Sunday
Aug302015

Will to Spirit

Before doing something foolish, many people today excuse it by announcing YOLO, an acronym for You Only Live Once. YODO, however, is equally true. The Bible reminds the foolish we are appointed to die once as well, and after this we must face God in judgment. That judgment depends on how you lived your once, and what you did with Jesus.

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche believed that man is driven by the will to power, an urge to achieve, be proudly ambitious, and attain chief positions in life. Sigmund Freud, on the other hand, emphasized the will to pleasure, or the pleasure principle, a craving for fleshly enjoyment.

Both lifestyles deny the will of Christ, for both are rooted in self and temporary bliss at the expense of eternal life. A third will, the will to spirit, recalls that the whole duty of man is to fear God and keep his commandments. There will be no greater, or more pleasurable, position than eternal life when you have lived this one out.

What will you do with Jesus -- ask him to line your pockets or look the other way, or will you kneel at his cross and put your one life in his hands?

Sunday
Mar232014

Cross Bearing

Jesus taught, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). Cross bearing is a matter of willful sacrifice. It is not a reference to the hardships of life that are imposed upon us by illness, or the sin of others, or happenstance. To bear a cross is to choose willingly to sacrifice or suffer persecution in demonstration of faithful discipleship.

Sunday
Mar162014

Just a Little Patience

"It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience." --Julius Caesar

We tend to want God to answer our prayers, not only affirmatively, but also immediately. Patience, however, is a necessary ingredient that we must learn by observing how much greater God can bless us if we can only wait. We must trust God's timing in responding, which is usually far more methodical than we deem prudent. We must also learn to be patient with the people around us, understanding it to be a virtue that we surely also need from others when we are creating the bottleneck or difficulty. The impetuosity we say we want from God is regularly punished among men when we act or speak hastily. We must likewise learn to be patient with ourselves, when growth is not quick enough, or progress is measured by two steps forward and one step back.

"You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand" (James 5:8).

Saturday
Feb082014

Narcissism

Narcissism is a state of extreme self-absorption, but really it's just another cloak for pride. The word traces back to a Greek myth of a young man who so fell in love with his appearance that he stared at his reflection in a pool of water, ignoring the affectionate glances of the lovely nymph, Echo. The myth inspired both Oscar Wilde and Herman Melville, whose Ishmael called it the key to it all. Narcissism is a pursuit of self-gratification through vanity, and the proliferation of selfies and the use of electronic devices as ready and expensive, if imperfect, mirrors, makes one wonder how many meaningful echoes we might be ignoring.

Saturday
Feb082014

Janus

What do Peter, January and the school custodian have in common? All have a share in the latin word ianus (janus). Janus was the Roman god of beginnings and transitions, including doors and passages, and the one for whom January -- the gateway to the new year -- was named. Janitor, which has come to emphasize cleaning and maintenance, once meant a doorkeeper, so in early writings, the apostle Peter is called the "Janitor of Heaven," signifying his traditional role as keeper of the pearl gates.

Wednesday
Jun192013

You Must Stand

'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.' --Acts 27:24


What God has in store for us might be a trial that will produce even greater glory, but we must persevere in this present hardship to get there. It is not up to us to declare when we have had enough, or to bow to adversity and take an easier way out. Job had to scratch and wonder, Jesus had to carry the cross before it carried him, and Paul had to survive the storm to reach the courtroom. We must likewise endure.

Friday
Oct262012

Try to Discern What is Pleasing to the Lord

It is Pharisaism that we must beware, that quintessentially self-serving habit of codifying tradition, personal preference, or opinion to the division and destruction of the body of Christ (see Matthew 15:1-9). Binding where God has not bound and loosing where he has not loosed are alike in their misguided pursuit of a unity founded either on sectarian orthodoxy or humanistic license. Neither is scriptural or sustainable, for neither is rooted in the inerrant will of Christ.

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Tuesday
Jul102012

Not the Last Temptation of Christ

It is hard to imagine that anyone has ever been subjected to greater adversity as preparation for spiritual testing than when Jesus preceded his temptations with forty days of fasting in the wilderness. In spite of that, but also in some ways because of it, Jesus was able to endure the devil’s best assaults on his thoughts and needs.

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Tuesday
Jul102012

The Baptism of Jesus Christ

Baptism continues to be a controversial subject in the world today, but for very different reasons than in the extended first century ministries of John and Jesus.

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Tuesday
Jul102012

Legends of the Infancy of Jesus Christ

In a quest to heap tradition upon the Bible story, centuries of believers have compressed, condensed and reshaped the account of Christ’s life and teaching to fit the vicissitudes of evolving perspective and fickle morality. Even the classic nativity scene, complete with manger-visiting magi, is contrary to the biblical sequence of events, which finds the unnumbered wise men visiting about two years later, and finding Jesus in a real house.

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Tuesday
Jul102012

Joseph Divorces Mary  

The decision by Joseph to divorce his fiancee, Mary, is evidence of great compassion and empathy, even if it is invites questions about the authority of the Law of Moses regarding accused adulteresses.

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Tuesday
Jul102012

Matthew’s Genealogy of Jesus Christ

Genealogies were very important to the Jews, especially in determining tribal associations, duties, and privileges. While much of this distinction had waned since the days of the exile, the Jewish identity of the Messiah was of great significance. While referencing a continuation of the Old Testament bloodline, Matthew accounts for Jesus’s legal claim to the throne of David, rather than the Lucan method of establishing his Adamic biological lineage.

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Friday
Jul062012

The Nonprofit Life

At various times in our lives, we are moved to personal reflection, wondering if all our effort and personal investment of time, energy, and sacrifice have been worth it. Whether it is a graduation, reaching middle age, listening to a dire diagnosis, or some other major event, we begin to ponder if it has ultimately amounted to anything. What have we made of our lives? What have we done with our talents and opportunities? What would we have done differently if we had known then what we think we know now? What does the future hold?

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Wednesday
Jun132012

From Where I Stand: Bookmarked Verses

Although it is far from scientific, YouVersion’s Top 10 does serve to tell us a little bit about what Bible readers are thinking. More than anything, there is a quest for courage in a culture of doubt, depression, and doom. Reminders of God’s patience and strength are helpful, but only when combined with personal commitment and action.

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Wednesday
Jun062012

Stiff Upper Lip

Much value is placed on enduring the pangs and hardships of life with a similarly phlegmatic response, acting as if things do not bother us, simulating apathy as a heroic act of deference. Of course, the problem is that all of that stoicism often amounts to nothing more than a very big lie. There are disappointments, anxieties, and sorrows in our lives that produce overwhelming emotion, which we feel obligated to deny as a function of self-control or perspective.

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Thursday
May312012

Handle With Care

Snake-handling and poison-drinking – intended only as reactive curatives anyway – also disappeared. When done purposely, both suggest a failure to follow the example of Christ, who when tempted by the devil to cast himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, replied, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Luke 4:12). The devil had tried to twist a psalmic promise that angels would protect the messiah from stubbing his toe on a stone, but Jesus rightly understood what modern snake-handlers do not.

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Thursday
May242012

Wisdom Calls now available in print

Wisdom Calls, long available as a Kindle-exlusive, is now available in paperback for $6.99.





"Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares" (Proverbs 1:20 NKJV). In WISDOM CALLS, Jeff Smith mines the Old Testament Proverbs for Twenty-first century applications, finding nuggets of truth amid the axioms of Solomon and other inspired sages. The biblical proverbs personify Wisdom as a sage woman, offering guidance and the benefit of experience to those who would strive to prosper spiritually in this life. Drawing upon a selection of 120 proverbs and passages, WISDOM CALLS is useful as a daily devotional book or for a little light reading when only weighty subject matter will do.





Thursday
May242012

Lighten the Yoke  

The implication for our attempts at evangelizing a lost world remain the same. We proclaim the grace of Christ and commend justification by works of faith (John 6:29, James 2:18, First Thessalonians 1:3). We speak where the Bible speaks of the plan of salvation and the conditionality of fellowship, but we lay upon the gospel’s hearers no greater burden, no unscriptural demands, personal standards, or traditional tests.

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Tuesday
May152012

From Where I Stand: Memorial

America’s Memorial Day dates to the Reconstruction era when it was known as Decoration Day after the practice of adorning the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers. Since, the holiday has been extended to honor veterans of all our wars and renamed to focus our attention upon remembering their sacrifice. It is always wise and humbling to acknowledge those who sacrificed in your behalf, especially those who paid the ultimate earthly price. That, after all, is what makes the Lord’s Supper sufficiently significant to observe on the first day of every week, and with worthy discernment and proclamation.

Tuesday
May012012

From Where I Stand: Mothers

The Bible is filled with examples of motherhood, most of them very good, but some rather bad. None of them is perfect, of course, not even Mary, even if the sacred texts do not explore their flaws in print. Motherhood is more than a biological or instinctive exercise in reproduction, you see. Motherhood is a spiritual relationship, best informed by the wisdom of our Creator, and one which touches the very depths of a child’s soul. Motherhood provides life and sustenance, guidance and correction, admonition and healing. Motherhood provides the Bible writers with dramatic illustrations of her concern for her offspring, peering into the animal world to honor the protectiveness of the she-bear and the succor of the hen (Proverbs 17:12, Matthew 23:37). To have a mom who combines the finest of the often disparate qualities is to enjoy rich blessing. Why not give her a call?