Good Friday

And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43

Salvation. It’s really all about salvation.

He came and died in my place, your place. He took my sin, and yours. He became sin so that we can become the righteousness of God.

Wait, WHAT?

Yep, look at this: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor 5:21 

For the criminal on the cross it was a good Friday. He woke up in Paradise, and there was Jesus. BAM!

For us, today is a great day, because of what He did for us on that one day.  My prayer this weekend is that many people in many churches will come to Christ. I’m praying for pastors who will preach the simple message of the cross and empty tomb. I’m praying for guests that have been invited.  People need Jesus.  Two criminals on two crosses. One mocks, the other cries out in faith.

Thank you, Jesus for the cross.  And for saving me.

I’m praying for Grace this Sunday as we celebrate the resurrection and welcome guests into our church community.  I’m starting a new series this Sunday, check this out.

Many of you remember the impact Zac Smith (my nephew) had on my life and our church family. Zac passed away 4 years ago. This Easter weekend NewSpring Church is retelling his story as Mandy and the kids each give testimony to the glory of God, just as Zac did. Check it out here.

A few more days

Today I got to spend a few hours painting.  I’m not a painter by trade, so for me, I can enjoy it and not touch it again for several years.  One of the things I like about painting alone is it’s easy to think and process, even as I listen to some good music.

As I was thinking of Zac on this day he would have turned 35, I heard two songs that seemed very appropriate. I tend to like most everything Third Day has done, but one of my all time faves is Cry Out To Jesus.  “To everyone who’s lost someone they love long before it was their time, you feel like the days you had were not enough when you said goodbye… there is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary and love for the broken heart and there is grace and forgiveness mercy and healing, he’ll meet you where ever you are, cry out to Jesus!”

Matthew West came on a few minutes later “So I wait for the moment when you come for me…and I can’t stop thinking, just a few more days I’ll be going home, just a few more hours and I’ll be flying, it could be any minute now that you take me away, or maybe just a few more days. To You a day is like a thousand years, and only you know when the clouds will clear. So let me not forget.

I miss Zac. But his life and death remind me how short our time on planet earth is until Jesus either takes us home or comes to get us.  Really, just a few days. What we do each and everyday matters as we follow the Lord and bring honor to Him by telling others of His great and amazing love and grace.

I was encouraged.

Thank you dear God, for Zac and for today and for the joy of living a life that is granted by You.

Now I’ll go have some French Silk pie, for Zac.

Remembering

Laurie had just completed her last treatment for breast cancer.  That was on Thursday. Our rejoicing was cut short, by making immediate plans to go to South Carolina to be with Mandy and her kids.  We didn’t expect Zac to be alive by the time we arrived.  As memory serves, it seems that from about Wednesday on, he was ready to go and seemed to be on his way to see Jesus.

We arrived Saturday night . . . me; my wife, Laurie; my sister, Barbara; and Zac’s sister, Stacey.  I remember arriving late and needing food.  I’d say it’s a Smith-thing, but really, we all gotta eat. The only thing, or at least the first thing we found, was a Waffle House. This would be a new experience.

Sunday morning, Stacey left our hotel and went right over to the house to say good-bye to her brother.  It wasn’t long after that we were invited to stop by as well.  I remember the mixed emotions of going to say goodbye to a young man that I loved dearly, my nephew, and a real good friend.  After a time, and some prayer, the family made their way to church while I stayed back with Mandy in case she needed any help.

After church, my brother, Jim, took the whole gang out to find some lunch while Mandy and Sharon remained close by.  After lunch as we were driving back, the cell phone rang.

Being there to say good-bye to Zac was a special moment.  Knowing Zac was much more rewarding.  I, along with those that knew him, had no doubts as to his faith in Jesus.  As sure as I’m sitting here right at this moment, I knew what happened to Zac one year ago on that Sunday afternoon.  Everyone that knew him loved him and would miss him greatly. And we still do.

In God’s sovereign care of Zac and Mandy, He moved them to Anderson, South Carolina where Mandy remains today and where Zac was given an amazing platform to share his story and where we all watched as God would use a couple of videos to tell countless numbers of his confidence in God’s goodness and His glory.

Tomorrow, is the one year anniversary of the day Zac went to be with Jesus.  It was the 16th, which this year falls on Monday.  Just a couple of nights ago, Laurie and I were reminded that she has been cancer-free for a year.

We remember and we rejoice. We rejoice in God’s grace, His kindness, His plans, His mercy, the life He gives us, the days that He has already numbered for each of us. We rejoice that He’s God and He’s got this.  He’s got us.

This weekend I’ll think of Zac a lot more. And I’ll think of his sweet wife and three pretty cool kids.  I’ll pray for them and for his mom and dad and his sister. And I’ll think of Zac’s message that is just as true a year later: God is still God, and God is still good. To God be the glory.


“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15

“Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42:11

Blessed Family Ties

Yesterday my brother Leonard Smith spoke on “Why I Am A Missionary”. I requested him to speak on this topic because of our current study in Ephesians and the need to understand how the local body is equipped in order to serve others.  This includes not just life in our local church, it includes how ministry needs to be offered in the far away places like Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico.

You can catch Leonard’s sermon from 2 Cor 5 here, and you can also see the pictures he shared with us here.

This past Sunday, NewSpring Church gave Mandy a chance to talk about how God has comforted and blessed her and her kids since Zac passed away last year.  Over 13,000 saw this video this weekend along with many, like me, online. God continues to use this story of trusting God when it really is painful. Check it out here.

Yep, I’m very proud of my family. I’m thankful for the ways God chooses to use each of us for His glory.  I’m very blessed.

Zac’s Story retold and continues

I just watched NewSpring church online. In an attempt to answer the age-old question of ‘why does God allow bad things to happen to good people’, last week and this, Perry is leading his church to understand how God works in the pain.

I was honestly blessed by watching some video stories of people who have gone through great pain and tragedy and are finding God’s faithfulness leading to triumph. As stated, it’s not all nice and pretty, nor is it all done and wrapped up in a bow. When we endure hard things, the pain is real and lasting.

The Lord has brought several instances across my screen lately to remind me, and probably to prepare me for the pain He allows to make us more like Him and to bring Him glory! Especially awesome was watching as Mandy picks up the story after Zac went to be with Jesus.  As expected, NewSpring did an excellent job of the video.

It’s on this evening, well, actually in about 5 minutes, but also tomorrow (Sunday) at  http://www.newspring.cc/live/ or it’ll be on their website later this week too.

God is still God and God is still good. To God be the glory!

MC & HNY

Here’s the web-version of our Christmas Letter we sent out to our family.  After reading a few this season, we realized what a year this has been and it only seemed appropriate to share how God has led and blessed us this past year.

In January, Laurie was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thankfully God allowed the doctors to find it early and she began immediate treatments after her February surgery. We were both very thankful her mom was able to come and help out the week of her surgery.  Her radiation treatments started in March.  Her last treatment was May 13th. She is cancer-free but will continue with regular follow up visits.

Just two days after Laurie’s last treatment we made the trip to say goodbye to my nephew Zac. We saw him briefly on Sunday morning, and that afternoon he was able to see Jesus face to face.  It was an added blessing to see several family members for his amazing memorial service at NewSpring Church. I miss him on a regular basis.  You can watch a part of his story here.

A huge highlight from our summer was a few days in Mammoth Lakes, CA.  It was our first time there and Laurie had it planned out very well where we simply enjoyed down time in a beautiful setting. At the end of our week, we did a quick drive through Yosemite and came out the western side so we could have an afternoon visit with Laurie’s Grandma Clarice.  We were both so glad we made that trip. Grandma died just a few months later.  Laurie was able to join her mom in Three Rivers for a brief visit for Grandma’s memorial service. An added blessing was reacquainting with family.

In October I learned the reason for some unexpected weight loss was a condition called Graves Disease, a form of hyperthyroidism. Though the name sounds morbid, it appears this is not terribly uncommon and it is very treatable.  My good doctor has me on a medication with regular blood work to monitor the progression. So far so good.

Thanksgiving gave us the opportunity to see several family members in Mesa, as Stacey hosted the main event.  We had a great Christmas Eve service with our largest crowd ever.  We were blessed to share the holiday with two of my sisters from Tucson, Janet and Sandra.

As we’ve exchanged gifts and shared precious family time together, we clearly think of our gift to God first and foremost.  What is it?  To give to God the praise and thanks He is due. We are so blessed.  And above all, we give Him thanks for Jesus, His Son. “For unto us is born this day in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

Mark and Laurie Smith

Guest Blog From Jim Smith

James SmithToday is Zac’s birthday, His dad, my brother, is my guest blogger today:

Exactly 34 years ago today, on Friday, September 10, 1976, at 1 p.m., Zachary James Smith arrived in Denver, Colorado. He was in a hurry to get here. He was born two months early and weighed in at 4 lbs., 3 oz. Before he lived very long, his weight dipped below 4 lbs. Kind of a scrawny little guy, he was taken by ambulance from the hospital where he was born to the Children’s Hospital in Denver where he lived for many days in NICU. His heart and lungs were not fully developed. He had no sucking reflex. He was weighed every night at midnight. We would stay up and wait until 12:05 so we could call the nurses and see if had gained any weight.

His beginning was somewhat frightening to his dear mother. I think I was scared, too. But my memory works differently than hers and what I remember most was the overwhelming weight of responsibility. I had married an amazingly beautiful wife at a young age and now, all of a sudden,  I was a father. We went from two rather small salaries to the smaller of the two.

The 30 days in the hospital finally came to an end and young Zachary came home to our little house on Kansas Drive. By now, he was in a hurry again. He was quick to develop and catch up with the growth charts and the statistics. We could tell from very early on that his mind was advanced. He had inherited some stubbornness and some IQ from his grandfathers. That turned out to be a really good thing.

That first Christmas, he wore a newborn Santa outfit and we bought a long-play record of John Denver’s Christmas songs. Among them was A Baby Just Like You. This was a song Mr. Denver sang to his son, Zachary. Merry Christmas, little Zachary.  That turned out to be a long-standing tradition.

Zac learned to read, listening to his mother read to him incessantly. He knew his letters and was putting together words when he was 2 years old. He loved to read. Before he was two years old, his little sister arrived to complete the family. He knew from the very beginning his role as a big brother. (Further chapters to follow…)

He was in a hurry to exit, as well; wasn’t he? He has left his parents and sister and wife a heartful of memories. He has left his amazing children an incredible legacy. Join me in thanking God today for Zac’s life.