Monday, October 24, 2011

Just Fishin'

Spirit & Truth # 247
“Just Fishin’”

By Greg Smith

            I wouldn’t describe myself as a country music fan, but I love Trace Adkins’ song, Just Fishin’.[i]    It’s about a man and his young daughter fishing together.  She thinks they’re just fishing, but he realizes that they’re doing much more than that.  They’re creating a bond that will last a lifetime.  Adkins sings:

And she thinks we’re just fishin’ on the river side,
Throwing back what we could fry,
Drowning worms an killing time,
Nothing too ambitious
She ain’t even thinking about what’s really going on right now
But I guarantee this memories a big one
And she thinks we’re just fishin’

            This past weekend I took my youngest son camping.  At nine years old, it was his first camping trip.  We hiked.  We fished.  We canoed.  We cooked over a campfire.  To me, It was no big deal.  To him, it was huge.  To me, it was a weekend away.  But he told me he’d had “one of the best days of my life.” 
Over the past thirty-nine years, I’ve had countless camping trips.  Daniel can count only one.  I’ve started innumerable campfires, but this weekend Daniel lit his first.  I have a whole collection of knives, but Daniel just received his first pocket knife.  I have four children with whom I’ve had countless “special” days.  But each of my children has only one dad to share a special day with them.  With the busyness of my schedule, it’s easy to let the events on my calendar crowd out the really important things.  Maybe you’re like me, and you need to reframe your life so that you schedule your activity around your family, rather than scheduling your family around your activities.
Trace Adkins talks about fishing being more than fishing, and I agree.  In fact, it has nothing to do with catching fish at all.  Daniel and I never got a bite, but the time we spent together was worth more than anything we could have put in a pan.  As the evening wound to a close and our fire died to embers, our conversation turned to spiritual things.  He had questions, and together we found where the Bible had answers.  That never would have happened if I hadn’t made time for him. 
In Deuteronomy 6:5-7 God says, “You shall love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”  In other words, spend time with your kids and grandkids.  While you’re spending time with them, whatever you’re doing, tell them about God.
Popular parenting experts say that quantity time isn’t important, but what’s necessary is to spend “quality time” with our kids.  But quality time is what happens when you spend a quantity of time together.  Give yourself to them, and in years to come it will be easier for them to give themselves to Jesus. 

[i] Trace Adkins.  Just Fishin'. (C) 2011 Show Dog -- Universal Music, LLC

Monday, October 17, 2011

"Remember Who You Are"

Spirit & Truth # 246
“Remember Who You Are”

By Greg Smith

Have you ever reached a standstill in life, where God has been using you for His kingdom, but then fear or disappointment or depression grips you and all your work seems to be for nothing?  God has great plans for His people.  The problem is that sometimes we forget who we are in Christ.  We forget the power of the Holy Spirit, and the mission He has given us.

In Ezra chapter four, God’s people who have been rebuilding the temple stop their work, because they fear man rather than God.  But in chapter five, they are inspired by the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah, and they resume their work once again.  The Persian-appointed governor and other officials ask them, “’Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and to finish it?’ They also asked, ‘What are the names of those who are constructing this building (Ezra 5:3-4 NIV)?’”

Satan, the enemy of our souls, likes to intimidate us into submission.  He likes to “kick butt and take names.”  Whenever he sees us building God’s temple in our hearts, he tries to put a stop to it.  If he sees spiritual growth within believers, he throws up roadblocks to oppose it.  Our problem is that we forget who we are.  We forget that our power and authority come from God.  When the accuser says, “Who do you think you are?” we tend to shrink in fear rather than speaking with faith.  But God wants us to remember who we are.

When I was young, my mother used to pray over us before we would catch the school bus.  Then she’d embarrass us in front of the neighbor kids by calling from the front porch, “Take God with you, and remember who you are!”  At the time, we didn’t want to hear it—but it was one of the greatest life lessons I’ve ever had.  Everywhere we go, we need to carry God’s authority with us.  We need to remember who we are as Christians—children of the King, bought by the blood of Jesus.  That carries with it immeasurable strength and authority.

The governor sent a report to the king, saying, “We questioned the elders and asked them, ‘Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and to finish it? (verse 9)’”  The response they received surprised them, for the workers cited a work order from Cyrus, a previous and greater king than Darius.  They also said that they were commissioned to build the temple by the greatest King of all:  “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago (verse 11 NIV).”  They knew who they were, and whose authority they claimed.  Do you?

When fear threatens to shut you down, do you give in to it or do you claim your authority as a servant of the God of heaven and earth?  Don’t let the devil stall the building project that God has started in your heart.  Be confident that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6 NIV).”  Take God with you, and remember who you are!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Casting Out Fear

Spirit & Truth # 245
“Casting Out Fear”

By Greg Smith

            When I was a small child growing up in the Henrico suburbs, I played all over our neighborhood.  Times were different then, and my parents let me roam from one neighbor’s house to another in a safe pack of kids that looked out for one another.  We played in each other’s yards and club houses.  We swung on swing sets and used the entire neighborhood for our epic games of war games.  We played everywhere—except for the one place I refused to play.  I was afraid to go in my side yard.

            In my small side yard there was a dark area, shaded by our next door neighbor’s fence and an overhanging tree on one side, and by our house on the other side.  Ivy grew on the tree and ran up the side of the house, hanging in creepy tatters that sparked my young imagination.  Whenever a squirrel or other small animal would scurry through the undergrowth, I envisioned all sorts of frightening things making those noises.  I was convinced that a witch lived in that dark corner of my yard, and my fear kept me from playing anywhere near there.

            Now that I’ve grown up, I’m no longer afraid of witches and monsters.  But I have to admit that there are still some dark corners in my life that fill me with fear.  Perhaps you have some things that scare you, too.  Recent political unrest and trouble on Wall Street have got people fearing for the future.  With fear fueled on the one hand by corporate giants and on the other hand by activist groups like Anonymous (whose tag line, by the way, is the same as the demoniac, “We are legion, for we are many”)[i], many Americans dread the worst.   One of my neighbors is planning what to do when civilization as we know it crumbles within the next few weeks.  

            Perhaps your dark corners aren’t political or economic.  Maybe you fear the dissolution of that relationship that has been so strained in recent months.  Or it could be that the doctor’s report has left you despairing for the future.  Possibly, your children are about to make life decisions that you think would end in disaster.  Whatever the dark places in your yard, God wants to shine His light.

            2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV) says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  1 John 4:18 (NKJV) tells us, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.”
How do we combat the fear that threatens the peace that God wants to put in our hearts?  Seek the perfect love of God.  1 John 4:8b-10 says, “God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  Only through the perfect love of Jesus can your fear, like a demon, be cast into the outer darkness.  Receive His love today.  Let Him cast out your fear.  Let Him set you free.

[i] See Mark 5:9

Monday, October 3, 2011

"Building God's Temple"

Spirit & Truth # 244
“Building God’s Temple

By Greg Smith

Ezra lays the cornerstone of the temple.

            My church is almost at the end of a building project that began its planning stages five years ago.  Our people are cramped for space.  So we’re building an extension to the fellowship hall and some new Sunday school rooms.  The project is scheduled to be complete by the beginning of November, and we’re all getting pretty excited.  I’ve been teaching from the book of Ezra lately, and we’ve been talking about what it really means to build God’s temple.  

            Ezra led the Israelite exiles back to Israel, from their seventy-year captivity in Babylon.  There, they began to rebuild the temple that had been destroyed in their grandparents’ day.  They needed faith and dedication in order to get the project off the ground, and to see it through to completion.  My church is building a physical house for God’s work, but 1 Corinthians 3:16 (NIV) says that “you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you.”  Like the Israelites who rebuilt the temple, and like my church members who are building Sunday school rooms, you need faith and dedication as you build the temple of the Holy Spirit in your heart.

              What does it mean to build God’s temple inside you?  Many people think that means filling their lives with service activities like feeding the poor and clothing the naked and healing the sick and comforting the afflicted.  This might build God’s kingdom on the earth, but it doesn’t build God’s temple inside you.  While these things should overflow from a life dedicated to God, they are the result and not the source of God’s blessing.  Building God’s temple inside you means growing your spirit.  This can’t be done by hard work—it can only be done through prayer and immersing yourself in God’s word, the Bible.

            Ezra 3:6 (HCSB) says that “they began to offer burnt offerings to the LORD, even though the foundation of the LORD's temple had not [yet] been laid.”  Dedicated Christians are often very good at finding helpful things to do, in order to serve others and build God’s kingdom.  This is good, but we need to follow the example of Ezra, who constructed the altar and began regular sacrifices even before he began his work on the temple.  We need to maintain the altar of our spiritual life before we busy ourselves with doing good.  God wants to use you to do great things—but make sure that you prepare your heart for prayer before you prepare your hands for work.  

Have you been weary lately from all the good things you’ve been doing for God?  Why not take some time away from the work of building God’s kingdom, and build an altar to God right where you are?  Let Him renew your heart, and then you’ll have energy to do the rest.