
◦ he has been continuously probing our hearts
◦ and he will carry this on through the remainder of his ministry
• we have to look inward to find the real person

Jesus changes the metaphors to plants and trees

You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
So then, you will know them by their fruits Matthew 7: 16-20

The question now is, How can we recognize the false prophet?

read more…

Dec 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 10, 2017 – Matthew 7:7-14

We Can Do this the Easy Way or . . .

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8

Intro: Working our way through a passage like this,

We have to occasionally step back to see the whole canvas
– otherwise we lose perspective
• a couple of verses in today’s reading are familiar–even famous
• but they are usually quoted in isolation from their setting
◦ because their perspective is lost, we lose some of their meaning
– so stepping back to what we’ve seen over last few weeks:

  1. The first half of chapter 6: we do not need to be hypocrites
    ◦ because our heavenly Father knows our devotion to him
    ◦ and that alone is what matters
  2. The second half of chapter 6: we do not need to be anxious
    ◦ because our Father, who cares for birds and flowers, knows our needs
  3. In first six verse of chapter 7: we do not need to judge others
    ◦ today we learn why

We can go to God with every need or concern

What motivates someone to critique and condemn another person?
– many do it to feel better about themselves
• perhaps because they feel:
◦ deeply insecure
◦ socially awkward, unable to connect face-to-face
◦ unimportant and overlooked
• perhaps they assume that exposing the flaws of others:
◦ improves their social status
◦ gives them power or influence
– I’ve know judgmental people who are trying to prove something
• not just they are right (e.g., doctrinally) and others are wrong
◦ but to prove that they are experts and therefore important
◦ they create the impression that people should listen to them
• then there are those with an inflated ego
• narcissists really believe they are better than everyone else

Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant [“puffs up” in KJV], but love edifies (1 Cor. 8:1)

We do not need to equalize social imbalances by judging others
– or build ourselves up by putting others down

read more…