Skip to content
Nov 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 28, 2018 – Mark 8:34-38

The Exploration of (Empty) Space

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his soul? For what what a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38

Intro: You probably noticed this painting – perhaps stared at it

But I doubt you paid attention to the space between yourself and the painting
– “Why notice empty space?” you may ask
• the answer: Because there’s no such thing
◦ people have sustained serious injuries when bringing an open flame too close to an “empty” gas can
◦ there may have been no liquid in the can, but it was still “full” of fumes
• “empty” can be an illusion
– to notice empty space, can help us expand our awareness
• this is a theme Mark has developed through several chapters
– in the verses I read, Jesus’ message sounds harsh
• but we need to see it in its context
• the lesson here is so essential, we cannot afford to miss it
◦ it helps us discover what fills “empty” spaces

We will retrace Jesus’ steps through the previous three chapters
– pay special attention to the ways Jesus attempts to enlighten people

In chapter 5, A man begged Jesus to heal his daughter

But on the way to his home, they learn she died
– Jesus told the man, Don’t be afraid. Just believe

There is a way for us to move out of our fears and anxieties
– it involves expanding our vision
• my dad used to stress the importance of “the eternal perspective”
◦ big problems immediately before us can be overwhelming
◦ but our reaction changes when reflect on our situation in the light of eternity
• anxiety is a natural response to feeling trapped
◦ and we can feel trapped by “time”
(also by space, by our responsibilities, and so on)
◦ there must be a way out of anxiety traps if:
Jesus can say, Don’t worry about your life (Mt. 6:25)
or Paul could say, Don’t be anxious about anything (Php. 4:6)
– an expanded awareness frees us from the feeling of being trapped
• this is God’s, I am with you–or, as in this instance, Jesus saying, Just believe
• trust gives our brains the peace they need to stretch awareness

In chapter 6 Jesus is teaching in the countryside

This has the disciples nervous, so they tell Jesus,
“Send the people home before the shops close and they can’t find food”
– but Jesus responds, “Why don’t you feed them?”
• the disciples thought that was impossible
◦ then Jesus worked a miracle so that everyone ate and there were even leftovers
• when the disciples climbed in the boat, Jesus stayed on land to pray
◦ rowing against wind, the disciples were getting nowhere–until
◦ Jesus came walking toward them across the surface of the water
– the disciples were totally amazed
• Mark felt that he had to explain their amazement:

. . . for they had not gained any insight from the loaves, but their heart was hardened (Mk. 6:52)

• doesn’t that seem like an odd statement?
◦ the loaves were talking to the disciples, but they weren’t listening
• “hardened” does not mean they resisted understanding, but they were mentally “stuck”
◦ their hearts had been formed in a way that constricted their aware

In chapter 7, the Pharisees called out the disciples for a purity violation

read more…

Oct 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 14, 2018 – Psalm 84

“A Body You Have Prepared for Me”
(Hebrews 10:5)

Every Christian I know loves the Psalms, and each person has her or his own reasons. Some of the psalms provide us with reassuring comfort and security, knowing that our God cares for his weak and wounded children and that he is a rock and fortress in times of distress. Other songs inspire us to worship God and provides us with words that help us give expression to our praise and gratitude. There are psalms in which we discover an empathetic poet, one that is familiar with our griefs and feelings of despair (and even depression!). Then there are those raw and violent prayers that call for God’s judgment on the wicked, the cheats, the oppressors, and others who have slandered or betrayed us. Even with all of this we are only scratching the surface of what we find in the Psalms.

I would want to say appeals to me the most about the Psalms is the way a few of these godly poets express their spiritual longings. For example:
One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to meditate in His temple 
(Ps. 27:4)
As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for You, O God (Ps. 42:1)
O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for you, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water 
(Ps. 63:1)

WARNING: These notes will be longer than those I used when I gave this message. Even still, I feel like too much has been left out that could have been said. One day, I’ll write another book.

Psalm 84 begins with this kind of strong desire for God
– in fact, it includes words and allusions from these other psalms
• here, the singer is on his way to Jerusalem
◦ the closer he gets, the greater his joy and anticipation
• do you remember going to a favorite childhood home?
◦ for me, it was the ride to my grandparents’ home
◦ grandma’s fresh-baked treats were waiting in the kitchen
◦ grandpa entertained us with tall tales and magic tricks
– the favorite home of the poet of Psalm 84 was the temple–God’s house
• so he looks forward to arriving in Jerusalem
◦ he is imagining his first glimpse of the holy city
◦ and once again enjoying the worship of Yahweh led by his servants
• what is the message of the Psalm?
◦ that worship in the temple is about a divine encounter
◦ it is where each local resident and pilgrim appears before God (v. 7)

I’m going to walk us through psalm, then share what’s on my heart

How lovely are Your dwelling places,
O LORD of hosts! 
Psalm 84:1

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”

That means, the experience of beauty is subjective, personal
– “lovely” – the Hebrew word suggests a romantic attraction
• for example, it is used to tell us what Psalm 45 is about — “A Song of Love” (title)
◦ it appears repeatedly in Isaiah 5:1, where it is my well-beloved (lover)
• the Hebrew root for this word means to boil
◦ it speaks of a strong, enthusiastic and emotional attachment
– not to the sacred buildings, but to the LORD of hosts
hosts refers to the vast numbers that are under God’s command and for whom he is responsible
◦ it is used of his armies (human and angelic) celestial bodies (sun, moon and stars),
◦ every living person and thing on earth, and of his people, Israel
• God’s presence in the temple explains the emotion of this psalm
◦ it is what makes everything about Jerusalem wonderful to the poet

My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD;
My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. 
Psalm 84:2

The physiology of desire

The poet is describing what he felt in his body
– originally, the meaning of the Hebrew word for soul was “throat”
• how did it come to mean soul?
◦ we have learned how the Hebrew Scriptures uses “eyes” and “ears”
◦ they can refer to the literal organs or their function; i.e., sight and hearing

The book, Body Symbolism In the Bible explains, “when [someone] thought of an organ, [they] thought automatically of its abilities and activities at the same time.

• so “throat” was both a literal body part and what passed through it
◦ food and water passed through it
◦ air also moved through the throat, and that meant life, then the living person or “self”

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (“soul,” Gen. 2:7). The breath of God made the clay sculpture a living person.

– what did the poet’s soul do?
• it “longed” – the Hebrew refers to a strongly felt desire
◦ to go pale from wanting or to pine away
• “yearned” – suggests being consumed by desire

Moving from the soul, we come to:
– his heart: the center of a person’s internal life

read more…

Oct 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 7, 2018 – Luke 9:43-45

What the Cross Says

And they were all amazed at the greatness of God. But while everyone was marveling at all that He was doing, He said to His disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.”
But they did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they would not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement Luke 9:43-45

Intro: I wasn’t here last Sunday – spoke to a church in Bellflower

After I spoke, a woman told me how much she appreciated me being there
– I told her that I enjoyed being with them, because I loved them
• she said, “We know”
◦ that surprised me
• I had not mentioned my concern for them, that I could not sleep Saturday night,
◦ and that I got up at 3:00 am to rework the message I had prepared
– I guess people can tell when they are loved
• but I cannot and learning I’m loved usually comes as a surprise

It may not seem like it at first, but this story’s about Jesus’ love for you

In verse 9, King Herod asked a question that hangs over the chapter

By now, Jesus had drawn lots of public attention
– but no one knew how to classify him: he was not rabbi, scribe, priest, etc.
• Herod heard speculations that Jesus was:
◦ John the Baptist risen from the dead, or Elijah had appeared or another prophet had risen

Herod said, “I myself had John beheaded; but who is this man about whom I hear such things?” (vv. 8-9)

◦ that’s the question that floats through this chapter
• meanwhile, Jesus continued his itinerary
◦ along the way, he miraculously provided food for a crowd of thousands
(Luke, however, does not interpret its meaning or make anything of it)
– in the next scene, Luke revisits Herod’s question (the parallels with vv. 7-9 are obvious)
• only now it is Jesus who asks, Who do the people say that I am (v. 18)
◦ he gets same answers as we read before: John, Elijah, a prophet had risen again
• but then he asks for a more definite answer,

But you! You’ve been with me; you’ve seen all I’ve done and heard what I’ve taught, who do you say that I am?

◦ Peter answered, The Messiah of God

Jesus’ response to Peter was strange, it was not a denial, affirmation or correction
– instead, he warned them not to tell anyone else
• then he predicted what was going to happen to him
◦ perhaps his concern is that this would confuse them
◦ it would violate their theology regarding the Messiah (cf. Mt. 16:20-22)
• notice that Jesus refers to himself as the “Son of Man” (v. 22)
◦ this was his assumed identity – it was not a term that many people attached to the Messiah
◦ a possible reading of Daniel 7:13 introduces a Son of Man
(Jesus may use it to affirm he is the Messiah, but incognito)
– Jesus links “Son of Man” to suffering but also to glory (v. 26)
• in this same chapter, he uses Son of Man in his “mission statement” (v. 56)
◦ and one more time in verse 58, where the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head

What follows these predictions of his death, resurrection and glory is his transfiguration
– of all the events and miracles in Jesus’ life, this reveals his identity most clearly
• but it’s over so quickly, at least as Luke tells it,
• that we’re not given an opportunity to reflect on it
– if the plot of Luke’s Gospel is answering the question, “Who is this man?”
• then the  transfiguration would be ultimate answer – the climax of the story
• but Jesus’ predictions of his death point us in another direction
◦ his death and resurrection are the climax of the plot

It is not so much that Luke is simply telling us who Jesus is, but that as he reveals Jesus to us he is saying, This great Person is the One who died for you!

Now we’re ready to drop into the verses I read at beginning

Verse 43 consists of two parallel sentences that reveal the mood of the crowd
– both begin with Greek word de, translated “And” and “But”
• both contain word pas, translated “all” and “everyone”

And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.
But while everyone was marveling at all that He was doing . . . .

• the people were in a state of awe at God’s greatness
◦ and God’s greatness was revealed through all that Jesus was doing
– while the crowd was lost in wonder, Jesus spoke to his disciples

read more…

Oct 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 30, 2018 – 1 Chronicles 12:32

Fifty Years Later

This past weekend I was asked to address a conference regarding the Jesus Movement and the rapid spread of the Christian faith. One of seminars of the conference featured the documentary, “Lonnie Frisbee: The Life and Death of A Hippie Preacher.”
The theme of the conference was a prayer, that God would cause a similar spiritual tsunami today. My first inclination was to ask, “Do you really want to be part of something like that? Have you counted the cost?” But when I thought about the people I was addressing and how hard their lives were up to the present, I knew they would not be afraid of doing whatever it might cost them to build this tower and mobilize all their energies to take on this challenge (Lk. 14:27-33). If you are not interested in the subject matter, do not waste you time reading these notes. C. S. jr.

Intro: When my brother and I were kids, assembled model cars

Painting the plastic parts, gluing them together, and applying the decals
– when finished, we would display them on a shelf in our bedroom
• but as soon as we got our hands on a few firecrackers,
• those model cars were used for special effects explosions
– I am going to do something like that this morning
• I will describe some of what I witnessed of the Jesus Movement (c. 1967-1971)
◦ specific conditions related to the movement will be highlighted
◦ these highlights could be considered pieces of a “revival” model
• and then I’m going to blow up that model

You know that after David fought Goliath and before he became king,
– he was considered an outlaw, hiding at first in a cave in Adullam
• we are told,

Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain over them (exactly the kind of church the world needs today, 1 Sam. 22:2)

◦ later on others joined him, bringing with them certain skills
• those skills were mostly military
◦ the exception was what the troops from Issachar brought to the party:

Of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do . . . .1 Chronicles 12:32

– these are two complementary skills – and both are necessary to be of any use
understood times – it is unusual to grasp the significance of the present moment
◦ “times” are more clearly seen in retrospect
◦ but these sages discerned the drift of society in real time
• still, that insight would be worthless with out knowledge of what to do
◦ specific times have their own character, demanding an appropriate response

To everything there is a season,
and a time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted . . . . (Ecc. 3:1)

◦ so, what time is it now, and what should we be doing?

The prayer of this weekend is, “Lord, do it again”

Do what again? What are we asking for, exactly?
– we will give this some thought
– first we dip into the past

Have you ever heard someone blame all our social ills on the Beatles?
– the Beatles appeared in a time of radical social change
• but those changes were already underway prior to the arrival of the “fab four”
• they would not have had the impact they did if our culture had not been primed
– in 1980, Landon Jones published Great Expectations
• it is a detailed study of the Baby Boom, which he described as the “biggest generation in history”

Jones observed how our “collective purchasing power made fads overnight and built entire industries.” We may think of companies like Disney, Mattel, or Hasbro; trends like Hula Hoops and Duncan Yo-Yos; or movie and music industries.

• television helped to unify us and create a collective consciousness
◦ we watched JFK’s assassination and soon after we saw Lee Harvey Oswald get shot
◦ we moved through the mid-1940’s to the 80’s like a swarm of locusts, changing the landscape of the nation

I would describe the late 1960’s as an apocalyptic era
– this generation grew up under shadow of atomic bomb
• in 1962, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring 
◦ if her voice did not launch the eco-revolution, it certainly announced it

read more…

Sep 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 23, 2018 – Mark 10:13-27, 46-52

Open Eyes and An Open Heart

And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.
And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them Mark 10:13-16

Intro: I had a few extra hours with my grandson, Calum, this week

He could not go to school, because he was running a temperature
– I get nervous about fevers – two of our sons, when very small, had febrile seizures
• so it makes sense to me that parents wanted Jesus to touch their children
• what doesn’t make sense is that the disciples would block them
– Jesus’ message, from his first spoken words in chapter 1,
• has been the kingdom of God (Mk. 1:15)
• now he places children in the center of God’s kingdom
◦ it belongs to them,
◦ and the only way to enter the kingdom is to receive it as a child

How did these children receive the kingdom of God?
– Jesus took them in his arms, blessed them and placed his hands on them
• taking them in arms implies all that a child gets from being held
◦ assistance, protection, nurture, affection, and much more
• Jesus’ blessing and placing his hands on them were a form of ritual
◦ it is reminiscent of the blessings fathers imparted to their children in the Old Testament
– this is the warmest picture I can imagine of God’s kingdom
• being a child, held in the arms of Jesus

This story highlights the touch of Jesus
– the next story highlights the look of Jesus
• and how it opens the door to the kingdom
– one last story highlights the word of Jesus

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'”
And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.”
Looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
But at these words he was saddened, and he went away griveving, for he was one who owned much property. 
Mark 10:17-22

Mark jumps from a story about children to “a man”

What this man got right: he put his question to Jesus
– but he makes two statements that reveal he came with a wrong idea
• his first problem was revealed in he addressed Jesus, “Good Teacher”
• his second problem was revealed in his question, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Good Teacher” was simply a polite greeting
– his obvious intention was to show Jesus respect
• Jesus, however, made it an issue
◦ notice that Jesus did not wait for an answer, but went on talking
◦ Jesus didn’t expect an answer– he just wanted him to think about the question
• Jesus wasn’t denying that he was good
◦ he asked why he referred to Jesus as good
– his point was that goodness is a criterion only God can meet

read more…

Sep 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 16, 2018 – James 1:1-4

James Can’t Be Serious–Can He?

James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad, Greetings.
Consider it all joy, my [brothers and sisters], when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:1-4

Intro: I love the Bible and appreciate its diversity of styles
(especially its poems and stories)

James, however, is not one of my favorite books
– there were followers of Jesus who believed,
• to be a true Christian a person had to be Jewish (cf. Acts 15:1)
◦ this was the dominant opinion in Jerusalem
◦ those who held to it included some Christian leaders
• the apostles, Peter and Paul did not agree with them
◦ they believed Gentiles could know God in their own culture and context
◦ and apart from fulfilling all the requirements of the law

At an important council convened in Jerusalem to rule on this issue, Peter spoke up on behalf of Gentile conversion to Jesus without having to also place them under the law and Jewish traditions, asking his opponents, “Now, therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10)

– eventually, two forms of living Christian faith emerged:
• one, mostly Gentile, enjoyed the freedom of grace
• the other, mostly Jewish, enjoyed grace and practiced the discipline of the law
◦ Paul, in his letters tried to teach both groups how to live together in peace
◦ see especially Romans chapters 14 and 15

James belonged to the group that stressed law and Jewish traditions
– his letter was written in Greek, but with a Hebrew flair
• we can discern the influence of the Old Testament:
◦ in his emphasis on wisdom including strong parallels with the Book of Proverbs
◦ for James, the law is still the gold standard of religion (cf. Jas. 2:8-12)
◦ his stress on having a strong sense of identity in conflict with the rest of the world
• James was writing to Jewish Christians like himself
◦ his letters is addressed to the “twelve tribes” of the diaspora
◦ a technical term referring to Jewish exiles scattered around the world from the sixth century BC on
– in spite of Jame’s religious preference
(and there are still many Christians hold it today)
• there is much here for us freedom-loving Gentiles to learn

A few technical observations

I’m never sure how much grammatical information you need
– I tend to explain what’s important to me
– so here are translations of the words in these verses that are important to me:

encounter: “to fall among” – like falling into a muddy ditch
various: “lots of colors” – we fall into “all kinds of colorful troubles”
trials: trouble, pain, hardship (we’ll come back to this)
testing: proof – something that has passed the test
◦ that is, the real thing, genuine gold
(translated approved in verse 12 and “proven character” in Romans 5:4)
Notice how Peter uses this same language in his letter, . . . now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Pe. 1:6-7)
◦ genuine faith survives every ordeal
endurance: commitment to stay with an activity (a task or race)
perfect: something that has reached its goal, done its job
complete: nothing is missing, everything is integrated
◦ think of wholeness (cf. 1 Thes. 5:23)

What does James mean by “lacking in nothing?”

read more…

Sep 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 9, 2018 – Hebrews 12:18-24

A Very Solid Hope

For you have not come to [a mountain] that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.” And so terrible was the sight, that Moses, said, “I am full of fear and trembling.”
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. Hebrews 12:18-24

Intro: Hebrews is a complex book

It requires a good knowledge of the Old Testament, or else it’s easy to get lost
– but Hebrews is well worth the effort to work our way through it
• for me, it is like reading a fifth gospel
• only it brings out the meaning of Jesus and his ministry
– from the first three verses of the introduction, we know its message
• Jesus is God’s final word to humankind
◦ in Jesus we learn everything we need to know about God
◦ we get to see God in Jesus – as Paul said in Colossians:

He is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15)

• we read how Jesus is superior to the angels
◦ in fact, he is superior to everyone and everything that had come before him
◦ Moses, Joshua, the priests from the tribe of Levi
• “better” is found twenty-four times in the New Testament
◦ more than half the times it’s used is in the Book of Hebrews

  • Jesus is better than Moses
  • he gives us a better hope
  • he provides a better covenant, formed with better promises
  • Jesus offers better sacrifices
  • gives us a better possession
  • in him we have a better resurrection
  • and his blood speaks of better things’ than Abel’s blood (cf. Gen. 4:10 &  Heb. 11:4)

– from the beginning of Hebrews to the end, the message is about Jesus

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen (13:20-21)

It might look like writer of Hebrews is comparing Judaism to Christianity
– he is not; he is showing us how Jesus is the goal and perfection of Judaism
• Judaism was the necessary foundation and preparation for what God did through Jesus
– in Judaism there’s a spiritual potential that is fully actualized in Jesus

18-21 God has led us somewhere, just as he led Israel

But we have come to a very different destination
– the writer doesn’t specify where Israel had been led, but only what happened there
• but because of the time we spent in Exodus, we recognize this to be Mt. Sinai
◦ the supernatural phenomena and mention of Moses is what gives it away
• but what we’re told is that

We have not come to something that can be touched

– in Galatians, Paul contrasted Mt. Sinai and Jerusalem (see Gal. 4:21-31)
• these were two physical, geographical locations
◦ but Paul used them to create an allegory
◦ Sinai represents the slavery of the law and Jerusalem the freedom of grace
• but our writer here does not have two physical locations in mind
◦ the contrast is between a physical place and a spiritual reality
the heavenly Jerusalem 
(we see a similar treatment of the temple in chapters 8-10, where a replica or “copy” was built on earth while the real dwelling of God is in heaven; e.g., Heb. 8:5; 9:9, 23-24; & 10:1)

Our experience is not supernatural explosions into the natural world
– it is not the water of Red Sea folding back or fire falling from heaven
• nor is it commandments engraved on a stone slab
– God takes us somewhere else – he gives us something else

read more…

Sep 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 2, 2018 – Luke 15:1-7, 11-32

Are We On the Same Page?

Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So He told them this parable, saying,
“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’
“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:1-7

Intro: At first it looks like this chapter is going to be about Jesus

His compassion and his close connection with sinners
– a connection that was very offensive to the religious people in the crowd
• but Jesus tells three stories that introduces a different theme
• the chapter isn’t about the scandal of Jesus’ ministry
◦ it’s about people who are unable to rejoice with Jesus in his work

A few key words in these opening verses:

  1. “Sinners” – they are at the heart of the controversy
    • Jesus offers the religious group a new perspective
    • namely, something of value had been lost, but then found
  2. “This” – “this man”; this expression serves to depersonalize Jesus
    • a way of disowning someone
    • Peter, I do not know this man you are talking about (Mk. 14:71)
    • we will return to this point later
    3. “Rejoice”
    • for some, rejoicing is spontaneous (v. 5)
    • others have to be encouraged or told to rejoice (vv. 6 & 9)
    • heaven’s joy over the recovery of a sinner is spontaneous
    ◦ and even more so
    than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance

Now we’ll jump to the longest parable Jesus ever told

A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me. So he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living Luke 15:11-32

This parable divides into two parts
– the first part shares the same plot as the two previous parables
• something goes missing, is found, and rejoicing follows
◦ only in this story, the lost object is humanized — it is not a sheep or a coin, but a son
• everyone in Jesus’ audience would recognize and agree:
◦ the younger son was a sinner — like those hanging around Jesus
• this is a fact that he came to see for himself and confess (v. 18)
– his turning point occurs in verse 17,

But when he came to his senses . . .

• or “came to himself” – he took a good, hard look at himself
• he realized he would be better off at home, under his father’s roof

Having made up his mind, he began to formulate a prayer
– a confession of what he had done and what he had become

Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men (vv. 18-19)

• “worthy” is not what defines a child’s relationship to its parent
• being a accepted as a child is not something a person should ever have to earn
– his request would be that his father would make him one of his hired hands
(he never reached this part of his prayer, because his father interrupted him and ordered his servants to put nice clothes on his son and throw a party to welcome him home, vv. 22-24)
• “make” translates the Greek word poieo
◦ we get our English word “poem” from this root
◦ a poem is something that is made or composed

This word is used when Jesus said to his disciples, Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men (Mk. 1:17)
Paul used a form of this word when he wrote, For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Ep. 2:10)

• this wayward son had come to a new understanding
◦ his father could make him something he could not make of himself

The second part of the parable introduces a new character

Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. And he said to him, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back save and sound.” But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him (Lk. 15:25-26)

This character is implied by the stock characters in the first two parables
(the anonymous “friends and neighbors” invited to rejoice)
– here the character is individualized and made explicit — an older brother

read more…

Aug 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 26, 2018 – Micah 4:1-5


Intro: I’m going to tell you a story few people have heard

Early in the 1970’s, Dad was looking for a conference center, which made sense because of the number of retreats Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa hosted every year. Dad heard about a facility in Twin Peaks that was for sale, so he and Mom went there to meet with a realtor and look it over. They also took Dan, who had been a good friend of theirs for several years. Like my folks, Dan had grown up in a religious home and though he loved God, his attitude toward the church culture was somewhat cynical. Sometimes he would poke fun at the silly behavior of believers.
When they arrived at the mountain facility, it was more beautiful than they imagined. Dan decided to have a little fun with my folks, so he said, “Let’s find out if this it is God’s will for the church to buy this place!” Borrowing my dad’s Bible, he closed his eyes, opened the Bible at random, and planted his finger on one of the pages. He then began reading,

And it will come about in the last days
That the mountain of the house of the LORD

Will be established as the chief of the mountains.
It will be raised above the hills,
And the peoples will stream to it.
Many nations will come and say,
“Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD
And to the house of the God of Jacob,
That He may teach us about His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For from Zion will go forth the law,
Even the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
And He will judge between many peoples
And render decisions for mighty, distant nations.
Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they train for war.
Each of them will sit under his vine
And under his fig tree,
With no one to make them afraid,
For the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.
Though all the peoples walk
Each in the name of his god,
As for us, we will walk
In the name of the LORD our God forever and ever. Micah 4:1-5

– for a long time after that, Dan didn’t say anything
• if you visit the Twin Peaks Conference Center,
◦ look for the sidewalk where someone etched into the concrete “Micah 4:1-5”

In Micah’s lifetime, Jerusalem had been unstable

God’s messages began coming to Micah during reign of King Jotham
– he was good (faithful to God), but unremarkable
• after him, his son Ahaz took the throne and we’re told:

. . . he did not do right in the sight of the LORD …. he burned incense in the valley of Ben-hinnom and burned his sons in fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had driven out before the sons of Israel (2 Chr. 28:1-3)

• Ahaz was followed by Hezekiah, who did right in sight of LORD
◦ in fact, Hezekiah was a spectacular king
◦ led a spiritual revival in Jerusalem, the nation and into the northern kingdom
– but underneath the social reforms, a secret illness persisted
• and it terminal

Now hear this, heads of the house of Jacob
And rulers of the house of Israel
Who abhor justice

And twist everything that is straight,
Who build Zion with bloodshed
And Jerusalem with violent injustice.
Her leaders pronounce judgment for a bribe,
Her priests instruct for a price
And her prophets divine for money.

Yet they lean on the LORD saying,
“Is not the LORD in our midst?
Calamity will not come upon us.”
Therefore, on account of you
Zion will be plowed as a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins,
And the mountain of the temple will become high places of a forest. (Mi. 3:9-12)

– in light of Micah’s doom and gloom message,
• his audience had a few questions:
◦ “Is there any hope for us?” “Do we have a future?”
◦ “Will we ever be what God wants us to be?” And,
◦ “If so, what will that look like?”
• God’s answers are in the first passage I read
◦ Zion will become the center of a world looking for God

What is Reflexion?

How did we get started and where are we going?
– the first question is easy to answer
• in 2004 I visited a friend who had sequestered himself in a monastery
◦ while there, I met a monk whose spiritual depth and insight left a deep impression on me
◦ I continued to visit him for the next two years
• he introduced me to contemplative spirituality
◦ simply put: contemplative spirituality is real-life Christianity
– the challenge is, we have to live in reality – that’s all there is
• but many people feel they cannot live in reality
◦ so we have created unrealistic forms of religion
◦ some that are unrealistically miraculous, others are all in the head, and others that treat Jesus like an imaginary friend
• contemplative spirituality is the real experience of God
◦ a real hope that doesn’t require the world to be good or people to be nice, or miracles every day

read more…

Aug 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 19, 2018 – John 14:18-23

Tired of Sleep-Walking Through Life?

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”
 (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” John 14:18-23

Intro: Jesus had announced to his disciples that he was going away

He would soon leave them and the world of humans
– and return to his Father – the dimension of God’s reality (cf. Jn. 8:21-23)
• the disciples have completed their journey with him
• but he is not abandoning them – they won’t be orphans
◦ their discipleship will continue
◦ from now on, it would be directed by the Spirit
– so Jesus is preparing them for his departure
• however, he could only tell them what they were able to comprehend
◦ that means, he could not provide many specific details
• as a result, they were confused and had lots of questions
◦ their conversation that impossible night goes on for three more chapters
◦ and includes the longest recorded prayer of Jesus

For the disciples, this was a moment of spiritual transition
– Jesus was going away, but would still be with them
• only now, his presence with them would be internalized (v. 20)
◦ I doubt that made much sense to them
• “How could You be invisible to world, but visible to us?”
◦ Jesus’ explanation is in verse 23

If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him

– Jesus’ word would provide an ongoing connection with him
• and his word was not only his, but God’s

. . . and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent me (v. 24)

• God’s word is his revelation to humankind
◦ it fills the Bible and was made personal and human in Jesus Christ

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:1-3)

I’m going to make a few observation about the Scriptures

I doubt that what I say will be new to you,
– so consider this as a reminder

The Scriptures:

  • reveal who God is and the sort of people he wants us to be
    Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD (Jer. 9:23-24)
  • can penetrate the deepest parts of our hearts and minds (He. 4:12-13)
  • are not affected or blocked by worldly forces
    I suffer hardship [for the message of Jesus] even to being chained; but the word of God is not chained (2 Tim. 2:9)
  • provides us a vocabulary for our lives in God
    – as a result, we’re able to think about it, examine and discuss it

read more…