Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jump Into Spring

Ah, it’s that time of year again.  The birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, love is in the air, and my dadblasted neighbor has taken his 150 decibel motorcycle out of winter storage.  No kidding, the airport has called him complaining about the noise.  Seriously, this “follower of Jesus” thing is fine and everything, but I’m willing to consider breaking a few commandments just to shut up this guy’s bike.  You don’t have to encourage me, but at least you could say you understand.

A few Springs ago, I had an odd encounter with another motorcycle.  While picking up my son at his junior high school, I was approached by one of the teachers – Coach.  Coach is a jovial giant, standing in the mid six foot range whom I’d gotten to know during the school year.  Coach had a problem – his fat hog was dead… I should clarify, his motorcycle wouldn’t start.  As I waited for Junior to bounce out the exit doors, Coach recognized me and asked for the favor of a jump start.  Dejectedly, I turned down Coach’s request, “Sorry Man, I don’t have any jumper cables in my car right now.”  To this day, his response stunned me:
“You’re a pastor and you don’t have jumper cables?”
I have a master’s degree in Ministry.  I remember some of my course work pretty well, but I just can’t find my notes from the day the professor covered which emergency car maintenance items ordained ministers were required to have in their car at all times.  Since Coach is also an assistant basketball coach at a nearby Christian college, I figure he knows what’s expected.

I’m in a quandary here.  What should be required of pastors?  And since pastors are supposed to equip the flock, what is required of ALL followers of Jesus.  Right now, how many of you have jumper cables in your car?  But, I do think Coach is onto something.  Remember the Good Samaritan?  I think loving your neighbor somehow involves being ready to help him… somehow.  Will a word from our Sponsor satisfy?
If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. (Matthew 5:40)
But I wasn't being sued… How about:
Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:42)
Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. (Luke 6:30)
Okay, I’m willing to be generous and I guess I would have even given Coach my cables if he just asked to borrow them, but I didn’t have any.  What to do?  What to do?

In fact, I make it a point to always have jumper cables with me always.  On that occasion, my wife was having trouble with her battery and I put my cables in her car so she wouldn’t get stranded.  (Husband points!)  I like being able to help and I’ve given many a disabled vehicle a jump.  When I lived in South Carolina, I would carry around a cooler with ice cold water bottles in it so I could comfort the afflicted during the sweltering summers.  Seriously, Coach, I take this “follower” thing seriously, preacher or not.  Let’s catch a final word from our Sponsor and see what else followers of Jesus need to have at the ready:
Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:15)
There’s a lot there!  The main point is that followers of Jesus live their lives with a rare kind of Hope – the kind the worries of the world cannot extinguish.  And when you have that kind of hope people are going to ask about it.  So always be ready to give the people around you a Jolt of Jesus – jump their sad hearts with the Good News that God has great plans for all of us.  Prepare today to say to someone, “I’m calm in the midst of this pain / sorrow / calamity, because I believe in God’s love for me and His plan for me.  I’m not going to let temporary circumstances steal my joy.”  Say that and you’ll be giving someone a jump that will stay with them for a long, long time!

Well Coach, I may be a sad sack little pastor with no jumper cables, but I still have a brain.  I suggested we get his chopper started the old fashioned way, with a push.  “I never tried that before, but let’s give it a shot.”  (I thought, “You’re a science teacher and you never jump started your motorcycle before?”  Two can play at this game, you know.)  Coach saddled up and Junior and I got behind the rolling half ton of mass and gave it our best.  In ten seconds, I had redeemed myself for failing the pastor test and Coach was off annoying suburbanites seeking a quiet Spring afternoon.

Clark H Smith

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Going Nowhere... With A Purpose

My wife and I have had a theme song since the early days of our marriage – Two of Us Going Nowhere by the Beatles.  We love to just wander.  When we get the chance we’ll point the car in one direction or another and see what’s out there.  A summer ago, we found ourselves in the Blairstown, Missouri business district which featured a closed general store, a GAS-BEER-MINNOWS outlet, and a gun store.  We went to the gun store. 

After shopping a few moments and calculating this was not the day to invest in a 30.06, we sauntered out.  On the way out of the store, the kindly lad who we’d been yacking with said something that I didn't clearly understand.  We got outside and my wife asked me what I heard.  "I don't know," I said, "it almost sounded like he said 'We love you.'"  "That's what I thought I heard", she replied.

I’ve always heard of country hospitality, but I found this Missourian “Aloha” a tad odd.  We were in a gun store for crying out loud, not Precious Moments.  When I hear “I love you” from someone other than my wife or kids, my mind kicks into Skeptical gear.

Made me think of another awkward retail situation.  Back on Dec 15, 2011, I posted the “Attaboy” article.  In it, I mentioned a great fellow, David Griffin.  In the mid-80s, David was an up-and-coming artist in Dallas.  He got the chance to be included in a gallery that showcased his work very well.  Only problem was, the gallery was run by the Moonies (a cult of Christianity rife with theological and financial error).  When I got back in touch with David after 25 years, that gallery was still on his mind:
As a side note I must say to you my involvement with the gallery run by the" Moonies" was a big embarrassment. I guess when you're young, naive and desperate you'll believe almost anything. After I found out I did confront them with it and they just danced around a confession, I pulled out of the gallery that day. You didn't ask I just felt the need to confess my mistake.
So what’s the connection between the gun store in Blairstown and David’s gallery.  Let me tie this up with a couple words from our Sponsor:
Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.  (Matthew 10:16)
 Flee immorality. (I Corinthians 6:18)
“Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. (II Corinthians 6:17)
Followers of Jesus live in a crazy, mixed up world (with crazy, mixed up people – some of whom are us!).  But we are not to become so mixed in with that world that there is no difference between them and us.  I’m not saying the gun store folks were Moonies or had some ulterior motive, but they sure made my spidey-sense tingle.  David admits he got flim-flammed, and frankly, I love the fact that, to this day, David is still agitated about that brief period of time that he found himself on the shady side of the street.  It says his conscience is in good working order.

Followers of Jesus follow Him toward righteousness.  NO!  I am not saying we put up an 8’ privacy fence and ignore the world.  Read this post and remember that we’re on a mission and we’re going to get our hands dirty – but we don’t have to get our hearts dirty.  Do you know the difference?

Followers of Jesus, even if you’re “going nowhere”, you’re on the mission field.  Like wolves and snakes, keep your eyes open – be shrewd about where you go and how.  Like lambs and doves, be innocent – don’t eat what the wolf eats and don’t sleep where the snake sleeps.  Be separate. 

And if you don’t mind getting your infantry on at a store that has that nice Precious Moments vibe, I can hook you up.

Clark H Smith

Monday, March 19, 2012

Thank You For Your Patience

I recently posted this my Facebook account:

LIFE: the time you spend waiting
for everything to come together just right. 

Sometimes we think we're busy, but more often than not, we're just waiting for all the right pieces to show up.  My goal is to post two Follow Illustrated posts a week.  Lately I've been fortunate to get one up.  I don't want to do this half-way or half-heartedly so I only write when I can.

The first three months of this year have been tumultuous, I'm sure yours have been, too.  I have another "tumult" this week.  Nothing bad, just consuming.  I appreciate all my readers who subscribe or check in regularly.  I hope to have a post later this week and then be more regular moving forward.  "I hope."

You ever feel that way?  Hopeful... if only because that's your last option - to wait and see what turns up?  My most recent sermon touches on that.  It's about Patience.  Maybe you'll get something out of watching the video.  I post the second half first because that's where the meat of the message is.  If you can't watch the whole thing, focus on the best part.

Part 2
Part 1

"If you can't watch the whole thing, focus on the best part."

I just said that.  Good words for living.

Keep following Jesus.

Clark H Smith

Thursday, March 15, 2012

No One Will Ever Know

Unbelievably, a pregnant teen once walked into my church office hoping to get someone to take her to the abortion clinic.  The youth pastor’s wife and I sat with her for two hours trying to encourage her not to go through with the abortion.  Here’s a snippet of dialogue that happened near the end of the conversation.
Pregnant Teen:  I just don’t want anyone to know.
YP Wife:  But Honey, God will know.
PT:  I don’t care if God knows.  I just don’t want anyone else to know.  I don’t want them to think I’m a slut.
ME:  Oh, that’s not the way I would go with it.  If you could possibly keep a secret from anyone, it would be God – He really matters.  The other people don’t matter compared to the value of what God thinks about you.
The teen left the office and finally got her dad to take her for an abortion.  One of the saddest days of my life.  And yet, the idea of caring what people think and not caring what God thinks is, perhaps, the most common error committed by humans. 

Yesterday at It’sGoodToBeTheDad.com, I wrote about a current American Idol Top 12 contestant who apparently didn’t think his past would catch up with him.  Please read that post.  Today, I want to address the spiritual component of this problem.  To get there, check out this verse that my own rock star son sent me:
Life is not a spark in space
An episode of Will and Grace
Controversial yet mundane
Deborahs messing with your brain
Even Scientologists know theres more to all of this
Search the ruins for trap doors
Wonder what you're put here for
"Do Better" by Max Bemis / Say Anything
I think the song is about a guy who’s trying to “do better”.  The first two lines caught my attention.  “Life is not a spark in space / An episode of Will and Grace”.  I think he means life is more reruns of  silly old TV shows.  But hold on there, life is all about WILL and GRACE - our will and God’s grace.  Our Will gets us into trouble.  God’s Grace provides an escape from our trouble.  The only “catch” is, you can’t pretend you’re not in trouble.  Speaking of catching, let’s catch this word from our Sponsor:
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.  (Hebrews 4:12-13)
That bears repeating: There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.  Get it?  You don’t hide anything from God.  It is one thing for a child to close their eyes and pretend something is not there.  The author of “Do Better” was once an atheist – a childish person closing their eyes pretending there is no God.  Here’s the deal, friend, you can close your eyes all day long and pretend all you want, but God does not close His eyes, He does not blink, He does not sleep.  He knows who’s “been good or bad”, but unlike Santa Claus, God does something about what He sees.

Sound ominous?  Sound threatening?  Sound like yet another preacher trying to scare you into being good – into “doing better”.  Don’t go down that road.  My name is Clark Smith.  I am a sinner saved by Grace.  My own will gets me in dutch with God.  God’s own grace gets me out of trouble.  Let’s go down that road… together. 

Follower of Jesus, I hope you’ll do better.  I pray you’ll do better.  You should.  You owe God your very best every day.  But God’s grace comes without a price tag, without a gotcha.  John 3:16 (a great word from our Sponsor) says, in essence, you deserve to perish for exercising your Will wrongly, but God loves you and He can’t bear to watch you destroy yourself – His creation.  His free gift of Grace is all you need to enjoy everlasting life with Him in Heaven.  The gracious gift is freely given, but it is not free.  Jesus, who had no warrants out for His arrest was executed so you could go free.  Believe it.  Take the deal.  His Grace trumps your Will.

Clark H Smith

Monday, March 5, 2012

Shame On You, Pastor

lifted up or out of reach??
I once took a seminary course on evangelism.  The course was “taught” by my own senior pastor.  One of the assignments of the course was to write a report on an evangelistic call.  I had been hoping to get my very worldly neighbor to think more seriously about matters of faith so I invited him to attend my discipleship group and then we talked afterwards while sitting in his Suburban.  Altogether, we spent three hours one Thursday morning delving deeply into the believability of the Bible and our commitment to its claims.  When I turned in the report, the my-way-or-the-highway pastor said, “You didn’t go into his house?  This isn’t an evangelistic call.”  And he commanded me to write up a different experience.

What do you think?  Was the pastor right?  Can you only share the Gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ by knocking at someone’s house, holding their storm door open, and barging in when they open the main door?  Is that the way it works? 

And don’t think this is an old-school, pastor-past-his-prime problem.  I sat in a church yesterday and heard this, “Do you know how much it costs to get someone saved?”  The energetic young pastor criticized people who unflinchingly spend hundreds at sporting events and then begrudge giving their tithe to the local church.  Fortunately, the evangelist had done the math for us.  He counted the cost of taking a lost soul to dinner three times, his travel costs, time costs, and then he amortized the cost of the church building on the occasions when the lost man visited.  He came up with the exact amount of George Washingtons it takes to secure a man’s soul in heaven - $3043 (or close to that).  I’m gonna get sick.  Let’s wash our brains out with a couple words from our Sponsor:
“…one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25b)
“…what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops.” (Matthew 10:27b)
In the John 9 passage, a man born blind – whose vision was restored by Jesus – was pressed by the religious elite of his day to declare who Jesus was.  The blind man did what he should have done.  He stayed away from debating and simply told of his personal experience.  In Matthew 10, Jesus is sending out the disciples on their first “missionary journeys”.  He didn’t send them out with the answer to the Da Vinci code or the gift if palm-reading, nor did Jesus tell them, “bring them back to Me and I alone will get them saved.  Jesus simply said “confess Me before men” (Matthew 10:32).  That’s it.  That’s the entire plan of the Gospel and that is the entire cost of spreading the Gospel – your voice.

Follower of Jesus, here’s a dirty little secret not many other preachers will tell you – (I’m going to whisper this) you don’t have to take someone to church to get them saved.  That’s not what saves you.  You don’t have to sit on someone’s couch for three hours to get them saved.  That’s not what saves you.  All you have to do to get someone saved is tell them what your life is like now that your spiritual vision is restored.

After a day at church when I had some missionaries speak, young son Noah (the cookie monster) piped up at supper and said, “I’m going to be a missionary.”  I asked why.  He responded with cheer and confidence, “They touch people’s eyes every day.”  Well, I knew what he meant to say, “they touch people lives every day” and he just mis-heard it.  On the other hand…

Follower of Jesus, the unsaved see the world as a place of striving, of self-effort, and self-righteousness.  They see the world as a barren field from which they, through their own effort, have to eke a living.  They see a world full of hurt, disappointment, and rejection.  They see the world as a showcase of victories and losses.  They see the world as just getting even or just getting by.  They see the world in black and white. 

Before a person ever sees the inside of the church, they see you.  They see how you live, how you love, how you resolve conflict, how you serve others.  They see the Gospel of Salvation every day in you.  Add your confession to that.  “I believe in the love of Jesus.  I believe in the free gift of salvation.  I believe living a life according to the teaching of the Bible is best.”  Can you do that?  You’d save a pastor I know $3043.  You’d get an A+ in my seminary course.  Follower of Jesus, be a missionary.  Go out today, and touch someone’s eyes.

Clark H Smith

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Big News for Little Brother

Follow Illustrated's little brother blog, ItsGoodToBeTheDad.com got some good news today.  IGTBTD is now an official blog of Fathers.com / National Center for Fathering.

Check out the announcement.