Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Spirit & Truth # 231
By Rev. Greg Smith

            Don’t get me wrong—I love my job.  And I’m glad to help—really, I am.  I consider it a calling and a delight to be able to minister to people’s needs in times of conflict or stress or suffering.  Taking care of people is what I do.

            But what gets me are the Christians who think it takes a professional in order to help someone.  “Pastor, my sister’s having a hard time with her uncontrollable teenage son, and she really needs someone to straighten him out.”  I reply, “I’d be happy to talk with him,” but I think, “Is he really more likely to listen to me, or is he more likely to listen to the Christians in his life who know him and love him?”  

            Again, please don’t misunderstand.  Just like I’m glad to help those in need, your pastor is, too.  That’s why he or she has been called into ministry.  But you don’t have to be an expert to help someone.  Not long ago, I was delighted to find one of my church members giving away food from our church’s pantry—without asking me for help, and without asking for authorization from our food pantry managers.  Now that’s what I’m talking about!  Every believer is anointed by God with a special gift, an ability to help those in need.  Pastors are glad to help, but don’t let their willingness become an excuse for your inactivity.  God calls every believer to help the helpless, feed the hungry, console the hurting, and give grace to the sinner.

            When He ministered in Nazareth, Jesus read the passage from Isaiah that said, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Isaiah 61:1-2a).”  “Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing (Luke 4:19-20).’” 

            Jesus’ words upset his audience because they understood his claim to be the Messiah.  For them, the things Isaiah talked about were the Messiah’s job description—and they didn’t think Jesus was equal to the task.  They didn’t think that they themselves were qualified either.  That was the job of a professional.

            The hangup of the Nazarenes continues today.  Too often we think that these things—proclaiming the Gospel, giving liberty to captives, healing, helping the oppressed, and declaring God’s favor—are the jobs of professionals only.  We forget that God has anointed all believers to do the same things that Jesus did.  Acts 10:38 says, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and…he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”   If you’re a Christian, then the same can be said for you.  You are anointed to minister.  You are anointed to serve.  Don’t wait for the professionals to do it—walk in your anointing!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Face of God

Spirit & Truth # 230
“The Face of God”
By Rev. Greg Smith

What does God look like?  On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo depicted God as a Caucasian grandfather with long gray beard.  Is this what God really looks like?  Three times in Psalm 80, the psalmist prays, “Cause your face to shine, and we shall be saved.”  Yes, we want to see God’s face.
In the Old Testament, God appeared in many forms, called theophanies.  A theophany is a tangible manifestation of God’s presence, like the burning bush (Exodus 3); pillar of fire and cloud (Exodus 13-14); and the fourth man in the fire (Daniel 3).  God walked with Adam in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8), and spoke with Moses as a man speaks to a friend (Exodus 33:11).  But God’s brief tangible visits could never truly let people see his heart of hearts.  It would take something greater than that.  The psalmist says that when God’s face shines, we are saved.  This can only be the face of Christ, for even Jesus’ name means, “God Saves.”
In John 14:9 (NIV), Jesus says, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Hebrews 3:3 (NKJV) says that Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.”  To see Jesus is to see God Himself.
This past March, the History Channel showed a documentary entitled “The Real Face of Jesus,” in which graphic artist Ray Downing used images from the Shroud of Turin to digitally create a three-dimensional picture of the man who was buried in the cloth.  Whether this man was Jesus or not, I leave up to you.  But even if it were Jesus’ burial cloth and we could know what our Lord looked like by means of such technological recreation, we still would have only an image and not Jesus Himself.  It would not be an accurate way of getting to know who God truly is.  To know the living Jesus is to know God Himself. 
A handful of people have told me that in times of prayer, they have seen Jesus’ face—yet God doesn’t reveal His face clearly.  The apostle Paul says, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known (1 Corinthians 13:12 NKJV).”  One day, when we get to heaven, we will see God face to face.  But until then, there is only one way that we can clearly see the face of God each day. 
Genesis 1:27 (NKJV) says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  Far from the heretical doctrine that says human beings are God, this verse tells us that we are made in God’s image.  This means that when God looks at us, He sees a bit of Himself; when you love one another, you are loving God as well (Matthew 25:40).  When others see you, do they see Jesus in you?  Does your face shine with God’s presence?  If you seek God’s heart more than anything else, then people may see in your face “the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6 NIV).”

Monday, June 13, 2011

"Jesus' Eviction Notice"

Spirit & Truth # 229
“Jesus’ Eviction Notice”
By Rev. Greg Smith

After making a whip out of cords, He drove everyone out of the temple complex with their sheep and oxen. He also poured out the money changers' coins and overturned the tables.  He told those who were selling doves, "Get these things out of here! Stop turning My Father's house into a marketplace (John 2:15-15 HCSB)!"

            In this current economy, many homeowners are becoming renters, and some renters are becoming homeless.  In both urban and rural settings, owners of unoccupied buildings often face the problem of squatters—uninvited guests who illegally move in and stake their claim.  If the landowner is not in residence, they may never be aware of their unwanted residents.  The problem with squatters is twofold: first, the landowner receives no payment for the shelter he provides; and second, squatters often do a lot of damage to houses that they occupy.  Today’s scripture is about a different kind of squatter—not in an apartment building, but in the temple of God.

            When Jesus went up to the temple, He saw the entryway full of venders and moneychangers, blocking people’s way to worship.  While moneychangers were necessary to convert Roman coin to Jewish shekels for the temple treasury, they certainly did not need to be in such an obtrusive location, preventing people’s entrance to the sanctuary.  While venders were essential so that people could purchase animals for sacrifice, they did not need to cause such a commotion by locating themselves in the temple proper.  They had turned God’s house into a street bazaar, dishonoring God and essentially preventing people from worship.  This angered Jesus, so He fashioned a whip of cords and drove them out of the temple.

            The Bible says that if you are a believer, then you are the temple of God.[i]  Jesus wants worship to flow freely in you, yet Christians often allow squatters to occupy the worship-centers of our hearts.  Sin blocks us from true relationship with God, and it’s about time that sin receives its eviction notice.

            One website[ii] suggests three things you need if you’re a landowner who needs to evict squatters from your building.  First, you need a property lawyer, who understands all the legal ins and outs of evicting squatters.  The Bible calls Jesus the Advocate, [iii] who constantly makes our case before the Father.  Second, you need a professional eviction service, because evictions can get dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.  James 4:7 (NIV) says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  Squatting sin is unable to resist the Holy Spirit when He comes in to evict it.    Third, you need ownership documents.  God holds these papers in heaven, as our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.[iv]  

Remember that you are not the property owner.  You are the property.  “You are not your own…you have been bought with a price.[v]  When you find your life so jammed with sin that it prevents you from entering into relationship with God—when sin impedes worship and keeps you from God’s presence—let Jesus cast it out of your heart.  Let Him purify you, His temple, and make you into the house of God.

[i] 1 Cor 3:16, Eph 2:21-22
[ii] http://www.ehow.com/how_5120628_evict-squatters.html.  June 9, 2011
[iii] 1 Jn 2:1
[iv] Rev 21:27
[v] 1 Cor 6:19b-20a

Monday, June 6, 2011

Conquer My Heart!

Spirit & Truth # 228
“Conquer My Heart”
By Rev. Greg Smith

The July 10, 1993 edition of Daily Walk says, “Historian Shelby Foote tells of a soldier who was wounded at the battle of Shiloh during the American Civil War and was ordered to go to the rear. The fighting was fierce and within minutes he returned to his commanding officer. ‘Captain, give me a gun!’ he shouted. ‘This fight ain't got any rear!’"  Sometimes we find ourselves in spiritual battles that haven’t got any rear.  It seems like there’s no way out, like the devil’s got you surrounded on all sides, and even though you’re wounded, you still have to fight.  What do you do in times like that?

In Deuteronomy 7, God tells the Israelites, through Moses, that they are to be divine instruments of wrath, destroying mighty nations that are guilty of heinous abominations like idolatry, child sacrifice, and much more.  But Israel is in for a hard fight.  In verses 17-19 (CEV) Moses says, “You may be thinking, ‘How can we destroy these nations? They are more powerful than we are.’  But stop worrying! Just remember what the LORD your God did to Egypt and its king.  You saw how the LORD used his tremendous power to work great miracles and bring you out of Egypt. And he will again work miracles for you when you face these enemies you fear so much.”

The battles you’re fighting today probably aren’t as violent as the Israelites.  Your wars may be things like disease, difficult relationships, poverty, and temptation.  But that doesn’t make your struggles any less real.  You can rest assured that the same God who fought Israel’s battles for them also does wonders to rescue those who call on His Name.  

In verse 22, (CEV) Moses says, “The LORD will force [the nations] out little by little. He won't let you get rid of them all at once—if he did, there wouldn't be enough people living in the land to keep down the number of wild animals.”  When God intervenes on your behalf, that doesn’t mean you’ll always see immediate results.  God has reasons for following His agenda and not ours.  Maybe your preferred timetable would cause you some unforeseen problem that He wants you to avoid.  Trust God, and He will see you through.

Moses says something next that makes little sense on the surface.  “After you conquer a nation, burn their idols. Don't get trapped into wanting the silver or gold on an idol. Even the metal on an idol is disgusting to the LORD, so destroy it. If you bring it home with you, both you and your house will be destroyed. Stay away from those disgusting idols (verses 25-26 CEV)!”   

You’d think the Israelites would be able to destroy their enemies’ idols by melting them down, keeping the gold and silver—but God says to destroy it.  When God gives you victory over some evil stronghold in your life, it’s easy to rationalize hanging onto some small part of it.  “Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water,” you say.  So you finally quit those cigarettes but still hang onto that chewing tobacco.  Or you get control of your tongue by kicking your cussing habit, yet you continue to gossip about your neighbor.  God wants you to get rid of it all, and let Him make you holy.

You see, God wanted to do more than conquer the Promised Land.  He wanted to conquer people’s hearts.  In fact, if everyone who lived in the Promised Land had let God conquer their hearts, there would have been no need for divine judgment.  In the same way, God wants you to surrender your heart to Him and let Him take the lead.  Trust Him for the battles you fight every day.  When He’s won the victory, let Him keep it by getting rid of those idols you’ve held onto for years.  Say to the Lord, “Conquer my heart!”  Lay down your arms before Him, and then watch the ironic thing He does.  He will give you the victory.