Monday, December 31, 2007

Playing catch

I was thinking about how much fun it was to play catch with my Dad.  Often, after dinner and following his long work day he'd grab his baseball glove and I'd get mine and we'd toss a ball back and forth for a half hour or so.  I remember the satisfaction of making the catch and also the good feeling about throwing it back.  It really was a bonding time and a time when we'd talk about how things were going.  I am privileged to have the legacy of parents and grandparents who invested love into my life.  This Christmas I had a special gift request.  My grandpa Jackson fought in World War I and somehow I inherited a few of his war memorabilia, including his dog tags.  I asked for one of the tags to be put on a chain and I was so happy when my wife presented me with the present Christmas day.  I wanted to keep something of him close because I know he really loved me.  Now I have a grandson and when I see him my heart leaps and we play together and the generations between us melt away.  More and more I see that life is a game of catch, where the joy comes from both throwing and receiving love.
Psalm 103:13 As a father has compassion on his children,
                    so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

                 14 for he knows how we are formed, 
                     he remembers that we are dust.


Rob Smith

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Long train

A friend of mine in the choir has written a great song about the Gospel Train...kind of a bluegrass song that talks about hitching your railcar to Jesus' train bound for eternity.  I was thinking about the picture of a train as an analogy for the Church.  Did you know that these long coal trains that we see rumbling by our area every day can have as many as 200 cars and can stretch out 2 miles in length.  As someone commented, it would be better to travel in the engine than the get to your destination a lot sooner!  The diesel locomotives have about 4,000 horsepower...Wow!  Of course the Gospel train has the powerful locomotive of our Lord to carry us up grades, around curves and down narrow passes.  Just as the coal trains faithfully deliver their freight to the coal terminals in Newport News, so Jesus carries us to glory, without fail.  Yes, the Gospel Train is a long one, with a mighty powerful engine.  I have a strong feeling that there's still enough power to add some more cars to the train.  Next time the train stops in your town I recommend you hitch up for the ride!
2 Chronicles 34:29-31 The king acted immediately, assembling all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem, and then proceeding to The Temple of God bringing everyone in his train—priests and prophets and people ranging from the least to the greatest. Then he read out publicly everything written in the Book of the Covenant that was found in The Temple of God.
Rob Smith

Friday, December 28, 2007

Transparent living...remember He sees all

I remember during the first few months of our marriage we adopted a stray cat we found wandering around the parking lot of our church.  We called him Moses because he seemed to be a "stranger wandering in the wilderness".  One weekend we were travelling somewhere and we stayed overnight with Moses at a motel.  Somehow, during the night, Moses had been active and played with the cords that controlled the drapes across the picture window right next to our bed.  Somehow he opened them completely.  We awoke to a bright sunshiny morning and I realized that the whole world could see us in bed through the window!  Of course, there are no drapes between us and the Lord.  He truly sees all, including the things happening in our heads that no one else can see.  At first that's kind of a scary thought, but really it provides great freedom.  It's a good thing to realize that there is absolutely no point in lying, cheating, stealing or any of the other things we know we shouldn't do because He sees it all and He isn't fooled.  Really life is much easier to live when we realize that the drapes are wide open and the Lord is looking in.  Why waste time trying to fool anyone!
Job 34:21 "His eyes are on the ways of men;
                he sees their every step.

           22 There is no dark place, no deep shadow, 
               where evildoers can hide.


Rob Smith

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Four Dimensions

A close friend of ours is currently undergoing a severe physical trial.  Her internal circuits are misfiring a bit and her body is experiencing some power failures.  But she isn't having any loss of power from her heavenly life source.  The Lord is holding her and she is keenly aware of that.  As I reflected on the fact that we have some of our most intimate times with the Lord when we are weakest I realized that God really has us covered.  At all times He (1) holds us up with His strength, (2) blankets us with His presence, (3) fills us with His spirit and (4) shields us from harm.  I think we become most aware of these realities when our natural strength is diminished.  Please pray for our friend that she would recover completely and be restored to health.  We can rejoice with her that she is presently experiencing the four dimensions of God's presence even now in her weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Rob Smith

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas and Children

Christmas is a children's story because Christmas is the story of the most special child ever.  When God decided to come to live with us, He could have come as a grown man.  He decided to walk through the same door, the door of childhood, that all of us do.  And so He grew up just like all little boys and girls grow up.  He played and He learned to obey parents.  He experienced the love of a Mom and Dad who were dedicated to raising Him.  No doubt He experienced some cuts and bruises, and probably enjoyed friendships (and perhaps dealt with some social rejections).  Just like us, Jesus gradually grew by stages into maturity.  But I think the most profound truth is that we remain children even as adults.  We may have acquired a measure of wisdom to help us navigate life's trials and to manage relationships and to meet life's responsibilities....but in the larger, eternal sense we will forever be children...children of the Lord.  It's kind of interesting that the most mature attitude we find in this life leads to the ultimate child experience.
1 John 3:1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
Christmas blessings,
Rob Smith

Monday, December 24, 2007

How will you live (not how will you die)

Almost every day there will be some kind of news story that addresses major illnesses or 'life and death' health issues.  We tend to think a lot about not dying and about continuing physical life as long as possible.  But I sometimes think our focus is too much on quantity over quality.  Sure, it would be great to live to a hundred and die peacefully in our sleep, having just completed a fine meal and a final winning chess match.  But what are we doing now, when we are in the midst of our strength and our vitality?   Tomorrow we celebrate a new life on earth..the earthly life of Jesus, as it began in Bethlehem.  Next week we each begin a new year on planet earth, ourselves.  I wonder if we can adopt the fresh attitude that the Lord has something for us each day...something tightly linked to our close walk with Him.  When Jesus challenged the disciples to follow Him they didn't know where they would be going, but it didn't matter because they were never lost as long as they could see Him just ahead.
Matthew 4:22 and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.
Matthew 9:9 As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. 
Christmas Eve blessings,
Rob Smith

Weight Loss

I had been driving around with an expired driver's license for a few months (I know...I'm ashamed).  I just couldn't seem to get to the DMV when they were open and the one time I did go they told me I needed a birth I had to go back.  Well, for a few months I carried a background fear that I might get stopped by the police and "discovered" as an unlicensed driver.  Finally, I was able to renew the license this weekend.  I can't tell you how relieved I've felt driving since then.  Several times I've had the thought: "OK, you can pull me over now...I'm legal enough to get a ticket".  I know that sounds silly, buy it really has been a relief to have this guilt resolved and this burden lifted.  In a sense, I'm reminded that when wrongs are made right in our lives we experience a spiritual "weight loss" and you really can feel the difference.  Can you remember the time you realized that Jesus had come to lift all your faults and sins from your bowed shoulders.  Wasn't it wonderful when you knelt before Him and asked Him to take away those weights?  Didn't you feel cleaner and lighter and truly free?  There will be a lot of post-holiday diets proposed this year and many New Year's weight loss resolutions but I don't think any of them can hold a candle to repentance and the release that comes from forgiveness!
John 8:36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
blessings (drive carefully everyone),
Rob Smith

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Roadside Crosses

You've seen those white roadside crosses.  They mark the location of fatal car wrecks and usually have names and dates painted on.  Of course they are tragic reminders of the daily dangers we all face on the roads.  Many of them have been decorated for Christmas with wreathes or red ribbons.  I was thinking today about those crosses and why family members would want to mark the spot that represents a great tragedy in their lives.  The answer came to mind that it is important to those folks to think about the last place their loved one was alive.  It helps put them in touch with the person they were never able to say goodbye to.  Of course it makes me think about the original cross that marked Jesus' death.  We choose to remember that cross too...but instead of representing the last place a loved one lived, for many of us, it marks the place we finally came alive, as we came to realize what was accomplished through that cross.  I hope you have discovered the personal death and life message that the splintered cross of calvary carries for you!
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Rob Smith

Friday, December 21, 2007

Is it really exercise?

Is it really exercise when you don't go anywhere?  That's the thought I had tonight as I cross-country skied for an hour to nowhere on my Nordic Track machine.  Based on the sweat and fatigue that accumulated it sure felt like a good workout...and I didn't have to pound any joints or brave cold temperatures.  Actually I'm sure the exercise counted and can only help my physical condition.  But sometimes I think we go through motions in our quest to follow the Lord that aren't fruitful.  You know, when we push our body we have real tangible measures like heart rate and body temperature and we can measure how fast and how long and how many repetitions we do things.  Over time we can see improvements in our health.  It may be worthwhile to consider how our spiritual exercises are drawing our heart closer, warming us to His presence and creating an increased desire to be with, and hear from, the Lord who loves us so.  Consider the words of the apostle Paul: 1 Corinthians 9:25 "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air."
blessings to all you heavy breathers,
Rob Smith 

drama of a raindrop

I was considering how raindrops are formed.  It's all very interesting.  It turns out that two opposing forces have a lot to do with it.  The updrafts of air from the earth hold clouds up in the air (clouds are made of water vapor and are heavier than air).  Once some of the water droplets that make up the cloud get to a certain size, gravity overcomes the rising force of the air, and the droplets fall to earth as rain.  Scientists still don't understand how the water droplets build in size.  One intriguing aspect: thunderstorms have much stronger thermal updrafts and with the greater force of air moving up, much larger water droplets can stay aloft until heavy enough to we get larger raindrops during these storms.  Like so much of life the drama of a raindrop is defined by two opposing forces.  In our lives our "inner life" or spiritual life can float like a very small water droplet held up by the forces of earthly desire and self satisfaction.  Some kind of wonderful process led by the Holy Spirit helps our little water droplet build in mass.  Swirling forces in our "life cloud" bring more water and once our droplet has enough weight we finally can be acted on by gravity and brought to a new world.  Just as the storms permit larger raindrops, so we grow more in size in our personal storms.  Rain and clouds are far more dynamic than I realized and the raindrops within lives all around us are building all the time.
Leviticus 26:4 then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.
Rob Smith

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Our all in all

One final observation from singing in the Christmas concerts last week: We were keenly aware of our need for the Lord's help to sing and perform well and so we prayed for His assistance.  It struck me as interesting that we came to Him for help so that we could effectively praise Him and lift Him up so that others might catch a glimpse or hear from Him.  In a sense this seems a microcosm of how our lives are to play out.  He is our all in all.  The Lord is our strength so that we can return glory to Him and one wonderful outcome is that others might also have faith awakened.  Just like the Lord...our source and our purpose...beginning and end...."the way, the truth and the life".
Job 26:2 “How have you helped him who is without power?
      How have you saved the arm that has no strength?
Rob Smith

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Power in Discipline

Today we made a business trip to Northern Virginia to meet with clients.  I had the privilege of riding in the passenger seat and letting my mind wander a bit.  Traffic was heavy and there were a number of large tractor-trailers and other trucks around us.  In many places the highway was several lanes wide and the total tonnage of vehicles running along side-by-side was scarily high.  I thought about those modest white painted lines that separated us from the elephant-like vehicles around us and I realized that I rarely have concerns about colliding with them, even though we often were separated by only several feet.  That's because all of us have accepted the discipline of the lanes.  (Of course some drivers abuse their positions and either drive too fast or slow and can cause major congestion problems or trigger high accident risk).  Imagine if there were no lanes at all!  (Or take a taxi ride in Naples Italy for a real-life taste).  The discipline of the lanes permits many to travel at high speed in a fairly narrow corridor.  In a spiritual sense, the discipline of yielding our will to the Lord can help us avoid other kinds of "life elephants" and travel with efficiency and effectiveness in the narrow corridor of our days.
1 Samuel 6:12(a) Then the cows headed straight for the road to Beth Shemesh, and went along the highway, lowing as they went, and did not turn aside to the right hand or the left.
blessings (you may have to moo--ve over sometimes),
Rob Smith

Monday, December 17, 2007

A fresh chapter each day

I've been reading a fascinating biography of Abraham Lincoln.  It is helping me picture what it was like for him as he struggled through the issues of the Civil War and I enjoy reading before I go to bed.  Lately I have found that my eyes and brain are getting tired before my interest in reading fatigues each night.  Part of me wants to keep reading, but the lights are going out in my mind and I have to mark the page and surrender to sleep.  But it hit me today that it's a good thing to close the book each night and go to sleep and it's a good think to close the book on our day and begin afresh the next day.  I really believe that we are meant to start totally fresh every single day...I don't think life is so much about building a big or lasting monument (though we may build large and wonderful things) and I don't think we are meant to lug the past with us like a fallen tree (though the lessons of the past bring wisdom).  Just as the apparently endless beauty of a waterfall is fashioned by the moment by moment flow of water over the rocks, so the beauty of a life is formed in the daily opportunities we have to experience the Lord.   Each day is a drop of water that will pass, only once, over that gorgeous waterfall.
Psalm 42:7 Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
         All Your waves and billows have gone over me.
Rob Smith

The Big Picture

We were reminded by Ted Cornell that, as choir members, we can't really appreciate the sound of the choir.  He has the position, as conductor, of hearing all voices (and orchestral accompaniment) from his central location in front.  Of course, the audience also hears the 'total sound' as well.  The ironic thing is that we, as individual choir members, are the ones manufacturing the sound which is blended to form the concert music, yet we can't really hear the complete sound.  We hope to get copies of the recording so we can appreciate the concert, as it was heard.  Life is like that, as well.  As we live out our days before the Great Conductor of life, our Lord, we don't always see how the events and the activities of our individual lives play into the fabric of life...but we can be confident that from the view of the Lord and the Heavenly audience...all things are coming together, just as He has planned to form the eternal symphony.  One day we'll see and hear the great performance from heaven, ourselves.  Now we see it with eyes of faith.
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Rob Smith

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Lava Love

The islands of Hawaii are really the tops of five volcanoes, two of which are still active.  The island of Hawaii, itself, is actually higher than Mt. Everest if you measure from the ocean floor to the peak.  Enough lava has flowed from the volcano that formed the island of Kilauea to make a road that would encircle the earth three times.  As the lava shoots up out of the volcano its temperature is ten times that of boiling water.  The lava is actually molten rock that has emerged from about 100 miles beneath the earth's surface.  It's all very interesting, but here's the analogy I've been tossing around: The Lord told us that when we love our enemies it's just like heaping hot coals on them.  They just don't know how to handle that kind of reaction, when they expect anger and isolation.  I think we need to practice "lava love" that carries the superheat of Jesus.  As lava love flows up out of the deep places that the Lord has filled in our heart it rolls outward and covers everything in its path.  At first the lava burns and at first unexpected love may seem to burn those who don't care for us, but then the lava cools and builds new land.  That's just how lava love can work.  It may seem to be destructive, but even enemies can't resist it and after it covers the hate it forms new land...a new life and a new relationship.  You just can't resist lava love.
Proverbs 25: 21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat;
      And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;
       22 For so you will heap coals of fire on his head,
      And the LORD will reward you.
Rob Smith

Friday, December 14, 2007

striking the match of faith

Our natural state is not to know or to follow Jesus.  Our natural state is to follow ourselves and every urge we conjur...most bent on self satisfaction.  When we sing the story of Jesus at Christmas in front of hundreds, we can be relatively certain that a number of listeners have not experienced the birth of faith.  I was reminded that people have a "default" setting, something like the "default" settings in a computer program.  Many computer programs assume the most common answer or choice as the "default" and require you to key in information only when something is different or unique.  Something special...something wonderful...something running against the grain of human nature must occur for one to be born anew.  Faith is like a heavenly match that can lie for years in a matchbox, unused, until one comes along who knows the technique that will strike the match into flame.  The people all around us are like those matches.  They have potential for fire but are found cold and stacked among many other matches until the fire-giver comes along.  Perhaps we can become enthralled with the concept that the potential for eternal life lies within everyone and we can be used to strike the matches into the spark of life.

Exodus 4:31 So the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped.


Rob Smith

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The road

The humble many pass over it, taking for granted that it will lead them to their destination.  Oh, they may notice the other flashy cars around, and they may spot the impressive homes and yards along the way, but they won't think much about the road...that is, unless age and weather have caused cracks and potholes and the resulting bumps in the ride.  But the reality is that when we follow the familiar road and the road of the map, we can generally depend on it to get us where we have to go.  One road can handle many vehicles and can serve for many years.  At any point in time, only one vehicle can occupy a particular place on the road.  In a similar way Jesus is the dependable road to carry us to the heavenly destination.  I think we forget sometimes, as we travel on Christ's road, that He never leaves us and has committed to seeing us safely home.  He is an amazing road, with the capacity to carry many travelers over many years, but at any point in time everyone of us occupies a unique place on the road...and the road will take us home.
Deuteronomy 2:27 ‘Let me pass through your land; I will keep strictly to the road, and I will turn neither to the right nor to the left."
Rob Smith

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Light makes the difference

Tonight, as we started into our dress rehearsal Christmas concert music, the fellows controlling the lights were still finding their way and we in the choir were partially in the dark.  We couldn't read the music or see our conductor (Ted Cornell) and, consequently, we got off to a staggered start...almost like a track race with a false start with some singing and others waiting.  Appropriately enough the theme for this year's program is: "Your Light Has Come".  Within a few songs the lighting was in synch with singers and orchestra.  Once we could see, we could relax and perform as we'd practiced.   Light made all the difference.  The world is in darkness and because many have never experienced the full light of the Lord they don't realize the difference light can make.  The light of Jesus' presence shows us the dark areas of our hearts.  It also reveals truth from God's word.  The greater the light, the greater the contrast and the more apparent good and evil become.  Light is attractive.  It chases shadows, causes the brilliance of color to emerge and lifts our spirits.  Jesus is the light of the world and He is your light and mine.
Matthew 4:16 The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
      And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death
      Light has dawned.
Rob Smith

Monday, December 10, 2007

Peace on earth

Luke 2:14 “ Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
Matthew 10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

At Christmas we celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace.  Yet we seem to get mixed signals from scripture.  Did Jesus come to bring peace on earth or a sword?  I suppose you could say "Yes" to both.  It turns out that, like so many things, we tend to define peace differently than the Lord.  Apparently before we can enjoy the peace we need the work of the "sword" referred to in Matthew 10:34.  Perhaps we could view the sword as a divine scalpal that does spiritual surgery.  Certainly we know that we must do war with sin and coming to faith sometimes creates conflict with loved ones while providing holy peace to the one who has trusted in the Savior  We often hear these days how "freedom isn't free" and "peace comes at a price".  Certainly that is true regarding the peace given by our Lord.  We are aware of the great price paid on the Cross.  Often believers also pay a price in human relationships and social acceptance for the greater benefit of the peace of our Lord.  It turns out that peace is experienced within individual human hearts even when surrounded by the storms of life.  Truly we find great encouragement from those last words of John 14:27, "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

Blessings and peace (heart peace from the Lord, Himself),

Rob Smith

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The role of errors

The Chapel Choir is coming down the home stretch toward the Christmas concerts.  We have one more practice...the dress rehearsal...before the first program this Thursday.  We started the process late this past summer when we heard the music for the first time.  Since then, we've practiced as a choir almost every week to learn the music and we've listened and worked on the music on our own as well.  Today it struck me (during practice) that there are two outcomes every time we attempt to sing a song.  Either we pretty much get it right...or we make some significant mistakes.  It has taken all these hours of practice to sing the songs "pretty much right" most of the time.  It's not that we want to make mistakes, but, sometimes we misread the notes and sometimes we lean on each other when the others are also wrong or sometimes we aren't clear on the pacing or the dynamics or the cut-offs or the entrances.  Sometimes we know exactly how the music should be sung but we still goof.  Our concentration may not be focused enough or we may have temporarily forgotten what to do.  Of course, the biggest factor is the benefit of practicing the music repeatedly to etch proper singing patterns in our minds.  And it truly does help to be surrounded by all the other voices.  I suppose the thought I'm wrestling with has to do with a healthy view of "making mistakes".  We all have made countless mistakes, both individually and as a choir, as we have learned this music...but it's OK  because those mistakes have been a necessary path to a worthy goal.  Each mistake becomes the backdrop for correct performance and each improvement represents one step closer to the Christmas program.  It is the same in life.  Our worthy goal is to attempt to walk closely with Jesus each day.  We want to please Him in all our thoughts and the actions that follow.  Sometimes we fail.  But each failure can become a lesson learned as we strive toward greater intimacy with the Lord.  Sometimes we'll know what to do and still fall...but the worthy goal remains and the Lord awaits us as we rise to stand with Him again.  Just as in the choir, it helps to come after Jesus with others who share the same purpose.  We draw strength, encouragement and we learn many things from those friendships.
Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
Rob Smith 

Friday, December 7, 2007

Looking for a difference

They're looking for a difference.  All those people out there who are following this crowd or that.  Somewhere within they suspect that there is more to life than their daily routine provides.  Their need is to be reconnected with the one true and living God.  This is the "missing link" and the great unanswered question that lies in their hearts and minds.  Many have their best shot at finding the reality of God in people just like you and me.  Perhaps the greatest miracle the Lord works is the way He reaches through our broken, flawed lives and shines with an attractive light.  It really isn't that hard to spot a Christian.  He or she tends to react differently to almost every crisis and triumph, not to mention every dull day of "nothing special".  Sure God could bowl us all over with a direct appearance...but isn't it all the more amazing that He chooses to show Himself in us.  Do you feel like your life is making a difference?  If you enjoy walking with the Lord, you can help but do so!
Proverbs 16:7 When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. 
Rob Smith


Wednesday, December 5, 2007


In our office we have a daily routine.  Part of it involves comparing our existing data base of old information with the source of new information.  It is important that our data is up to date and 100% accurate.  The daily check we do is called "Reconciliation".  The word reconcile has a Latin root and comes from the two words "re" (again) and "concilare" (make friendly).  When we have some kind of discrepancy with our data we have to do a little research and find out why our data isn't "friendly" with the data source.  While we only have reconciliation problems occasionally in our database, as human beings we often are out of harmony with our Maker.  Fortunately, He is eager to correct this problem and has provided a means for us to be restored to Him.  Thankfully, we are "friendly again" with our Lord through the effective work of His Son.  Have you sensed the need to be "reconciled".  It starts with a awareness that something is missing and something just isn't right and there just must be a better way.
Romans 5:10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Rob Smith

walls without corners

Last night I was waiting for a meeting to begin.  While I waited, alone in the conference room, I noticed that one side of the room had a rounded surface.  Instead of two walls meeting at a corner, it appeared as one wall that curved 90 degrees.  Earlier that day I had been reading testimonies from Christians, learning their stories of coming to faith and experiencing God entering their lives by faith.  Some of the testimonies could pinpoint specific times and incidents that represented a new spiritual birth.  Others came to faith at such a young age or in such incremental steps that it was hard to identify the specific date or point of salvation.  But, in every case, there was a profound commitment of trust in the Lord Jesus.  Just like the rounded wall that ended at right angles from its origin, so I see that some have come to faith in a similar way.  Whether you have hit a sharp corner in life and turned in sharp contrast, or whether you have turned in a more gradual sense, the wonder of a life transformed can only be ascribed to the One who has made all things new.
2 Corinthians 3:18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Rob Smith

Monday, December 3, 2007

tickets for Jesus

What if they said there were only 1 million spots available in heaven this year and you had to apply at 6 am on Christmas eve to try to get in? 
I was impressed to see how quickly our Chapel Christmas Concert tickets were taken this year.  The allotment of tickets taken on the internet were reserved by eager concert-goers within minutes.  We're excited to share the good news of God coming to Earth in human form with the Williamsburg Community and we are hopeful that hearts will be touched.  But wouldn't it be great if folks had the same kind of "land rush" attitude about coming to the Lord that they do in coming to this concert.  If only we could grasp the benefits that lie for all who open their heart just like opening the Chapel doors on concert night.
Matthew 7:7"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
blessings (don't worry, there are tickets still available for eternity)
Rob Smith

the marriage picture

Marriage is the best human picture of our heavenly relationship with the Lord. Just as one spouse is formed differently in body, emotion and mind from the other so are we formed differently from our heavenly Lord.  Just as each spouse helps complete the other to travel through this life, so we are completed in our relationship with the Lord for eternity.  There is no more intimate relationship among human beings than marriage and there is no more intimate relationship spiritually than between the Lord and His people.  Just as marriage is a relationship built on promise and absolute commitment for life, so our relationship with the Lord is founded on a Covenant that the Lord is committed to forever.  Of course the biggest difference is that we are both people in husband wife relationships, equally flawed and with many shortcomings.  We need a marriage that we know will last if it's to be for eternity.  Fortunately, our heavenly marriage partner is our strength and dependable now and forever.
Revelation 19:6Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
      For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
 7Let us rejoice and be glad
      and give him glory!
   For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
      and his bride has made herself ready.
 8Fine linen, bright and clean,
      was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)
Rob Smith

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Luke 22:19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.
Mark 14:22 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
23 Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.
Matthew 26:26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
We celebrated the Lord's Supper today in church.  There are many beliefs as to the meaning of this wonderful practice.  Lately I've been thinking about turning around some of the controversy.  Instead of whether or not Jesus is living in the bread and wine it has occurred to me that the bread and wine represent Him living in me.  Jesus is the bread of life...our source of energy for living in spiritual health.  Jesus' blood is the dynamic means by which I am made clean and restored to life.  In a way they capture how Jesus has given His all...His body in life and His blood in death...that we might live.  And as we live out our lives, day by day, Jesus continues to be the bread of life that we feed on and His blood effectively covers us from now through eternity, that we might not come to harm.
Rob Smith

Thursday, November 29, 2007

heart transplant

A young relative of a friend just received a new set of lungs, via transplant, a few days ago.  This young woman was failing and would probably not have survived very long without the wonderful gift of new lungs.  The donor was a child who, most likely, was the victim of an automobile accident over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Tragedy was transformed to triumph through a transplant.  The result is a fresh start, a new beginning.  The young lady who received the lungs was just married over the past year and now can look forward to a continuation of her life with her husband and other family and friends.  Heart transplants are relatively common, as well, these days.  Each year about 2,000 Americans receive new hearts by transplant.  The analogy is clear with our salvation.  In a sense we all are dying of terminal sin disease.  The arteries of our spiritual life are clogged with our innate tendency to stray.  Our spiritual breathing is labored and the smallest life challenge can leave us breathless, often feeling like there is nowhere to turn.  Fortunately each of us is not only a prime candidate for a new heart but there is one available for us all.  When we invite the Lord Jesus into our lives we receive His heart.  Our arteries are cleansed and His precious blood flows through our lives.  No wonder we are considered "new creatures" when we receive this transplant.  Unfortunately many people have "immune" systems that reject Jesus before giving Him a chance to enter.  If it weren't for the preparation and guidance of the Holy Spirit, I think we'd all reject Jesus' entrance.
Matthew 13:15 "For this people's heart has become calloused;
      they hardly hear with their ears,
      and they have closed their eyes.
   Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
      hear with their ears,
      understand with their hearts
   and turn, and I would heal them."
Acts 2:37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"
Ephesians 3:16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How far will you go?

Go Farther!  That was the imperative I spotted in an advertisement for investment research.  It was the clear implication that using their services would take you farther along the road to financial success.  But then I thought, "OK, go farther....but how will I know when I've arrived?"  One of the fallacies of the American Dream, as it is packaged contemporaneously, is that success is actually defined by "going farther"  or by having more of the material types of things.  One of the interesting truths we learn is that going farther in the material world can be like going deeper into a quicksand swamp.  On the other hand when we Go Farther in our relationship with Jesus we find that real progress and real growth come as we walk.  It is in the going that we experience the growing.  Maybe our promotion to walk with Jesus would be Walk Closer!  Then we really will go farther.
2 Corinthians 6:16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."
Rob Smith

Monday, November 26, 2007

horizontal and vertical

Many of you have been on the planet long enough to remember when televisions received their signals exclusively through the air.  We generally could receive the three major networks and eventually a few local channels through something called UHF.  You actually had to go over to the TV set to turn it on and when you changed channels the dial usually clicked noisily from channel to channel.  Generally the other times you would approach the set would be to adjust the signal.  There were two controls: Vertical and Horizontal Hold.  Sometimes the picture would flip vertically like a a ruffled deck of cards and sometimes it would move sideways.  A deft touch with the Vertical or Horizontal Hold would restore the picture.  In our walk with the Lord we pull our signal out of the air on the antenna of the heart.  When our focus is a bit off it usually shows up either in the Vertical (up to God) or Horizontal (sideways with other folks) directions.  I think this is when the Holy Spirit walks over to our controls and makes an adjustment.  I remember a few TV sets we had seemed to have frequent adjustment problems and others held their picture with little tweaking required. 
Get the picture?
Proverbs 25:28 Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.
Rob Smith

Sunday, November 25, 2007


There are a few words that we don't see translated in most versions of the Bible but that we use frequently in hymns and praise songs. One of these words is Hosanna.  Today in church we sang a praise song that repeated the word Hosanna several times.  I wondered what Hosanna meant so I looked it up.  It means: "Save now! or Save, we beseech".  It was used in the New Testament as a greeting for Jesus as He entered (we celebrate on Palm Sunday).  Mark 11:9 "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"  Hosanna was a shout of praise the Old Testament Jews used during the Feast of Tabernacles which celebrated God's provision and protection during the Exodus in the Wilderness and which looked forward to the coming rule and deliverance of the Messiah.  So when we were singing "Hosanna" today we could identify with those folks from long ago as we celebrate Jesus, the Messiah, as He has come and continues to come to save us and to deliver us from our wanderings in the wilderness, even today.
Rob Smith

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Lease or Own?

One of the key aspects of acquiring a new car these days is the decision whether to lease or own the car.  If you lease, typically your payments are lower because you're only paying for two or three years of depreciation in the value of the car.  Of course, when you buy, you pay for the entire car.  There is no generalization that can be made as to which is the better approach.  Either can make sense depending on individual circumstances.  One of the reasons we like to purchase the car is for the real sense of really know that it is "your car".  Today it struck me that there is an analogy to our own lives.  I think we tend to feel that we "own" our lives.  We can carry an expectation that this life we own will keep on running and we expect to reach ojur goals and generally be happy.  Our orientation so easily is to our personal agenda as we move from day to day.  But we don't like to think about trading in the old model.  We may do well to think of our lives, here in the flesh, as being "on lease".  What begins here in the body will continue in a different form, with a continued purpose in the eternal dimension.  It is good to remember that, unlike the cars we acquire, our lives were given to us...both our natural lives and our spiritual lives (through God's grace and Jesus' faithfulness)...The One who has brought us life is the one who brings meaning and value to it and He has defined a form of life that will go on and on.  We travel in leased vehicles that we will exchange when the lease is up for new models that will serve us better for the rest of the journey.
1 Corinthians 15:43-45 "it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
      If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit."
Rob Smith

Friday, November 23, 2007

Assisted Living

Today was the day after Thanksgiving.  Few people were working, but I was among them.  As I turned into the business center where I work, the parking lots were mostly empty as the vacant offices testified to folks enjoying family and holiday shopping.  Then I passed an Assisted Living center located near my office.  The lot was full of cars, as usual, and I realized that these folks were there because they were "home" or were providing services for the residents who lived there.  I thought about the term "Assisted Living" and considered the various kinds of senior centers that are available these days.  But then I realized that I actually require "Assisted Living" myself.  From every heartbeat and breath to an autoimmune system that mostly eyes that see and a brain that sometimes thinks and more importantly to obtain the help I need every moment of every day...I require a big Assist.  I'm especially grateful for the One who assisted me to a new life and a new heavenly family.  Jesus gives us the big Assist.  He assists us to reach Heaven and He assists us each day.  He's like the best Assisted Living Center ever created.  I'm glad I've checked in to this wonderful service.  Thinking of another kind of contemporary assistance, I'm glad He provides truly Long Term Care!
Hebrews 9:27-28 Everyone has to die once, then face the consequences. Christ's death was also a one-time event, but it was a sacrifice that took care of sins forever. And so, when he next appears, the outcome for those eager to greet him is, precisely, salvation.
Rob Smith

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Earth and Heaven

As I was raking leaves earlier today and feeling "thankful" for so many blessings this Thanksgiving day my thoughts turned to gratitude for our new home.  Then I looked up to the gorgeous blue sky above and I realized that no one owns the sky above my property.  In a sense, our house and land represent a place we live on the surface of the planet, but I suppose you could project the boundaries of our place all the way up to outer space and say that no one else has a claim on that area.  Then I realized that our lives are just the same.  We live briefly on the surface of the planet, but we have rights to Heaven above as well.  It's good to expand our vision of the place we dwell to include heaven, itself.  After all, when we invited Jesus to come into our hearts we became citizens of Heaven.  Maybe it's a truer picture to say that we live in Heaven but temporarily occupy a small square on the ground level. 
Philippians 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
Blessings to you'all as we give thanks for earth and heaven!
Rob Smith

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

This is freedom

Thoughts on freedom:  freedom can be defined many ways but ultimately is experienced as the peaceful result of a quiet heart, a mind opened to all of God and a soul delivered from a heavy load of sin.  We are set free "from" in order to know what it is to be free "to" and to be free "for".  We are only truly free when we have become slaves to a kind Master.  No man can take freedom from one who has been liberated by the one Creator and the only Savior.  Isn' t it wonderful that we are free to set our minds, our hearts, our total focus on our gracious Lord.  I suppose that the fruit of true freedom is a narrow world view that becomes a telescope to the great expanse of Heaven.  John 8:36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
blessings, with thanks
Rob Smith

Monday, November 19, 2007

animals have scents

Elephants can literally sniff out danger

By Michael Kahn Thu Oct 18, 12:20 PM ET

LONDON (Reuters) - Elephants can literally smell danger, according to a study on Thursday that shows the animals can sniff out whether humans are friends or foes.

The study in Kenya found elephants detected both the scents and colors of garments worn by Masai tribesman who often come into conflict with the animals when herding cattle.  The same research revealed that the elephants relaxed when they recognized the different smell and look of more friendly tribes.  One of the great Bible words we read about is "discernment".  In a natural sense, we learn by experience how to distinguish good deals from bad deals, salesmen from servants, and quality from glitz.  One key spiritual trait comes from the abiding presence of the Lord is the detection and evaluation of spiritual quality.  I believe that as we exercise focusing on the Lord with mind, heart and energy we allow the Lord to train our personality to pick up on danger as well as safety in the eternally important spiritual dimension. 
2 Samuel 14:17 Your maidservant said, ‘The word of my lord the king will now be comforting; for as the angel of God, so is my lord the king in discerning good and evil. And may the LORD your God be with you.’”
Rob Smith

Letters from home

You've probably had this (or similar) experience.  I remember being away from home, at the Naval Academy and later aboard ship, and experiencing an eager anticipation about getting mail from home.  At first the feelings centered around the brown paper packages sent from my Mom and containing brownies and cookies (you just can't top home baked treats).  When I'd sample one of those goodies I thought of home and all the love for me there (sometimes school felt more like a hostile environment).  Later on, when I was dating Shirley I'd set my heart on getting notes from her.  Most of them came when I was aboard ship and located thousands of miles away.  I'd carefully open those letters and read them the way you'd eat the finest of meals at the best of restaurants...carefully considering every subtle meaning and picturing her as she sat and poured her thoughts into words.  I especially looked for indications and expressions of affection and I delighted in feeling special and longed to be with her in person.  This morning, as I was reading a Psalm, I realized that my attitude toward the Bible should be very similar.  God has written the most personal of letters and He has addressed it, individually, to each of us.  If we pour over the words and look for indications and expressions of affection, we'll find there are many and that they saturate every book and chapter.  You've probably experienced, as I have, the amazing sense that God is speaking directly to me, at times, as the words seem to fly like an arrow to my heart.  Until we can be with Him in person, we can read His letters of love and picture Him as He composed them, just for us.  Reading the Bible should be like reading a love letter, because that is exactly what it is.
Rob Smith

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Built for change

There are many lessons in the colorful leaves of the fall.  One is the consideration that we were designed for change.  As I sat this morning in the warmth of the autumn sun and looked to the trees nearby, I stared at a tree with leaves of brilliant rust / red color.  It occurred to me that those leaves looked as if they were painted red.  But then I realized that the color which appears to be permanent is really very temporary...far shorter in life than the green leaves that preceded the red ones.  The leaves which now are red will dry and fall within a few days, and, of course the cycle will continue into winter and new leaves in the spring.  I suppose one of the reasons we enjoy paintings of the fall foliage is that they preserve these gorgeous colors and bring back the fleeting time of bright color to our mind.  The hand behind the scenes that paints the leaves is the hand of God and He is painting us with changing colors as well.  I was remarking to a senior friend recently that just as the trees show brilliant color to celebrate the long season of life they have completed, so we also have changing colors that celebrate our long life season.  But instead of glowing in brilliant oranges, yellows, and reds, we move to shades of gray, with paler skin.  While our outward appearance appears to fade as we pass the physical peak, the inner person glows brighter as the joy of the Lord's peace and of life's blessings crown us and cause us to look to eternity's future with Hope.
Ezekiel 47:12 "But the river itself, on both banks, will grow fruit trees of all kinds. Their leaves won't wither, the fruit won't fail. Every month they'll bear fresh fruit because the river from the Sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing."
Rob Smith

Friday, November 16, 2007

keep your distance

Have you ever noticed how cars bunch up on the highway?  It's almost like there's a continual race going on out there.  I think many drivers decide how fast they'll drive based on how much speed they need to catch the next group ahead of them.  It's sort of a "relative" approach to driving and sometimes it leads to "road rage" when the competition gets too close and personal.  The posted speed limits are more of an "absolute" guide to determining driving speed.  I've noticed that when I drive at the speed limit it tends to be a bit more peaceful than when I'm chasing the herd (not to mention: a more legal approach).  But there is something in us that seeks out the crowd and pushes the limits...often so we can do fun things like getting to work faster by 5 minutes.  So one thought is that we're better off following "absolute standards" from the Lord than "relative standards" set by ourselves.  The other thought is that when it comes to sin we often push the limits by getting as close as we can...thinking or hoping that we won't cross into unacceptable territory.  But just as cars that bunch together have a far greater likelihood of collision than those with plenty of space around them, so we tend to set ourselves to fall to temptation when we allow it to come too close.  If we follow God's absolutes...stick to His limits...we may find ourselves in an open place where life isn't moving quite so fast, there is greater peace, and we have less chance of crashing into sin.
Proverbs 6: 27 Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?

                  28 Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? 



Rob Smith

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Fluid power

Imagine having the strength to tame a 3000 lb. beast and have such power over it that it responds to your every command: to move in virtually any direction at your will.  All this not only is possible but taken by most of us for granted daily.  Before leaving for the Men's Retreat this past Friday I stopped at an auto parts store to top off some of the key fluids in my van.  This trusty vehicle has gone well over 250,000 miles over the past 14 years and I was a little concerned about the trip out to the mountains.  So I topped off the brake fluid and transmission fluid and checked the oil, power steering and antifreeze.  All of these tend to leak a little on the aged beast.  As I was rolling west it occurred to me that those fluids convey great power and keep the engine cool.  They multiply my strength to steer, shift and stop the vehicle through hydraulic principles.  Of course the gas in the tank transforms into explosive power, harnessed in the engine and driving the front wheels onward...even up the mighty mountain.  The antifreeze came in handy because temperatures dropped below freezing at night (we even had a few inches of snow!)  I thought about the Holy Spirit and how the Lord had described this marvelous spiritual fluid.

Some examples of spiritual fluid power:

John 11:2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.

James 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

Matthew 14:29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.

John 3:23 Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized.

John 7:38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing  in Him would receive;

I use oil and water in my van but it doesn't compare to the fabulous fluids of the Lord!


Rob Smith

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

output = growth

We hear a lot these days about diet.  We have large numbers who are eating too much and we have an epidemic of diabetes.  We also have problems with people eating too little leading to anorexia.  We seem to have a succession of weight loss fads that keep us on a vicious cycle of lean and fat.  We also have cable TV channels that do nothing but prepare gourmet meals or show exercise programs designed to firm us up.  I was reminded the other day of one of Jesus' teachings: that what comes out of us is more important  than what goes in.  Matthew 15:11 "What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what  makes him 'unclean.' "  I think it's safe to say that healthy growth is more dependent on what comes out of our lives than the material things we eat, acquire, or add to our lives.  In some amazing way we actually mature as a result of the output of our lives.  Maybe that is why we see in Ephesians 2: 10 "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  Of course we do need to eat something.  May I suggest the John 6 cuisine? (from verse 33) "For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” .
Rob Smith

Monday, November 12, 2007

For all seasons

This morning, as I walked through a heavily wooded area near my home I was considering the multi-colored leaves...over half the spectrum was showing there (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green...I didn't see any Blue, Indigo or Violet). 
Fall is a time of reflection, before the severe cold of winter makes anything other than survival hard to consider.  The thought I had this morning was that we have a God for all seasons.  When life is difficult and problems crowd in, who else better to turn to than God?  He has the comfort and the answers, and is able to provide the solutions.  When the solutions don't come when we expect and we must deal with pain, who else better to turn to than God?  He invites us to cast our care on Him and no one can empathize better than He.  He's the one who knows the innermost aspects of our pain and can heal the invisible human heart as well as the physical heart.  When uncertainty and the unknowns of the future cause anxiety, who better to turn to than God?  He knows the beginning from the end and can guide us in the right path if we allow Him to direct our steps.  And when we experience joy and success and life goes well, who better to turn to than God?  Who else deserves our praise and who else can deliver us from the pride than can extinguish the blessing so quickly.  Truly He is the only God for all the seasons of life.
Acts 14:17 "Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy."
Rob Smith

an empire or a string of pearls?

How do you envision the ultimate purpose of your life?  In all honesty are you trying to "build an empire"?  Or are you creating a string of pearls?
It occurred to me this past week that many (or most...or maybe just about all) of us men are empire builders.  Somewhere inside we are trying to acquire a fortune, build a winning business, create a successful career.  Like some kind of carry over from an earlier time we think life is all about creating our own personal empire.  We can so easily give ourselves to the acquisition of influence, power, and things.  So much of this goes way beyond what we need in terms of healthy ambiition to meet our practical needs.  I think we tend to measure our worth by the worldly worth of what we own and the worldly reach of our earthly power.  We were reminded this weekend at the Men's Retreat that life really is all about relationships: first with God and then with people.  A thought that struck me was that it's better to look at life as a string of pearls than an empire to build or conquer.  Each pearl is a day and each day we begin again to see a pearl formed.  Within the constraints of the day we have a new beginning and a wide range of opportunity to look to God for our worship, peace and fresh purpose.  God can fill the day with unimaginable joy and experience and as trials inevitably come...He'll show up then, too.  But each night we can place that pearl on the string and look to the next day.  Rather than filling the unknown of the future with our own puny ambitions, we can walk day by day with the Lord.  In this way I think we'll see Him build His empire through us!  And one day, when the last pearl is strung, we'll step across to see that true Empire.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31 I do want to point out, friends, that time is of the essence. There is no time to waste, so don't complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple —in marriage, grief, joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things—your daily routines of shopping, and so on. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see it is on its way out.
Rob Smith