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Apr 19 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 13, 2014 – John 12:12-21

Palm Sunday

On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.
Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
 John 12:12-13, 20-21

Intro: We have taken this episode out of order

We’ve been spending time with people who met Jesus
- but because today is “Palm Sunday,” we have jumped ahead today
- there’s one weakness in my choice of these Greek visitors as our next example of people who met Jesus
• we don’t know if they actually met him — John doesn’t make it clear
• we only know that they wanted to meet him and requested an audience

John begins this story the day before

One of those rare scenes – Jesus relaxing in the home of friends
- John draws a contrast between Judas and Mary
• one takes, the other gives; one loves, other betrays
○ Judas attached a monetary value to Mary’s devotion
○ Mary loved Jesus beyond all monetary calculation
• “Let her alone” – how beautifully Jesus defended and protected her
○ he accepted her act of love
- we also learn that a “large crowd” showed up (v. 9)
• they heard about Lazarus and wanted to see him

It turns out, crowd is important element in story

read more…

Apr 19 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 6, 2014 – John 3:1-15

Questions, Questions!

Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him Jesus answered and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:1-3

Intro: First, we need to fix a problem

The entire process of becoming a Christian has been abbreviated to this shorthand phrase: born again
- in fact, for many Protestant believers it’s not enough to be a Christian
• they want to know if you are a “born-again Christian”
- Jesus did not use “born again” in this way
• He never preached to a crowd, “You must be born again”
• he said it to only one time to this one person
○ it is one of the many metaphors he used in reference to “heavenly things” (v. 12)
○ other metaphors in John: living water, bread of life, light of the world, good shepherd, true vine
- overuse of the term born again has worn out its meaning
• so we’re not shocked by it the way Nicodemus was when he heard Jesus say it

Two times in their brief conversation, Nicodemus began a question with “How?”
- three times Jesus began with an introductory affirmation, statement: “Truly, truly”
• John used a Hebrew word that he did not translate into Greek
(although our versions usually translate it into English)
• ”Amen”: means true, reliable – repeating it adds force to the word

A nighttime interview

As a Pharisee, Nicodemus’ beliefs were well-formed and absolute
- he thought of himself as faithful to God — he was cautious and diligent
• the simplest explanation for him coming “by night” was to keep this visit a secret
- previously, Jesus had created a scene in temple – he was already a controversial figure
- Nicodemus was being careful, playing it safe
• it is characteristic of Jesus that he graciously accommodated Nicodemus

read more…

Apr 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 30, 2014 – John 1:35-52

The Way to God? Come and See

Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. And Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” . . . John 1:35-39

Intro: Have you noticed, that when we’re here it is not difficult to think about God, to be aware of him and feel assured that he is at work in your life?

While we are here together around the Scriptures and in prayer, faith and hope come easily
- but during the week, those feelings fade
• it’s as if our hearts are heated on Sunday, but then cool off with our daily distractions
• Jesus described a faith that hears his word, but

. . . as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity (Lk. 8:14)

This is why having a friend filled with Jesus is so important
- we can then be re-energized mid-week
• the influence of the other believer’s life and conversation helps to refresh our faith

Today we meet the people who first met Jesus
- they found something about him, that made them immediately want to share him
• so each person we meet brought someone else to Jesus
- as we work our way through the passage, three times John places something in parentheses
• “which is translated” – John was writing for a Greek audience
• that’s the point he is making here
○ people who have met Jesus do what they can to make him accessible to others

John the Baptist introduced his disciples to Jesus

Throughout the passage, John highlights a theme of “sight”
- for example, John “looked at Jesus” and said, “Behold”
• people get to know Jesus by acting on the invitation to come and see

read more…

Mar 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 23, 2014 – Exodus 34:5-7

Moving Beyond A Conceptual Knowledge of God

Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.” Exodus 34:5-7 [read Ex. 3:13-15]

Intro: Thursday, a couple mentioned to me that they would miss today’s meeting

“Our only regret,” they said, “is that we won’t be there for the beginning of Exodus”
- at first, I didn’t know what they meant
• then I realized, they must have assumed we were going on from Genesis to Exodus
○ perhaps they thought I planned to continue through the whole Bible
- but we spent almost an entire year in Genesis and there are still sixty-five more books in the Bible!
• at that pace, we would not get through the Old in my lifetime

Where my heart has been leading me, however, is for us to return to the life of Jesus Christ
- and spend time deepening our relationship with him, getting to know him better
- so we’re going to look closely at the stories of people who met Jesus
• my hope is that as we absorb their stories, they will shape the development of our own story
• and that this will affect our perception and experience of Jesus

When we set out to know God, we typically take an intellectual approach
- and this is also the sort of help we usually get from Christians
• for example, J. I. Packer’s book, Knowing God takes us in the right direction for a couple chapters, but then slips into “knowing theology”
- what we end up with is a biography or list of attributes and we do not actually meet God
• in scripture, the people who knew God were those who encountered him
• they did not get to know him through logical proofs or propositions, but through living experience

So we are not going to begin a study in Exodus this morning
• however, we can use it to make the transition to knowing God through Jesus

read more…

Mar 19 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 16, 2014 – Genesis 50

The Christ-Like Virtue

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him?” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father charged before he died, saying, “Thus you shall say to Joseph, ‘Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.’ And now please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Genesis 50:15-17

Intro: We have come to the end of Genesis

For a moment, let’s look back at the beginning — the creation story of chapter 1
- the origin of all that we love, enjoy, and find beautiful
• repeatedly, God looked at what he had made and saw that it was “good”
- but then a rupture occurred that affected the natural world as well as humankind
• what was whole became fragmented
• what was innocent became guilt-ridden
• what was intimate is experienced as alienating
- the fissure not only runs through the cosmos, but through time as well
○ fracture and disintegration became the new normal

God looked on his broken world and determined to fix it
- but he also determined that he would not fix it alone
• he would call humankind, that had been responsible for the rupture, to help repair it
- so from early on, history was given a goal – it is moving toward a target; namely, salvation
• healing, reconciliation, and restoration
• everyone is involved in this project–you and I,
○ with our own little break-ups and reconciliations
○ each life is a microcosm that reflects the rupture and repair of the macrocosm

This brings us Joseph and the end of the book
- his is also a story of fracture, betrayal, and alienation
• but he overcame it and achieved reconciliation
- in Joseph’s story we learn how healing occurs, and how salvation is worked into the wound

read more…

Mar 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Day Ninety-five – Matthew 27:57-61

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you

And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave. Matthew 27:59-61

Rolling the stone over the entrance of the tomb was the last kindness in a series of generous acts that was shown to Jesus by a wealthy disciple. Joseph sealed Jesus in a stone vault forever and then “went away.” He went away from “the body” that he had obtained from Pilate. He went away from the dream, from the inspired teaching and the obligations of discipleship. He went away because there was nothing else that Jesus could do for him. He went away because a stone had been rolled over the entrance of his own heart, cutting it off from hope in Jesus.

Joseph had to learn how to return to, and conduct his life again in a world without Jesus. At least he still had his wealth. What did those other poor disciples have now, who had given up everything to follow Jesus?

Joseph went away, but Mary and Mary remained there, “sitting opposite the grave.” The word “opposite” appeared earlier in the chapter when Pilate washed his hands “in front” of (or “before”) the crowd (v. 24). What sort of previous life awaited their return? They were not ready to abandon Jesus, to break free from His grip, to settle back into the ordinary, or return to the darkness from which He called them. Joseph turned his back on the tomb and went away, but they sat facing the tomb with no where else to go.

Heavenly Father, it is true that we go through dark days when Your Son is silent and no sign that His hand is moving even slightly. Perhaps our hearts and minds are darkened by the shadow of a large and seemingly immoveable stone. So we assume the Lord Jesus cannot help us and we are on our own. But the silence can be deceptive and the stone that rolled one way can be rolled the other. Give us the grace to live facing the tomb if that is where we last saw Jesus. For there is yet one great miracle to witness and revelation to absorb, and in it we will experience His resurrection and ours as well.

Mar 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 9, 2014 – Genesis 48-49

How Blessings Are Multiplied

Now it came about after these things that Joseph was told, “Behold, your father is sick.” So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim with him. When it was told to Jacob, “Behold, you son Joseph has come to you,” Israel collected his strength and sat up in the bed. Then Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and He said to me, “Behold, I will make you fruitful and numerous, and I will make you a company of peoples, and will give this land to your descendants after you for an everlasting inheritance. Now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are.”
Genesis 48:1-5 

Intro: There are two things I want to point out in these verses: The central theme (chapters 48-49) and a footnote

  1. The central theme in chapters 48-49 is blessing
    - the source of blessings Jacob doled out, “God Almighty . . . blessed me” (48:3)
    - the blessing was divine and dynamic
    • it was because he was blessed, he was able to bless
    - the time had come to pass on the blessing
    • Joseph brought his two sons for this reason
  2. The footnote (v. 7) — Jacob recalls Rachel’s death
    - with a deep sigh, the old man says, “Rachel died on me”
    • he still feels the heartache of losing his lover
    • the woman for whom he was willing to work fourteen years
    - it’s hard to lose someone precious and supportive, especially when you still have a long way to go

The footnote introduces a sub-theme in these chapters
- the blessings collide with the realities of family disappointments, misconduct, and hardships

Something subtle happened in verses 1-7

It’s not likely we would catch it on our first reading

read more…

Mar 4 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 2, 2014 – Genesis 46-47

How to Answer When God Calls

So Israel set out with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I will go with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes.” Genesis 46:1-3

Intro: This last week, Derek Nichols posted on Twitter a poem his younger brother wrote

Within twenty-four hours it had been re-posted more than 100,000 times
- what’s remarkable about the 24 lines of verse that eighth-grader Jordan wrote:
• it can be read backwards as well as forward and read backward the message is reversed
- I’ll give you just a sample in the first three lines of his poem:

“Our generation will be known for nothing.
Never will anybody say,
We were the peak of mankind.”
(Now read the lines from bottom to top)

Our negative perspectives are usually formed by way we read things
- for example: our personal history, our current circumstances, and the behavior of others
• if we can find another way to read our situation, we can form a positive perspective
- Joseph’s story is about finding an alternative reading
• it has to do with learning to read from the end – as in Philippians 1:6

For I am confident of this very thing, that He whoo began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

• reading our lives in reverse from this point may help us see that our momentary challenges are doable

Beersheba was the last outpost before entering the desert wilderness

The text reads, “So Israel set out,” but the Hebrews says he “took his journey” or “journeyed on”
- venturing onto the desert road to Egypt was the next step in an ongoing journey
• but first, Jacob wanted to secure his connection with God
- in the sacrifice, Jacob was turning himself toward God with his whole being
• God responded with encouragement to continue on
• our private meditation on God’s words to Jacob will be richly rewarded
• every phrase is meaningful
- “Then Jacob arose from Beersheba . . .” — he got up and got going

Just as we come to the crucial moment, the story is interrupted

read more…

Feb 25 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 23, 2014 – Genesis 45

Revelation and Reconciliation

Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, “Have everyone go out from me.” So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. Genesis 45:1-3 

Intro: We ended last week with a real cliffhanger

Joseph had put the squeeze on brothers until they broke
- he was satisfied with what he discovered through the pranks he played on them
• they were not only able to admit their guilt, but they indicated a true change of heart
- Joseph’s game ended with Judah’s speech
• Joseph felt it was time to lose the disguise and reveal the truth, “I am Joseph!”

Vv. 1-3, Earlier, Joseph had turned away each time he broke down

Not this time – he could not control himself – the dam broke and a flood of emotion swept over him
- “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?”

Now, we must try to get inside his brothers’ minds

  1. Suddenly he was addressing them personally – in Hebrew!
  2. He was saying a name they had not dared to speak
  3. He was telling them that he is Joseph
    • it would be like seeing a ghost
    • after the string of calamities they suffered, this is the worst
    ○ they were speechless – silenced by terror

Vv. 4-5, Joseph had to continue to take initiative

“Come close” – he needed to close distance between himself and them

read more…

Feb 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 16, 2014 – Genesis 42-44

Purposeful Pranks

Now Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, “Why are you staring at one another?” Genesis 42:1

Intro: This next episode begins wit a scene change

Joseph is now well-placed in Egypt, controlling the largest stockpile of food in the world
- the scene cuts to the humble campsite of his father
• feeling the pinch of the famine, Jacob hears about food in Egypt
• he sends his sons to buy grain in Egypt, but did not send Benjamin with them
○ his inner motivation is revealed: “I am afraid that harm may befall him”

Cut to Egypt
Joseph, while managing the grain distribution, spotted his brothers
- he immediately recognized them – but disguised himself (repeated for emphasis in verse 8)
• in essence, he made himself invisible so he could mess with them
- he accuses them of being “spies,” but they deny it, claiming to be “honest men”
• I think that angered him, remembering what they did to him

“Honest men! What about taking my coat from me and throwing me in a pit to die?! What about selling your own brother to slave-traders on their way to Egypt?! What did you tell father when I never returned home? Honest men! No, it is as I said to you, you are spies.”

○ to satisfy himself that they have changed, Joseph has to test them, as he said, to see “whether there is truth in you”
○ he threw them into prison – as he had been thrown into an Egyptian prison
• three days later, he made his decision as to what he was going to do with them

read more…

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