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Oct 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 2, 2022



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning!       Welcome to RefleXion!    Peace be with you.

I was reading the book of Habakkuk this week. Habakkuk was a prophet who lived and prophesied and prayed around 600 BC.  He watched in horror as the people of Judah become more and more unrighteous, and he was even more horrified when God used Babylon, an even more unrighteous nation, to judge them.  He cannot deduce how any of this will communicate God’s character to a watching world. Habakkuk carries on a dialog with God in the three chapters of the book.  He models honest, righteous prayer that asks the hard questions.  He prays: “How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen! ‘Violence is everywhere!’ I cry, but you do not come to save.  Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.”  Oh, can we relate to Habakkuk’s words and world, and this was about 2600 years ago, mind you. Do we remember to pray to God, or do we just love to fight and argue? 

So, Habakkuk prays, and the LORD responds.  He said that Habakkuk should go ahead and look around at the nations–but to look and be amazed! “For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” Habakkuk says, “OK, I’ll take my stand at my watchpost, and I’ll continue to pray. 

There’s a lot more that God says about why he’s angry in Ch. 2; you can read it for yourself; you will weep.  After hearing God’s voice, Habakkuk prays again, “I have heard all about you, LORD. I am filled with awe by your amazing works.  In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by. And in your anger, remember your mercy.”  And he ends the book with this familiar passage: “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!  The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.”

God says, “Today, if you want to hear my voice, do not harden your heart.”  I can choose to harden my heart, but instead, I’ll pour out my heart, and continue to pray and to wait in hope. 

Join me, will you:  Lord, our joy is found in you. You are our salvation and strength. Whatever our circumstances, whatever fears or anxieties we have, whatever darkness lurks on the horizon, whatever is happening in the world around us, we pray that you would fill us with incredible hope in your goodness, grace and sovereignty over all things.  We have heard all about you, LORD.  We are filled with awe by your amazing works. In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by.  And in your anger, remember your mercy. Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened Luke 11:9-10

Intro: Jesus has just used a parable to encourage his disciples to pray

He is about to illustrate a condition of prayer with another parable
– but between the two parables, he does something unusual
• Jesus tells them how to respond to these parables
And I tell you could be translated So I tell you or Likewise, I tell you
◦ Jesus connects the statement in verses 9-10 to the parable that came before
• most of the time, he lets the parables speak for themselves
◦ he would teased their minds with a mystery and then send them home
◦ in this instance, however, he solves the riddle for them
– there are two lessons to learn from this passage (vv. 5-13); one is about God (his reliable goodness)
• the other lesson is about doing things with prayer
• there are ways we can use prayer to move closer to God

Think about the words ask, seek, knock; what do they suggest?

To me, they suggest a quest – as if we’re trying to get somewhere
– there’s a destination we have not yet reached,
• and we’re not able to get there on our own
• we don’t have God figured out – we don’t have our own lives sorted out
◦ we haven’t been given a map (if we did, we would depend on that and not go to God every day)
◦ but we do have the sacred writings and God’s Spirit to guide us
• Jesus instructs us to ask, to search, and to knock (on God’s door)
– I recently finished reading the major prophets–I’m now reading the minor prophets
• if there is one clear prophetic message, it’s that God wants his people to come to him
◦ to turn to him – or return to him
• Jesus does not say it is “okay” for us to ask for help
◦ he tells us it is required

We do not need to spend much time over each key word

ASK: the Greek word is not used for asking a question
– it’s used to ask someone for something or to do something
• we see it at work in the next parable
What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will . . . give him a serpent?
• we already know it is alright to ask for our daily bread
◦ in fact, Jesus assures us we don’t have do a lot of begging
when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Mt. 6:8)
do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all (Mt. 6:32)
– we are to ask God to give us what we need for the journey
• I would stress the intangibles – the things that are most our of our reach
◦ the spirit of wisdom and revelation to know God, to open the eyes of our hearts, to love our enemy

SEEK: 1. to search for someone or something
2. to search for answers or insight
3. to attempt to accomplish a task
4. to require something (like proof)
– I cannot say what Jesus had in mind, I will only ask you:
• what do you need for the next leg of the journey?
◦ go looking for that — that is what you need to seek
• in the Old Testament, Israel’s priority was to seek God
For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel:
Seek me and live (Amos 5:4)
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD . . . (Jer. 29:13-14)
– what Jesus does tell us in Matthew 6:33 is this:
seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness
• I do not know of any more rewarding search
◦ even though at times it can be the most frustrating

KNOCK: in the previous parable we read, “the door is now shut”
– going through life moves us through a series of transitions
• birth, the first day of school, our graduation/s, our first job, and so on
◦ each one is a threshold – once we cross it, life is never the same
• the same is true of our spiritual journey
◦ sometimes we can feel like the next door is shut and locked
◦ there is much we can learn, waiting at God’s door
– Jesus is telling us,
“You are never stuck.
As long as you can breathe you can pray.
As long as you can pray, a door will open.”

What I’m going to share now is personal

In other words, here is what moves me in this passage:
– Jesus gives us two parts of a process
• one part is active and the other part is receptive
◦ ask/receive – seek/find – knock/a door is opened
• prayer is a dialogue with God — and that means both parts are necessary
– in my experience, what Christians find most difficult is the second part
• I’ve been in churches where prayer is aggressive and desperate
◦ are they rewarded for their begging, pleading, shouting?
William James observed religious people who were hypervigilant and always uptight, and concluded that “the persons I speak of find that all this conscious effort leads to nothing but failure and vexation in their hands, and only makes them twofold more the children of hell they were before. The tense and voluntary attitude becomes in them an impossible fever and torment. Their machinery refuses to run at all when the bearings are made so hot and the belts so tight.”
◦ he says the solution is “surrender”
“Passivity, not activity; relaxation, not intentness should be now the rule.”
• we do not move God’s hand by ramping up our energy
◦ our prayers can be fervent and must be sincere,
◦ but there will always be a sense of surrender in true prayer
Thy will be done

If I’ve had a busy, exhausting day and fought traffic on my way home
– then sit down with my Bible and try to get something from it,
• I probably won’t
– If I get up in the morning, refreshed, open my Bible and read.
• but feel pressured to find a meaningful idea or insight,
◦ I probably won’t
• why not?

To hear the Scriptures speak, requires a certain state of mind
. . . receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls (Jas. 1:21)
– two important words to remember: receive and meekness
• in the active state, the mind is hunting, grabbing, and trying to take control
◦ the active state creates the tension we feel before taking a big test
◦ it is also the state that is prone to worry, anxiety, and stress
• in the receptive state, the mind is allowing a gift to arrive
◦ the hand is open, not grasping for something
◦ the language Jon Kabat-Zinn uses is the Doing Mode and the Being Mode
Arthur Deikman, illustrates importance of switching from the active mode to the receptive mode when visiting a museum: “People usually enter museums in the [active] mode of consciousness and stroll quickly past the paintings and statues, giving only five to ten seconds of attention to each. . . . The experience is disappointing because one can only receive what art has to give when one is in the receptive mode. . . . If the museum goer were to settle down in front of one particular painting, relinquish active thinking, and simply allow the painting to express itself to him or her, the experience would become quite different. . . . The ‘presence’ of the painting would go out to the viewer, rather than the viewer attacking the painting with his or her stare.”
– this is the most difficult part of prayer,
• and the one that needs the most attention
• we know well enough how to ask, to seek, and to knock
◦ what we do not know (and our busy brains do not allow us to know) is how to receive, to wait, to rest

I hear Jesus telling me,
“What you’re asking has already been given”
“What you’re seeking is already here”
“The door you’re knocking on is already opening”
– in one place Jesus says, Seek first the kingdom of God
• and in another place he says, behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you
• we actively seek and confidently receive what is already hear
Jesus tells me, “You’re supposed to knock, not kick down the door”

Conclusion: The next time we pray, what will it be?

Will we be asking God for directions in the next stage of our spiritual journey?
Will we seek his kingdom first? Seek to discern his presence here, now?
Will we knock on the next door before us? Will we cross that threshold?

There is something I feel could help us be more receptive: Expectation
– expectation generates excitement – and it focuses our attention

When I’ve ordered something for my granddaughters, from the day it is supposed to arrive, they go to mailbox every day to see if it’s there
If that is how we anticipate receiving what we asked, finding what we sought, and see the door we knocked on open, we will be more alert, attentive, and aware of what God is already doing all around us
More aware of his presence here, now
With expectation, we will know when we have received, or found, or the door that has opened

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