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Dec 8 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 3, 2016 – Luke 1:67079

Gateway to God’s Heart

And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people,
And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of David His servant–
As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old–
Salvation from our enemies,
And from the hand of all who hate us;
To show mercy toward our fathers,
And to remember His holy covenant,
The oath which He swore to Abraham our father,
To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear all of our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways;
To give to His people the knowledge of salvation
By the forgiveness of their sins,
Because of the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,
To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.” 
Luke 1:67-79

Intro: John the Baptist occupied a unique turning point in biblical history

The transition from the Old Testament era to the New Testament times
– more specifically, John was the end of the prophetic tradition associated with Elijah
• a tradition that reached its climax in John (Lk. 7:28)
• in fact, there was a strong link between John and Elijah
◦ he came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Lk. 1:17)
◦ in some way John was a prophetic fulfillment regarding Elijah (Mal. 4:5-6; Mt. 17:10-13)

For all the prophets and all the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (Mt. 11:13-15)

– it is clear that Zacharias and Elizabeth still stood very much in the Old Testament
• for example, their connection to Aaron and their description, “righteous…and walked blamelessly” (Lk. 1:5-6)
• in fact, their situation echoed that of Abraham and Sarah
◦ the old couple who could not produce a child, yet miraculously gave birth to Israel
– my point is: the more you know about the Old Testament, the easier it is to interpret Zacharias’ poem

When it came time to name Zacharias’ son, certain uncanny events occurred
– such that neighbors were astonished and even fearful
• the were wondering, What then will this child be(come)?
– the poem is God’s answer to that question
• that is why Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit
◦ so he could deliver this inspired poem

There are two parts to Zacharais’ poem

The two parts are delivered in two long sentences
– the first part is history, the second was the present and future
• first, the poem travels backward through time to David, the prophets, then Abraham
• then it turns around and addresses his child’s future and One whose way he would prepare
– the first part is praise, the second is prophecy

read more…

Dec 1 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 27, 2016 – Mark 1:1

Reconcilable Differences

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark 1:1

Intro: I want to carry our current theme of prayer through Christmas

Mark is an odd place to start, because he does not tell the Christmas story
– instead, he tells us who Jesus is and goes straight to his story
gospel: good spell (old English, a story or speech) a good message
◦ it is like hearing a relative who was in a car accident survived and is well
• we need good news, because something is wrong with the world
◦ something is wrong with us
– we live in a world of lost spiritual intimacy — not only with God
• but with the world of nature, human society, family, ourselves
◦ our world is fragmented – the pieces don’t go together
• the anger, hostility, violence and cruelty in our nation is staggering
◦ we have become strangers in a strange land

Daniel Siegel has pointed out that every relationship has instances of rupture
– we know this – we have felt rejection, insecurity, cut off from a friend or lover
• Siegel says that the answer to rupture is repair
◦ the repair he recommends requires education, retraining, courage, humility
(and probably therapy)
• people who experience too many fractures tend to give up
◦ in relationships they adopt defense strategies rather than intimacy strategies
– we need good news, we need hope, we need help — we need Jesus

. . . if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself . . . . (2 Cor. 5:17-19)

So Mark says, The beginning of the gospel, which refers to a specific moment in history
– but, for us, the good news begins when we pick up the book and read
• the beginning is now – something new is entering our lives
• we can put up with a lot–trouble, imperfection, setbacks–if we have hope

Reading through Mark this week, I noticed something

There are themes or events or unusual phenomena that appear at
the beginning of Jesus’ story and reappear at the end
– of course, this is not surprising if we clearly understand his story
• Christmas and crucifixion are inseparable

More than once, Helmut Thielicke wrote, “The manger and the cross are made from the same wood.”

• the angel who appeared to Joseph told him,

. . . you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Mt. 1:21)

◦ “Savior” is one of the words that defines his life
◦ it was in his dying that he delivered life to us

Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, “Father, save Me from this hour?” But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.  (Jn. 12:27-28)

– I have four examples of themes that tie the beginning and end of the gospels together

First, angels appear at the beginning of his story

Both Matthew and Luke report a flurry of angelic activity
– they make announcements and give people encouragement and assistance
• then they return at the end of all four gospels to announce Jesus’ resurrection
– only two other times during Jesus’ ministry do they emerge from their invisible realm

  1. The first is close to the beginning
    – right after Jesus’ temptation (Mk. 1:13), angels ministered to him
  2. The second is close to the end
    – the night prior to his crucifixion (Lk. 22:43) an angel strengthen him
    – so these other two visitations occurred at times of severe crisis

read more…

Nov 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 20, 2016 – 1 Corinthians 2:12-3:3

Passive Prayer

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 1 Corinthians 2:12-3:3

Intro: The church in Corinth was being ripped apart (see 1 Cor. 1:10-2:11)

Torn by conflict, Christians had formed separate camps
– for Paul, this was a serious threat to God’s work in Corinth
• he asked them, Has Christ been divided?
• if not, how could they justify their division?
– the two primary weapons in their arsenal were: reason and rhetoric
• whichever group had the strongest intellectual argument
◦ Paul uses the word “wisdom,” in Greek: sophia
◦ Greece was the birth place of Western philosophy (“love of wisdom”)
• which ever group had the best presentation – speeches
– Paul reminded the Corinthians that these were worldly weapons
• Greek culture demanded philosophical verification
• Jewish culture demanded presentation – signs
◦ God ignored both and gave us Jesus, his Son, the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24)

Next, Paul reminded them of the message he brought
– it wasn’t bolstered by superior wisdom or speech
• in fact, he arrived in weakness, fear and much trembling
• in his message, he simply stuck to the story of Jesus and his crucifixion
◦ because this is the key factor in God’s salvation for humankind
◦ Paul’s words were energized by God’s Spirit and power (not human wisdom or communication skills)
– but they were not to think there’s no logic to faith
• there is, only it is a hidden wisdom, a mystery
• the only access we have to it is by God’s Spirit

This was his argument up to the verses quoted above

The conflict in Corinth was rooted in a deeper, personal conflict
– a primal tension that affects every believer
– to clarify his point, Paul describes three conditions:
“a natural man”psychikos; psyche is the soul
◦ a soulish person, having no hope and without God in the world (Ep. 2:11)
“he who is spiritual”pneumatikos (the Greek word for spirit is pneuma)
◦ the believer, in whom the Spirit of God lives
“men of flesh”sarkikois (the Greek word for flesh is sarx)
◦ “flesh” is a metaphor that represents a life controlled by physical appetites and soulish passions
◦ this condition is revealed in a person’s behavior
For since there is jealousy and strive among you, are you not fleshly . . . ?

Not only the Corinthians, but all Christians face the same conflict
– the spiritual self is frequently tripped up by the “carnal” (fleshly) self
• I refer to these two selves as pneumatic and sarchotic

read more…

Nov 17 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 13, 2016 – Jeremiah 1:11-14

What Do You See?

The word of the LORD came to me saying, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” And I said, “I see a rod of an almond tree.” Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over My word to perform it.”
The word of the LORD came to me a second time saying, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a boiling pot, facing away from the north.” Then the LORD said to me, “Out of the north the evil will break forth on all the inhabitants of the land.”
 Jeremiah 1:11-14

Intro: To me it’s a privilege to observe Jeremiah’s apprenticeship

Our verses record his first training exercises, which appear simple
– the prophets’ work was not complicated
• they received a message from God that they delivered his people
◦ the critical factors were to get the message, get it right, and tell it straight
• so, Jeremiah’s training began with a question, “What do you see?”
– the spiritual vision of the prophet gave rise to a possibility
• a human person could have eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to perceive
◦ they could have a vision that penetrated to the heart of things
◦ and they could see the glory of God
• there were two classic expressions of this possibility
◦ Moses’ request, I pray You, show me Your glory (Ex. 33:18)
◦ Isaiah’s vision:

In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said,
Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD of hosts,
The whole earth is full of his glory. 
(Isa. 6:1-3)

There is an intriguing irony in the message Isaiah received
– Isaiah was given a awe-inspiring vision of God
• he heard angels praising God, whose glory filled the earth
• yet it was Isaiah’s job to prevent God’s people from seeing or hearing

Go and tell this people:
Keep on listening, but do not perceive;

Keep on looking, but do not understand.
Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim,
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed. (Isa. 6:9-10)

– Their spiritual dullness was a divine discipline
• otherwise, we would expect everyone to witness God’s glory (cf. Psa. 19:1-3)
• and that brings us to our theme . . .

Prayerful Awareness is seeing what God wants to show us

Jesus wanted disciples to see his and his Father’s glory (e.g., Jn.  17:17:1-5, 24)
– I’m using “see” as a metaphor for all of our perceptions and the ways we perceive
• including: notice, observe, explore, discover, respond
– our eyes need to be trained to see God’s glory
• the big vision of God’s glory is in face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6)
• but normal vision of God’s glory is in ordinary objects and routine actions
◦ for example, a dandelion’s parachute seeds or train’s whistle in the night
◦ it is to see all of Christian theology in a slender ray of light

How did Jesus enlighten his followers to kingdom of God?
– “Watch the farmer planting seed,” he said
• “Follow life-cycle of mustard seed”
• “Spend time in the kitchen watching grandma make bread”
– when he told us to seek first God’s kingdom,
• how did he tell them to escape the distraction of anxiety?
◦ “Look at birds of the air” and “Observe how wild lilies grow in the field”
• he turned our attention to the sights and sounds of our everyday world

My favorite prayer in the gospels is that of blind Bartimaeus
– when Jesus asked what he wanted, he said, “Lord, that I might see”
• I have made that my prayer–alongside Moses’ prayer, “Show me Your glory”
– before Jesus took his leave of the disciples, he gave them an invaluable gift:

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures (24:45)

• so the goal we have for the time we spend with God in prayer is this:
to see and to be transformed by what we see

What makes this seeing and hearing so difficult?

  1. We aren’t looking (the biblical word is seek – we’re not searching) or listening
    – one time youturned your head at right moment and saw something unique
    • the zigzag branches of a lightning bolt or a whale spouting
    • you have also turned your head just in time to miss something extraordinary
    – we want to sit in prayer, holding our gaze steady so we do not miss God’s glory
  2. We tend to lose sight of what is always in front of us
    – I notice gate needs painting, but walking past it ever day I no longer see it
    • eventually it fades into the background
  3. We do not watch patiently – like an astronomer or a bird-watcher
    For the vision is yet for the appointed time;
    It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.
    Though it tarries, wait for it;
    For it will certainly come, it will not delay. (Hab. 2:3)
  4. We do not see clearly, but through frosted glass as it were
    – our mental habit is to connect perceptions with words
    • with labels, prejudices, judgments, opinions
    ◦ “It’s just a tree” or “Just a crow”
    • we also connect perceptions with feelings and emotions
    ◦ “I don’t like that color,” “This music scares me”
    – we do now know how to enjoy the pure experience of what is before us
  5. Sometimes God shows us something we do not want to see
  6. We do not ponder or reflect or move in for a closer look
    – we are like a mother humoring her child, “Oh yes dear, that’s lovely. Now let’s get moving”
    • I wonder how much of my life I’ve lost by not allowing a child to lead me
  7. We are not look for God’s grace specifically — or his glory, specifically
    – too many times, I don’t look past my problems
    • tears are not the only way that emotions can distort our vision

read more…

Nov 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 6, 2016 – Psalm 13

Body Work

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.
But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
 Psalm 13

Intro: I want to use this psalm to open three windows

The first window: The psalm’s accurate and concise depiction of despair
– the dark thoughts that constantly churn “all the day”
• negative rumination that goes nowhere
The second window: The way the poet makes use of body parts
– God’s face (or presence) that is hidden from him
• it is not only that he cannot find God in his circumstances
• but he cannot see his expression — anger? compassion?
– the poet’s eyes are dying for enlightenment
– the poet’s heart, that in verse 2 carries sorrow all day
• but by verse 5, it is ready to rejoice
The third window: The reminder how physical the psalms are
– there other psalms that name five or six different body parts
• the psalmists were very conscious of the physical body in physical space
◦ i.e., God’s created world
– even the most spiritual desires are cast in physical terms

My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for you (Ps. 63:1)

• this is a person fully alive, fully in touch with himself and his world
• and keep in mind that the psalms are prayer
◦ prayers filled with visceral and earthly images
◦ they bring all of this into prayer

Evangelicals have a salvation theology (e.g., Jesus saves souls)

What we need is a robust creation theology
– it begins in the first chapters of Genesis
• when God saw all that was made and it was good
• and it goes on all the way to Revelation 4 and 5
◦ chapter 4 God is worthy of worship because he created all things
◦ chapter 5, Jesus is worthy of worship because by his blood he purchased salvation for people of every nation
– salvation theology does not replace creation theology or render it null and void
◦ salvation embraces creation – all of it! (Ro. 8:19-23–note Paul’s specific inclusion of the body)
• Genesis celebrates the body (it is the theme of the first humanly composed song, Ge. 2:23)

People in scripture paid attention to what they felt in their bodies

read more…

Nov 4 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 30, 2016 – John 15:1-11

Pruning: When and What to Cut

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. John 15:1-11

Intro: The teaching of Jesus included numerous symbols and parables

But no other analogy is more expressive of intimacy than the vine and branches

Abide in Me, and I in you

– here we have ample inspiration for Christian devotion
– but what does this metaphor look like in lived-experience?

Consider some of the key words in this passage

Jesus set up the analogy by giving away the punch line: I am the true vine, and My father is the Gardener
– he did not always provide an explanation of what the symbols represented
• “true” in John’s gospel can mean “spiritual essence”
(cf. John 6:32-35 where the true bread is also the bread out of heaven and the bread of life)
• whatever a vine is to a branch, Jesus is to his followers
– with that as the backdrop, he goes straight to point

The branches do or do not bear fruit (v. 2)
– the branch that does is pruned to bear more fruit (v. 2)
• but by itself a branch (or disciple) cannot bear fruit (v. 4)
◦ the disciple that abides in Jesus bears much fruit (v. 5) and much fruit is what glorifies his Father (v. 8)
• several Hebrew prophets used the vineyard analogy and it was always about the fruit
◦ reflecting on the wood of the vine, Ezekiel learned its one purpose was to bear fruit
◦ unlike wood from forest trees, the vine wood was useless for anything else
– in God’s vineyard, as in all vineyards, fruit is the main concern
• does Jesus specify in terms of discipleship what that fruit might be?

This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. . . . This I command you, that you love one another (vv. 12 & 17; cf. 14:23, 31)

• that is a good enough start for now

This is the most repeated word in the passage — it means to stay, remain, or dwell
– Jesus is home to us, and he also finds his home in us
• this is the critical factor in bearing fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing 
◦ to be apart from Jesus is the same as to not abide in him (v. 6)
• the love Jesus desires from us is impossible without this union
◦ his life flowing into us, sustaining us, enabling us to abide and be fruitful
– Jesus adds important variations to the abiding theme

read more…

Oct 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 16, 2016 – Genesis 2:1-8

The Breath of Prayer

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven. Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground.

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. The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Genesis 2:1-8

Intro: A close look at these verses reveals two scenes with a break between them

The break comes at verse 4, which in the Hebrew text begins:

These are the generations . . .

– this introductory phrase is used repeatedly in Genesis to signal the transition to a new section
• verse 4 is a summary of chapter 1, which properly concludes in verse 3 of chapter 2
• after the story of creation is told, chapter 2 backtracks for a close-up on the creatio of humankind
– we are privileged to witness a divine intimacy between God and Adam
• much more so than Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” on the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel
• the spark of life does not pass between their finger tips
◦ rather God’s mouth is near Adam’s and his breath is under Adam’s nose

Two words are used of the work God did during the six day creation
– The Hebrew word asah is translated “made” and bara is translated “created”
• but when it comes to the human, a new word is introduced
yatsar is translated “formed” (sometimes “potter” or sculpt)
◦ again, a creative intimacy unique to the human
– “ground” (or soil) is adahmah and “man” who came from the soil is adahm, Adam or humankind
• with the breath of God, the inanimate and impersonal clay sculpture became a living soul
◦ a “self” or self-conscious person who is given a name
◦ humankind is already seen as one part earth and one part heaven
• but references to God have undergone a similar change from impersonal to personal
◦ in the first chapter, it is always Elohim, who creates this and that
◦ beginning in verse 4 of chapter 2 the shift is to Yahweh Elohim

God too has a a name
and intimacy is now possible,
because these “persons,”
the man and God, can call each other by name

This is our second week of “A Refresher Course In Prayer”

Today we’re going to reflect on the spiritual potential of breath

“Spirit” – Latin, spiritus, which is also “breath”
– the same is true of the Hebrew ruach and Greek pneuma: “air in motion,” wind, breath, spirit
• inspiration and respiration are linked by common roots

Thus says God the LORD, . . .
Who gives breath to the people on [the earth]
And spirit to those who walk in it . . . .
(Isa. 42:5)

◦ inhale, and we receive life from God
◦ exhale, and we temporarily surrender that life back to him
• noticing our breath can help us become aware of God’s Spirit

read more…

Oct 11 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 9, 2016 – Mark 3:13-15; 6:30-32

Prayerful Practice

And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out the demons.

The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) Mark 3:13-15; 6:30-32

Intro: In our first reading, Jesus chose the twelve to be with him

Being with Jesus would qualify them for ministry (cf. Acts 4:13)
– he was going to send them out with his message and authority
• but first they had to experience being with him
• during that time the heard his teaching, witnessed the miracles and came to know Jesus
– the scene in our second reading occurred after their first solo flight
• again, he drew them back to himself, this time to be alone with him
• if they just had just stayed busy, they would have lost something
◦ they would have dried up and eventually burned out
◦ or worse, they would have begun to fake ministry, to perform mechanically

Being with Jesus is what defines an apostle
– I’m also throwing out the idea that being with Jesus is what defines prayer
• what I have in mind is that we spend a few weeks on a refresher course in prayer
– remember, there is a difference between prayers and prayer
prayers have many specific themes: confession, request, complaint, surrender, intercession, etc.
prayer is the one thing that is necessary (Lk. 10:42)

A list of spiritual disciplines appears at end of 1 Thessalonians

In this list, Paul included, pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:16-22)
– I don’t think he meant, be always saying prayers
• or as you go about your daily routine keep talking to God in the back of your mind
◦ rather, remain in a state of prayer, of ongoing communion with God
• keep the line open, never hang up
◦ don’t use the word Amen to signal your prayer has ended and now you are on to other things

read more…

Oct 4 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 2, 2016 – Ezra 10:1-2

A Slender Ray of Hope

Now while Ezra was praying and making confession, weeping and prostrating himself before the house of God, a very large assembly, men, women and children, gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept bitterly. Shecaniah the son Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope for Israel in spite of this.” Ezra 10:1-2

Intro: I’m going to ask you to ignore the particulars in passage

Who these people were and the specific issue they raised
– so don’t worry if you cannot relate to the details
• their general situation was one with which we can identify
• they were in deep trouble, yet in spite of it, they could still hold out hope
– for the last three months on Wednesday and Thursday evenings
• the theme of our spiritual reading of scripture has been “cultivating hope”
◦ cultivate is, of course, borrowed from agriculture, horticulture (Latin origin: to “prepare the soil”)
◦ the idea behind our theme is that there are things we can do to nurture hope
• from these weeks of meditation and discussion I got ten insights regarding cultivating hope
◦ so I’ll cite the verses we used and the insights I  got from them

1. Romans 8:35-39 – Review Paul’s checklist
Mark any condition you allow to separate you from God’s love:
☐ ongoing hardship ☐ distress ☐ persecution ☐ famine
☐ an empty closet ☐ danger ☐ invasion ☐ death
☐ life ☐ angels ☐ demons ☐ the present
☐ the future ☐ height ☐ depth
☐ any other created thing

Paul didn’t write a checklist
– he listed a number of events and entities that cannot separate us from God’s love
– it does not hurt to review the severe experiences that cannot cancel hope
• or to remind ourselves of God’s unbreakable bond

2. 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 – Transcend cause and effect

• the cause: difficult circumstances, chaos, confusion
• the effect: negative moods, attitudes and hopelessness
• “this but not that” – we do not have to fall into the trap
• deep breaths can create a prayerful moment and bring us back to free choice

The emotional law of cause and effect is that bad events inevitably evoke bad moods
– for example, Paul talks about being perplexed
• small wonder — we saw a graphic example of the kind of trauma and hardship that was typical for him
◦ the natural effect of overwhelming perplexity would be despair
◦ yet Paul says he was perplexed, but not despairing
• the possibility of transcendence is in the words “but not”
– we hope when we realize we’re not bound to circumstantial ups and downs
• our joy doesn’t fluctuate with the stock exchange
• our peace doesn’t fade in and out with the nightly news

3. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 – To get out of the pit, shift perspectives

• from external decline to internal renewal
• from momentary hardships to the eternal joys of God
• from visible shadows to invisible realities

Negative thought patterns–worry, fear, despair–and negative moods narrow our field of vision
– right now feels like forever; one rude person feels like everyone
– all it takes to correct our vision, is to look at the big picture

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Sep 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 25, 2016 – Acts 28

Miracles and Manacles

When they had been brought safely through, then we found out that the island was called Malta.
The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all. But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.”
However he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. But they were expecting that he was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god. Acts 28:1-6

Intro: Have you ever felt like God has given you too much to handle?

Finally out of hurricane, Paul’s feet were on solid ground
– yes, it raining and cold, but a warm fire was burning nearby
• Paul picked up a few sticks to toss into the flames and felt a sudden sharp pain
• he looked, and a viper was hanging from his hand
◦ this had to feel like the last straw
– at that point, I would look up and say, “Really?!”
• I imagine Paul shaking his head
◦ then shaking the snake of his hand and into the flames
• in high school sports, whenever we took a hit or missed a play
◦ our coaches would shout, “Shake it off!”
◦ there would always be lots of bumps and bad calls
◦ but they wanted us to keep our head in the game

The last few chapters have been about Paul
– but what was Paul about? – this question leads us to the larger theme
– we already know what it is, but Luke wants it clearly spelled out

After the shipwreck, they learned they had washed up on the shores of Malta
– “natives” is misleading, but Greek even more so — barbarians
• anyone who spoke foreign language
(they sounded like they were saying “Bar-bar” or “Blah, blah, blah”)
◦ to us, the word barbarian sounds like savage
◦ but, in fact, it could refer to educated and cultured people
• we get a more accurate picture if think, “the locals”
– the snake bite is good illustration how popular opinion can turn on dime
• in a few minutes, Paul went from being perceived as a murderer to a god
• perhaps there was a purpose for this “last straw” with the snake

7-10 The beach was near the estate of the island’s magistrate

For three days Publius hosted Paul and his companions
– it’s likely, Publius’ intended guests were the centurion, captain and any othe VIPs on board
• but for some reason, Paul was included
• while there, they learned Publius’ father was ill
◦ Paul visited him, then prayed, then touched and healed him
◦ the next thing we know, Paul was taking patients from all over the island
– “divine healing” is for us a tricky and confusing issue

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