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Nov 6 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 6, 2022



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome RefleXion friends!                   May the Lord be with you!

The gifts of the season.   Have you already begun to see ads that offer the “gifts of the season”?   A recent email informed me that I needed a new phone to “spark joy”.  Another told me that a pillowcase is becoming the must-have holiday gift of 2022.  I looked back at what the must-have gifts were a few years ago.  Do you remember the chocolate fountain (did anybody ever use theirs more than once?), the razor scooter (every kid had to have one), the virtual pocket pets, or the cabbage patch dolls (parents stood in line for hours to get them).  Advertisers love to remind us that we’re in a new season and that we should consider getting the must-have gifts.  Well, I think most of us realize that we’re all in a new season, and it’s not just called Autumn.

This has got me to pondering about my season: What season am I in?  What would I name it?  What are its gifts?  These contemplations have helped me be with what is, not necessarily what I might prefer and to look a little closer.  What is most important to me?  What is God offering me now that He couldn’t do at any other time in my life?  If I believe (which I do) that the Holy Spirit’s mission is to develop Christlikeness in me, then I can look in this direction.

If you think this exercise might benefit you, then take some time to describe and name your current life season.  Use the prompts we use in Lectio Divina–a sacred Reading of your life.  Is there a word or phrase or image that comes to you?  Spend some time in quiet Reflection, letting God speak to you about this season and the gifts He intends for you.  Respond by acknowledging what you heard and how it makes you feel.  Maybe you will put words or an image to paper.  Rest in knowing that God is with you and for you.  Always.

All this, of course, sent me to a familiar passage in Ecclesiastes, and we’ll make this our prayer:

Lord, like Solomon, we realize this truth, that “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.  A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.  A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up.  A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.  A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away.  A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away.  A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak.  A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.”  Let us be mindful of this time, this season; we ask that you fill it with Your Presence and Your intentions, and fill our hearts with the Beauty of it all.  In this, may we learn to love, for Your sake, for our own sake, and for the sake of others.  Amen 

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man Luke 21:34-36

Intro: I feel like we’ve taken an intensive course – on prayer

Luke provides lessons Jesus taught on prayer that are not not found in the other gospels
– he has also reported times Jesus prayed than no one else recorded
• so it has taken us a long time to get this far
• Luke is a rich source information and it is helpful to learn what he has to tell us
– the prayers we’ll look at today are pretty basic
• there’s no new form of prayer and nothing exotic
• nevertheless, the situation of each prayer is exceptional
◦ and some of the material is extraordinary

Jesus’ sermon in this chapter is well known: it is his “Olivet Discourse”

The same message can be found in Matthew 24 and Mark13
– it is very popular among students of biblical prophecy
• in it, Jesus tells his disciples how to survive end of the world
watch yourselvesstay awake at all timespraying
• stay awake translates one word that means “not asleep” – is used literally and figuratively
you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed (Ro. 13:11)
• Jesus is saying is telling his disciples, “Stay alert, be aware” — and he adds, “at all times”

I am not by nature a person who is especially aware
– a friend, when we meet up, often asks me something like,
“On the way here, did you notice the jacaranda trees in bloom? Isn’t God’s creation beautiful?!”
I usually respond, “No, I only noticed all the bad drivers and red lights”
• I’m not always even aware of my motivation
◦ an opportunity to act occurs, and I jump on it
◦ it is as if I was unconsciously waiting for it, so when it comes, I react before I think
• perhaps I might share dirt about someone else – but why would I do that?
◦ maybe I assumed I was doing something useful
◦ maybe I don’t know the reason
◦ perhaps it comes from a dislike, or grudge, or jealousy hidden in the recesses of my brain
– why say something I will regret later?
• because when I said it, I was talking in my sleep
◦ if I had been awake, and aware of what swims in my brain,
◦ I would have kept my mouth shut
• when I sit in silent prayer and listen for God,
◦ a negative thought, or feeling, or attitude may come into my mind
◦ and if I listen, God will show me its hidden roots
– awareness is something that enlarges and deepens with practice
Thich Nhat Hahn, “Meditation is not passive sitting in silence. It is sitting in awareness, free from distraction, and realizing the clear understanding that arises from concentration.”

Jesus told his disciples to be aware and to pray they would,
“have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place”
– we can escape a lot of bad stuff if we practice awareness
– awareness prayer is holding focused attention on God, here and now

Next is a lesson in “giving thanks”
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise with the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” Luke 22:19-20

I want to include the dark words that followed Jesus’ prayer of thanks
“But behold, the hand of him who betrays me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed” Luke 21-22
– did Jesus have a good reason for giving thanks?
• it was his broken body, his poured out blood that he blessed
◦ one friend at the table would betray him and the others were going to abandon him
◦ he was only hours away from his arrest, beatings, and crucifixion
• was Jesus giving thanks for everything that was going against him?
◦ and does that me we’re supposed to give thanks for illness and injuries? if we’re mugged or abused?
◦ I cannot imagine telling a parent who’s lost a child to give thanks for that loss
– Paul tags a list of Christian duties onto the end of his letter to Thessalonians:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Th. 5:16)
and to the Ephesians: giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ep. 5:20)
• perhaps giving thanks for hardship and tragedy is a way of seeing God in all things
◦ or connecting all things to him
Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts wrote, “The act of sacrificing thank offerings to God—even for the bread and cup of cost, for cancer and crucifixion—this prepares the way for God to show us His fullest salvation from bitter, angry, resentful lives and from all sin that estranges us from Him.” “Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! to His grace.” “To learn how to be grateful and happy, whether hands full or hands empty. That is a secret worth spending a life on learning.”
• this is a high-flying spirituality – an exercise for saints
◦ but can I do this? Does God expect it or even want it?

When I woke up yesterday morning, my room was spinning
– I tried to get up–twice–but the vertigo was too intense
• it occurred to me, I could give thanks for my misery
◦ I’m a preacher, so I suppose I could always pray,
“Lord God, I thank you for this sermon illustration!”
◦ but I didn’t – I wasn’t feeling grateful
◦ to give thanks for my nausea would have been a lie
• No, I do not believe God wants us to give thanks for:
◦ anything that was not his doing
◦ anything that displeases him or grieves him
– the apostle James, ever practical and wise, points us in right direction
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him . . . (Jas. 5:13-14)
• if we follow Jesus that night, he did not give thanks for his coming crucifixion
• in the upper room, he gave thanks for the cup — with it he sealed the new covenant with us
◦ but a short while later in the garden he prayed,
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me . . . . And being in agony he prayed more earnestly” (Lk. 22:42-44)
• it’s okay for us to follow his example
Abbot John Chapman wrote, “It is not an imperfection to find it painful to submit to God’s will. Our Lord showed us that, by His Agony in the garden.”

So the lesson is not that we must give thanks for pain and sorrow
– what else can we learn about giving thanks?
• I am going to let Henri Nouwen tell us what he learned
◦ this from his published journal while living in South America, Gracias!
• it’s a lesson we desperately need to learn here in the States
Nouwen, “The word that I kept hearing was: Gracias! . . . I saw thousands of poor and hungry children, met many young men and women without money, a job, or a decent place to live. I spent long hours with sick, elderly people, and I witnessed more misery and pain than ever before in my life. But in the midst of it all, that word lifted me again and again to a new realm of seeing and hearing: ‘Gracias!’ Thanks!’
“Whatever is given—money, food, work, a handshake, a smile, a good word, or an embrace—is a reason to rejoice and say gracias! What I claim as a right, my friends in Bolivia and Peru received as a gift . . . . ¶ I learned that everything that is, is freely given by the God of love. All is grace.”
– I know it’s a long quote – I would to read to you the whole book (so be thankful for long quotes)
Nouwen, “Not only are the poor grateful for life, but they also celebrate life constantly. A visit, a reunion, a simple meeting are always like little celebrations. . . . for them all of life is a long fiesta with God.
• that line reminded me of a song I learned in Costa Rica
Hay una fiesta, fiesta, fiesta|
Continuamente en mi,
Continuamente en mi.
Hay una fiesta, fiesta, fiesta
Desde que a Cristo yo conocí

(There’s a festival, festival, festival, continually in me, since I knew Christ)
Nouwen, “I am . . . convinced that gratitude is one of the most sublime human emotions. It is an emotion that reaches out far beyond our own self to God, to all of creation, to the people who gave us life, love, and care.”

And then, the most beautiful lesson on intercession, ever
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers Luke 22:31-32

Jesus is talking to Peter as a close friend
– he lets him know that Satan has demanded access to all twelve disciples
• but Jesus got out ahead of Satan – he has prayed for Peter
• I think this reassurance carried Peter the rest of his life
– some of Bible’s heroes were great intercessors–e.g., Moses and Samuel
• but anyone can perform this service for others
Epaphras, who is one of you . . . greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God (Col. 4:12)
• prayers of intercession make a difference in the lives of others
◦ not only because God hears them and responds,
◦ but also because they’re a way of letting others know we’re there for them

Conclusion: I believe, making these three prayers a daily practice,

Will solidify and enhance our spiritual development
– sit in silence with God – give thanks – pray for others
• I’m encouraged by Jesus’ confidence in prayer
◦ and he encourages his disciples to pray with confidence

This is our daily turning toward God
Transcending our world of confusion and hostility

Do you have enough imagination to look at Jesus face to face,
and hear him say, “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail”?

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