Archive for December, 2008
Friday, December 26th, 2008
I received this email from a friend of Grace Rivers in response to my recent Christmas Greeting and found that it closely related to questions I have had myself many times. I wanted to share this with you by permission.
I was thrilled to read your Christmas note and the experience you shared at Opryland, and the testimony and example of Louise.
My wife and I have again been burdened by the Holy Spirit to consider the witness we are to others in word and example. As well as to consider how much emphasis we put on creature comforts and the niceties of things. As you know, with every facet to life we each live out a specific unique place on a spectrum. In comparison to someone whose life ambition is to make money, I might consider myself to be at a better place spiritually because my ambition for wealth is not as great.
However, in comparison to someone who is content living with unmatched clothes and dishes, I am challenged to wonder if I am in a more deceived place spiritually because of the ambition I have to give and create good appearances. I may buy things at Goodwill – great! But someone else might only buy the things they need, whereas I may buy a number of things I want. So much to analyze… but where deception hits us is when we believe we are aware of all the areas in which we are duped by Satan and the pleasures of the world.
We pray for sensitive hearts that the Lord will be our model, and that how we live, what we talk about, and the things we value will match up with the decisions and perspectives of Christ. And, that He would humble us to recognize the reality that even as insightful as we think we are, we are weak and frail and easily duped creatures who do not see as much as we sometimes think.
Thank you Friend for being so authentic with me. I read your comments and I am challenged similarly by monetary and things oriented living. I often look at my life when I pray for God to meet our needs and see that I have way more than I “need” already. With a closet full of clothes, a pantry full of food, a house larger than many that is full of furniture, I am already way beyond needing anything. Many of my needs stem from the need to keep up with the “things” God has graciously given me!
And yet, this is where God has led us. He has miraculously provided many of the things we already have. By His leading and provision, this is where we are. What is it like to be content, to want more, or to want less – for His kingdom? I find this line a very hard one to draw personally. Could I give more? Sure. Could I be more thankful for what I have? Yes. Could God want to give me more? Maybe.
All ends of spectrum enter my mind. Should I do with less? Should I ask for more, to enlarge my tent pegs? Should I be content with what I have, be it a lot, or a little? I am not sure that an answer to that question will actually come to pass and at this time, this is where I am. Scripture challenges me to be content with plenty, or little. I guess my goal should be to live where I am whether or not I will be here tomorrow.
Wednesday, December 24th, 2008
Many of us have heard in a new song by Faith Hill that “A Baby Changes Everything”. I’d like
to follow the example that Jesus laid out for us – to be world changers. Through our personal
stories of His salvation and grace, we can be that kind of example to others.
My wife and I had the opportunity to see Louse Mandrel at Opryland Hotel recently. At the
beginning of her show she stopped and said, “before I do anything, I want to acknowledge before you all
that this is all about Jesus Christ. I am proud to work for Gaylord Opryland because I am free to say this
Louise Mandrel that day publicly announced who her Lord is! She spoke to 1000’s over her
many shows with the Country Christmas at Opryland this year and was an example to me of a
world changer. She was not afraid of what anyone would think. She just put it out there boldly.
It is my greatest desire for this coming year to be a world changer.
I welcome you to walk alongside Grace Rivers Ministry as we all pursue His grace for our lives so that we can share it with others. The world around us needs His grace more than ever.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you during this Celebration of Christ’s Birth!
Rev. John J. Smid and the Grace Rivers Team
Tuesday, December 16th, 2008
Have you ever thought about what home life might have been for the Prodigal Son before he ran off with his inheritance?
In my mind, there was likely a lot of discouragement, harsh words, disrespect, and family dysfunction going on. I can imagine that at the point where the prodigal walked out of the front door these words might have been a reality, “I am tired of living here. You are all crazy and to be honest I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to leave more than I do right now. Dad, give me my inheritance now so that I never need to come back here again.”
“Son, I am tired of your blaming me for all of your problems. I am sick of the way you come home and tear things up around here. I think our family would be a lot better off without you anyway. Here’s your money. Take it! Unless you change your life, don’t come back here.”
This was probably the end of a string of bickering, fighting, blaming, and all kinds of uncomfortable circumstances for the entire family. I’m sure they all felt some relief when he left. But as with most families, there is a love bond that won’t let up when the prodigal leaves. Sure in the beginning there was relief but in reality, the desire for a better family very likely brought this father to his knees quickly.
When the prodigal came home he was probably at the end of his rope too. He was tired of his own ways and the consequences of his actions weighed heavy on his heart. But he came home to a different dad. In his prayers at the end of the road God had entered his dad’s heart just as he had entered into the son’s heart.
It is at the quiet place in the storms of our lives that God changes things. I think that this dad did some changing. It is evident in the response he had to his son to bless him. I am sure that when his son left, the dad wasn’t in the blessing mood just as the son wasn’t in the honoring mood at that time.
Relationships often reveal our worst characteristics. It is in the grappling of relationships that God does some of his finest work! In the end, all benefited from the sin choices of each party. This is truly, everything working to the good of those who are called, and according to His purposes.
Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
December 10th. This is our 20th wedding anniversary. Vileen and I married in Omaha Nebraska with all of our good friends and family surrounding us. Our singles pastor Dennis Franck, the first pastor for both of us when we started walking with the Lord, married us which was a great pleasure.
After our wedding, we jetted off to Hawaii for our honeymoon. We were miraculously given a week at the Hyatt Waikaloa as a travel agent trade off and enjoyed every minute of our time there. It was glorious!
The next 6 months were spent adjusting to a brand new life together. I can’t say it was always glorious but the Lord prevailed in our life and helped us to establish a solid foundation for our married life.
I never knew love before in my life like the love I have for my wife. This kind of love transends lust, fondness, physical pleasure – it is deeper than all of that. I am grateful that the Lord has trusted me with marriage since I messed up my first marriage so deeply.
Tomorrow, Vileen and I will travel to Nashville Tennessee. We will be engaging in the “Country Christmas” events surrounding the Opryland Hotel. We received a gift from a friend that provided for our trip that allowed us to have this time away. We are so grateful to the Lord for His goodness to us.
Well, here’s to another 20 years of God’s grace!
Monday, December 8th, 2008
This is from an e-mail I received and I thought others may gain from the dialogue that occurred.
Recently I’ve struggled in my thoughts like fantasizing about having sex with someone. In a lot of areas I’ve come up with my own coping skills and have done well, but maybe you might have some advice. I would see someone during the day and fantasize about being with them. Today when I see someone that’s attractive I either don’t look at them on purpose or I’ll actually go up to them and start a conversation and sometimes ask if they know Jesus to redirect my thoughts.
How do I stop fantasizing?
For men, fantasy is an ongoing struggle. As men, we are very driven by sexuality. This is common amongst all men. Fears of disapproval, failure, rejection and performance enter the picture on a daily basis and can be the root of our struggle with fantasy that is unhealthy and troublesome.
With so much hanging on us in our jobs and relationships there can be a lot of temptation to comfort our struggles in ways that ward off the challenging feelings for a moment or a season. We turn to whatever has worked in the past; be it gambling, working really hard, body building, buying the next gadget and for most of us it can be sexual pleasure.
I find that the best way to prevent actions that I will be ashamed of later is to find healthy places to talk with others, to vent my frustrations in healthy ways, to share my life with others who are honest as well. This helps me to not feel alone and to get out of my unhealthy head and actions.
It is so important to include the Lord in on the underlying struggles, not just the surface ones. Jesus wants us to trust him, to rely on him for our deepest needs. Just going to him with “I’m sorry I fantasized today” is just scratching the surface. Rather, “Jesus, I feel like a total failure today” is much more intimate and honest.
Chris, this morning, a long time friend of mine that I have worked alongside in many ministry situations opted out of my newsletter mailing list. I am very sensitive to rejection and immediately had feelings of retaliation, of rejection and I wanted to cut him off. I don’t know why he opted out of my mailing list but I guess I assumed due to our past he would be interested in my life and what was going on with Grace Rivers.
If I let this go it could build up alongside other daily relational situations that are disappointing or confusing for me to process. The end result could be seeking some kind of false comfort to try to ease the hurt.
So, in the end, it doesn’t work as well to just push aside the surface temptations as it does to find resolve with the deeper issues we face each day.
When Adam sinned, God’s response was to cry out to him for renewal in their relationship, “Where are you Adam?” So, I believe today God is crying out to you seeking your friendship. He wants to hear the deep things in your heart. It is important to live each day recognizing what those deep thingsare. Like I did today with my mailing list. It may sound like a lot of work but after a season it just becomes a part of “telling myself the truth” all throughout the day.
I believe that you will find a much easier time keeping lust and fantasy at bay if you are facing these other things regularly.
I hope this will help. I helps me to remind myself of them as I write them. I can forget to keep myself honest.
Friday, December 5th, 2008
During this time we are spending our time on development and infrastructure of Grace Rivers and it appears God is with us in our plan. We will be scheduling new events for January.
We are praying about potential workshops at Collierville Bible Church, Central Church in Memphis, The Love of Christ Church all for January. We are laying out plans for our California trip in February for Frank Worthen’s birthday. This will include a “Steps Further” retreat in northern California and possibly a family conference in Southern California.
Friday, December 5th, 2008
I was talking with a friend one day and he was strugging. “John, people I work with treat me strangely. It’s like they don’t like my ethnicity. They must be prejudiced.” When I saw the way he was standing as he spoke to me, I saw his ethnicity – with an edge to it!
My response to my friend was, “quit putting your international heritage out front and just show them yourself without the edge.” I could see that instead of just being himself he was putting a spin of defense that was not appealing to relate to. Our discussion went from there to talking about his insecurities that were more present and that he was putting on the ethnic edge as a safety mechanism.
I have another friend who is professed to be gay. When I spend time with him, I don’t see “gay” anything and we really don’t discuss his personal sexual preference. He and I talked about how people present themselves and I told him he was easy to relate to because he didn’t present a public image of an issue, rather he just presented himself, the person, for others to know and appreciate. He is a great guy to be around.
Then, there are others who profess being gay that are really complicated to relate to because being gay seems to be more of their identity presentation to me and others. Being gay is really what is seen, rather than just being a person.
I often sense that I see gay, or ethnicity in someone because these things are covering up their heart. It is the heart that I believe we connect to in a person but when self protection wraps itself around the heart, it is harder to connect to the real person behind the issue.
In Memphis, there is a pretty divided racial climate. I have friends who are black that I must say, I don’t see as being black or any other color. They are just people and I see through any skin color to the person. They don’t live with a cultural edge as their presiding image; rather they are just people and friends of mine. Then there are others that I know around town that to be honest, when I see them, I see “black people”.
I had an experience with another young man at a conference who was wearing a strange shirt, a polka dotted tie, and brightly colored hair. He was asking me some questions about my life and seeking growth in his own life. At one point, I asked him, “Help me understand the strange combination you are wearing?” He said, “Well, if people are willing, like you have been, to press through this off-putting exterior, then I trust their sincerity more.”
My response to him was strong, “Don’t manipulate me like that”. “It is not fair to me or anyone else to cover yourself up with barriers to relationship that are offensive or just plain strange. It only robs you of the very thing you are looking for; it also prevents me from being able to know you, your heart, and your reality.”
1 Sam 16:7
“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
I guess the bottom line of this is that responsibility lies on all sides when it comes to relating to people. It is true that God looks at the heart and we often struggle with seeing the outward appearance first. I believe we are all called to look deeper into one another’s lives and see that inside, we are all the same and that there are times when we all put on a false cover – especially when we are hurt or insecure.
We must be willing to let down our guard in deference to relationships. We must also be willing to love each other through our “strange” exteriors because we all have them!
Thursday, December 4th, 2008
Credit/Debit Card transactions from the website? Paypal requests? Bank Accounts? Corporation applications? Forms to be filled out? Fax Machine instructions? Telephone Lines? Accounting details? All of these are on my mind right now.
As my wife and I were sitting at Arby’s today I was going over with her the things that need attention “today” and then there is tomorrow and another list.
I am thankful for speaker phones, e-mail, laser printers, cell phones, adn other modern technology because they all make this process easier. However, right now I am listening to, “all agents are currently busy and the next available agent will be with you to assist you” as I am typing this blog.
Serving God is an interesting call in our lives. No matter where we are, He is Lord, He loves us, and wants us to be the best we can be. He never puts us on hold for the next available agent.
Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008
Last evening we had a wonderful dessert event to officially announce the beginning of Grace Rivers.
There were about 36 people in attendance. I was able to find a background video loop of river scenes to play on the huge “video wall” in the Magnolia room in the Woodland Hills Event center. It was great to have that back drop for our program.
I gave the foundational Grace Rivers teaching encouraging honesty and authenticity within the Body of Christ. After that I went through the history of the development of Grace Rivers and introduced our Steering Committee. The Board of Directors was introduced and three men gave their stories of being involved with the development of the ministry.
Through the message there was encouragement to get involved through networking with churches and organizations for opportunities for Grace Rivers to serve and minister. I also asked for people to pray about being a part of our Board of Directors if they felt an organizational burden for the ministry.
I also mentioned at the end that we will be looking for financial partners to underwrite the ministry so we can continue our development.
Many wonderful comments and encouraging words were spoken afterwards. We are thankful for all of the prayers and all of the hard work that has brought us to this place.
Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008
I have been in conversation with the leadership of New Hope Ministry in San Rafael California about scheduling a first time ever, “Steps Further” men’s retreat in February, 2009. I will be in Northern California for Frank Worthen’s 80th birthday party and I figured if I am going to be ther anyway, we can make it better for everyone who would want to come for either one.
One of Frank’s greatest pleasures is to see the men that have come through his ministry. Having a Steps Further retreat connected with his birthday party may allow for more to come celebrate with him. Since his birthday party is arranged for February 21st, it is a great time to do more ministry and plan a retreat!
The purpose of the retreat will be to cover more ground with men who have aleady been through through some sort of foundational material. This can include men who have been through Frank’s “Steps Out Retreat” or his “Steps Out ” program but can include others as well.
We will keep you posted as this develops.