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Jul 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 28, 2015 – Revelation 3:1-3

The Soul Awake and Alert

To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars says this: “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.” Revelation 3:1-3

Intro: The book of Revelation begins with a vision of Jesus Christ

The imagery of the first chapter depicts Jesus as being present in his churches
– before the action begins, Jesus dictates seven letters to seven churches
• these were not the most important or prominent churches
◦ there is no mention of the churches in Jerusalem, Antioch, or Rome
• the seven churches are representative of all churches at all times
◦ Jesus addresses what each church has right and what they’re doing that is wrong
– people in the church of Sardis had been busy
• they had done things that earned them a “name” — a reputation
◦ they were known for being a lively church
◦ but they weren’t alive, they were dead
• what is the Lord’s counsel to Sardis? “Wake up”
◦ this is the skill we’ll explore today that will assist us in our spiritual journey
◦ learning to wake ourselves up – or to allow God to wake us up

From Adam and Eve on, the Bible’s ongoing story is about waking up

Adam and Eve woke up after eating the fruit and facing the consequences
– Jacob had a vivid awakening – so did Moses
• Elisha lived in an awakened state and asked God to awaken his servant (2 Ki. 6:15-17)
◦ this continued on through to prophets who tried to get Israel to wake up

Rouse yourself! Rouse yourself! Arise, O Jerusalem . . .
(Is. 51:17)
Awake, awake,
Clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion;
Clothe yourself in your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city . . . .
Shake yourself from the dust, rise up,
O captive Jerusalem;
Loose yourself from the chains around your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion. (Is. 52:1-2)

– Jesus’ first message was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
metanoiameta = change nous thinking, mind, perception
◦ the time had come, kingdom had arrived, but it was invisible to the eye
◦ people had to wake up to it — they had to change the way they perceived in order to see it
• the disciples alternated between falling sleep and waking up
◦ on the mountain when Jesus was “transfigured”

Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him (Lk. 9:32)

◦ their most dramatic awakening, was in Gethsemane

He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Mt. 26:40-42)

This brings us to our first challenge–and it’s a big one:
– we don’t want to wake up – we think we do, in theory, but “the flesh is weak”
• the spirit is willing, but in actual practice we prefer to roll over and stay in bed
◦ do remember a time when you tried to wake yourself from a deep sleep?
◦ it is like being held underwater – you have to fight to reach the surface
• sometimes I feel I’m being dragged back into sleep
– waking up means we must come to terms with reality
• therefore, waking up could change everything
◦ my values, commitments, friendships, mind set, all of it
• so I would rather dull my mind with entertainment or alcohol
◦ or live in the dream world of my illusions

read more…

Jun 24 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 21, 2015 – Matthew 6:5-8, 19-25, 31-33

Pulling Ourselves Together

When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetitions as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Matthew 6:5-8

Intro: The spiritual skill we will consider today is Recollection

Some writers see Recollection as preparation for prayer and others as a form of prayer
– but this is not a serious or heated debate
• the moment you prepare to pray, you are already praying
– to get an overview of Recollection, I want to hop through Matthew chapter 6

This is the middle section of Jesus’ “Sermon On the Mount”

What Jesus is doing in this sermon, is leading his disciples into a genuine life in God
– to get there, he has to guide them between two failed alternatives
• they were “not to be like the hypocrites”  or “the Gentiles” (vv. 5 & 7)
• the prayers he describes are inconsistent with a real encounter with God
◦ he is our Father “ who is in secret,” so that’s where we meet him – not on a public stage
◦ he is our Father and he already knows our needs, so it isn’t necessary to pile up words
• the genuine prayer is a real conversation with God
– at this point, Jesus taught them the “Lord’s Prayer,” which begins with “Our Father”
• we do not converse with our Father as stage actors or beggars
◦ but as children with a loving parent

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
 Matthew 6:19-25

Jesus is concerned with divided loyalty
– notice how verse 19 works on us: the potential loss of earthly possessions can stir up anxiety
• yet anxiety is exactly what he wants us to live without
• the solution is to transfer our treasures to heaven
◦ having our treasures in heaven draws our hearts to heaven
◦ this gives us an entirely new perspective — one that is free of worry over worldly “things”
– once our hearts are oriented to heaven, our bodies need to be adjusted to the new reality
• the eye (or sight) is what admits light into body
◦ “clear” translates a word that means “single” – that is, focused on one thing
◦ St. James described the opposite condition:

A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (Jas. 1:8)
– and this is why the psalmist prayed:
Unite my heart to fear Your name. (Ps. 86:11)

• it is like having two masters – you can’t serve both
– “For this reason” connects verse 25 with verse 24
• in other words, anxiety is service to wealth (or Mammon–i.e., materialism, as if it were a god)

read more…

Jun 17 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 14, 2015 – 1 Samuel 3:1-9

Listening At God’s Door

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli. And word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent. It happened at that time as Eli was lying down in his place (now his eyesight had begun to grow dim and he could not see well), and the lamp of God had not het gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was, that the LORD called Samuel; and he said, “Here I am.”
Then he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The LORD called yet again, “Samuel!” So Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he answered, “I did not call, lie down again.” So he went and lay down.
Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, nor had the word of the LORD yet been revealed to him. So the LORD called Samuel again for the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli discerned that the LORD was calling the boy. And Eli said to Samuel, “Go lie down, and it shall be if He calls you, taht you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for Your servant is listening.'” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
1 Samuel 3:1-9

Intro: As a child, every time I heard this story I thought, “This is how I want God to speak to me”
– audible, clear and direct (today I’d be happy to receive an email or text from him)
• although God has never has spoken to me this clearly, my role remains the same as Samuel’s
• to sit with God, silence my heart and say, “Speak, LORD, for Your servant is listening”

God has never stopped communicating with humankind in general or his people in particular
– we just have to work harder at hearing his voice than Samuel did
– “spiritual listening” is like other forms of listening
• a skill that we can develop with practice
• like music lovers who can:
◦ identify each instrument in an orchestra
◦ or tune in to the bass line in rock music

For the last few weeks I’ve talked about forms of meditation that require mental focus
– this morning we are going a new direction and I’ll be talking about prayer
• so why begin with listening as an introductory stage to prayer?
◦ first, because we already know how to ask for stuff

Joan Chittister, “It would be impossible to have spirituality without prayer, of course, but it is certainly possible to have prayer without having spirituality at all.”

◦ what she describes is religious practice that amounts to no more than an empty shell
• Samuel’s story illustrates the importance of listening
– although Samuel heard God’s voice he did not know it was God who spoke
• the reason for this is given in  verse 7, “the word of Yahweh” had not “yet been revealed to him”
◦ he began his apprenticeship in prayer (and prophecy) by listening to God and getting to know him
◦ it was through his word that God “appeared to Israel” and “revealed Himself to Samuel” (v. 21)
◦ this is still how we come to know God and put our faith in him

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? . . . So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Ro. 10:14, 17)

• anyone can learn to “say prayers”
◦ but the real conversation doesn’t begin until we know God
◦ Paul certain “said prayers” (many, no doubt) prior to his conversion, but not until he had met Jesus could the Lord tell Ananias:

Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying (Acts 9:11)

◦ Paul’s first real prayer did not consist of requests or petitions, but two questions:
“Who are You, Lord” and
“What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10)

read more…

Jun 9 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 7, 2015 – Luke 7:36-50

Meditation On Human Behavior

Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.” Luke 7:36-49

Intro: Helmut Thielicke, when preaching a sermon on this passage, began:

“I never cease to be amazed by the colorful characters whom we meet in the Bible. They are not all alike and we are not dealing with painted saints. We do not encounter among them the same kind of reverent monotony we find in Eastern icons. They are thrown together in sharply contrasting mixes in this story of the Pharisee and the sinful woman. . . . Even between Jesus and the two who shared with him the hill of Golgotha there are worlds of difference.”

It is because Thielicke’s observation fits our theme perfectly that I chose this passage
– my talk is titled, “Meditation On Human Behavior”
• nothing is more surprising, disturbing, or touching
◦ but discussing this theme is tricky, because we’ve all become amateur psychologists
• meditation suggests a different approach than examination, analysis, diagnosis and therapy
◦ so we have to set our knowledge of psychology to one side
– we meditate when we want to get beneath the surface of a thing
• in this case, when we look behind a person’s actions, not to see why, but to see the person

This story opens windows on the inner person
– and the importance of not being deceived by superficial measurements
• in the home of the Pharisee, nothing was what it appeared to be

Most of us have meditated on human behavior–a lot
– but, as a rule, our meditation has not lead us to discovery of a person
• our tendency is to attribute (or “project”) motives and explanations for the actions of others
• so in a way we see only pale versions of ourselves in the actions of others
– realistically, we do not have enough time to observe others without judgment
• judgments that come so quickly and easily
◦ our brains developed this ability for our protection
◦ in an instant we must determine whether the stranger approaching in the dark is a threat
• but this faculty must also be set aside to see accurately the person underneath the behavior

The way human behavior unfolds in scripture

The Bible tends to shift its interest when observing (or legislating) human behavior
– it may turn its magnifying glass on the heart, imagination, spirit, body, or will
• it is always interested in free will and the choices people make
– the Bible also observes the idiosyncrasies of individuals
• reading the New Testament letters we easily distinguish Paul from James and both from John

One scholar whose work has given me a better understanding of biblical stories is Robert Alter
– he explains that the biblical form of character development is not like our western novels
• generally, scripture does not have much said about the inner lives of our heroes
◦ or give details of their physical appearance, outside of what is necessary when building the plot
◦ and, like the woman in this story, many characters are anonymous (nameless)
• so when looking at human behavior:

“the Bible’s artful selectivity produces both sharply defined surfaces and a sense of ambiguous depths in character . . . .” (Alter)

– reading stories, expectations naturally form around certain character types
(for example, heroes and villains)
• but that is not always how it goes in scripture
◦ a righteous leader can lose his temper unrighteously
◦ a king “after God’s own heart” can murder a man to cover up an act of adultery
• the good person sometimes does bad things
◦ and the bad person sometimes does a good thing

“There is, in other words, an abiding mystery in character as the biblical writers conceive it, which they embody in their typical methods of presentation.” (Alter)

◦ that is to say, the men and women in scripture are like us — “a riddle wrapped in an enigma”

read more…

Jun 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 31, 2015 – Luke 12:22-28

Nature Meditations

And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.
Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?
Consider the the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith!” 
Luke 12:22-28

Intro: We are learning skills for our spiritual journey

We are blessed today with a passage that combines two important skills:

  1. Ridding our hearts and minds of anxiety
  2. Meditating on nature

“Worry” is a specific type of thinking (the Greek root suggests a divided thought)
– in Luke 10, it is related to being distracted and bothered (Lk. 10:40-41)
• in the King James Version it is translated “cares” in two places
◦ in Luke 8:14, where cares choke the life out of God’s word
◦ in Luke 21:34, where hearts are weighed down with worries and caught off guard
• anxious thoughts have two distinct characteristics:
◦ they have a negative emotional quality (fear, insecurity, anger, a sense of unpreparedness, etc.)
◦ they become preoccupations – the mind gets stuck on them
– “life” and “body,” as with “food” and “clothing” are merely illustrations
• they represent the millions of things that can become sources of worry
◦ both material and psychological (e.g., “What does this say about me?”)
“And which of you by worry can add a single hour to his life’s span?”
• in other words, anxiety adds nothing of value to everything we have to do or face
◦ worry does not improve anything — its effect is to drain strength, not energize

For the believer, worry is the assumption God is not doing anything
– Jesus says, “Look around at the natural world”
• this is a realm where God is constantly at work
• the logic of Jesus:
If something is true or good in the natural world, how much more is it true of God
(for example, Lk. 11:11-13; 13:15-16; 18:1-8)
– of course the disciples had seen ravens and lilies, but they not made this connection
• it never occurred to them to “consider” or “observe” the natural world to gain wisdom
• yet, it was already there in the Scriptures

The eyes of all look to You,
And You give them their food in due time,
You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing. (Ps. 145:15)

◦ this is the world that is lost to us — not the age of dinosaurs or Greek civilization
◦ but the created world that breathes the life of our Father

read more…

May 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 24, 2015 – Psalm 139:1-6

Reflective Meditation

O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O LORD, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it. Psalm 139:1-6

Intro: We have started collecting tools and skills for spiritual journey

Last week we went over Analytical Meditation
– a close reading of the Scriptures that rigorously follows logical rules
• today I will talk about meditating on mysteries
– this form of meditation can also be approached rationally
• but at some point intellectual methods and processes will give out
◦ then we must switch to another mental activity
◦ the psalmist came to end of his knowledge and understanding, but not his poem or meditation
• there’s more than one way to use our minds in med
◦ some truths require a different approach than rational analysis
◦ some insights are caught rather than taught

Meditation on mysteries leans more on reflection than analysis
– the goal of reflective meditation is not to:
• solve a problem
• explain a concept
• unravel a complex system (like taking apart a car engine)
– rather, it is interested in exploring the dimensions of a thing — its breadth and depth
• more interested in an encounter with wonder
• more interested in fascination than inadequate explanations
• reflective meditation welcomes feelings, emotions and symbols

You’re probably familiar with the term “hard science”
– it refers to the natural or physical sciences – experimentation, dissecting and quantifying
• the “soft sciences” are the social sciences
◦ until fairly recently, the methods of research were different
◦ and the distinction between categories were less clear
• if analysis is “hard meditation,” then reflection is “soft meditation”
– the analytical med is closed – it excludes subjectivity
• what I feel about a text is irrelevant, knowing its precise meaning is all that counts
• it also excludes what is not immediately relevant
– reflection is open – it looks everywhere for insight
• even in areas that may seem irrelevant

A research paper was recently published by Alison Preston, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience, and a graduate student researcher. They ran an experiment in which they gave subjects two learning tasks. Between the two tasks, they were left alone to rest. What they discovered is that “the ones who used that time to reflect on what they had learned earlier in the day fared better on tests pertaining to what they learned later, especially where small threads of information between the two tasks overlapped. Participants seemed to be making connections that helped them absorb information later on, even if it was only loosely related to something they learned before. [emphasis mine]

• reflection roams freely from one field to another, discovering unexpected patterns and similarities

C. S. Lewis, wrote an essay entitled “Meditation In A Toolshed” that begins:

“I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.”

– then he moved and looked into the beam
• the shift yielded a different experience
◦ now the toolshed disappeared as he looked through leaves outside to the sun
• he described this as the difference between looking at and looking along
◦ looking at something from outside of it and looking from within
– he used an illustration in which a neurologist explains pain
• neurons along a patch of skin are stimulated, which, through a network of chemical and electrical processes, transmit a message to the brain where the “feeling” is interpreted as pain
◦ but we might ask the neurologist, “Have you ever felt pain?”
◦ should he say,  “No,” we could say, “Then you don’t know pain”
• he may know the mechanism of pain, but not the experience
◦ reflection is experiential – knowing from the inside

“Mystery” is a truth we can’t prove or even explain

One place to begin is to reflect on God himself

read more…

May 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 17, 2015 – Matthew 7:24-27

Analytical Meditation

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

Intro: This is the famous conclusion of Jesus’ Sermon On the Mount

Afterward, “the crowds were amazed at his teaching” (v. 28)

I imagine the disciples saying, “Lord! Look at all the people coming to hear you. Think of the impact You have on all these lives.” But I also imagine his response, “Yes, the crowds have arrived, but if you could see into their hearts you would not be so enthusiastic. We can not build the kingdom of God on lives that do not have an adequate foundation. ”

• this is the meaning of Jesus’ parables of the seed and the soils (Mt. 13:3-9 & 18-23)
• not everyone derives the same value from his word
– a common theme in the parables is the contrast Jesus draws between two types of characters
• a Pharisee and a tax collector, wise and foolish virgins, an obedient son and a disobedient son
◦ they illustrate failure and success among those that profess to know God
• there is a listening to God’s word that goes nowhere

But as for you, son of man, your fellow citizens who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses, speak to one another, each to his brother, saying, “Come now and hear what the [word] is which comes forth from the LORD.” They come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain. Behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words but they do not practice them. (Ezek. 33:30-32)

◦ there is another listening that takes us to the path that leads directly to God

I am going to walk your through “analytical” (or “discursive”) Meditation
– this is a rational approach to exploring a verse or passage of scripture – the “text”
• it is not as light as Bible reading nor as heavy as Bible study
• and it is definitely not memorizing verses
◦ research has shown that memorizing verses improves one’s ability to memorize
(memorization has little effect on how people respond to real-life situations)
◦ memorization does not get to the substance of a text or make it ours
◦ meditation involves more thought processes than memory: alertness, attention, noticing, etc.
– we need to give our intellect something !!

The opening of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple.
(Ps. 119:130, “opening” translates a Hebrew word that can also mean plowing or drawing out–e.g., water from a well)

• analytical meditation is a way to ingest and absorb God’s word (into our minds and hearts)

Your words were found and I ate them,
And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart . . . (Jer. 15:16)

John Chapman had this to say regarding usual religious the many books that must be read during one’s religious training, “But if you don’t meditate, you get nothing.”
• we need to give our intellect something, but eventually won’t be enough
◦ our rational minds can be full while our spirits starve
◦ so in coming weeks we will look at other forms of meditation

Perhaps you’re thinking, “I can’t focus my attention enough to meditate like this”
– you can and you already do

read more…

May 11 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 10, 2015 – 2 Kings 4:8-10

Gear and Skill for the Journey

Now there came a day when Elisha passed over to Shunem, where there was a prominent woman, and she persuaded him to eat food. And so it was, as often as he passed by, he turned in there to eat food.
She said to her husband, “Behold now, I perceive that this is a holy man of God passing by us continually. Please let us make a little walled upper chamber and let us set a bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lampstand; and it shall be when he comes to us, that he can turn in there. 2 Kings 4:8-10


Intro: When my Scott started his current job, I let him have my Volvo

That was a mixed blessing, because it gets him to work but needs a new transmission
– and that would cost more than the car is worth
• one reason it is so expensive is because the car was designed to require unique tools for repairs
• without the necessary tools and skill to use them, there is no “do it yourself”
– this is not the case with every car or every repair, but even then it helps to have the right tools
• this goes for lots of things besides fixing cars
◦ rock climbing, house cleaning, building a doghouse, or performing surgeries

For a few weeks, we’ll go over the gear and skill required for our spiritual journey
– I begin with simplicity, because in my reading last week this passage caught my attention
• otherwise, the order of the items we will consider is not important
• spiritual exercises and disciplines are not like stair steps, in which you must climb one before the next
– we learn (or encounter) them in the order God chooses
• our hearts usually tell us when we’re ready
• for example, a book that was once boring, I find today enlightening and inspiring
◦ I was not ready for it the first time I attempted to read it

A little walled upper chamber

In other words, the couple in Shunem provided Elisha a small apartment on their rooftop
– they furnished it with “a bed . . ., and a table and a chair and a lamp” (lamp: menorah – candlestick)
• there’s a reason why I find these spartan accommodations so pleasing
◦ and not because I’m a minimalist
– once, when visiting a hermitage, I was provided a small room
• it was also furnished with no more than a bed, a desk, a chair and a lamp — oh, and a heater
• one morning, between vigils and lauds, I sat in the chair with my Bible open on my lap
◦ unexpectedly, I found myself filled with a sense of intense contentment
◦ I could have died and been utterly at peace — and it required a lot less stuff, than one would have imagined

This what saints have been saying for centuries
– that contentment can be found in simple things

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. (1 Tim. 6:6-8)

• and regarding food and clothing, Jesus told us not to worry about them (Mt. 6:25-33)

“Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.”
Henry David Thoreau

read more…

May 4 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 3, 2015 – Ephesians 6:21-24

Common + Unity = Community

But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts. Ephesians 6:21-22

Intro: Most of you know that I enjoyed a brief friendship with a Benedictine monk

Because our conversations were recorded, many of you have experienced them for yourselves
– the first time I shared the DVDs of Fr. Romuald it was with twelve people in our home
• these were men and women who wanted to know where God was leading me
• when we came to the eighth DVD, they began asking, “What are we going to do next?”
◦ I had not planned on any “next,” but the question haunted me
– what I then realized, was that we had become a community 
• how had that happened?

In 2002, I was invited to a pastor’s conference in St. Louis
– the topic I was asked to address was “Community”
• it seemed to me that there was a trade-off: the choice was between having a large church or being a community
◦ large churches are more like cities than communities — food courts in no way resemble Agape Feasts
◦ of course, mega-churches frequently attempt to create communities, but usually fail because:

  1. They seem contrived because people are grouped by artificial criteria (such as zip code).
  2. The design of curriculum for home groups is not to free their thinking, but indoctrinate them.

– anyway, I researched the subject, gave it lots of thought and came up with a few “theories”
• but with the group in our home, community occurred spontaneously
◦ no one had tried to create it and we had no intention or design for it
• so how did it just happen?
◦ we were asking questions from a deep place in our souls that had been unlocked
◦ we had become open to new ways of thinking
◦ our interactions had been intimately personal and real
◦ we were free to bring up and discuss anything without fear of being silenced
◦ we had grown together spiritually
◦ we cared about each other

It was more than a year later that we began meeting on Sunday nights
– in St. Louis I had argued, “The apparent design of the church in the New Testament is a spiritual community”
• but that is not how many “churches” look from the outside
• they look like organizations, corporations, institutions
◦ that is why we refer to Reflexion as a spiritual community
– we have gone through Ephesians, exploring Christian spirituality
• our last lesson from this sublime letter is that Christian spirituality thrives in community
• this is not to say we cannot deepen in God in solitude and without a community
◦ but a great deal more enters and enhances our lives in Christ through community

Throughout the letter, community has been a behind-the-scenes reality
– occasionally breaking through the surface (as in 4:2-13, etc.)
• so even if in these verses Paul is merely signing off, they still have something important to teach us

Vv. 21-22, Spiritual community involves us in personal knowing

read more…

Apr 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 26, 2015 – Ephesians 6:14-20

Dress For the Occasion

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:14-17

Intro: One skill that characterizes excellent teachers is their use of analogy

A good analogy is a key to learning and understanding
– the human brain learns by associations
• a good analogy: clear parallels to what it explains and memorable
• Jesus’ style of teaching (e.g., Mk. 4:33-34) “The kingdom of heaven is like . . .”
◦ he could not say what it is exactly — we would not have understood him
◦ the kingdom isn’t bread dough or mustard seed, but it’s like bread dough, etc.
– the Bible’s use of analogy suggests to us how to think about God
• it isn’t always helpful to come at it directly–e.g., the “science” of theology
◦ analogy may be the only way to get God’s truth into our heads, heart and soul
• the book in Bible that brings us closest to God’s realm is Revelation
◦ it is full of images, symbols and word pictures
◦ we can’t read it without using our imaginations

Paul’s best known analogy is the armor of God
– it meets the criteria of apt parallels and it is definitely memorable
• at first, we may be uncomfortable with “armor,” with its warlike implications
• I hope we will find it helpful and relevant as we work our way through this

Let’s ease into the passage with a simple observation

When it comes to shopping, shopping, men buy clothes and women buy “outfits”
– and the outfits are chosen for specific occasions — running errands and so on
• what is the “occasion” behind this passage?
A. W. Tozer observed, “The world is not playground, but a battleground”
• I think it is both playground and battleground
(only sometimes the play can be pretty rough)
– we’ve been receiving junk mail for “the active senior in your home”
• (I give these to Barbara)
• this outfit is for the active spiritual life
◦ the contemplative life is one-side of Christian spirituality, the active life is the other
◦ that we’re issued bullet-proof vest speaks for itself

Paul’s analogy illuminates the essentials of the Christian life

Truth, righteousness, faith, etc. are our soul’s breath, its food and drink
– these are the items we use to gauge our spiritual health

read more…