Monday, October 29, 2012

The Pauper's Path

Spirit & Truth # 295
“The Pauper’s Path”
By Greg Smith
            When you offer your service to God, what do you expect your reward should be?  Jesus’ disciples had their own ideas.  James and John asked if they could sit next to Jesus on His throne.  But Jesus had other plans.  Instead of making the disciples princes in the kingdom, He made them paupers for God.
            In Matthew 10:1-12, Jesus sent seventy disciples on a preaching tour, telling them not to carry money, a traveling bag, or sandals, and not to greet anyone on the road.  When they reached the village where they were to preach, they should accept the food and shelter of one household and stay there as long as they were welcome.  When it was time to go, they should leave, and trust God for the results of their ministry.  Jesus told them to heal the sick and preach, “The kingdom of God has come near you.” 
            Their mission was to be present for all beings, to bring the Kingdom to all who would hear.  To do this, they needed to exchange their prideful positioning for a pauper’s path.  Jesus told them to carry no provisions, banishing from their minds all want of anything other than what the Father provides along the way.  He told them not to speak with anybody on the road so that they would neither become beggars nor would they become attached to the current events which were discussed by travelers. They should receive hospitality graciously, but be ready to abandon it should their message be ignored.  A disciple should be like the Kingdom itself—neither living for, or of, himself.
            The first shall be last, and the last shall be first, Jesus said.  Treat your body and its demands as if they were foreign, and make ho provision for the flesh.  Have no personal and private ends.  Let go of yourself.  Detach yourself from the world's things, and the Kingdom that you serve will provide for you.
            In your daily spiritual walk, you can follow the pauper’s path in the workplace and in your family.  At work, you can become detached from the results of what you do, and simply fulfill your mission for the joy of it.  If God called you to it, then God will take care of the outcome.  You can look not to people for affirmation recognition or compensation or supply, but to God.  You can refuse to get embroiled in the current events of the day, but dedicate yourself to the care of eternal things.
            In your family you can do the same thing.  In parenting, learn to detach from your children's squabbles and simply be the sage who brings wisdom and peace.  In your marriage, focus on what you have to give, and let God and your spouse take care of what you’re supposed to receive.  Only then can you simply be content and not worry about what you think you need that you’re not getting.  It could he that there's a lesson God wants you to learn in being a spiritual pauper.  After all, Jesus did say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:3 NIV).”  Being poor in spirit means letting go of yourself, and being perfectly fulfilled.  You must decrease, so that God and your family and the mission of God can increase.  Don’t see yourself as a prince among people, but be a pauper for God.

Monday, October 22, 2012


Spirit & Truth # 294
By Greg Smith

            Noah’s Ark.[i]  Moses’ floating basket.[ii]  The Ark of the Covenant.[iii]  What do these three things have in common?  How about a manger,[iv] or a widow’s jar,[v] or virgins’ lamps,[vi] or six stone water pots?[vii] What unites all these things?  They were all empty before they could be filled.

            Now, I don’t generally like to state the obvious, but I think it’s apparent that in order for something to be filled, it first needs to be empty.  That doesn’t take a genius to figure out.

            People who claim to be optimists say that they’d rather see the glass not as half-empty, but as half-full.  Most people would rather see the glass as full to the brim.  We fill our lives with all sorts of “good” activities that the world tells us will make us better people.  Baseball teaches character.  PTA meetings show that you’re an involved parent.  Committee work gets things done around church.  Movies are a welcome diversion from a hectic schedule.  Yes, indeed—we do like to live full lives!

            Not only are our schedules full—our minds are full as well.  Full of to-do lists for the day.  Full of fears.  Full of pride in a job well-done.  Full of plans and dreams and hopes.  Full of ego.  Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”[viii]  But is this the kind of fullness that the Savior meant?

            Jesus didn’t come that we could have full schedules.  Jesus didn’t come so that we could have full minds.  He came that our lives may be filled with His Spirit.  Time after time the New Testament makes reference to people being filled with, or full of the Holy Spirit.  But in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit, you must first be empty.  No vessel can be filled when it is already full.  When you’re full of yourself, how can there be any room for God to get in?  

             2 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV) says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”  The treasure is the Gospel, and the jars of clay are our mortal lives.  But we, as vessels for God, must first be emptied before we can be filled.  

            A bellows is used to blow air on hot coals, to cause them to burn into flame.  Believers can let God use them as bellows, fanning into flame the gift that has been stirred up within ourselves and others.  But first, we must be empty.  If you fill up a bellows with sand or any other material, it can’t be filled with air.  It is the bellows’ emptiness that makes it useful.  My prayer for you (strange as it may sound) is not that you’ll life a full life—that is, full of activities and ego and striving.  My prayer is that you will live an empty life—ready to be filled by God and used for His glory.  For only when we are empty can we be filled with the Spirit of Christ.


[i] Genesis 6
[ii] Exodus 2
[iii] Exodus 25
[iv] Luke 2
[v] 1 Kings 17
[vi] Matthew 25
[vii] John 2
[viii] John 10:10 NIV

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sell the Sizzle

Spirit & Truth # 293
“Sell the Sizzle”
By Greg Smith

"Taste, and see that the Lord is good!"
             Many years ago I tried unsuccessfully to make a living as a door-to-door meat salesman.  I would display the product, quote the price, and ask the prospective customer if they would like to buy.  Rarely did they express much interest in what I was selling.  The reason, my manager told me, was that while I had done a good job describing the product, it wasn’t actually meat that I was selling.  He told me, “You’ve got to sell the sizzle, not the steak.”  

            Much to my manager’s chagrin, his words taught me more about evangelism than about sales.  Today I realize that when you share your faith with someone who isn’t a believer, you’ve got to do it in such a way that they become hungry for Jesus.  When you’re selling meat, you’ve got to get your customer to imagine a barbecue grill and the smell of charcoal, sizzling steaks and the laughter of friends.  When Christians share Jesus, they should avoid theological arguments and doctrinal statements (describing the product itself).  Instead, they should sell the “sizzle” of God’s love, grace, and blessing.  Or, for those testimony is geared more towards warning about the wrath to come, “sizzle” takes on another meaning.  Either way, salvation is best presented not as theological steak to be chewed on, but as a mouthwatering message of God’s grace to be received and savored for eternity. 

            Romans 10:14-15, 17 (ERV) says, “But before people can pray to the Lord for help, they must believe in him. And before they can believe in the Lord, they must hear about him. And for anyone to hear about the Lord, someone must tell them.  And before anyone can go and tell them, they must be sent. As the Scriptures say, ‘How wonderful it is to see someone coming to tell good news!’…So faith comes from hearing the Good News. And people hear the Good News when someone tells them about Christ.”

            If you’re a Christian, then God has given you a mission—to share the truth of His salvation with anyone who will hear.  It’s not your job to make them buy the product—the Holy Spirit will convict people of sin and lead them to salvation.  It is your job to faithfully present the Gospel to your listener.  Sell the sizzle, not the steak.  

            When I sold meat, I learned one other reason why I had a difficult time making sales:  I wasn’t sold myself.  I didn’t really believe in my product.  It was overpriced and overrated.  So how could I sell a product I didn’t believe in?  Do you have trouble sharing your faith with your friends, family, and neighbors?  Maybe you’re not really sold yourself.  In sales, I found that when I had an actual financial investment in the product I was trying to sell, I could sell it better.  In evangelism, I’ve found that it’s only when people are sold-out to Jesus that they can share Him effectively.  Invest your life in Him, and watch the way people respond to your genuine invitation to faith.  Make them hungry for Jesus, then “taste, and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).”