Josh j Smith


#Lent, Wednesday, 3/23: Serve others dang it!
March 23, 2011, 5:10 pm
Filed under: religion | Tags: , , , , ,

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you.  But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 5.25-28

The Good News of Jesus is so compelling because it is contrary to everything that is natural.  I believe we long for the Gospel because it is provacative.  The Gospel inspires us to be different, to swim against the stream of culture, and to fight the good fight.

But it scares us.  My 3 year old son gets so scared when I jump from a dark room to scare him.  But he always asks for more because he loves the feeling of not knowing.

I admit there are times I am scared of being different.  Thinking about being radically different, watching it on movies, or reading about it is not the same as living it.  I admit I get scared of what others will think.  I am afraid of being embarrassed.

I’m sorry that I am more scared of being selfless than selfish in bringing God’s kingdom to earth as it is in heaven.

Prayer

Jesus.  Help me to fear you.

Help me to be scared of bringing shame to your name.

Help me to be scared of losing the opportunity of seeing your kingdom each day.

Jesus.  Light the fire in my soul to ridiculously serve others.

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Lent, Tuesday,3/22: love your enemies ii
March 22, 2011, 8:40 pm
Filed under: religion | Tags: ,

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7″But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
32( “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Luke 6.27-36

This is the most radical message of the Gospel. Yet, the most neglected value in the American church. I am brainwashed with the message of my culture that says “it is my rite to…” And when my rites are not honored you are an enemy of mine. Therefore, my rites as an American often trump the call of God’s Kingdom. I am shameful for myself and the American church.

I quickly realized that the phrase “Love your enemies” is cliche. I immediately dismiss the enemies that are close to me and pray only for distant enemies (i.e. al-Qaeda). Enemies that need prayer but are a safe distance from interrupting my agenda. But Jesus gets specific in this conversation – there are no social rites when it comes to loving your enemy. We are not called to only love our enemy when it is convenient.

Co-workers, managers, customers, cashiers at the store, the ebay person who sold me broken goods, employees, neighbors, children, spouses, siblings, and parents all can be enemies. The frightening truth is that I usually do not realize it. I am very quick to notice the problem in them and begin to strategize a plan to neutralize them because they have threatened me in some way. It could be as big as someone mistreating my wife or kids, or something as little as screwing up my sandwich. Either issue, shamefully, forces me to embrace my inner viking rather than the Holy Spirit.

Everyday we are facing our enemies, and Jesus says to love them. Not to pretend to love them, but to love them from the deepest part of our being. To be concerned for their rites even if they are abusing our rites. To be concerned for their welfare even though they might be stealing ours (no pun intended using the word “welfare”). To be concerned for their need to have to humiliate us instead of retaliating or winning even though we could take them.

How can Providence Community love our enemies?
Who would be considered an enemy in our country that we could attempt to love unconditionally?
Who would be an enemy in our immediate area that we could mission together to love?



Lent, Monday, 3/21 : Loving Enemies
March 21, 2011, 4:10 pm
Filed under: religion | Tags: , ,

44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5.44-45

“Prayer allows us to lead into the center of our hearts not only those who love us but also those who hate us.  This is possible only when we are willing to make our enemies part of ourselves and thus convert them first of all in our own hearts.” (Henri Nouwen Show Me the Way, pp47).

This reminds me of the Jonah story.  God called Jonah to be an agent in helping rescue the Ninevites.  But Jonah ran.  Yes he fulfilled God’s call, and the Ninevites repented.  But he was angry that God rescued the Ninevites.  He said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a) gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.  Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.“

Jonah hated these people so much he did not desire their salvation.  He was so driven by hatred and bitterness he was suicidal at the thought these people living, or that he might have to spend eternity with them.

Is there a person?  Is there a group, race, or type of people that would make us cringe at the thought of God rescuing them and blessing them?

Our Prayer

O Lord, look with favor on us, your people,

And impart your love to us –

Not as an idea or concept,

But as a lived experience.

We can love each other

Only because you have loved us first.

Let us know that first love

So that we can see all human love

As a reflection of a greater love,

A love without conditions and limitations.

Amen. – Henri Nouwen



Lent : Forgiveness
March 21, 2011, 1:21 am
Filed under: religion | Tags: , , ,

Photograph by Engelina SmithMatthew 5.23-25

23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.

God really wants to forgive us.  Forgiveness is not merely the consequence of confession, but the motivation for us to return to God.  God’s story in scripture shows God’s radical pursuit to bring his people back to himself so that he could forgive them.

I confess that I do not go to great lengths to forgive those who trespassed against me.  I sit.  I wait.  I plot.  It festers.

Henri Nouwen pointed out that it is hard for me to forgive others because I do not believe I am a forgiven person.  Why would I?  I am bored with how repetitious my sins are.  There are times I imagine God saying the same thing I say when I see Friends on TV, “Is there an end to the re-runs? Please, someone, put me out of my misery. ”  My lack of dwelling in God’s forgiving presence continually restricts me from forgiving others.

“But not forgiving, I chain myself to a desire to get even, thereby losing my freedom.  A forgiven person forgives.  This is what we proclaim when we pray, “and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us” (Henri Nouwen; Show Me the Way; p44).

Are you going to allow God to forgive you?

Who do you need to forgive?

Do you really want to forgive those who trespassed against you if it was the same thing done to you 490 times (70 x 7)?

Are we a forgiven church?

Are we a forgiving church?

Are we a community where people feel free to seek forgiveness?

Are we able to forgive our persecutors and our enemies?

Do we put limits on who or what we are going to forgive?



Lent
March 20, 2011, 1:57 am
Filed under: religion | Tags:

I have been asked by Providence to facilitate a conversation via Facebook and blog about Lent.  I will try to post daily and the posts will include either stories, scripture, quotes, questions, and/or challenges.

Quick details about Lent:

It is about 40 days/8 weeks before Easter Sunday.  Ash Wednesday is the beginning Easter is the End.  3/9 – 4/24

Traditionally you are not supposed to eat meat on Fridays as a reminder that it was on a Friday that Christ suffered on the cross.  It is practiced by many, not just catholics.

So McDonald’s runs their fish filet special during this time in select markets.

People usually fast from something they really like or are addicted to (i.e. Sweets, coffee, meat, watching TV, etc.).

Ash Wednesday is the day you might see friends, family, or coworkers with dirt on their forehead.  This article was great in providing the significance behind this tradition – The Gospel in the Dirt.

It is encouraged to follow a Lent Reader or the readings marked out in Book of Common Prayer each day.

Resources:

Henri Nouwen’s Show Me the Way Daily Lenten Readings.

Lent on Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lent

The Book of Common Prayer.

The Book of Common Prayer online – http://www.bookofcommonprayer.net/index.php

Tips for our Conversation:

Please Comment on your journey to encouage all of us.

Comment on Providence Facebook Page.  http://www.facebook.com/providencecommunity

Peace Be With You

Joshua Smith



Indecent Exposure
June 10, 2009, 1:34 pm
Filed under: religion

A struggling economy is not fun.  But with any suffering comes the revelation of truth that show us our destructive patterns of living.  The most obvious, coming from a monotheist who believes in Jesus, is our love of money.  What sickens me, is how our love of money has influenced how we are the Church, the people of God who are meant to be the presence of God.  The people who are to show the world that Jesus is enough and that man does not live on money alone but on Jesus.

If Jesus says the love of money is the foundation of evil and we cannot serve both money and God, then why have we made money the foundation of who we are, the means of what we do, and now, the sword that brings dissension and despair to many local churches?  This recession reaches beyond the Church, but through recession God is saying to us,

“I myself will lift up your skirts over your face, and your shame will be seen.  I have seen your abominations, your adulteries and neighings, your lewd whorings, on the hills in the field.  Woe to you, O Jerusalem (Church)!  How long will it be before you are clean?” (Jeremiah 13.26-27 ESV).

Jesus is the cornerstone, the foundation and the reason for us to unite as the body of Christ.  The mission is the gospel, for the Kingdom of God to be planted and grown in our midst, and the means by which this happens is the Holy Spirit.  But I had many conversations and heard the strategizing of many church plants, and the common factor for their growth and stability is money.  Not only with church plants, but with existing churches and their meetings.  We meet.  We deliberate.  We conclude.  Then we pray and ask God to bless our decisions we have just made based on budgeting and this month’s tithe.

It may not happen exactly like this.  I am exaggerating to explain enlighten the pattern that is so rooted in our thinking that has emerged from  a culture of living beyond our needs.   The only thing that is different is our language when we use phrases like “We need to be good stewards for what God has given us.”  But our lifestyle and our corporate conduct is not very different.  We have no regrets about using God’s portion and our brothers’ and sisters’ hard earned income for regular lunch meetings, bloated salaries and high payroll for minimal work, the continual use of and reliance upon expensive equipment, radiant signs, and beautiful bulletins all to appease our customers.  We have become so dependent upon money for the functioning of our churches that we do not believe a church can exist without proper funding.  Somehow we translated the business model “it takes money to make money” into “it takes money to make converts.”

Then we hear stories about the Chinese underground church that is being oppressed and the miracles the Holy Spirit is doing, and we are baffled as to why we are not seeing it here. We read through Acts about the early church and dream about that kind of experience for our churches, but are not willing to take the risks and fully depend on the Holy Spirit.  Government, other religions, atheists, evolution, or public schools is not the oppressor of the American church, money is.  And our faith in money  is constraining the magnificence of God’s glory and his kingdom descending.

The sooner we can destroy the idol of money the sooner we can see the work of the Holy Spirit that we now only hear stories about.  The sooner we embrace the shame of our skirts being lifted over our face, and confess our slutty behavior to God, the sooner he who began a good work in us will continue to work in us.  The sooner we emerge together as the people of God for an exodus from our oppressor, the sooner he will deliver us to his kingdom where Jesus is all we need.

There is a remnant of churches that see this and are clinging to the ways of Jesus, and yet there are some that will fall prey to the very thing they rely on.  Because of money men and woman are going to make decisions that will hurt their friends and bring dissension.  Pastors are going to fire pastors and their friends, and those who are let go will feel as though they were cut off not based on them as a person, but as a number.  Pastors are going to condemn and judge attenders by preaching about budget deficits and the lack of giving to people who are struggling to put food on their table due to unemployment.  Rather than seeing a church that takes care of others’ needs, we will see the corporate personality of the church take care of its own needs before the needs of the people (who are the church).  If money were not our foundation and our means, then destruction would not be knocking at the door of many local churches during times of famine.

Yet, while destruction may show its ugly face, it is only for the sake of resurrection.  The confrontation of sin and the exposure of our scandalous  hearts is to humiliate us.  Allow this be a time where our relationship with Jesus is anything but personal and isolated.  May this recession be a season of reconciliation where we find the idols that are pulling us away from the Holy Spirit.  So that Jesus is the cornerstone  we build his kingdom and our oppressor crumbles.  Finally, so that we can celebrate Jesus’ resurrection in our life by embracing the death of our love and dependence for money.



Good Friday Thoughts
April 15, 2009, 3:34 pm
Filed under: religion, theology

Today is Good Friday.  Lent is coming to a climax and it will soon fade with the arrival of Easter.  All the efforts of denying myself will culminate into a beautiful celebration of resurrection.

I don’t like it.  After several years of practicing Lent, it is my first year I’m regretting this season ending.  I will get lazy without the purposeful struggle of denying myself.  I then question – what is the point of Lent if all I do is go through the motions of reading a Lent Reader, make small attempts of denying myself, and stop eating sweets just to enter back into my normal way of living on Easter Sunday?  It is as though the 40 days were an anti-vacation just to make my normal life better.  Or, like when western christians go on mission trips just to get a perspective of how “blessed” we are.

If that is all Lent amounts to, I have achieved being more selfish then when I began.  If that is all Lent amounts to, I suffered only to make my world better.  I suffered to stop eating sweets so that to eat something sweet in 40 days will be so much better.  It is not suffering, but merely delayed gratification.

The narrow way of denying myself has the expected blossom at the end the further I enter into the mess.  But it doesn’t happen because of something I did, blossoms spring because of a cosmic encounter.  The more I am able to enter into the mess the more I am able to rely less on myself.  In turn, the more Jesus is heroic.  In turn, the more I am grateful.

The struggle of becoming a new creation is Lenting all the time.  Becoming a new creation is the art of entering into our messy hearts to let Jesus in.