The Real Problem Behind Racism and Violence

Charleston church

I was listening to two “experts” discuss why the Charleston shooter did what he did; how he was able to sit in on their Bible study for an hour and then open fire, killing nine people.

One of the experts stated that the shooter’s problem was lack of tolerance for others. Lack of tolerance?

That is so wrong!

The world struggles to understand evil. They came up with lack of tolerance as the best explanation for Charleston, but it’s still wrong. Let’s face it, teaching tolerance isn’t working. We still have racism and shootings.

Besides, isn’t there something slightly offensive about “tolerating” people? We don’t have to like them, respect them, or value them. We only have to tolerate them. They can still make our skin crawl, but we’ll tolerate them. Yuck. Who wants merely to be tolerated?

Tolerating people is behavior modification, not a change of heart. Behavior modification without the right motivation doesn’t work for very long.

black white sheep

The only answer to hate and violence is love. Love changes us on the inside. It changes our passions and motives. It changes our direction in life. It fills us with other valuable qualities such as compassion, generosity, and kindness.

Love makes us different than we were. Our behaviors then change naturally, not as a result of instruction, expectation, or social pressure. Love extends and welcomes. It sees people as valuable, made in the image of God, and serves them with joy and humility.

Jesus didn’t just tolerate people. He loved them.

funky cross

That’s what changed the world then, and it’s what changes people now – the love of Jesus Christ.

A lack of tolerance doesn’t lead to hatred and murder. A lack of love does.

What are we going to do about that, Christ followers?

 

 

 

What Is a Father of Godly Character?

dad and daughter on beach

Fathers of godly character aren’t perfect, but they desire and pray to be:

Faithful – They are loyal and steady in allegiance. Their hearts and affections unwaveringly belong to God, their wives, and their kids. They stand by them through thick and thin, protecting them with their actions and their words. Their words are also reliable. They believe and speak the truth, adhering to God’s holy standard.

Available – Their time is not their own; it belongs to God and their families first. Godly dads have open door policies and are always reachable. If not immediately, they respond the moment they can. They listen with faces that express interest and answer questions with kindness. Their emotions are obtainable, not withheld. They bask in the value of the moment, remaining mentally present with those they love.

Thoughtful – These fathers consider the needs of others above their own. They try to anticipate their families’ needs and be ready to meet them with joy. They care about what their wives and kids are thinking and feeling. They try to think beyond the obvious in order to understand the hearts of their loved ones, not just the words they say.

Honest – There is no deceit in godly fathers. They are truthful in all of their dealings, whether at home, at church, at work, or in the community. They pay a fair price for goods and services, return extra change accidentally given, only take what they pay for, and err on the side of generosity rather than cheating someone. Their words are sincere.

Encouraging – The words that come out of godly dads build confidence and hope in their wives and children. They are their families’ biggest fans and loudest cheerleaders. They use words to inspire. Even when they have to say something hard, they say it with love in a way that motivates the hearer to press in and press forward.

Respectful – Fathers of godly integrity show that they value others by speaking politely and acting graciously. They treat their wives as God’s gifts to them, sacrificing themselves for their wives’ well being as Christ sacrificed Himself for the Church. Even when dads need to instruct or discipline their children, they do it with love. They master the blend of firmness and gentleness. They remember that their kids are precious in God’s sight and only speak to them in ways that express their worth.

Props to all dads who are hanging in there day after day, doing the thing. You have a big job, but you have an even bigger God who has given you everything you need for life and godliness.

Thanks for courageously reaching for that high bar and succeeding so many times. We’re in awe.

Sailor dad and boy

The One Thing I Haven’t Heard About Josh Duggar

Shame

I really didn’t want to write about the Duggars. It’s gossipy and contentious and just … yuck.  So I’ve been scanning some of the articles, hoping someone would say what’s been on my mind. No one has, that I know of.

So, here goes. I have one concern to bring attention to.

But first, somewhat of a disclaimer. I have no feelings about the Duggars one way or the other. I know about them, but don’t watch the show. This post is not about the abuse, the legality or illegality of how it was handled, or the fall-out since. And for those of you who don’t know, I was sexually violated as a child so I get it. I get the outrage.

My point, however, doesn’t address that directly.

What I can’t understand from the Christian community is the desire to shame Josh Duggar, and his family. From what I can tell, his sin was confessed and repented of. That means he has not continued in that sin. Twelve years ago he did something he shouldn’t have done, but he turned from it. According to 1 John 1:9, he fulfilled the requirements of full forgiveness from God.

Why are we wanting him to bear the shame of that sin? He doesn’t. Christ did that for him just like He did it for you and for me. Jesus allowed Himself to be persecuted and taunted mercilessly. He allowed the humiliation of being hung in public naked. He bore the shame we deserve. He took it for us and from us.

Jesus on cross

If we confess and turn from a particular sin, the shame is gone. Laid on the cross. Jesus even shouted that it was finished. The power of sin and shame – OVER.

We have no right to shame Josh Duggar. Just as Jesus said to the woman brought to Him fresh from her adulterous encounter, “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” OVER.

If Jesus doesn’t condemn, we can’t either. And we must not insist that he feel shame.

Let me assure you, Josh has suffered in the years since. I don’t know that because he says so, but because I was involved in sexual sin too, that I confessed and repented of years ago. That doesn’t mean, however, that I never think of it. I don’t intentionally think about it, but things trigger the memories. It has taken years of Scripture memory and disciplining my mind to become spiritually healthy and free. It no longer has power over me, but it still pops to mind on occasion.

I’m guessing that Josh has worked hard to cleanse his mind as well. Even if he hasn’t, he told his now-wife about it before they got married. Can you imagine that conversation? Ugh.

And you can bet he has had huge regrets, if not nightmares. I don’t get the sense that he is glib about it. He knows the seriousness of what he did. He resigned from his job because he knows how horrible it is and how repugnant it is to the public.

Why do we want him to suffer more? Why do we enjoy seeing another Christ follower hurt? Not only enjoy it, but cause it. I feel sick about that.

One of our enemy’s greatest tools is shame. He loves to dredge up the past and make us feel the burden of it again, and again, and again. It’s how he steals our confidence and effectiveness.

I say, “No!” to that. I don’t allow him to shame me and I refuse to shame other people who have admitted confession and repentance.

freedom girl

Josh Duggar should not be ashamed of what he did. Regret, of course. Shame, no.

“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness; you have been healed by His wounds.” 1 Peter 2:24 (Holman)

“Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” Psalm 34:5 (NIV) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!