Monday, January 31, 2011

A Place to Abide - My Article in the Southside Messenger

Spirit & Truth # 212
A Place to Abide”
By Rev. Greg Smith
(c) 2011

And Jesus turned, and beheld them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? And they said unto him, Rabbi (which is to say, being interpreted, Teacher), where abideth thou?(John 1:38 ASV)

When I was young, our family took in foster children.  Though we were assured their stay would be brief, these three girls remained with us for years.  Each one was a blessing, and each had special emotional needs.
One of the girls, whom we’ll call Margaret, was born in Glasgow, the child of a Scottish woman and an American sailor.  Her mother was unable to care for her, so in her first eight years Margaret moved to her aunt’s house in Spain, and then back to Scotland to live with her grandmother.  From there, she moved to Colorado to live with another aunt.  When that aunt couldn’t keep her, she sent Margaret to another yet aunt in Virginia.  When she couldn’t take care of her, Margaret entered the foster care system.  By the time she came to us, Margaret had been shuffled from place to place so much that she didn’t know where she belonged.  She didn’t just need a place where she could stay for awhile, but a place where she could abide.
When they first met Him, Jesus’ disciples asked, “Where abidest thou?”  “Come and see,” he replied, and they stayed with him overnight.  Some make the mistake of thinking that just because Jesus was itinerant, he must have been homeless.  Many Bible scholars believe (based on this verse and Mark 2:1, 15) that Jesus actually owned a home in Capernaum.  He invited them to his own home for the night, and they ended up staying with Jesus for three years.  In fact, when His Spirit dwelt in their hearts, He remained with them forever, promising them a heavenly home. 
A place to abide…that means much more than just a place to stay.  The root Greek word for “abide” in John 1:38 is meno, which means “to remain, continue, endure, last, and live.”  Its meaning is more permanent than “Where are you staying?”  his makes us think of a hotel, but instead Jesus’ followers wanted to know where they could remain with Jesus forever. 
Jesus uses a form of meno ten times in John 15:1-10 (NASB).  “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.”  You abide in Him when you remain in a state of prayer and fellowship with His Spirit.  You bear fruit in your life when you abide in Him the way a grape vine abides in the branch.  You draw nutrients from Jesus just as the grape draws its sustenance from the sap that flows through the branch.  When Jesus calls you to become His disciple, He doesn’t say, “Why don’t you visit for awhile?”  Instead, he says, “Remain with me.  Abide with me.”  When you abide in Him, you know that wherever you go in life, you’re at home in His love.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"Do You Want to Get Well" - My Article in the Southside Messenger

Spirit & Truth # 211
“Do You Want to Get Well?”
                                                                     (c) 2011               
By Rev. Greg Smith

Many people are disappointed to see their doctors.  It may be because their physicians are incompetent.  Or it may be that their doctors are right, all too often—and the news they give isn’t good.  “Your cholesterol is too high,” or “Your blood pressure is too low.”  When you get news like this, usually there’s something that can be done.  But what happens when the doctor gives you bad news, and there’s nothing that can be done?
Where do you find hope?  Where do you turn for healing?
            John 5:1-14 tells about a man who had waited for healing for thirty-eight years, beside a pool known for its miraculous curative properties.  Yet all this time, he had not been able to step into the restorative waters. 

“When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
                        Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked (John 5:6-9 NIV).

“Do you want to get well?” What kind of a question is that?  Shouldn’t we take it for granted that the man wanted to get well?  Hadn’t he waited by the pool all this time?  No—we shouldn’t assume that he wanted to get well.  I’ve met many people who keep doctors and hospitals in business because they love the drama of being sick or because they enjoy the pity they receive from others.  I’ve known others who trusted their psychologist’s advice more than they relied on God for strength.  The man’s proximity to a place of healing wasn’t a sure indicator of anything.  So Jesus, always a gentleman, did not want to force His healing on anyone.  “Do you want to get well?” He asked the man.
Jesus asks you the same thing.  He desires to heal your anxieties, addictions, sins, and sicknesses.  He wants you to learn to rise up and walk on your own, without making excuses or expecting someone else to help you.  He wants to see your body, soul, and spirit made whole, but first He asks, “Do you want to get well?”
If you decide that you really want God’s healing, just step into it.  Let Him transform your life.  Philippians 1:6 (NLT) says, “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”  Trust Him for your healing.  Then trust Him for every step thereafter. Walk with Him.  He will never let you fall.

Monday, January 10, 2011

"My Whole Heart" - My Article in the Southside Messenger

Spirit & Truth # 210
“My Whole Heart”
(c) 2010
By Rev. Greg Smith

Happy are those who live pure lives,
       who follow the Lord's teachings.
Happy are those who keep his rules,
       who try to obey him with their whole heart.
(Psalm 119:1-2 NCV)

            Recently, I shared the following story, from Guideposts, with folks at my church: 

When I was a boy, my father, a baker, introduced me to the wonders of song," tenor Luciano Pavarotti relates. "He urged me to work very hard to develop my voice. Arrigo Pola, a professional tenor in my hometown of Modena, Italy, took me as a pupil. I also enrolled in a teachers college. On graduating, I asked my father, 'Shall I be a teacher or a singer?' "'Luciano,' my father replied, 'if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.' "I chose one. It took seven years of study and frustration before I made my first professional appearance. It took another seven to reach the Metropolitan Opera. And now I think whether it's laying bricks, writing a book--whatever we choose--we should give ourselves to it. Commitment, that's the key. Choose one chair." 

            Each of us is given two chairs to sit in.  The devil says to us, “Sit down, enjoy the nice seat I offer.  Isn’t the cushion comfortable?”  Everyone at some point accepts the offer of this seat.  The Bible says that everyone is a sinner.  But then Jesus offers us something greater.  He says, “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne (Rev 3:21a NIV).”  The problem is that so many Christians accept His invitation partly, but don’t make the move altogether.  They scoot Satan’s chair as close to Jesus’ chair as possible, and try to sit in both seats at once.  Inevitably, they fall between them.
            Many Christians ask, “Why am I unhappy?  I have everything I want; I can do anything I want to do.”  It’s because they’re not following God with their whole heart.  They’ve given Him a piece of it, but not the whole thing.
            The human heart has four chambers: the right and left atria, and the right and left ventricles.  If just one of the heart’s chambers stopped working, the whole thing would shut down, and the result could be death.  The same is true with your spiritual heart.  If your body, your emotions, your actions, and your thoughts are pure, then you’re spiritually whole.  If any one of these four areas of your life is defiled by sin, your spiritual health is in danger.  God wants you to follow Him with your whole heart, not just a piece of it.  Confess your sins to God.  Ask Him to purify each of these areas of your heart.  Give Him all of yourself.  Hold nothing back.  Choose one chair.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

"My Beloved Son" - My Article in the Southside Messenger

Spirit & Truth # 209
“My Dearly Loved Son”
By Rev. Greg Smith

            Having resolved this New Year to be more intentional about finding recreation (re-creation) time, this pastor took the week after Christmas to do just that.  Admittedly, my staycation (a vacation where you stay at home) wasn’t all recreation—my thirteen-year-old Lydia got a freshly painted bedroom out of the deal—but overall it’s been a great week.  While our three teenagers went on a fun trip with the church youth group, my wife and I took our eight-year-old so to a movie one day and to an indoor water park the next.  It was nice spending exclusive time with Daniel, as I don’t get the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with each of my kids individually, as much as I’d like.  

Today, armed with a pocket full of Christmas money and accompanied by my (gasp) man-sized, fifteen-year-old son, I went canoe-shopping in West Virginia.  Today was a day full of lessons.  For his part, Aaron learned a few things.  He learned that his dear old dad is secretly a wheeler-dealer, able to haggle a seller down to 3/5 of his original price.  He also learned that he can talk to his dad about absolutely anything—our eight-hour round-trip journey proved that true. 

I learned a lot today, too.  For instance, that I should measure the width of my roof-rack and get the breadth of the canoe from the seller before I make an eight-hour round-trip journey.  (A poor fit, we didn’t buy it, even for 3/5 of the original price.)  I also learned to appreciate my mannish son, able to lift heavy canoes on his broadening shoulders.  In addition, something occurred to me about my growing boy as we followed a total stranger I’d contacted through Craigslist, down lonely mountain roads to his back-woods cabin where nobody could hear us scream.  (At this point, I began to question my own fatherly wisdom.)  What occurred to me was that, should the unlikely horror-movie scene take place, my son had my back.  Yes, Aaron is growing up.  I invited him along with me just to help lift heavy things, but I learned a great lesson today—I can totally trust my son.

Reflecting on this brings to mind the heavenly Father’s words at Jesus’ baptism: "This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy (Matthew 3:17 NLT)."  It’s exciting, watching your children grow into maturity and realizing that you can trust them.  I wonder—does our Father take this kind of delight in us?  After all the effort He’s put into raising us, have we shown Him that He can trust us?  As I grow to maturity, I hope that I’ve learned that I can talk with my heavenly Father about absolutely anything.  I hope that takes delight in watching me grow.  And I hope that along the way I might earn His trust.

I hope the same for you.

(Here's a picture of the Pelican Bayou 160 I didn't buy today.)