How Long Will Your Marriage Last?

70th anniversary board

My in-laws just celebrated seventy years of marriage. Let me say that again … Seventy. Years. of. Marriage. They’re both 92.

70th parents

The family put together a nice gathering for them at their assisted living center. Many of their friends at the center came by, and a few long-time friends drove over to attend. It was a par-tay!

When two people choose to honor their commitment for seventy years, there are more blessings than can be counted. God knew what He was doing when He instituted marriage.

Not only is it a powerful, binding, uniting covenant between God and two people, but it is also a beautiful picture of our relationship with Jesus. We, the Church, are His bride. He brought us to Himself where He loves us unconditionally through thick and thin. No exceptions. No loopholes. No retreat.

When marriage is taken as seriously as God takes it, when it is safeguarded and prioritized, when battle-worn but determined couples go the distance, amazing things are more likely to happen, such as:

Honor and respect from their kids, leading to healthy relationships.

70th Stanton with parents

Admiration from their grandchildren, leading to closeness and fun.

70th with family

 Bonds that have stood the test of time and remain strong.

70th holding hands

There’s a whole lot of selflessness in staying married. Sometimes it’s through gritted teeth because we know it’s right. Sometimes it’s because we want our kids and grand kids to have a stable family. Sometimes it’s because we want to honor God and the covenant we went into with Him. But sometimes, it’s sheer personal enjoyment. Marriage is fun! Journeying through life with someone is satisfying and meaningful.

There was great joy on my in-laws’ faces. Whatever they worked through in their marriage was obviously worth it. All of their kids, and some of their grand kids and great grand kids were there. They were beaming.

Seventy years flew by. Lives well lived. Legacies left. They’re glad they stayed together.

Marriage is God’s holy idea. We do well to treat it as such.

What Do Others Notice About You?

balloons hearts

A young woman, fresh out of prison, climbed the ladder to the top of the large inflated swimming pool. She was about to be baptized.

In prison, she had heard about the saving love, forgiveness, and grace of Jesus Christ. She surrendered her life to Him in prison, and upon release had gone through an eleven-week discipleship course at my church. The culmination night of the course was a baptism celebration.

Standing at the top of the ladder, waiting her turn to go into the pool, the tracking device on her ankle was obvious to everyone in the room. Thick, black, and heavy looking, its presence could have made some in the room uncomfortable.

But as the pastor so eloquently said later,

The past was on her ankle, but the joy of her future was on her face.

I am happy

And he was right! Her face was radiant. The tracking device was noticeable, but that’s not what held our attention. It was her face. The sheer joy of her smile. The eager anticipation of going under the water. And when she came up all wet and drippy … total abandon. Reckless delight. We clapped loud and long, responding to the Jesus we saw in her.

That same Jesus can radiate out of us.

Our scars might show, our past might be obvious, but Jesus is in the redemption business. He makes those scars and wounds a beautiful part of our story. They draw attention to our freedom in Christ, and they point and lead to our glorious future.

His presence dispels the darkness of our past.

i feel free

Are you still carrying around a heavy weight from your past? Jesus wants to redeem it and use it for something powerful.

Don’t be afraid of it. Take it to the cross for redemption. Talk to God about it, turn from it, and leave it there. Then radiantly wear its scar as a bright arrow that points others to Jesus … their Redeemer.

What is the most noticeable thing about you – your tracking device or your face?

 

When God says, “I want your attention.”

pondering church

At the beginning of 2015, I mentioned that I was doing my 21-day annual January fast, but that God was also asking something else of me this year. At that time, I didn’t feel free to share the specifics, but some of you have asked me since what it is. Now that we’re four months into the year, I’ve settled into this God-assignment and can talk about it.

For some of you  it would be no big deal, but for me it’s a big deal.

God asked me not to buy any clothes or shoes for myself for this entire year. Gulp! 

shopping rack

Not only am I a speaker and teacher, up in front of people a lot. But, imagine not doing your only hobby, your relaxation technique, your favorite exhale activity for One Whole Year!

What’s your thing? No watching sports or going to sporting events for a year. No movies or TV. No comfort foods. No eating out. No sitting by the pool or going to the beach. No computer. No journaling. Whatever your favorite earthly fun is, the thing that soothes your soul on a regular basis – none for a year. That’s 12 months. 365 days.

It isn’t about money or accumulation of stuff. It’s about focus and time.

The January fast was awesome, as it always is. This no-clothes-and-shoes adventure is definitely having an impact, but I’ll wait until more time has passed to give details. I’m processing.

Interestingly, though, God asked me today to fast again all next week. I have a week off between seminary courses and before summer-with-all-the-kids-home officially begins. So God whispered, “I want your attention. Spend time with Me.” This time, He specifically said no food 

papaya salad

and no social media.

facebook

AND no new clothes and shoes. He really does want my attention!

I love it when He does that because it means I’m going to see or hear something important.

There’s a reason He says, “Be still, and know I am God.” (Psalm 46:10). Eugene Peterson says in The Message, “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at Me, your High God.”

So I’m exhaling, being still, stepping out of traffic … in order to gaze at Jesus.

What will He do? Say? Reveal?

I can’t wait to find out! Bring it, God. Your servant is on tip toes, peering into Your heart.

When was the last time God asked for your full attention?

What if there’s something He wants to show you but you’re too busy to see it?

Will you at least ask Him if you need more time with Him, and then do whatever it takes to make it happen?

It’s so worth it!

You can reach me by email if you want to connect (connect@lynsmith.org).

See you in a week or so …

woman walking away

Why We Shouldn’t Bash the Church

church in fog

The current trend of Church bashing hurts my heart. Just imagine how it makes Jesus feel!

Every time I read another blog about how bad the Church is or see a post on FB expressing disgust for the Church, I feel a punch-in-the-gut mix of sadness and bewilderment.

Nothing on earth is perfect. Not the Church, not you, not me. We’re all awaiting our final perfection. In the meantime, however, we’re what we’ve got and we’re who Christ loves and died for.

He died for the Church! She is His bride. He’s preparing a fantastic love feast of celebration for her. He’s preparing pure white robes for her to wear. Why are we taking potshots at the Church, His beloved? Why do we think He’s okay with that?

What groom would allow someone to talk smack about his bride?

church lecturn

Traditional, contemporary, house, denominational, non-denominational, store front, liturgical, progressive, emerging … take your pick. Go to whichever kind you like. But go happily and without bashing the others. If you see a problem in your church, ask God what the solution is and how you can be part of that solution. But don’t bash the Church.

It’s divisive, and God says we are not to be divisive. (Romans 12:16, 18; 1 Corinthians 1:10)

It’s unkind, and God says we are to exhibit the Spirit of kindness. (Galatians 5:22)

It’s rude, and God says love is not rude. (1 Corinthians 5:7)

If you’re genuinely super concerned about the Church, fast and pray. That’s where the power is. That’s where you’ll get discernment to know what to do. That’s the biblical pattern.

Jesus loves the Church. She represents Him on earth. I love Jesus. I’m part of the Church. You’re part of the Church.

church gathered

Therefore …

I love the Church!

Always have. Always will.

 

A Different Kind of Sunday

cross in sunlight

What a difference a day makes!

When everything looks dead and hopeless …

Life bursts forth!

Jesus cannot be contained or stopped. His plans happen. What He says goes. What He does changes lives.

He is God in the flesh; slaying dragons, toppling kingdoms, setting prisoners free, giving sight to the blind, restoring relationships, healing hearts, filling the fearful with courage, replacing anger with peace, and flooding His followers with joy.

He is the answer.

Whatever your question is … Jesus.

Whatever you need … Jesus.

Whenever you’re unsure … Jesus.

When you don’t have the words … Jesus.

Wherever you are … Jesus.

“Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ,” (John 1:17, NIV)

Jesus, You’re alive! Paul calls You the inexpressible gift … too awesome to describe. You are uncontainable, unstoppable, and unmanageable. I lift my face to you and sing praises, and I lay before you absolutely humbled. Take my life, Risen Lord, for You are the conquering Hero.

Christ is risen.

He is risen, indeed!  

 

 

Saturday of Holy Week – The Entombed

tombstone

Saturday mourning.

The drama of Friday is over. Jesus has been laid in the tomb. The garden is quiet.

Guards keep watch.

The disillusioned disciples huddle together trying to figure out what happened and what they’re supposed to do with their lives. Their hopes are dashed. There isn’t going to be a kingdom.

Jesus even told them with his last words, “It is finished.”

All their dreams and plans … gone.

What could tomorrow possibly hold?

man in anguish

Friday of Holy Week – The Sacrifice

Jesus on cross

As if Thursday’s ground wasn’t holy enough, Friday is so sacred, there’s a hush over it.

In the earliest hours of Friday morning, Jesus was passed from one government official to another in an illegal sham of a trial. He was misrepresented, mistreated, mocked, lied about, and persecuted.

One of His dearest friends was in the courtyard nearby exclaiming profanely that he didn’t know Jesus.

After having his back shred to ribbons, his face punched so much that he was no longer recognizable, and his head pierced with thorns, He was condemned to death by the very crowd who had shouted “Hosanna!” when He rode into Jerusalem on Sunday.

He was so weak from lack of sleep and severe physical battering that He couldn’t carry His cross  all the way to the crucifixion site, but needed help from a bystander.

Would not all of this have been enough?

Before laying Him on the wooden cross, they stripped Him. He hung naked in public for six hours. God. Wearing our shame.

Add to that humiliation the gruesome brutality of crucifixion.

AND, temporary separation from His Father. That had never happened … from eternity past … not once.

The thing is, He could have stopped it at any moment. He wasn’t a victim. He wasn’t murdered. He gave Himself to this. To us. For the joy set before Him … us. You and I were His motivation for pain and suffering we don’t even have words for.

He became that Passover Friday’s sacrificial Lamb. His body broken, bleeding, and eventually breathless.

His body was gently taken down, and lovingly spiced, wrapped, and buried. The stone was rolled in place. Darkness.

It feels somewhat macabre to call this Good Friday. How is a violent, undeserved death good?

Because it was the place where God’s wrath collided with His mercy, and mercy won. Jesus’ love for us cancelled the debt we owed God. The righteousness we couldn’t attain, was provided. The wrath that would have been ours, was absorbed by Jesus.

If that’s not good, what is it?

Jesus, I don’t understand the kind of love that took You to the cross and kept You on it, but I fall before You in surrender. You did what I couldn’t do and suffered what I couldn’t have borne. In a deal I don’t deserve, You made me Yours. Oh, how good that is!

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Thursday of Holy Week – The Servant

rustic communion

With awe, we step onto holy ground …

Thursday begins the sacred Triduum, or “three days.” It’s also known as Maundy Thursday. Maundy comes from the Latin mandatum, which means commandment. In the context of Holy Week, it comes from John 13:34, where Jesus says to His disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (NIV). John also tells us that Jesus knew the time had come for Him to die. “Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love” (13:1). This day begins the dawning of the new covenant.

Thursday evening through night time drips heavily with poignancy.

Earlier in the day, from Bethany, Jesus sent Peter and John ahead to Jerusalem to prepare for the Passover Feast … which meant a lamb would be sacrificed.

When Jesus and the disciples gathered that evening, they shared the Passover meal, and Jesus explained and officiated the first communion.

The cup was symbolic of a Jewish marriage. When the fathers had come to an agreement, the son or groom would take a cup filled with wine, say, “This cup represents my love for you. I’m willing to commit my life to you,” take a drink from it and pass it to the daughter or bride. She then had a choice of whether or not to accept. If she accepted, she would drink it and say, “This cup represents my love for you. I’m willing to commit my life to you.”

When Jesus poured wine into the cup and handed it to the disciples, they knew something huge was taking place. Jesus was committing Himself to them in a new way and asking for the same life-commitment back. Did all twelve drink?

Before the meal, dirty, dusty feet had not been washed as was customary so, after the meal, Jesus got a bowl of water, knelt at each disciple’s feet, and humbly washed them as a servant would … much to the disciples’ shock. All twelve were served.

Jesus behaved so strangely that evening. A new covenant, love, life commitment, servanthood … what was happening?

Jesus then led them to the Garden of Gethsemane where He had an agonizing conversation with His Father over the suffering He was about to endure. The cup was mentioned again. This time it was the cup His Father was handing Him, and the choice He had whether or not to drink it … committing His life to us.

When acceptance was reached, and peace attained, Jesus was ready to be arrested.

One of his beloved friends brought a battalion of soldiers, horribly kissed Him on the cheek, and stepped aside while Jesus surrendered to the soldiers.“Then all the disciples deserted Him and fled.”

Betrayed and abandoned, the Loving Servant headed into hours darker than we can grasp. For us.

Lord God, my soul aches. Yet, my heart swells. A beautiful, tormented day. Heart wrenching and unfathomably magnificent. You. What You chose. What You began. I have no words, so I bow.

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Wednesday of Holy Week – The Worthy One

Girl worshiping Jesus

This mid-week day is sometimes referred to as “silent Wednesday” because there isn’t much recorded about that day. Some scholars believe that one extremely significant event took place on Wednesday. In contrast to the rejection and hate He was experiencing by the religious elite, two people believed Him and knew He was worthy of His claims.

A beautiful scene unfolds that evening in the home of a man named Simon the leper. Obviously, he wasn’t a leper anymore or he wouldn’t have had a party in his home. It is likely he had been healed by Jesus. Simon had been freed and restored, so this was a gathering born out of love and gratitude.

Mary, the same one who chose to sit at Jesus’ feet when given the opportunity to learn from a rabbi, brought a very expensive jar of perfume to the table where Jesus was reclining.

Employing an activity usually reserved for anointing, Mary broke the jar and poured the expensive perfume on Jesus head. She may have understood the death Jesus was facing or she may have simply been worshiping or honoring this One she loved who was being so publicly harassed.

This extravagance, never mind the act or the symbolism, drew strong criticism from the disciples who saw it as wasteful.

Jesus, however, defended her, calling her act “a beautiful thing.” He even said it was preparation for His burial. And to top it off, He announced that what she had done would be told throughout the world.

On this Wednesday of holy week, two people who had been changed by Jesus loved, celebrated, and worshiped Him.

One opened his home and his heart. The other opened her perfume and her heart.

Both lavished their things and their affections on Jesus.

Because both knew Jesus was worthy of their absolute devotion. No one could do for them what Jesus had done.

“Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.” Psalm 145:3 (NIV)

Jesus, You alone are worthy of everything I have and everything I am. You are my One and Only.

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

 

 

 

 

Tuesday of Holy Week – The Pursuer

Jesus arms outstretched

Tuesday was Jesus’ last big day in public before His crucifixion on Friday, so what did He choose to do?

He could have spent the day healing people, doing another Sermon on the Mount kind of thing where He taught the interested multitudes, or fed those in need. We might have expected to see the kind, gentle, Good Shepherd Jesus reaching out to the needy throngs one last time.

But that’s not what He did with His last public hours.

He spent the day primarily with His disciples and the religious leaders. The religious leaders! The ones who dogged Him and tried to trap Him at every turn. The ones that He knew wanted to kill Him.

When Jesus and His disciples got to Jerusalem that morning, they went to the temple; the very place that He had boldly cleansed the day before. He knew when He got there that there would be repercussions. The religious leaders were not happy about the loss of revenue, but they also weren’t happy about having their authority publicly questioned and trumped.

So they began harassing Him, asking Him question after question, which He brilliantly answered. In the process He told them that they were in error because they didn’t know the Scriptures or the power of God. The Pharisees, Sadduccees, and experts in the Law? Gasp! He called them blind guides, whitewashed tombs that were beautiful outside but filthy inside, hypocrites, and snakes. Yipes!

But He also told them to love God with all their heart, soul, and mind.

He kept reaching out to them. He kept giving them opportunities to acknowledge their sin and repent.

He confronted them, but He also offered them life. He did everything He could to get their attention.

He was also making sure that the people listening and His disciples understood how wrong the current religious system was. How cold and void of love and compassion it had become.

So unlike Jesus, who grieved for them, His people. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem … how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37)

This is what the persistent, ever-loving, heart of God looks like.

Even the religious, hard-hearted, most arrogant people aren’t excluded from the invitation to receive Jesus and know God. Oh, He is generous!

“I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for My anger has turned away from them” (Hosea 14:4).

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chron 7:14).

God my Father, Jesus Christ, how I thank You for pursuing me. Thank You for confrontational words and open arms. Thank You for exposing me so You could heal me. Thank You for a love that keeps coming after me. Thank You, my relentless Pursuer.

Hallelujah, what a Savior!