Skip to content
May 29 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 29, 2022

Podcast

Facebook

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome to RefleXion…Good Morning!         May the Lord be with you.

Naomi and Ruth were survivors.  We are all survivors.  Perhaps Naomi thought that when she married Elimelech that finally she was loved, and maybe when she had her two sons she felt in control of her destiny, and when they moved to Moab, she felt secure.  We have all developed this way, with strategies for making life work.  And then life happens.

We all, at some time when we were little, felt alone and disconnected; and we let our Ego create ways of being OK.  We developed an adaptive self for coping with life that would substitute for the more direct inner knowing, because that’s all we knew to do, and thank God we could do it—we survived. Our illusion of separateness just led us down any track away from shame, fear, or lack of control.   It created the persona that we use to cover our nakedness and shame.  The problem is that ego, who took on this task, is small and disconnected compared to soul, with no real source of life. All during our lives, fears arise about our own inner deficiencies and about threats in our environment that could unmask or destroy this assumed self, so, we just keep piling on the covers.  But the beautiful thing is though that no matter what we survived or how we developed, it did not touch our core authentic self (you can call it the True Self, the Imago Dei, the Beloved or Essence).  It is the REAL because of the divine indwelling, the Holy Spirit; it is our birthright.

Now our work is to let go of everything that doesn’t belong, all the scaffolding, the pretense, and to integrate all that is redeemed.  I’m not saying it’s easy, but are we willing?  The world is changing.  Our small self will not be enough for the demands of the days to come.  Contraction in to the little me will not help or heal ourselves or the world.   Here’s the phrase I’m sitting with: 

“We’re afraid to give up the control we think we have over the life we think we are living.”

Paul said it this way in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Join me in prayer, will you? Thank you God for the Real Life freely granted to us.  Let us not remain unaware of our own presence connected to Yours.  Let the strategies lose their grip on us, not in hopelessness but in hope.  Let us be transformed by the renewing of our minds not in arrogance, but in humility. You call us new creatures and that we need no longer live in the old way, but in the new and living way.  May we, like Naomi and Ruth, find ourselves on the journey home.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz Ruth Chapter 2

Intro: In the apartment complex where my son Scotty lives,

There’s an old vending machine where residents can buy sodas
– Calum was six the first time I bought him a cola drink from it
• we inserted the money, he pressed button, machine rumbled,
◦ and a can of soda dropped into the slot at the bottom
• then before we could insert more money, the machine rumbled again and another soda dropped down
◦ as I was worrying about how we could return the drink we had not purchased,
◦ Calum exclaimed, “Oh! It’s my lucky day.”
– that could be the title for this chapter
• it’s a lucky day for all three of the main characters
• at first, people are just doing ordinary things, but
◦ before day ends, something extraordinary has happened

The chapter opens with a small piece of information
– the storyteller introduces to “a worthy man”
• the Hebrew word for worthy suggests force or strength, and elsewhere is translated mighty man of valor
◦ but it can be used also for a person of great wealth
• in some instances, the word refers to the quality of a person’s character
◦ here: Boaz was either wealthy or a man of integrity
◦ same word is used of Ruth, which is translated virtuous in the King James Version (Ruth 3:11), but could just as easily be translated a woman of integrity
• Boaz is also a relative of Naomi’s husband
– but this information in verse 1 is not helpful–it doesn’t explain anything
• however, it prepares us for what is about to happen
• it foreshadows a future development
Smith, jr., “Our storyteller is using a device that is similar to what modern movie makers use: focusing the camera briefly on a specific object—a glove, a cufflink, a coffee cup—without giving any explanation for it. The experienced moviegoer will recognize the importance of that brief closeup as a clue to the plot and will keep it in mind. At this point in Naomi’s story, Boaz has no clear role. But we need to keep an eye on him.”

(Please read verses 2-3) A quick scene change: Ruth goes to work

The storyteller alone will refer to Ruth by name,
• no one else will speak her name
◦ the storyteller also reminds us she is “the Moabite”
◦ her status as a foreigner remains in the foreground
• she volunteers to follow the harvesters and scavenge for grain
– Ruth intends to find someone who will treat her well
• we’ll see further one that the harvest field could be dangerous for a young woman
◦ she wants to find favor in someone’s sight – someone who will treat her kindly
◦ it could be one of the harvesters, an older woman, or one of the other locals
• this is an ironic twist on stories of famous Israelites in foreign lands
◦ Joseph found favor in Egypt; Esther found favor in Persia — these are key themes
◦ Ruth, however, is a foreigner in the land of Israel looking to find favor in someone’s eyes
– Naomi simply says, “Go, my daughter”
• she gives her permission, but she is not enthusiastic
• I think Naomi assumed Ruth’s gleaning after the harvesters was a necessary risk

Now we learn why the chapter began with that bit of information
– Ruth “happened” to stumble onto a field belonging to Boaz
• the meaning of the Hebrew means more than an event
◦ it refers to a happenstance, to happen by chance, a coincidence
• biblical Hebrew has a way to forcefully emphasize special word
◦ by saying the word twice: the heaven of heavens, the Song of Songs, the holy of holies
(there is a lot of this in the later chapters of Isaiah)
◦ Ruth happened to happen upon just this particular field
– it’s a total coincidence the the field she gleaned belonged to the man mentioned in verse 1

(Please read verses 4-7) The storyteller tells us to look at who shows up

Robert Alter tells us that in scripture, a person’s first recorded words reveal that person’s character
– if so, we learn a lot about Boaz when he greets his crew
• their back and forth blessing is part of the charm of the Book of Ruth
• but after that, Boaz gets straight to business
◦ there is one particular woman Boaz did not recognize and inquired about
“She is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi”
◦ and she had been a hard worker from early morning

(Please read verses 8-13) This conversation is too rich to cover all the details

What is obvious is the role Boaz plays, which is authoritative and paternal
– immediately and quite naturally he begins telling Ruth what to do
• it’s as if he’s giving instructions to one of his servants (cf. vv. 15-16)
◦ at same time, he promises her protection under his care
◦ and he grants her the privileges of his hired crew
• it wasn’t necessary for Ruth to bow before Boaz
◦ it is a dramatic gesture that illustrates the depth of her gratitude
◦ here is the person she hoped to find, in whose eyes she found favor
– Boaz explains his generosity, and then adds his blessing (v. 12)
• what Boaz has to say about God is noteworthy
◦ he says his name, Yahweh, then identifies him as “the God of Israel”
• when in chapter 1 Ruth said she would swap her gods for Naomi’s God,
◦ we cannot know if that was a cultural accommodation or true conversion
◦ it is possible storyteller wants us to know Ruth’s faith was real
– put a mental bookmark here at verse 12 at this metaphor of Ruth finding refuge under God’s wings (cf. Ps. 91)
• in chapter 3, Ruth will finding refuge under someone’s wings will recur in the next chapter

One thing Ruth makes very clear, is her status in Bethlehem
– verse 10, I am a foreigner – and now here in verse 13
you have . . . spoken your servant, though I am not one of your servants
• Boaz has giver her preferential treatment as if she belonged with his hired crew
• but she wants to point out that she is not his servant
◦ she may be holding to the line of her outsider status
◦ or she may be implying,
I’m not your servant, but I could be something more

(Please read verses 14-17) Boaz continues to take a special interest in Ruth

And to grant her special privileges:
– she is allowed to join him and his crew for a meal–baked bread dipped in wine
• his instructions to his crew, do not reproach her, do not rebuke her
• she was allowed to glean, not only in the harvested field,
◦ but also around the bundled sheaves where more grain might have fallen
– Ruth’s last job for the day was to beat out what she had gleaned
• that is, to “thresh” it to separate the chaff from the grain
• this is another foreshadow of things to come

(Please read verses 18-23) Naomi is obviously impressed with Ruth’s good luck

Naomi has a couple of questions, but even before she gets answers,
– she pronounces a blessing on the stranger who was so kind
• when she learns it was Boaz, she blesses him again
• Boaz’ interest in Ruth is not lost on Naomi,
◦ and for the first time she reveals, he is not only a relative,
◦ but a special relative, one of our redeemers
– the ga’al was a family member with the legal right to perform certain duties
• if a family lost property, or if a husband died and left no male heirs,
◦ the ga’al had the right to purchase property and provide the widow with an heir
◦ this legal provision will set up most dramatic moment of story
• one other function of the ga’al that is often overlooked, is the avenger of blood
◦ that is, to service a vendetta (Nu. 35:12-19)

Conclusion: I have struggled over how to bring this home to us

The easy message might be, trust God for divine coincidences
– since we cannot make happen everything we want to have happen,
• let’s put ourselves in God’s hands and see how things play out
• let’s wake up each morning and say, “This may be my lucky day”

But this is Memorial Day weekend
and we mourn those who died in service to our nation
Why did they die? For what did they give their lives?

This weekend we cannot help but mourn other tragic deaths;
the children and teachers in Uvalde, Texas
Is this what our brave soldiers gave their lives to protect?

What I find in the book of Ruth this morning,
are biblical examples of basic decency:
• Trust God–then we can live without envy, or fear, or hate
• Express gratitude for whatever kindness is shown us
• Whatever needs to be done, work heartily for the Lord and not for men (Col. 3:23)
• Remember we are not trash, but we aren’t the Messiah either
• Be generous with what we have
• Be especially generous with our blessings
Giving a blessing doesn’t diminish what we have, but multiplies it

May 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 22, 2022

Podcast

Facebook

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, and welcome to RefleXion.  May the Lord be with all of you!

You are all so smart!  What most people mean when they say that is that we’re using our intellect (the capacity for reason, understanding, and figuring things out).  Is intellect our intelligence?   What is intelligence?  In the old days, we took IQ tests, and that was how we knew about our intelligence, but since then there are all these theories of our multiple kinds of intelligence, such as emotional intelligence, social intelligence, creativity intelligence.

Our brain relies on neurons; there are about 86 billion neurons in our brain!  And our gut has about 500 million neurons, and our heart has about 40 thousand!  Each neuron, wherever it is found, has a capacity to store, to remember, to inform us, and the capacity for neuroplasticity.  So, is our intellect our only way of perceiving, of knowing?

I quote Chuck from last week here, “No science can account for the soul or what goes on in the mind” (unquote).  Science is very important, but it is but one lens, one way of perceiving, knowing, and responding.  One example: I just read an article about by a theoretical physicist who said, “There’s a distinction between curiosity and wonder.  Curiosity is an intellectual outlook, but wonder suggests there is something in your soul that compels you to know more about the world.”  If we could, as Chuck suggested, incorporate some practices like creativity, might we awaken capacities that our brain simply isn’t best at?  Many of think we need to rely heavily on our intellect.  Our body has been created with left and right brain hemispheres, multiple neurons throughout heart and gut, and the abilities of instinct, insight, imagination, and inspiration; and different parts of us are designed for different ways of engaging life.  Contemplation and creativity are ways of awakening our God-given capabilities.  We’ve heard of out-of-body experiences; how about developing whole-body experiences?  If more of our God-given capacities were working together, we might feel more fully alive.  Maybe this might be a part of recovering the art of being human?

Today marks the day we remember the Ascension of Jesus, 40 days after His Resurrection.  As the disciples watched Jesus ascend into the clouds of heaven, Jesus blessed them; they worshipped. Do you think they were just curious as they watched Jesus ascend into the clouds, using their intellect; or do you think they were in wonder?  I’ll bet that was a genuine, whole-body experience!

Let’s pray to our God of Wonder:

Gracious God who causes us to Be and to Become.  Finish the work in us as you promised.  We are looking forward to the finished work; and, meanwhile, we are leaning in here and now to your work for us and in us, so that You might flow through us.  Awaken us, bring us to wholeness, for our sake, for Your sake, and for the sake of the world.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Today’s Talk: chuck smith, jr.

In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons Ruth 1:1

Intro: With these words, we walk through a gate and into what may be the most enchanting story in all of scripture
– but because it took place long ago and in a strange culture far away,
• we need some help orienting ourselves
• when, where, what, and who occur in the first verse and set the tone and create atmosphere
– notice that a solid connection is made with the days of the Judges
• not long after Israel entered the land, they lost their identity
◦ they could not maintain loyalty to Yahweh for very long
◦ even their God-appointed leaders made serious blunders
• it was a period of religious confusion and ludicrous politics
◦ the last story is so bizarre it is unpleasant even to read
◦ a simple explanation is given several times and at end of the book of Judges:
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Jdg. 21:25 – not a good thing, as in De. 12:8)

By way of contrast to Judges, Ruth is a lovely story
– and that is because Ruth is a lovely person
• there are other contrasts between Judges and Ruth
◦ Ruth makes no mention of any supernatural activity: Spirit, angel, or prophet
• on the other hand, there are frequent references to Yahweh
◦ even though he doesn’t intervene directly until the last chapter
– Bethlehem seems to have become a God-fearing town
• although its name means “house of bread,” the plot is set in motion by a famine there
◦ so story starts with a negative tone of hardship and desperation
– into this dark time, the storyteller brings four people
• they have packed whatever belongings they can carry,
◦ said their good-byes, set out into the Judean desert,
• and travel east to Moab, where they will sojourn (this suggests it is a a temporary arrangement)
◦ wait out the famine in Moab, and then return to Bethlehem

(Please read verses 2-5) Until verse two the family is anonymous

There is nothing strange about this in the Scriptures
– now, all four family members are named – is there a reason?
• perhaps it’s a way to maintain their identity in a foreign land
◦ “Ruth” is a name that is foreign in Bethlehem, but the locals see her as
the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi (2:6 & 4:5)
• we notice a lot of naming in these verses
Elimelech: God is king – Naomi: pleasant or sweet
◦ the meaning of the other names is sketchy
– all the important characters in Ruth will be named
• this is rare – we are not given the name of lots of important people in Judges
◦ having names makes them more familiar – real people
◦ we feel more involved with them, more empathy for them, and a stronger response to them

Their time in Moab did not turn out like they had hoped

First, Elimelech died, and Naomi was left with just her sons
– both of her sons died after marrying Moabite women
so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband
• the image that the childless widow this evokes is universal in its effect – we all feel it
◦ like a photograph of a widow in a refugee camp, bereft of her children
– what the storyteller has left out, is that Naomi she still has two daughters-in-law

(Please read verses vv. 6-14) We see that the plot takes a sudden turn

The world is not all at once bright and cheerful, but there is a ray hope
– at first, Naomi gets up to leave Moab, without us knowing why
• then comes the first bit of good news
◦ she heard in the fields of Moab there was food in Israel
◦ but what was she doing in the fields of Moab?
◦ perhaps the same thing Ruth will do in fields of Bethlehem; glean whatever grain is dropped by the harvesters (Ruth 2:1-3)
• in the first two chapters, the plot turns in a specific location: the fields or field
◦ these turn out to be a place where good things happen that change the mood of story
◦ in the third chapter, the location will be a threshing floor, and in the fourth chapter a city “gate”
– Naomi begins her return journey with her daughters-in-law,
• but before they get far, she has second thoughts
◦ the journey and her life in Bethlehem would be more difficult without them,
◦ but once she was back home home, she would have nothing for them
• even now she has nothing to give them but her blessing
◦ and here is another one of the beautiful features of this story,
◦ in every chapter there is at least one blessing
In chapters 2 and 3, Boaz and Naomi bless others in the name of Yahweh
In the last chapter, others bless Boaz and Naomi

So the three women stand by the highway crying, hugging, and kissing each other
– given Naomi’s thoughtfulness, we see why her daughters-in-law don’t want to leave her
• in her motherly way, Naomi reasons with them
◦ Naomi feels sorry that she brought pain into their lives
• notice she uses the word “bitter” to describe what she feels
“As if it is not hard enough that Yahweh has struck me, but it is even worse that you have become collateral damage”
◦ although it hurts to say good-by, Orpah knows Naomi is right and she heads back home
– Ruth did not leave Naomi’s side, but clung to her
• the Hebrew word translated clung means to be joined to, to form a bond with
• we cling when frightened, desperate, or do not want to be abandoned
◦ we cling to what we love the most – to what we cannot live without
Robert Alter, “The whole story turns on four key words”; namely, “return,” “go,” “cling,” and hesed “kindness” (mercy, compassion–the word has several layers of meaning)

(Please read verses vv. 15-18) Naomi tells Ruth to follow Orpah’s example

I have a question that I have to ask, though I know there is no answer given for it
– why was Ruth so attached to Naomi?
• in v. 8, Naomi told her to return to her “mother’s house”
• why did Ruth want to be with Naomi more than with her own mother
– with her mother, Ruth would have been guaranteed survival
• were there untold problems in Ruth’s home? was she happy to get away from her mom?
◦ what did Ruth see in Naomi that made venturing with her into the unknown worth the sacrifice?
• what is apparent to us is Ruth’s fierce loyalty and devotion

Ruth’s famous vow – there is nothing I can add to enhance it
– we simply have to listen to it and hear its poetry and passion
Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you.
For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge.
Your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Where you die I will die,
and there will I be buried.
May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.

– surprisingly, Naomi “said no more”
• either she was deeply moved,
• or else she gave up trying to get rid of her

(Please read verses vv. 19-22) The homecoming

Bethlehem was stirred by Naomi’s return
– immediately, women began talking
• and this is where the first chapter will end, with women talking
• it is also where the book of Ruth will end
◦ but the talk at the end will be nothing like the talk here
◦ here the mood is bitter despair, at the end it will be festive joy
– when Naomi heard them say her name (and perhaps its correct Hebrew pronunciation)
• it was all too painful – in her response to them, her words are poetic
◦ in scripture, a person’s identity or destiny was wrapped up in their name
• the name-game gets really interesting:
◦ she gives herself two names and she refers to God by two names – one of them is ancient
I am [Yahweh]. I appeared to Abraham . . . as God Almighty, but by my name [Yahweh] I did not make myself known to them (Ex 6:2-3)
– the poetic form of Naomi’s response is a chiasmus
(to say the same thing in two parallel lines, but in the reverse)
Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara
the Almighty has . . . and Yahweh has . . .
Why call me Naomi

Yahweh has . . . and the Almighty has

Naomi stayed with God–
– if her life had become sour, it was sour with God;
– if she returned back empty, she was empty with God

So the first chapter began with a famine and a departure
– and it ends with a return and the beginning of a harvest

Conclusion: What will we take from this?

Regardless of whatever enters your life, do not change your name – do not stop being who you are
– do not stop clinging to Jesus, whatever else you may lose
• the temptation comes when facing life’s greatest challenges and hardships
◦ terrible times do change us – I once found my identity in being a husband and a dad
◦ then an unwanted divorce ripped that from me, and for a good while I was lost
◦ but I discovered that had not been my identity, but was a temporary persona that was meant to last for a season
• we want personas to be forever; that’s why we beg our toddlers not to grow up
– when we find our true self in Jesus – that identity never changes
• our identity is permanent, because it is anchored in God

When the big loss hits, double-down with God
You are not lost – God knows exactly where you are
The world may become darkened with chaos and nations may crumble
So, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near (Lk. 21:31)

May 15 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 15, 2022

Podcast

Facebook

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning!       Welcome to the Reflexion Community.          May the Lord be with you!

I’ve been following the timeline of Jesus’ appearances between His Resurrection and His Ascension (I think you realize that He walked around and had conversations for 40 days), he spoke a few times to His disciples and even to 500 people at once.  One of those times is noted in Matthew chapter 28; we often call this conversation “The Great Commission.”  I’ll get back to that.

A few weeks ago, Chuck mentioned the term “our calling” in a way that it is normally used as “our vocation.”  I wanted to tell you about my experience the first time I was asked to consider my calling.  I was at a Christian University, and we were each asked to write about “our calling,” how we knew about it and were pursuing it.  Everybody else in the class was much younger than me and excited to fulfill their calling as Christian vocation:  pastor, worship leader, missionary . . . .  I was not sure if I knew. I knew about spiritual gifts and doing what I had experience it–but was that my calling? 

Well, eventually I wrote about how we are first called from a human perspective.  The first couple of things we are called to when we are little:  Learning to Walk, we hear “Come to Mama–or Daddy—Come to me”; then Come Home, (come home when the porchlights come on, come home by midnight).  And I thought my Christian journey had pretty much the same foundation, “Come to Me, Come Home,” then we’ll learn what else we’re supposed to do.

I mentioned “The Great Commission”, that conversation Jesus had with His Disciples near the end of His last 40 days on earth.   (Have you heard that term? How did it make you feel when you heard it?) I’m going to read it from The Message.  See if you might hear it in a fresh way.

Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back– not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally. Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”

My translation:  Come to Me, come as you are, remember who I am and who I have been to you, train others as I have taught you, come, let’s go on together!

Let’s pray:  Lord Jesus thank you for your Call to us.  Thank you that though we doubt, though we lag, You are undeterred.  We remember Your Power and Your Passion.  We remember Your Authority.  What we have received from You, we can impart to others.  Thank You for that Call.  And, mostly, thank you that You are going with us.  We’re traveling by Faith and Grace.  Let today be a day that we’re closer to the destination You have in mind.  Amen

Today’s Talk: chuck smith, jr.

And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other was Zillah. Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. Genesis 4:19-22

Intro: How did we wind up in Genesis this morning?

Many preachers have their sermons lined up for the whole year
– I’ve never been that organized or thought that far ahead
• it’s when I finish a series of talks that I think about what’s next
• usually that has a lot to do with what is pulling on my heart in that particular moment
– so we’re in Genesis, because it provides a seed for my talk
• I’m not sure what’s next – I’m thinking, the Book of Ruth
• that’s because it beautifully illustrates what I will try to explain

Genesis has been described as “the book of origins”

The origin of the universe, of life, humankind, sin and salvation, and so on
– in this snippet of a story we meet three brothers – inventors
Jabal is mentioned first – the father of shelters and livestock
◦ I imagine this as the transition from hunters and gatherers to ranchers and herders
◦ this makes sense in terms of survival value; that is, a dependable food source
Jubal comes next – the father of musicians
◦ the value of his role is not survival
◦ it has more to do with the soul than the body
• Tubal-cain was the forger of metal tools – technology
◦ his innovation served both farming and musical instruments
– we do not learn any more about them from Genesis,
• but my suspicion is that Jubal did not have a real job
• but moved from one brothers home to the other,
◦ sleeping on the couch and raiding the refrigerator
◦ that is, if he was the father of musicians

It is not difficult to imagine the invention of a harp or flute

Most any string that is stretched tight will vibrate with a specific tone
– the twang of a bow string or a thick thread of spun wool
• some materials provide better resonance than others
◦ I don’t want to know how it was discovered that cat gut strings worked well for guitars
• the biblical lyre (kinnor) would sound to us more like a sitar than harp
– perhaps Jubal heard wind moving through a hollow reed,
• and noticed it made a sound similar to human voice or a bird song
• experimenting with one reed or with several each a different size,
◦ he found that different notes could be produced – even a tune
◦ with musical instruments, he found another voice that spoke not with words, but music

The Bible doesn’t record the development of music over time

Or any of the other arts – though there were periods of innovation
– what we find is that by the time Israel came out of Egypt,
• there had been significant progress in their artistic skills
◦ in fact, God recruited artists for his project; the sacred tent
I have called by name Bezalel . . . and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft (Ex. 31:1-5)
• artistic work put into God’s sanctuary included:
◦ architecture, design and fabrication of furniture,
◦ splendid clothing, perfumed oil and incense, and tapestries
– even when art is not mentioned, it runs all through the Bible
• it is filled with the art of storytelling and the art of poetry
• that is why I am thinking of going through the Book of Ruth
◦ it is one of the best put together stories in the entire Bible

Have you ever felt a longing in subterranean depths of soul

To create something beautiful? A painting, a poem, a melody?
– if someone told you that you’re not an artist, they lied
• we are all artists – everyone of us
• we do not have to make art to sell or show to others
◦ we can make art for ourselves, for God,
◦ or just for the experience and joy of doing it
– my eleven-year-old granddaughter, Adrianna,
• has always been creative – she dabble in all sorts of projects
◦ she’s always cutting, pasting, drawing, dancing, singing
◦ whenever I can’t find the scissors, I ask Adrianna where she left them
• Friday night, I warmed up dinner for her and her brother
◦ I noticed that she was swirling the last bite of chicken teriyaki sauce making interesting patterns on her plate
◦ it felt to me like Van Gogh had visited us

Sometimes, driving the grandkids to school, I make up a song
– they’re nonsensical rhyming songs
• frequently, when I run out of ideas, one of them will add a line of their own
• making art an innate skill, impulse, instinct
– our artistic drive can find many forms of expression:
• painting, poetry, and music are the obvious ones
◦ there’s also photography, sculpture (and sand sculptures), and needlepoint
◦ fine cuisine can be an art form, as well interior design, and clothing design
• storytelling is a universal art form
◦ one in which Jesus excelled

Last week I quoted from Ephesians

We are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ep. 2:10)
– what does Paul mean by “beforehand”?
• it’s been suggested that it goes as far back to the beginning of humankind
• we were created in our Creator’s image – to be creative
– perhaps you’ve heard that workmanship translates the Greek word poiema
• it’s true our English word “poem” is derived from poiema
◦ but poiema does not mean “poem” or “masterpiece”
◦ it can refer to anything that is made
• the Theological Dictionary states that poiema is “what is produced by artisans”
◦ each one of us is an “art project”
◦ and doing art is built into us

There is a special gift that art brings to us

You–are not an “exact science”
– we do have sciences for understanding the body and brain
• the materials of bone and tissue – and their various functions
◦ but, we are not machines
◦ no science can account for the soul or what goes on in our minds
– science cannot answer our most pressing questions:
• “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “Is there a purpose to life?”
• when it comes to the human soul,
◦ we are more art than science

What art gives us is a freedom found nowhere else

Farming and ranching had to be discovered, we can’t exist without them
– technology is also a necessity
• science is constrained by boundaries, by material limitations
◦ but art is not constrained by anything
• art is unnecessary; it does not have to exist
◦ the landscape doesn’t have to be painted or photographed
◦ that any art does exist reveals an unparalleled freedom
– art does not have to obey any rules
• surreal impossibilities can be painted,
◦ fictional worlds can be created and populated
◦ superheroes can save our planet multiple times
• art is a way we can practice and express our freedom
◦ art gives us a different kind of language
◦ the language of creative imagination
• through art, we can ask, “But what if things were different?”
◦ and then experiment with what the answer would look like, sound like, dance like

When Jesus outlined his ministry, he spoke of freedom

to proclaim liberty to the captives . . . to set at liberty those who are oppressed (Lk. 4:18-21)
So if the Son sets you free, your will be free indeed (Jn. 8:36)
– Paul was also very concerned about our freedom
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (Gal. 5:1)
For you were called to freedom . . . Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another (Gal. 5:13)
– a great feature of doing art: you can lose yourself in it
• you lose consciousness of hours ticking by
• you don’t notice that you missed lunch — and dinner
◦ freedom to lose yourself is a significant blessing
◦ it is the only way to find your true self

Conclusion: I would like to see us recover the art of being human

George Steiner, “In the immense majority of adult men and women, early impulses towards the making of art have withered away altogether.”
Don’t let that be true of you!
I hope God’s Spirit breathes new life into our artistic souls
For where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor. 2:17)

May 8 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 8, 2022

Welcome and Opening Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning!  In honor of this special day, I would like to celebrate all of you, in every way you that you mother, nurture, and support the growth and well-being of a child, another creature, of creation itself.
May the Lord be with you. 
Thank you, Jim, for reviewing the historical robustness of contemplative Christianity last week.  We do have a rich history and some treasured books, authors, and practices that we can lean in to.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how we all seem to be experiencing separation, and I think I’ve found a connection point.  Whatever happened to humans in the biblical story of Adam and Eve, one thing I think we can agree about is that we do feel separated:  alienated from God, isolated from other people, and even say to myself, “Get it together, Nancy!” Ken Wilber calls this the great optical illusion of separateness. 
Personally, I picture this is the great shattering of the mirror that was meant to give us a true reflection of ourselves, but now we see everything with only a disconnected shard of glass.  We are made to reflect the image and likeness of God, to see ourselves in the faces of our neighbors, friends, families, even our enemies, to know that we are connected to all of creation, and to know wholeness even inside ourselves.  It is said that we mostly see ourselves through the trance of our personality.  Have you ever asked yourself, “Who am I?”? 

So, this is where I see a contemplative opportunity for connection. As we are present to God in silence and stillness, we can enjoy a True mirror.  We take a long, loving look at The Real ; we gaze at Beauty and Truth.  From Ignatian Spirituality, I read something I loved; I quote, “When we take a long, loving look at the real, we see the vast landscape of divine mercy, grace, and fruitfulness into which our single lives are planted. We contemplate our experience within God’s larger gaze, which shines over every moment of every day. In the safety of that loving gaze—as God takes a long, loving look at us—we can grow courageous enough and hopeful enough to look honestly at this moment, this problem, this hurt, or this dream. As God contemplates us, we can contemplate ourselves and know that we, even here and now, are loved and beautiful.”  So, my thought is that, by the Spirit, we are charged with literally re-membering ourselves by the grace of God, by the gaze of God.  This is our practice now.  But there will be even more:  from 1 Cor. 13:   For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  Our journey, as I see it, is from a Shattered Mirror to a Reflective Mirror to then–Face to face.

Today’s Prayer comes from Thomas Merton’s (Jim recommended him to us last week).  It is a Prayer of Unity from his Asian Journal : 
Oh God, we are one with You. You have made us one with You. You have taught us that if we are open to one another, You dwell in us. Help us to preserve this openness and to fight for it with all our hearts. Help us to realize that there can be no understanding where there is mutual rejection. Oh God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely, we accept You, and we thank You, and we adore You, and we love You with our whole being, because our being is in Your being, our spirit is rooted in Your spirit. Fill us then with love and let us be bound together with love as we go our diverse ways, united in this one spirit which makes You present in the world, and which makes You witness to the ultimate reality that is love. Love has overcome. Love is victorious. Amen.

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him Colossians 3:17

Intro: Paul begins this sentence with a three-letter word: “AND”

We have made our way through his list of virtues,
– we have seen how he wrapped the virtues in love
• we paid close attention to what he said regarding:
the word of Christ and the peace of Christ
• now we come to the last verse in this section of Colossians,
◦ where the climax of his thought begins begins with AND
– Paul hasn’t finished all he had to say, his thought is incomplete
• AND there is something else that is too important to leave out

I remember discovering how this verse is relevant to worship

I had combed through the entire Bible studying worship
– I read more than a dozen books on worship; mostly theology
• in the previous verse Paul coached the Colossians on the use of music (to teach and counsel each other)
◦ for first fifteen centuries of church history,
◦ theology was ingrained in the hearts and minds of believers through hymns
(an ever deeper knowledge of God deepens worship as well)
– anyway, one day as I read Colossians 3, it occurred to me, Paul is saying,
• “Make your whole life a continuous act of worship”
• it is another take on what he says in Romans:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers [and sisters], by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Ro. 12:1)

This is Paul’s A-N-D – the capstone to his message about putting off the old self and putting on the new self
– for Paul, the outcome of every truth, every revelation is worship — and his thoughts about God take him there on occasion
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen (Ro. 11:33-36)
• the word “worship” covers every sort of interaction with God
◦ including prayer, praise, receiving his word, and doing his will
◦ everything comes back to God as our service of worship
– the most important word in scripture regarding worship is this:
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (Jn. 4:24)
• is it alright if when I worship I follow a written liturgy? Yes
◦ can I worship God with music? Yes
◦ can I worship God by lighting candles or incense? Yes
◦ can I surround my worship with sacred art? Yes
◦ can I keep a holy Sabbath as a day of worship? Yes
◦ does worship include a sermon and offerings? Yes, yes, yes
• but all these forms of worship have been relativized
(you see, the answer to each question could also be, No!)
◦ what is essential is that we worship in spirit and truth
◦ the where and the how are subordinate to spirit and truth
• if someone has to ask, “How do I worship in spirit?”
◦ the answer is,
“You cannot know, because you cannot see the kingdom of God unless your are born again;
unless you’ve taken your first drink of living water, first bite of the bread of life. It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.”
◦ once God’s Spirit has us, then all of life can be worship
So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31)

In our verse, Paul specifies “whatever you do” as “in word and deed”

We live in a time when people use words loosely
– we have become casual with rules of grammar
(we ask, “Can I have that last cookie?” when the proper way of asking the question used to be, “May I have that last cookie?”
• and we are too free with insults and profanity
• we also have a strange new vocabulary shaped by our computers and hand-held devices
– when my dad was a child, if he had told his mom that he googled a friend,
• she would have washed out his mouth with soap
• some people worry that computers are becoming too human
◦ maybe we should worry, humans becoming too much like computers
◦ our decisions are driven by calculations and computations rather than common sense and compassion
◦ with computers, the only reliable language is mathematics

There are times when our words really matter
– when the wrong word can break a heart–or a spirit
• in most conversations, I ignore incorrect grammar
(if someone uses a double negative, it don’t make no difference to me)
◦ but what I admire is when a person’s speech is nurturing
◦ if insightful, perceptive, positive, gracious, lovely
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Col. 4:6)
• we do not say kind words by accident
◦ but angry, hurtful words can slip out accidently
◦ this does not go well with God
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned (Mt. 12:36-37)
– David wrestled with this challenge in Psalm 39:
I said, “I will guard my ways,
that I may not sin with my tongue;
I will guard my mouth with a muzzle,
so long as the wicked are in my presence” Still, he slipped (Ps. 39:1-6)
• Paul suggests another way to guard our words
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus
• if you’re interested in reading more on the nurturing and destructive power of words, there is a wealth of wisdom in The Proverbs and James chapter 3

Of course, our words are not our only form of communication

Our deeds speak for themselves,
– and sometimes others don’t hear what we say because actions are so loud
– there has some confusion regarding our deeds that I would like to clarify
• Paul is adamant in Romans and Galatians that we are not saved by our works
◦ God doesn’t accept us because we’re righteous enough, or pious enough, or good enough
For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works (Ep. 2:8-9)
• I’ve heard preachers draw a absurd conclusion, one that I’ve even read it in commentaries
◦ “Good works are good for nothing”
– some Christians use this as excuse for not doing anything to relieve suffering in the world
“Why worry about their poverty, their illness, if they have shelter, or food and water if their souls are going to hell?”
• there is no place for that reasoning in the Christian mind
Jesus: let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Mt. 5:16)
• Paul, Peter, John – all fully agree with Jesus’ teaching
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ep. 2:10)
[Jesus gave himself for us] to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:14)
The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people (Titus 3:8)
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin (Jas. 4:17)
Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God (3 Jn. 11)

There’s a part of this verse that we tend to misunderstand

In the name of Jesus – the way Bible uses “name” is foreign to us
– it doesn’t mean we say his name or label our good works with it
• 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles refer to the temple as a house for the name of the LORD
(Did they build a house for God’s “name” to occupy?)
◦ if a person’s name was spoken, it brought them to mind
◦ think of the name of one of your friends –
can you think of that person’s name without seeing his or her face?
• to say God’s name was to invoke his presence — he was there
◦ that’s why the first words Jesus placed in the prayer he gave his disciples was
Hallowed be your name (or, Let your name be revered)
– they used the word name the way we use the word “person”
• we could say, do everything in the spirit of Jesus
◦ as his representatives, with his love, and his attitude, and his grace
• and the whole while, giving thanks to God the Father through him

Conclusion: Something in the Book of Joshua has always perturbed me

Towards the end he makes his famous announcement:
. . . if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD
(Jos. 24:15)
– the answer from the people is immediate and adamant:
Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods . . . . Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.” (Jos. 24:16-18)
• this is a high point in Israel’s history
• what perturbs me: Joshua pours cold water on it:
But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.” (Jos. 24:19)

Whenever we feel ready to follow Jesus, whatever the cost;
when we think we’re ready to speak only the words of Jesus,
or do only the work of Jesus,
we would do well to hear Joshua’s voice in our ears:
“You are not able”
So, before we leave here,
determined that whatever we say or do will be in the name of Jesus
We need to confess, “I can’t”
AND
then allow Jesus to tell us,
“I know. But I can, and I will”

Apr 24 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 24, 2022

Podcast

Facebook

Welcome and opening prayer — Nancy Lopez

Good morning, Welcome to RefleXion            May the Lord be with you!

I have a question:  Is light something we actually see, or do we see because there is light?   Physical seeing or awareness is made possible because of our natural eyes and light.  Spiritual awareness is made possible by spiritual eyes and spiritual light.

I’m intrigued by Jesus post-resurrection appearances and how they didn’t recognize Him, and then they did.  On the first day, that Easter Sunday, He appeared to Mary Magdalene and the other women, to Peter, to two of His followers on the road to Emmaus, and then to 10 apostles (and that was all on the 1st day!).  Eight days later He appeared to Thomas and then later to seven disciples who had gone back to fishing. 

Starting with the women who went to the tomb that first morning, scripture says they went “as the day began to dawn.”  With the seven disciples who had gone back to fishing, the passage begins, “At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach.”

We often use the phrase “It just dawned on me,” right?  Dawn doesn’t suddenly appear–it kind of sneaks up on you. The dawn is a gradual changing of light (when does the dawn begin and end?), and the gospel stories seem to mimic that slow awareness – a hint with the women, brighter still to Mary, a glimmer enough to reorient reality on the road to Emmaus and with the breaking of the bread, more darkness pushed back with the apostles gathered.

It takes a while to learn how to live in this new light, and maybe that is exactly what He was teaching them. Echoing C.S. Lewis, it is not just that we see the light, it is that we are learning to see everything by that light. It takes a while, given our habits shaped by darkness, but, hopefully, we are learning to be more spiritually aware.

Just as every day promises the dawn, let us look for light and see by the light and consider ourselves as those becoming more and more aware of the dawn.  Let’s not be discouraged; let’s just continue in our spiritual awareness practices until we can say, “Oh, I see that now!”

Our opening prayer today is taken from Psalm 57:

Our hearts are confident in you, O God. No wonder we can sing your praises even when darkness seems to abound.   Wake up our hearts! Wake up our music! We will wake the dawn with song. We thank you, Lord and sing your praises among the nations. For your unfailing love is as high as the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens. May your glory shine over all the earth.  Amen

Today’s talk — chuck smith, jr.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:15-16

Intro: Whenever you come to instructions in the Bible,

Remind yourself, “I don’t have to do this alone”
– God made us to become these new persons that we are
• and we have to do some of the repairs and maintenance
• however, he doesn’t expect us to do even that part on our own
◦ we can trust Jesus – his burden is light and his yoke is easy
– we’ve learned what to take off (old self with its vices)
• and what to put on (new self and its virtues)
• Paul now tells us what we are to take in

The “peace of Christ” is not an “idea” or empty cliche

There are many churches that preserve the historic tradition of Christian worship
– each week, believers turn to each other shake hands or hug
and say, “The peace of Christ be with you,” and the other person says, “ and also with you”
• this blessing does not come from a priest, pastor, or worship leader
• but it is a spark of divine grace shared between the people present
– imagine how this would change our lives,
• if, as Paul says, the peace of Christ ruled in our hearts

In Mark’s gospel, we learn Jesus and disciples were so busy they had no time to eat
– one evening, to get away from the crowds, Jesus climbed into a boat
• while heading across the “lake,” a windstorm suddenly slammed the surface of the water
◦ waves were breaking over the hull – and the boat was taking on more water than they could bail
• and during all of this, Jesus was in stern, sound asleep
◦ in a hopeless panic, they woke Jesus and screamed over roaring wind,
Teacher, don’t you care that we’re all about to die out here?!
◦ waking up, Jesus stood, looked at them, looked at storm,
and he rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!”
– then he said to the disciples, Why are you so afraid? Where’s your faith?
• what I hear is:
“You didn’t have to wake me up or try to shame me with your ‘Don’t you care?’ I never left the boat. I’ve been here the whole time. Did you see how I can say to waves, ‘Peace!’ and to the wind ‘Hush!’ and they obey me? But when I speak peace to you, you get even more afraid!”
• after the resurrection, when Jesus first appeared to the disciples,
◦ his first words were, “Peace be with you” – but had to say it twice
◦ when something big is coming, how many times does he have to repeat the same words to me?

What does it mean that this peace is “of” Christ?

It comes to us from heaven
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Php. 1:2)
– it is also the peace that Jesus’ presence brought to people
• the assurance of the words he spoke to troubled hearts
• and it was the peace he taught to his followers
– it is also the peace that Jesus himself knew and always had
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you (Jn. 14:27)
• in the gospels, do we ever see Jesus in a mad rush?
◦ does he ever succumb to the pressure of others?
◦ is he ever agitated? uptight? about to fall apart?
◦ no – in fact, Jesus is the “Prince of peace”
• his voice is always calm and reassuring
don’t be afraiddon’t be anxiousyour sins are forgiven
◦ come to me with your heavy load
◦ the Father loves you – you are valuable to him; he cares

At what point do we experience the peace of Christ?
– at the point where whatever peace we have within ourselves gives out
• we don’t need his peace when we’re physically and mentally healthy and all is well
◦ when there’s no war, or pandemic, or crime, or stress
◦ but when our bodies are failing and our world is falling apart, we can receive the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding (Php 4:7)
• Paul doesn’t say, “Pray for peace”
(I don’t think that’s a wrong prayer, but it’s not what he tells us to do here)
◦ the peace of Christ has already been given to us – it’s already here
◦ he says, Let it rule in your heart

“Rule” translates a word that means to judge, to decide a case
– it was used of umpires who made “the call” in sporting events
• Paul tells us, “In all your stress, let peace make the call”
– I have had moments of overwhelming peace in crisis
• but more and more I’m discovering peace in normal circumstances
◦ times when I would usually stress out or feel anger
• I have never been able to soothe myself with happy thoughts
◦ what I experience now is real

Paul has in mind a specific role for this peace

He talks about our “calling” – our vocation or mission
– it has to do with oneness and with a body (the “church”; Col. 1:24)
• Paul was very concerned that Christians would get along
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility . . . that he might create in himself one new [person] in place of the two, so making peace . . . . So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Eph. 2:14-19)
– this is more than learning to accept each other as we are
• it is taking an active role in reconciling differences
• it is living out the Beatitude of Jesus,
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God (Mt. 5:9)
◦ blessed are those who build bridges rather than barriers

Paul throws in an extra little item: And be thankful

All I’ll say about this, is that to become thankful, we have to practice giving thanks
– there is evidence that thanking God frequently,
• and doing it intentionally and sincerely enough to feel it,
◦ changes the neural activity in our brains
• people experience more gratitude, more peace, more joy
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thes. 5:16-18)

What else are we to take in? “the word of Christ”

I believe this includes the message about Jesus as well as Jesus’ teaching
– more than one passage tells us that it does us no good to dabble in the word
• the very first word of the very first psalm is blessed – Who is blessed? The person whose
delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night
(Psa. 1:2)
◦ that is what it takes take in the word of Christ
• and we do not only give the word a home in our hearts,
◦ but it lives in us “richly”
◦ it comes to us with an abundance
– what comes to mind is Jesus’ story of the four soils
Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty (Mt. 13:8)
(a bountiful yield by any farming standard)
• good soil is free from the problems in other soils that prevented or killed the life of the plant
• last week, woman in one of our Lexio Divina meetings shared something with us,
◦ that she has been in the Scriptures all her life
“But reading it in this slow way, I see things I’ve never noticed before. And sometimes I wonder, Why is this in here? What does it mean?”
◦ when the word enters us like that, and we have to chew on it for awhile, it is making its home in us

What follows this rich indwelling is a wholesome outpouring
teaching and admonishing (counseling) in all wisdom
The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple
(Psa. 119:130)
– early on, believers discovered singing was as important as preaching
• that message and music work together
• the easiest way to memorize scripture is to sing Bible verses
◦ today it is easy to have music with us always–at home, in the car, and on walks

Conclusion: The peace Paul advocates and the word that dwells in us,

Are real and energizing and desirable for one reason,
– because they are “of Christ” – behind the word, peace, there is Jesus himself
Too many Christians are taking the words of Jesus and waging war with them
Paul isn’t saying, “Let’s live in peace and have good Bible studies”
He is reminding us, “We have Jesus! Let’s enjoy what he is to us and what he gives us”
We don’t need religion, or ninety percent of either the religious books being published,
or Christian media (radio, television, YouTube, etc.)
The whole challenge of faith is about finding our way to Jesus
He is everything – and in him we have everything

Apr 17 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 17, 2022

Podcast

Facebook

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome to Easter Sunday!  May the Lord be with you!

What a beautiful Cross.  It was beautiful before we adorned it, when it was empty, because an empty Cross and an empty tomb means:
 He is Risen!              He is Risen Indeed!            Hallelujah!

Beautiful and made even more beautiful by our humble offerings of flowers.  I’ve been thinking about the Way of the Cross and what it means to me.

That there’s beauty in the Cross is amazing in itself—a way of death becomes a way of Life, a tool of torture is used as an instrument of Love.  And made beautiful because Jesus made His Way there.  We’re invited to Come, to Follow, this Way.

When we come to the cross, we stand in Solidarity, in Agreement with God’s Way of doing things.  At the foot of the cross, we are in Oneness with God and with all humanity.  It’s a level place; everyone belongs, and everyone is welcome. 

As we travel the Way of the Cross, we are moving in Intimacy, the nearness of the Holy.  We say to the Beloved, “know me, love me.”  He says, “know me, love me.”  And we say that to each other.  We can bring both suffering and joy, because the integration of suffering AND joy is the Way of Jesus, the wholeness of the human experience. 

Walking the Way of the Cross moves me in Transformation.  Jesus proved that the way of the cross is the way of transforming love. It is the power of the resurrected life. And not only at the end, but all the way through, the redeemed, resurrected, restored life.  On the Way, every offering, no matter how small or humble—a decision, a forgiveness, a surrender, a flower– is a Way toward Oneness, Intimacy, and the Power of Resurrection. The main thing is to be on the Way.  Bring what you have.  It will be welcomed here.  Let’s pray:

Lord, you made a Way for us.  Let us Come into Your Presence today, knowing more and more this Way of Love.  Let us Follow.  Let us walk together on the Beautiful Way.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen

Morning talk: Chuck Smith, jr.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 1 Peter 1:3

Intro: Peter is celebrating Jesus’ resurrection

His first line is praise to God (the English Standard Version adds an exclamation mark)
– his specific point is what Jesus’ resurrection means for us
• I’ve been reading in Acts this week and this is the same message Peter and the apostles preached there
• Jesus Christ had been raised from the dead
◦ and doing so, he opened a new way to know God and be right him
◦ Peter preached this in his first sermon, and every speech afterward
“This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing . . . Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they . . . said to Peter . . . , “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself (Acts 2:32-39)
– years later, writing this letter, Peter’s central theme is still Jesus’ resurrection
• Peter indicates that it is written in the biography of every Christian — past, present, and future
◦ we had a past, before we knew Jesus, risen and living
◦ he doesn’t go into it here, but says this about it later
For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry (1 Pe. 4:3)
• here in chapter 1 he celebrates our future
. . . to an inheritance that is imperishable, undeviled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed (verses 4-5)
◦ and then describes our present lives
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (verses 6-9)

Jesus’ resurrection seems like is a lovely theme for spring time

The earth, that goes barren in winter, comes back to life in spring
– so also, Jesus who suffered a gory death, descended into earth,
• and rose from the grave in a glorious new life
◦ but the analogy ends there
• in fact, the differences are greater than the similarities
– spring is a natural, recurring season
• it belongs to a cycle that repeats every year
• Jesus’ resurrection is an anomaly, a singularity
◦ it happened only once in the history of humankind
◦ and it will happen only once for each of us
Karl Barth, “Resurrection, not progress, not evolution, not enlightenment, but what the word means, namely, a call from heaven to us: ‘Rise up! You are dead, but I will give you life.’”

Peter uses the metaphor of new birth

And he says that we’ve been born again into a living hope
– everything about our Christian experience is alive
• but this is not the same as our biological experience
◦ breathing, consuming, moving, reproducing, and so on
• it is the infusion of God’s life – mouth-to-mouth, as it were
– if all we know in this world is our animal existence,
• then we haven’t experienced what Peter is talking about
◦ there is another heartbeat in the universe,
◦ another breath, another sound, another touch
• if we never feel it, sense it, catch a glimpse of it,
◦ then we are homo sapiens and nothing more
◦ there’s a dynamic energy to resurrection life that few people know

When I stepped into ministry, I had not considered what it meant

It didn’t occur to me that I would be considered a pastor
– I only knew that the Bible was exciting for me,
• and I could teach it to people who knew less than I
• I didn’t give any thought to being ordained,
◦ until a couple about my age asked me to officiate their wedding
– Glen and Ann are as lovely as any Christians you’ll ever meet
• their lives are so exuberant and joyful,
◦ you would never know both of them are deaf
• I met them when teaching a Bible study in Riverside
◦ this was in an Episcopal church that had asked Lonnie Frisbee to begin youth group
◦ Lonnie left and it was passed on to Ken Gulliksen, and then me, and I was followed by Greg Laurie

Spending time with Glen and Ann, I learned his story
He was cruising Riverside with friends, when they saw cars crowded with teenagers pulling into a parking lot. They decided to check out what was going on, but when they noticed they were carrying Bibles, they began making fun of them, flicking cigarette butts at them, Glen said. His friends left to find something more entertaining, but out of curiosity Glen entered the church and stood in the foyer that was separated from the main sanctuary by a windowed wall. He was watching Lonnie speak, but had no idea what he was saying. Glen was suddenly gripped with a terrifying panic. He burst through the doors of the sanctuary and ran down the center aisle toward Lonnie, screaming the whole way. The crowd of about 300 teenagers immediately reacted to this and began murmuring. With Glen weeping on the floor at his feet, Lonnie held up his hands and told everyone to calm down. Then lifting Glen up by his shoulders, he explained, “This man is under the conviction of the Holy Spirit.” And then, in front of everyone, Lonnie led Glen to faith in Jesus.

People have asked whether there can be another revival like the Jesus Movement
– even now, seminaries are sponsoring research to investigate and explain it
• there are all sorts of factors – sociological, timing, “spiritual” experimentation with hallucinogens
◦ but what stands out in my memory is this,
◦ hippies were reading the Book of Acts as if it were written for today
– they believed the same Holy Spirit lived in them and was guiding them
• they believed the Spirit would speak through them
◦ it was definitely an apocalyptic time
◦ it made sense to leave world behind, to live in communes, sharing all things in common
• they were ready to go wherever the Spirit carried them
◦ and many were carried all over the world
◦ for them, born again was the dynamic energy of resurrection life

But now we have become educated, sophisticated, rational
– our tools are technological and systematic, marketing and management
– we have been domesticated, house-broken and neutered
• and the radical movement got buried under the institutions we built

What does it mean to live in the resurrection?

It is an empowered life
– but we must not romanticize this
• it is not an endless stream of happy thoughts, platitudes, positive thinking, or chicken soup for the soul
• after his resurrection, Jesus had a private conversation with Peter
◦ the Lord told him,
Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go (Jn. 21:18)
◦ this is resurrection life – we are taken into encounters we did not choose
◦ into the hardships of the lives of other people,
experiencing the desperation of their need,
and the darkness of their spiritual oppression
– this is not always fun, but it is right

Conclusion: Let’s check for signs of resurrection life

Let’s take our temperature, check our pulse and blood-pressure
– are we living the resurrection life?

Well, you are here this morning
– you could have chosen to be somewhere else
• a family gathering – a neighborhood Easter egg hunt
• you could have attended a place where Easter is a big production
◦ and the resurrection certainly deserves a big production
◦ the biggest
– but you chose to come here,
• and that in itself is a statement

When Paul wrote to Christians in Rome, he told them,
I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers [and sisters], that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another (Ro. 15:14)
– I know that this is also true of you
• I have learned from you, received counsel from you
◦ my experience of Jesus has been enriched by your insights
◦ even your questions have stretched and challenged me
• my spiritual growth would be incomplete if not for our Lexio Divina meetings

Here is the prayer I hear coming from our hearts this Easter morning:

“Father, we are continuing our journey with Jesus, together
The way has been hard
and we have been unsure, hesitant, and weak at times
But we keep getting up and going
We stand and walk, not by our own power
We move on, we pray, we hope, we rejoice,
because You, O Lord,
are faithful to keep us faithful
Amen”

Apr 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 10, 2022

Podcast

Facebook

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,
Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. . . .
Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
John 12:12-16, 20-23

Intro: The story of Palm Sunday is told in all four gospels

John’s account is the most streamlined, Luke’s account is the most dramatic
– that is where Jesus warns that if the crowd remained silent, the rocks would cry out
• but prior to any gospel, there was a message hidden the Psalms
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
This is the LORD’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we pray, O LORD!
O LORD, we pray, give us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We bless you from the house of the LORD (Ps. 118:22-26)
note first, the verse about The stone that the builders rejected is quoted in Matthew, Mark and Luke
• and it was quoted during Holy Week following Palm Sunday
second, the cries Save us (Aramaic, Hosanna) and Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,
• were exactly what the people shouted on Palm Sunday
third, the phrase, This is the day refers to a specific day
• this is also important in light of Palm Sunday

Luke tells us that when Jesus drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!” (Lk. 19:41-42)
– Jesus was saying that something historic was happening in that moment, on that day
• a door had opened, and with it a unique opportunity
◦ if only the people of Jerusalem could see it, they would have peace instead of war
“On this day” the Hosanna prayer could have been answered
“On this day” Jerusalem could have fulfilled its destiny
“On this day” God visited his people, but they did not know
– I have chosen the uniqueness of “this day” for our meditation

You might want to tell me,

“But Palm Sunday is not unique; it comes every year. In fact, it’s all that that special. Palm Sunday was not the main event of Holy Week. It is merely a a prelude. We cycle through it every year, like all the other holidays.”
• it is easy to adopt this cynical view of time
◦ as some say, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”
◦ this is the dreary perspective of Ecclesiastes
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it . . . .
Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”?
It has been already in the ages before us (Ecc. 1:4-10)
• of course someone could argue, “But cell phones are new”
◦ I think the teacher would respond, “You get the latest model of technology and adapt to it, but you stay the same person”
– we are in the fourth month of a “new” year, but how is this year different is it from last year?
◦ how different is the 21st century from the 20th?
• we still go to war, the poor still outnumber wealthy, we’re still vulnerable to greed and every other vice,
◦ and we still do not know the things that make for peace
◦ we still do not know what is hidden in this day

I had a friend, a pastor, who loved books even more than I do
– he frequently recommended to me a book he had read
• every time, he would say, “This book changed my life”
• but his saying that about a book never changed
– visit a cemetery and note the boundaries of every human life
• they are inscribed in stone; two dates, a date of birth followed by a date of death
In Ecclesiastes we read of a poor wise man who saved a small city,
Yet no one remembered that poor man (Ecc. 9:15)
◦ it’s like we’re swimming in the ocean and we create a small wake,
◦ but the water closes behind us and leaves no evidence that we were ever here

Ecclesiastes has other messages regarding time

For instance:
[God] has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end (Ecc. 3:11)
– the word “eternal” is a concept small enough to fit in our brains
• but its meaning is beyond our ability to grasp
◦ Hebrew, olam means “hidden” – imagine moving back into past,
◦ we reach a point where our imagination gives out
• the same thing happens when you stretch into future
◦ beyond the extinction of our universe — what then?
◦ we cannot imagine nothingness – only some thing
– there’s a line in the Psalms worth contemplating
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! (Psa. 41:13)
• if I may digress for a moment, I prefer “everlasting” to “eternal”
◦ it may seem like there’s no difference or little difference
• still, something may be eternal, yet have a quality that doesn’t last forever
◦ like chewing a stick of gum – you can chew for hours,
◦ but the flavor lasts only a minute

God allows us a sense of eternity, but he puts it in our hearts
– I’m tempted to say, he does this just to mess with us
• eternity is not like time
◦ time can be measured – seconds, minutes, hours, etc.
◦ eternity cannot be measured
• without beginning or end, there’s no point to begin a measurement
◦ if we say, “Let’s begin with right now,” – eternity is always right now
– eternal life is a different kind of life than we’ve known
• it is not our normal experience of passing through days and years

Now let’s return to the first Palm Sunday

Greek tourists were there who requested an audience with Jesus
– what is his response?
The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified
or, this is the day if you will
• John mentions Jesus’ hour several times in his gospel
◦ the first time was with his mother, “My hour has not yet come” (Jn. 2:4)
◦ later with his brothers, “My time has not yet come”kairos
• a couple of times when religious leaders wanted to arrest him,
◦ they could not, because his hour had not yet come (e.g., Jn. 7:30)
– but now, on this Palm Sunday, his hour had come

What John is telling us is that a moment arrived unlike any other
– it is different, because it did not belong to the normal flow of time
• the world of nature did not produce it – nor any human agency
• the hour is unique, because in it eternity intersects with time
– such hours belong to God entirely
• and no one knows them except the Father, not even the Son (Mt. 24:36)
◦ God has these hours perfectly timed — as Paul pointed out:
at the right time Christ died for ungodly (Ro. 5:6), at the proper time his word was manifested (Titus 1:3)
• these “hours” in Jesus’ life did not consist of a literal sixty minutes
◦ the hour of Palm Sunday was the same hour in which Good Friday occurred
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own . . . he loved them to the end (Jn. 13:1)

Jesus’ last night with disciples, he spoke of yet another hour

I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father (Jn. 16:25)
– all through John, Jesus used figures of speech–and they were misunderstood
• he used his disciples’ confusion to reveal God’s “higher thoughts”
◦ it’s the difference between the “earthly things” and “heavenly things” that he tried to teach to Nicodemus (Jn. 3:10-12)
• when did that hour come? Maybe in what Jesus did for his disciples in Luke 24:44-47
• or maybe when he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”
– I don’t know, but it’s exciting to think of a graduation day,
• when Jesus will speak plainly of God and the things of the Spirit and we will understand him

In his last prayer Jesus prayed, the hour has come and I have manifested your name
– how did he manifest God’s name?
• not by revealing a new name in Hebrew, Greek, or any other language
• and not be reminding them of an old name,
◦ but by a revelation of the eternal name: Yahweh, I am
◦ everyone else phases through was, is, and will be — God is eternally IS
– Jesus made God’s person known, by being I am among them
before Abraham was, I am (8:58)
• he revealed God by speaking the words of I am, doing works of I am, loving his disciples with love of I am
• what disciples received wasn’t information – rational or theological knowledge
◦ but a relational knowledge – they came to know the Father through the love of the Son
[those] who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love [them] . . . . If anyone loves me, he [or she] will keep my word, and my Father will love him [and her], and we will come and make our home with [them] (Jn. 14:21-23)

Conclusion: Palm Sunday is either everything or it is nothing

This hour of Jesus, becomes our hour of hope
Karl Barth, “in [Jesus] time and eternity meet. . . . Hence everything depends on this, that Jesus Christ speaks to us who pass on with the fleeting times. There are [people] and times to whom Jesus Christ becomes manifest.”
This may be one of those times
and if so, we can be those people
Heaven is breaking into this hour – can we wake ourselves up?
How can we wake ourselves up?
By moving slower
and paying attention
By pausing to take a deep breath
and then look, listen, taste, smell, feel

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
This is the day that the Lord has made!

Apr 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 3, 2022

Podcast

Facebook

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony Colossians 3:14

Intro: Preparing this talk was difficult

Not because there is nothing to say about love
– we could line the freeway from here to San Diego with books and papers written on love
• clinical studies, philosophical essays, poetic explorations,
◦ not to mention all the books by religious authors
• but all this information has made little impact on our nation
– maybe it was just a tough week week for me – too much exposure to sorrow,
• but it feels like love has reached an all-time low in the world

When mulling over this verse, a song came to mind

It is from the musical, “Jesus Christ Superstar”
(this play debuted at the climax of the hippie peace and love revolution)
– Jesus has been arrested and Mary Magdalene and Peter are trying to deal with it
Mary: “I’ve been living to see you
Dying to see you, but it shouldn’t be like this
This was unexpected; what do I do now?
Could we start again please?
Could we start again please?
I’ve been very hopeful so far
Now for the first time, I think we’re going wrong
Hurry up and tell me this is all a dream
Or could we start again please?
Could we start again please?
Peter: I think you’ve made your point now
You’ve even gone a bit too far to get your message home
Before it gets too frightening, we ought to call a halt
So could we start again please?
Could we start again please?
• they’re praying for a do-over, a second chance
◦ they followed Jesus all the way to Gethsemane,
◦ but now the journey has taken a sudden turn
• they want God to rewind history and produce a different outcome
– that’s how I feel regarding love
• we have crucified love repeatedly through the ages
◦ nailed it to the cross of greed, narcissism, and betrayal
◦ we need a cosmic reboot
• could we start again please, and maybe get it right this time?

Looking at verse 14, this is the third time Paul says “Put on”

The first time was in verses 9 and 10,
we have put off the old self with its practices and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator
– Paul works with this idea of the old and new self in several letters
• in Romans 6-8, the contrast is living according to the flesh (old self) or Spirit (new self)
◦ flesh is our natural self, programmed by others throughout our lives in the world
all our fears and insecurities, anger and lust, disbelief and rebellion
◦ the spirit is our new self, formed and energized by God’s Spirit
• in 2 Corinthians and Galatians Paul looks at same thing from other angles
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17)
◦ the old verses the new
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20)
◦ not the “I” that has now died “I in Christ,” but the “I” that is now risen with Christ
– the way Paul presents it in Ephesians sounds more like our verse in Colossians
[you have been taught in Jesus] to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ep. 4:20-24)
• so this putting off and putting on is not a fashion statement,
◦ but a fundamental transformation
• your true self is spirit – and we find our true self in Jesus

The second time Paul said “Put on” was in verse 12
– that was where we began talking about the virtues
– today we come to his third use of “Put on”
• here is another addition to our ensemble, but with a slight change
◦ the virtues have to do with how we are with other people
◦ Paul’s focus now is how we are with God:
the peace of Christ, be thankful, and the word of Christ, and so on
• but before that, he brings us to love, which is a perfect transition
◦ because love is intersection of our lives with God and with others
◦ we frequently emphasize the greatest and second greatest commandments:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Mt. 22:36-40)

Paul makes a simple statement about the role love plays

At least it looks simple at first
– biblical translators have a significant challenge
• there’s no exact way to say in English what a Greek phrase meant to the original audience
◦ so they try to help us by using additional words
◦ for instance, there is no Greek word here that means “harmony”
• the NASB translates this phrase, perfect bond of unity, but a Greek word for “unity” is lacking
– a few commentators believe Paul is talking about the virtues being bound together
• if so, love would be like a string that tie the beads of virtue together
◦ that’s lovely, and probably true of love, but it is not what I see here
• love forms the perfect bond – it is our lives that love connects

Although Paul did not use “harmony,” it is a good metaphor

My eleven-year-old granddaughter, Adrianna, is in her school choir
– later this month they will be performing at Disneyland
• she practices in the car to and from school
• sometimes she sings soprano to show me how it goes with the alto part
◦ the soprano and alto parts are harmonized
– harmony is not two voices singing the same note
• but two or three voices singing different notes that work together
◦ you can hear the harmony when right notes are played — the sound is pleasant
◦ if a note doesn’t work, what you hear is dissonance

What happens if you study two people in conversation?
– if you film them and closely observe their movements frame by frame,
• you discover minute movements occurring within milliseconds
◦ facial expressions and body language
◦ these micromovents appear in both the speaker and listener
• William Condon spent a year and a half studying such films and identifying these movements
Condon, “Listeners were observed to move in precise shared synchrony with each other’s speech. . . . Communication is thus like a dance, with everyone engaged in intricate and shared movements across many subtle dimensions, yet all strangely oblivious to what they are doing.”
– I have to remind myself to be a better listener
• what I find helpful, is look into the eyes of the other person
• I become more focused – then if I speak, it’s in harmony with what they have said
◦ otherwise, I spend the time they are talking, thinking about what I’m going to say next

Love is the glue that holds the spiritual community together

Most of us have heard the Greek word, agape
– it is not romantic love that is going to save the world
• it is a love with more breadth and depth
◦ a love that survives without the chemistry of the romantic high
• it is love that forms a nurturing bond
Paul refers to the community as a body and Jesus as the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God (Col. 2:19)
– “ligaments” translates same Greek word for “bond” — the love bond nurtures growth
• I’ve mentioned attachment theory several times before
◦ it has to do with the crucial importance of forming healthy bonds in infancy and childhood
• what about those of us who did not receive that?
Marion Solomon, “Research shows that a good relationship can alter earlier disturbed attachment patterns.”
◦ we can form bonds now that heal our broken selves
◦ in the process, we also bring health to the community

If what Paul says is not our experience where does it break down?

With me, it breaks down when I do not have a love for others that I can sustain
– I think my heart has something like a “love battery”
• when fully charged, I have enough love for everyone
◦ with partial charge, I have less love for people on the periphery or strangers
◦ a dead battery means I love only me; so I’m guarded, defensive, closed-off
• I need God’s grace, because it does not depend on me or my love battery
◦ everywhere that I am small and weak and powerless is a place for God’s grace to enter (cf. 2 Cor. 12:9)
– grace always does something new, something unexpected
• to “put on” love is first to surrender to God’s love
◦ we let him love us, down to our deepest wounds
Henri Nouwen, “. . . we know that everyone who has allowed God’s love to enter into his or her heart has not only become a better human being, but has also contributed significantly to making a better world. The lives of the saints show us that.”
God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Ro. 5:5)

Conclusion: My sixth-grade teacher did me a great disservice in my relationship with my dad

On the last day of my school year, she told him, “I don’t think your son is working to his potential”

I may never live to my potential in anything that I do
But in this one thing, I can live beyond my potential
With the love of God flowing through me,
I can love anyone he brings across my path

Through God’s infinite grace, let’s surrender to love
We want all Christians to put on love,
so God can save the world

Mar 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 27, 2022

Podcast

Facebook

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:12-13

Intro: Before fire engines, cities relied on the “bucket brigade”

Volunteers would rush to the scene of a fire and form a human chain
– beginning at a source of water–a well, river, or pond if close by–,
• draw water, and hand the bucket to the first person in the chain
◦ then the bucket would be passed from person to person until poured on the fire
◦ empty buckets would be returned down the chain, filled and passed again
• imagine, that the buckets stopped moving and no empties were returned
◦ someone runs down line to find the problem – and comes to two men just standing there
“I’m not passing the bucket to him. He’s a cheat!”
“I’m not taking a bucket from him. He’s a fraud!”
– in the meantime, the schoolhouse burns down
• if you’re in brigade, no matter what, don’t break the chain!

You and I have covered a lot of ground in the last three or four years
– some of the subjects we’ve looked at include:
• re-wiring brain’s owner’s manual to aid in transformation
• a brief survey of Leviticus to prepare for close study of Hebrews
• what the Bible has to say about the spiritual significance of the body
• what it means to read the Bible as a sacred text
• and we went through 1 Corinthians as a Primer In Things Unseen
– in all of this, we’ve been seeking a greater experience of God
• our journey aims at a clearer and more constant awareness of his presence
◦ as Paul said, our goal is to know Jesus
• but there is an important truth we cannot ignore
◦ we need each other in order to reach our goal
◦ a fully formed life in the Spirit cannot be developed in solitude

Paul continues to expand his virtue list, but with a slight shift

He provides images of how the virtues look in everyday situations
– for instance, last week we went over the virtue of patience
• how does that affect the way I interact with others?
• well, in some instances, I listen closely when I don’t want to
◦ my listening is not motivated by my need to hear the other person,
◦ but by the other person’s need to be heard
– what Paul says in verse 14 turns out to be invaluable
• it is natural to experience tension with others in community
◦ “community” can be home, work, a team, church, etc.
• Paul provides two ways to resolve the most common tensions

We tense up around certain people for a number of reasons
– we have a history with this person
conflict: we had a run-in with this person in the past
abuse: it did not have to be verbal or physical
◦ this person used me, took advantage of me, mistreated me
wasted time: you felt cornered and subjected to boring chatter
weirdness: left you confused or frightened
◦ you realize it would be impossible to please this person
– there is another type of tension unrelated to any specific issue
• “personality conflict” – we don’t need to look for a reason
◦ “There’s just something about that guy that rubs me the wrong way”
• it’s their look, their voice, mannerisms, general style
◦ there may be unconscious reasons
– for whatever reason, you cannot tolerate that person or communicate with them

The first way to resolve the tension is by bearing with one another

There is a general concern we need to share for each other
– the Christian family looks after the welfare of each member
• this is a basic element of decent human behavior
You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray and ignore them. You shall take them back to your brother. And if he does not live near you and you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall stay with you until your brother seeks it. Then you shall restore it to him. . . . You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and ignore them. You shall help him to lift them up again (De. 22:1-4)

Paul doesn’t say you have to be “best buds” with everyone
– you do have to put up with us,
• after all, we have to put up with you too
• at any rate, let’s narrow this down to a feasible size
◦ we don’t have to put up with everyone in the whole world
(it’s okay to “unfriend” abusers and creeps–it’s the safe and smart thing to do)
◦ the circumference of this circle is our spiritual community
– I don’t know how to communicate this effectively
• I just know that even though some people are a little weird,
◦ it’s worth my time to love, accept, and care for them
◦ I sometimes discover a loveable, lonely human being
• it’s up to me to set limits and boundaries, and if I do that up front, there’s no need to apologize when our time is up
◦ I’ve found that anyone can surprise you and everyone’s story is interesting–if you’re willing to listen
Richard Lukas, “There is nothing glib here. Paul well knew the almost unbridgeable gulfs that exist between human beings. . . . But Paul is convinced of the power of Christ, not to bring people together while remaining just what they were before, but to change them so that a genuine meeting of mind and heart is achieved.” “In short, this kind of Christian unity is the result of genuine spiritual revolutions in individual lives, where the old nature with all its prejudices and hatreds is put off, and the new nature is put on.”

The second way to resolve tension is by forgiving each other

Paul prefaces this with, if anyone has a complaint against another
– do I need to say that this does not apply to serious violations?
• the majority of Paul’s first letter to Corinthians,
◦ was his response to complaints from church members
• what he addresses here are the normal irritations and gripes we have with someone
– I appreciate the honesty reflected in this statement
• there is no pretending that we are a fellowship of angels
◦ anyone could have good reason to complain about someone else
• Paul says, that’s as far as it needs to go
◦ forgiveness is a way to make the problem go away
◦ forgiveness is a release – a letting go
◦ the quicker we forgive, the sooner we enjoy peace and freedom
◦ hang onto an issue and it becomes a seed that grows into an obsession

Forgiveness is more complicated than bearing with one another
– it involves a personal interaction – an offense or trespass
• I use trespass intentionally, because Jesus taught us to pray
forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Then he added, For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses (Mt. 6:12, 14-15)
◦ I know Christians who squirm at this
◦ the refuse to believe God’s forgiveness is conditional
• however, there is one condition–and only one
◦ it is not if you prove you’re really, really sorry then you will be forgiven
◦ or walk for a mile on your knees in gravel,
◦ or punish yourself mentally with toxic shame and guilt; never forgiving yourself
– God made our forgiveness conditional,
• so we would have all the reason and motivation we need to forgive

Sometimes forgiveness is impossible
– we cannot even make ourselves want to forgive
• or make ourselves willing to let God make us want to forgive
– but at every point, God is ready to help us
• we have to ask – and he is faithful to work on our hearts,
◦ to walk us step-by-step to perfect forgiveness
• perhaps that’s why Paul uses the model of Jesus’ forgiveness
◦ he knows how difficult it can be to forgive those who crucify us

Conclusion: These virtues are not given us to do on our own

It’s not like we have to use whatever will power we have
– the virtues are not like learning good manners or rules of etiquette
• if that, they would be no more than a supplement to Law
– we have to be aware of, and open to the supernatural energy behind them,
for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Php. 2:13)
God will help us discern whether we need to bear with, or to forgive, or to set boundaries
But overall, our destiny is to build bridges, not barriers

Don’t break the chain!

Mar 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 20, 2022

Podcast

Facebook

Put on then, as God’s chosen people, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience . . . . Colossians 3:12

Intro: The — word — I’ll — talk — about — today is —-

patience

I remember reading through Colossians many years ago
– in the first chapter, I came across a “power verse”
• what I mean, is a verse that makes a prayer for, or a promise of spiritual energy
◦ for instance, this is what Jesus did for his disciples:
[Jesus] called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases (Lk. 9:1)
Or, . . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8)
• Paul told the Colossians he was praying for them
that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of him . . . being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might . . .
◦ at this point I got excited and imagined myself working miracles;
exorcising demons, healing the sick, raising the dead
◦ but reading on, this is what I found
being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy (Col. 1:9-11)
– my immediate thought was, “What a rip-off!”
• I did not want to be empowered for patience

The typical place to begin a talk like this is with the word itself

It is a Greek compound, consisting of two words:
– one means distance (in space or time) and the other means passion (intense emotion, e.g., rage)
• the King James Version provides the literal sense with long-suffering
◦ the patient person must “suffer” discomfort, resisting the impulse to act out, and so on
• patience is the opposite of someone who has a “short fuse”
◦ God’s self-description in Exodus says, he is “slow to anger” (Ex. 34:6)
◦ in fact, we learn this virtue from God’s example–and the example of Jesus
But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost [sinner], Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life (1 Tim. 1:16)
– slow to anger is an important insight into the how of patience works
• it has to do with timing
soldiers who joined King David’s army are described as men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do (1 Chr. 12:32)
Elijah asked his servant Gahazi, Was [this] a time to accept money and garments . . . ? (2 Ki. 5:26)
◦ this rhetorical question assumes the answer is “No”
• do I understand the nature of the times?
◦ do I know what is the appropriate action for this moment?
◦ patience is accepting each moment for what it is and for
what can and cannot be expected from it or what can and cannot be done in it
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted . . . (Ecc. 3:1-8)

There’s a common misconception we need to correct

All my life I’ve heard variations of this advice:
“Don’t pray for patience, because God will send you more trials for you to practice it.”
– this is not faith and it is not even biblical
• it is superstition – like throwing salt over your shoulder
• another problem with this advice
◦ Nancy pointed it out to me this past week when she asked, “What kind of God do they think he is?”
◦ listen to Jesus teach us what kind God the Father is
Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? . . . If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him? (Mt. 7:9-11)
– we can ask God to help us with each of the virtues,
• especially the ones that give us the most trouble

I don’t think you and I need to be reminded of the saying, “Patience Is A Virtue”

In previous generations, this was used as a motivation
– I don’t know if many people are motivated by virtue today
• anyway, being patient with “things” we can’t control is a virtue
◦ traffic, waiting for water to warm up in the shower, elevators, etc.
◦ tp not be jittery with things telling them, “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon”
• patience with things is good,
◦ but patience with people is absolutely necessary
William Barclay [regarding the Greek word makrothumia says], “This is the spirit which never loses its patience with its fellow-men. Their foolishness and their unteachability never drive it to cynicism or despair; their insults and their ill-treatment never drive it to bitterness or wrath.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Scratch the surface of impatience and what you will find lying beneath it, subtly or not so subtly, is anger. It is the strong energy of not wanting things to be the way they are and blaming someone or something. This doesn’t mean you can’t hurry when you have to. It is possible even to hurry patiently, mindfully, moving fast because you have chosen to.”
– we have to be patient with people, because we’re all imperfect
• in Matthew 18, Jesus tells a story about two debtors
◦ one is forgiven, but refuses to forgive debt of the other
◦ the story is not only about forgiveness, but also patience
Both men, in turn, begged, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.”
• why is a person who visits a doctor called a “patient”
◦ because healing requires patience

Patience works relational magic

In the famous “love chapter” of 1 Corinthians,
– this is the first word regarding what love is
Love is patient and kind (1 Cor. 13:4)
• think of that! The first thing love must be is patient
◦ patience is the key to preserving and protecting relationships
◦ patience is how we build and repair relationships
• do you remember what Jesus said was greatest commandment?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets (Mt. 22:37-40)
And Paul, Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not covet,” 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. 13:8-10)
◦ St. Augustine applied this insight to the virtues
Augustine, “I hold virtue to be nothing else than perfect love of God.” “Therefore, where charity is full and perfect there will be no remains of vice.”
◦ commenting on this, John Langan wrote,
Langan, “Augustine then understands the moral life of the Christian as the progressive development of charity, which is the one explanatory entity that underlies the activity of all the virtues.”
Notice how this ties all the virtues together in love–as here in Colossians 3:14
And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
– if we think of all the virtues as separate items,
• then we might be tempted to focus on one at a time
• but love is a complex mixture of various qualities
◦ like a bowl of fruit
. . . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5:22-23)
– if I think I’m loving well in one virtue, tend to cheat on others
• we hear, “Everyone has a vice” or “Chocolate is my one vice”
◦ but if all virtues are manifestations of love, we can’t skimp
◦ we can’t dismiss the one that seem most difficult or unpleasant

Patience is a path to peace

There are two psalms that express poet’s stress, and both end with:
Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD (Pss. 27:14; 31:24)
– Psalm 40 begins,
I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined his ear to me and heard my cry.
• we are frequently encouraged to wait for God
The LORD is good to those who wait for him (Lam. 3:25)
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
the young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint
(Isa. 40:30-31)
• patience protects us from making matters worse
◦ the angry texts we write, but don’t send; the sarcastic rants we don’t post
◦ who knows how much unhappiness and stress we have dodged by keeping our reactions to ourselves?
– if we do not learn patience, the world will drive us mad
• the sun will not rise until it rises, or go down until it goes down
◦ all of our impatience will not hurry its daily journey through the sky
• patience is not resignation, it is not giving up
◦ nor is it doing nothing, but patience is doing what can be done now
◦ patience cannot be forced, but it can be cultivated

Conclusion: The cool thing about patience,

Is that every single day will give us opportunity to practice it
Our bodies will tell us when it’s time to be patient
(Our bodies will tell others when we need to dial down)

When it is time to exercise patience,
let’s remind ourselves, “This is an opportunity to love someone”
An opportunity to love God, love my neighbor, or even love myself