Monday, November 30, 2009

Peace On Earth, Good Will Toward Men

Spirit & Truth # 157
“Peace On Earth, Good Will Toward Men”

By Rev. Greg Smith

As we enter into the Christmas season, we remember the angels’ words, “Peace on earth, good will toward men (Luke 2:14).” Some Bible scholars say this verse is mistranslated, and should read, “Peace on earth toward men of good will.” The difference between these two interpretations is tremendous! One says that we should have peace with everybody. The other says we should have peace only with people of good will. What does Jesus say?

Jesus is perfectly qualified to talk about enemies. He probably had more enemies than anybody who ever walked the earth. His enemies were politicians, religious leaders, the rich and famous. The poor and needy rejected Him as well, if He didn’t meet their needs in the way they thought he should. His followers cried, “Please, teach us!” But then when he taught them things they didn’t want to hear, they turned against Him. His friends betrayed and abandoned him when trouble came. Even before His arrest and crucifixion, the crowds tried to stone Him (John 8:59), while the priests and teachers of the law were trying to kill Him (Luke 19:47). And this doesn’t even take into account the demonic attacks on Jesus throughout His life.

All of this uniquely qualifies the Prince of Peace to talk about enemies. In Luke 9:54-56, Jesus’ disciples are angry because the people did not welcome Him. “When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village.” Some manuscripts add that Jesus said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."

Jesus didn’t say, “No—they don’t deserve to have fire fall on them from heaven.” Perhaps they did deserve it after all. Maybe even your enemies deserve it. But the reserve Jesus expressed had nothing to do with the enemies—it had everything to do with the kind of spirit that dwells in the believer. We choose peace, not because our enemies don’t deserve our wrath—but because the Spirit of Peace lives in us. We choose peace because we deserve to be peaceful people. And that changes everything.

Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” This is what Jesus did, even to the point of laying Himself down on a cross. As we remember the manger this season, let’s remember to truly have peace and good will toward everyone, even those people who we don’t think deserve it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Starving Times

Spirit & Truth # 156
“The Starving Times”

By Rev. Greg Smith

New Englanders want to lay claim to the first Thanksgiving service in America, but we Virginians know that it really happened in Jamestown, in the year 1610. The Jamestown colony started well, laying the foundations in faith. Captain John Smith wrote about the first church in the new land: "When I first went to Virginia, I well remember we did hang an awning (which was an old sail) to three or four trees to shadow us from the sun; our walls were rails of wood, our seats unhewed trees, till we cut planks; our pulpit a bar of wood nailed to two neighboring trees; in foul weather we shifted into an old, rotten tent, for we had few better…This was our church till we built a homely thing, like a barn, set upon crotchets, covered with rafts, sedge, and earth; so were also the walls...Yet we had daily common prayer morning and evening, every Sunday two sermons, and every three months communion till our minister died."

Soon, however, the colonists took their faith in gold more seriously than their faith in God. They also abandoned their farming in exchange for searching for the yellow stones, hoping to barter and trade with the Indians for their winter supplies. But when Smith left the colony, tensions grew between the indigenous people and the settlers. The Powhatan Indians refused to trade with the English, thus leaving them without provisions for the winter of 1609-1610. This period would be known to historians as The Starving Time—when colonists resorted to eating shoe leather, horses, and the bodies of people who had died of starvation. Of the original 490 colonists that Smith left in the autumn of 1609, only 60 remained in the spring of 1610.

They decided to abandon the colony, boarded a ship, and followed the river downstream. At the mouth of the James, they encountered a flotilla of English ships, led by Lord Delaware, filled with supplies and fresh colonists. The bedraggled survivors returned the Jamestown, encouraged by the bounty and provision. The Rev. Mr. Buckle held a service of thanksgiving to God, filled with songs of praise that were heard even by the Indians who sat on the outside of the assembly.
Simply put—there would have been no Thanksgiving without the Starving Time. We must go through struggle and trial and hardship in life, if we are to be brought close to God. The prophet Amos said, “’The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign LORD, ‘when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD (Amos 8:11 NIV).’”
God designs the starving times that we go through in order to make us hungry and thirsty for God.

Is this Thanksgiving a struggle for you? Do you feel like you’re in your own personal Starving Time? Remember that there can be no Thanksgiving without a struggle. Let the lean times bring you closer to God. Thank Him, in advance, for the sustenance you need—even if you don’t see it yet. Then wait, and see the salvation of God.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Crabtree Falls Hike

This past Monday, my friend Jed and I hiked most of the way to the top of Crabtree Falls, in the George Washington National Forest. (Click here to read about the layout of the falls, etc.) We had a great time! Here are some of the pictures I took on the hike.

Along the way, we stopped at a cave, which opened in the back as well. It had a natural chimney, and we could tell from the charred remains that somebody had taken advantage of it. Below is a picture of Jed in the cave.

Crabtree Falls is the highest (tallest) waterfall east of the Mississippi. This might look strange to you, from these pictures. But remember, this is the tallest...not the biggest. It's no Niagara, but the trail is a nice 2.2 mile round-trip hike, which takes longer than you might think, because of the steep incline. A nice hike.

Crabtree Falls is 1,200 feet high, and absolutely beautiful.

On the way back, we stopped at Harmony Presbyterian Church to admire its beautiful stonework. What a beautiful day to spend in the mountains!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

An Awesome Michael Jackson Video

Since this is the "Love the Word" Blog, I thought I'd share this with you--just because I love words, and the words in this video are absolutely awesome!