Great Expectations

My name is Mark Smith. I'm a guy who loves Jesus, His Word, and His Church. I am filled with Great Expectations for what the future will ultimately bring - Matthew 24:14.

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Location: Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

My favourite verse is Psalm 16:11, my other favourite verse is Acts 20:24, my other favourite verse is Habakkuk 3:17-19, and my other favourite verse is Matthew 24:14.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Desiring God National Conference Blog!

Justin Taylor wrote that there is a blog about the upcoming Desiring God National Conference (which it looks like I will be getting to go to!!!) found here. Check it out - especially Piper on the Emergent Church audio where he talks about Mark Driscoll.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Screwtape Letters

That's right...two blogs in one day after not having a chance to post anything for a little while! :D

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

This is a book of letters written by “Screwtape” (who is a senior demon) to “Wormwood” (who is a junior demon). Screwtape counsels Wormwood about how best to keep a Christian from really following Christ – with the idea being to try to make him “lose his salvation”. Screwtape has a profound understanding of Christian strengths and weaknesses so hearing his strategies is very beneficial because many of them may really be the way that demons seek to destroy followers of Christ today.

(“The Enemy” or “Him” in capital letters in the book refers to God. Any references to “him” or “his” with small letters refer to the Christian man whom the demon is seeking bring down.)

Here are some of the most memorable quotes from Screwtape:

“When I see the temporal sufferings of humans who finally escape us, I feel as if I had been allowed to taste the first course of a rich banquet and then denied the rest. It is worse than to not have tasted at all. The Enemy, true to His barbarous methods of warfare, allows us to see the short misery of His favourites only to tantalize and torment us….” – page 31

“The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbours whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know.” – page 37

“Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring but still intending, to do out Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsake and still obeys.” – page 47

“Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasure which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden.” – page 49

All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my patients said upon his arrival down here [in hell], “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.” – page 64

“All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is specially true of humility.” – page 71

“Even of his sins the Enemy does not want him to think too much: once they are repented, the sooner the man turns his attention outward, the better the Enemy is pleased.” – page 75

“Surely you know if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster of connoisseur of churches.” – page 81

“Leave them to discuss whether ‘Love’, or patriotism, or celibacy, or candles on alters, or teetotalism, or education, are ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Can’t you see there’s no answer? Nothing matters at all except the tendency of a given state of mind, in given circumstances, to move a particular patient at a particular moment nearer to the Enemy or nearer to us” – page 99

“There must be several young women in your patient’s neighbourhood who would render the Christian life intensely difficult to him if only you could persuade him to marry one of them.” – page 100

“For as things are, your man has now discovered the dangerous truth that these attacks don’t last forever; consequently you cannot use again what is, after all, our best weapon – the belief of ignorant humans, that there is no hope of getting rid of us except by yielding.” – page 101

“They anger him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen. You must therefore zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption, ‘My time is my own.” – page 107

“And all the time the joke is that the word ‘Mine’ in its fully possessive sense cannot be uttered by a human being about anything.” – page 109

“He [God] is a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a façade. Or only like foam on the sea shore. Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it; at His right hand are ‘pleasures forevermore.” – page 112

“He has filled His world full of pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least – sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us.” – page 112

Broken Toe

So as some of you know, my toe is probably broken. Whatever it is, it looks horrible and feels as bad as it looks. So I've been praying for it. Not that it takes up all my prayer time/energy...afterall, my toe is nothing compared to the real problems in this world. But still, God sees the little sparrow fall so I know he cares about my little toe. So then I started thinking, how should I pray for my toe? Pray for immediate healing? Pray for a gradual healing that leaves no long term problems? Pray for patience both now and in the future if it continues to bother me every time I jump into the bush and start chasing squirrels? Something else entirely? How shall I pray?

Then I remembered hearing Paul Schuster - the guy I first learned "Cat and Dog Theology" from - pray back in the day in Calvary Baptist Church is Desbarats. He prayed for someone who had cancer, which is obviously more serious than my little toe. But his prayer is a great model for praying for any sort of sickness or pain, I think. I will paraphrase it, missing parts and adding some stuff, to show how I think perhaps I should be praying for my broken toe.

"God, thanks that you care about the little sparrow and about my little toe. I don't know why you are mindful of me, but I'm so thankful that you are. And thank you that my biggest physical hardship is just a little broken toe. I have all the water and food and shelter and friends I could ever need. I have no clue what it is like to live in the two-thirds world where I would daily experience worse than this. It's only by your sovereign grace that I got to be born in Canada and I bless you for that and thank you so much. But alas, right now my toe hurts and I can't play Monday Night Football or Wednesday Night Ultimate or Tennis or anything and I'm dissappointed. My chief concern though, is not my toe, but your glory, so I'll ask you this: Would you please do what is in the best interest of your glory in this situation? I would love for you to heal my toe today or tomorrow so that I can feel better and so that I can honour you for being so full of compassion and mercy. So if you will recieve the most glory from my toe being healed quickly and me getting to tell all my friends that you so clearly did a miracle, then please heal my toe asap. But, if you will recieve greater glory though me enduring a little discomfort and missing out on sports while still having a smile on my face because of the joy in my heart then I pray that you will ensure that I don't get the least bit bitter about a broken toe. If I can use this broken toe to show that you are my greatest treasure - not sports, not comfort - then so be it. Because Lord, you are more precious than gold or silver or sports (even Ultimate Frisbee!) and if you are glorified by me tangibly displaying that then I'm down with your plan. I desire to be like Habakkuk in Habakkuk 3:17-19 so I pray that you would work in me to cause me to be like that for as long as my toe is broken - and for the rest of my life."

Monday, July 10, 2006

Getting Into Poetry

I think John Piper said in "God's Passion For His Glory" that the first time he was inspired to write a poem was after reading Jonathan Edwards' The Nature of True Virtue. Well, I have been similarly inspired. Inspired by a couple of ladies who may not be the greatest theologian America ever produced but are very special in their own right. These ladies, of course, are Margaret Bibby and Alyssa Piazza. Reading their blog poems have inspired me to blog my own poem about my struggle between childhood innocence and adult negativity.

"He feel it, she feel, we feel, ah, here we go...."


The Boy Vs. The Cynic, Chapter one, page one.
I'll start from the top...
I’ll embrace dreams again when I can breath again
And at that point I won’t be needing them
It became clear to me that I was fighting a war I couldn’t win
You don’t make it on your own merit
Only royalty inherits the kingdom
And that’s a system good intentions can’t help
Your courage is not good here so don’t try to excel
What a sad day when you realize nothing can change
The revolution didn’t leave you it never came
There will be no parades, no royal balls
Just long days topped off with last calls for alcohol
Go to sleep wake up and repeat the same routine
Smooth skin dressed with wrinkles and brown eyes
With dark rings and entertainers sing of extremes that don’t exist for you or me
When real life is reality TV no wonder our youth don’t believe in anything
It’s all a joke there are no heroes just those of us with high hopes
It’s just not that simple
I’m not trying to save it all I just want to create a ripple
And even if one individual is affected it’s monumental with an unusual perspective
That’s beautiful in essence traditional thinking won’t suggest this
Is life really that precious well yes it is
But there will be no celebrations or congratulations
No pat on the back just your mind intact
And the freedom to feel your heart beat at the speed of life
Go to sleep tonight knowing you did it right
And rest easy outside of a system that resents you for not doing what they expect you to do
Psychologically wear you down and then they make the suggestion that you get on a prescription to deal with your depression
Anxious lazy temperamental obese
That’s what money makers like to call a disease
And they’ll be looking for or creating new problems with profitable solutions
To solve them but you won’t get any better you’ll just come back for more
Until your medicine drawer is filled with unreliable cures
And that’s the way of the beast
And I can’t do nothing about it
I could shout it in a room that’s crowded but I doubt it’d make a difference
So ignorance will be my disguise cause 21st century America likes its witchcraft civilized
21st century America likes its witchcraft civilized

hahahaha...okay, if you read that whole thing, you've probably guessed that I didn't really write it. Just copied and pasted it from John Reuben's latest album. Yes, I am unabashedly a John Reuben fan. Check him out. He's phat. If I were a rapper, I'd prolly be like him. Yo. :p

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Silent Christian Sin

It's not everyday you hear a sermon on gluttony. It's talked about the odd time, like when Kristin and Ben and I talked about it the other night. But even to talk about it is rare. And only in select groups of people does one even feel free to bring it up.

But I actually found and listened to a sermon on gluttony - the first one that I can ever remember hearing. It's by Charles Wilson and is called: The Silent Christian Sin: Gluttony and is currently found 8th from the top of the audio sermon section of Grace Community Church. I can hardly remember how I even found it. lol But I did, and it's worth the listen since most of us won't here a sermon like that very often!

A couple thoughts that came partly out of the sermon, and partly from my thinking about it in the past and lately:

First, as Charles Wilson and others have noted, Sodom wasn't just destroyed because of homosexuality. According to Ezekiel 16:49 one main reason Sodom was destroyed was gluttony: "Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy." Other translations actually use the word "gluttony" there. You get the point. That is enough to show that it's a sin, even without Proverbs which compares it to drunkenness.

That verse is haunting, because doesn't that sound like North America? We are proud, we have things easy, and we have excess of food - and we do not aid the poor and needy like we should! That's us, as a whole! There are exceptions, but that's the general rule. We are proud, affluent, gluttons who don't care for the poor. And it's sin.

Second, when I think of gluttony, I'm reminded of a quote by Thomas a Kempis where he says in Of The Imitation of Christ, "Bridle your gluttony and you shall the better bridle all the desire of the flesh."

Gluttony may seem like a small sin. But it's not. People go to hell for gluttony. Plus it's not small because maybe good ole Thomas from Kempis is right, and if by God's grace we started bridling our gluttony we would also begin to bridle other sins that we consider to be worse.

More Thoughts on "Should I Dress Up For Church?"

It's not that I don't like dressing up. I do like dressing up (except not on hot summer days! lol) for church and I'm used to it. But as a youth pastor, I'm well aware that most youth do not like dressing up. If I was a senior pastor ministering primarily to adults (some of who still do like to dress up) I might have different feelings. But what if my tie becomes a stumbling block to a teenager who comes to church for the first time? What if he never comes back because he thinks the youth pastor is old fashioned or something? Come on, God is more sovereign than that, right? Well, I believe in the sovereignty of God more strongly than most people seem to, but I also believe that we gotta become all things to all men that by all means we might save some!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Battling Unbelief...

The last couple days I have listened to a couple great Piper sermons from the 80's in the "Battling Unbelief..." series. I highly recommend them. I listened to the ones on Covetousness and Lust, and I want to go back and listen to some others as well...hopefully all of them eventually. He is so good...what a preacher...what incredible thoughts and incredible presentation. You can tell that he has spent a long long time in assiduous meditation on the text because he sees so much in it. I'm pretty stoked for him to get back from his sabbatical so I can get to hear not only his old stuff, but also the new sermons that he will come out with each week.

Find the audio of the "Battling Unbelief..." series and a ton of other great stuff that isn't all on his website here.

A couple unrelated powerful Piper quotes:

"So we must not water down the call to suffer. We must not domesticate all the New Testament teaching on affliction and persecution just because our lives are so smooth. It may be that we have not chosen to live in all the radical ways of love that God wants us to." - from Let the Nations Be Glad

"The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night...For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable." - from A Hunger for God

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Should I Dress Up For Church?

"I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some." - 1 Corinthians 9:22

"Each generation of the church in each setting has the responsibility of communicating the gospel in understandable terms, considering the language and thought forms of that setting." - Francis Schaeffer

If the people I'm trying to reach don't dress up, should I dress up? What if dressing up makes people uncomfortable with coming to church? Should we then not dress up? Perhaps to not dress up would be following the Apostle Paul's example of becoming all things to all men in the culture? Perhaps to dress down would be following Francis Schaeffer's wise words about making the gospel more reachable to the culture? Is dressing up honouring to God, or is it just part of our Christian culture?

Driscoll gives the example that when Hudson Taylor went to China he dressed like he was Chinese and cut his hair like he was Chinese - because he wanted to reach the Chinese! Should we not act like missionaries in this pagan culture we live in, and dress like the culture we are trying to reach?

Maybe we should dress like the people we are trying to reach. Maybe not maybe. Maybe definitely.... I'm just asking....or am I telling....

Solid Quotes

"In our lifetime, wouldn't it be sad if we spent more time washing dishes or swatting flies or mowing the yard or watching television than praying for world missions?" - Dave Davidson

"Today Christians spend more money on dog food than missions." - Leonard Ravenhill

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Sunday Morning Worship

Saturday night, after paintball, some of us hung out for a while at my house. (Well, really it is the Cooze's house but they aren't home this weekend and they told me I could have people over.) At about 11:40 I started figuring out how everyone was going to get home because I wanted to go to bed. There are two reasons that I wanted to go to bed. Actually, it's one reason and then there is a reason that that one reason was intensified last night. The reason is this: I was tired. I was tired so I wanted to go to bed. Fair enough, right? But there is something deeper, and more intense about last night because last night was a Saturday night. Saturday night is the worst night of the week to be up late. This is because Saturday night comes before Sunday morning and Sunday morning is the time we have our corporate worship service at Church.

I do not want to be tired on Sunday morning. I wasn't preaching or doing anything up front but that does not mean that I should be okay with being tired. I want to follow the example of Jim Elliot who wouldn't go out late on Saturdays because he wanted to be well rested and prepared for Sunday morning worship. This is because when we are rested well on Sunday morning, we will get more out of the time of worship and put more into the time of worship. We will find more satisfaction in God's presence if we are not thinking the whole time about how tired we are or fighting to stay away and to keep from being irritated.

I typed "Sunday Morning" into Desiring God because I thought I remembered Piper saying something about this as well. And now that I have found how he says it, I will just quote him to better express myself.

The article is "Take Heed How You Hear!"

In it he writes, "Without sufficient sleep, our minds are dull, our emotions are flat, our proneness to depression is higher, and our fuses are short." I know he is right because that's exactly what I have found to be true. And if my mind is dull and my emotions are flat and my proneness to depression is high and my fuse is short then I will not maximally glorify God by enjoying Him during the Sunday Morning Worship Service!

Most people need 8 hours of sleep, so we should seek to get at least that on Saturday night. But everyone is different. Personally, after a tiring week, I could have used more than 8 hours last night. Some people could probably thrive (not just "get by"!) Sunday morning on 6 hours of sleep, but not me, and not most people.

I want to renew my commitment to come to Sunday Morning well rested and ready to worship. Would you make the same commitment?