Saturday, March 24, 2007

What's at the center?

Years ago Williamsburg decided to create a "New Town" to complement Colonial Williamsburg.  It would be a place where people lived, shopped and worked...a real community.  Over the past few years it has been taking shape as the roads are now lined with stores, restaurants and homes.  There are many opinions about New Town.  Some love it and some seem to despise it.  Personally, I enjoy the energy there from all the people that make it come alive.  But the other day a thought hit me as I was bicycling through New Town.  When they designed this new urban center, they had free reign to decide where everything would be placed.  Planners decided that a church and a courthouse should be included.  The interesting thing is that the church and the courthouse have been located outside the town, itself, on the other side of a busy divided road, while the centerpiece of New Town is a movie theater.  Don't get me wrong, I really like movies.  I just think it's some kind of comment on where we are today when instead of the church on the green, as in New England, or the Courthouse on the square, as in much of the South and Midwest...we have the theater forming the hub.  I wonder if this isn't an accurate reflection of our primary focus these days, which is more aligned with pleasure than worship or justice.
2 Timothy 3: 1 "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power."
(I really do like the movies...just ask my family!!)
By the way, what kind of structure are you building in the center of your heart?
Rob Smith

Friday, March 23, 2007

The power of persistence

Recently I saw the movie "Amazing Grace",the story of William Wilberforce.  He led a lifelong effort to banish the slave trade, and slavery itself, from Great Britain.  He began the campaign as a young man who was part of the British aristocracy but who had become a Christian.  Once the Lord became central to his heart he found a fresh love for God's creation and he sensed a calling to use his social position to become a member of Parliament at age 21 and stand against the evil of slavery.  He introduced bills to ban the slave trade every year for 20 years (1785-1806) and campaigned tirelessly across the country for this cause.  Finally, his results were rewarded and the trade banned by law.  He spent the balance of his life working just as hard to end the actual practice of slavery in the British Empire and he died at age 73 one month before the Slavery Abolition Act was passed in 1833.  It's interesting that just because one has a just cause, that does not mean that cause will quickly prevail.  And there are no guarantees that living in a free and democratic land will create conditions that embrace good over evil or right over wrong.  It took all of Wilberforce's adult life, all of his energy, and all of his focus and I am convinced that he could not have endured without the sure call of the Lord.  A righteous cause calls for persistence and absolute dedication.  I wonder if one or more among us might not be inspired to stand for the unborn children with similar resolve in our land, today.
Luke 18: 1 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, 2 saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. 3 Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ 4 And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, 5 yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’”
If we never feel the heat of opposition, can we be sure we're in the battle?

blessings (with a challenge),
Rob Smith

Thursday, March 22, 2007

keep your head in the clouds

I love to look up at the clouds.  There's something about that gorgeous blue backdrop and the infinite variety of cloud shapes that is endlessly interesting.  And aren't those views amazing where the sun's rays break through openings in the clouds, creating shafts of light that seem to come from heaven, itself!  You know it's good to get in the habit of looking up.  Our days are often filled with cares and troubles and our world can easily close in on us.  Worse yet, we can stray from the Lord and find ourselves ensnared in tangled webs of sin that seem to hold us like a spider's web holds its insect prey.  But I'm convinced that just as the gorgeous sky lies ever within our upward view, so the Lord is always accessible.  Even when we feel hopelessly lost, confused, entangled in sin...even when we have given up on ourselves and are convinced there is no way out we need to realize that with one upward look we can reestablish contact with our Lord.  What we can't do for ourselves, He stands continually ready to do.  He will lift us up!
It's also good to be a cloud watcher because one day Jesus will come in the clouds!
Matthew 24:30 "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory."
Rob Smith

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The best day

Why shouldn't Wednesday March 21, 2007, be the very best day of our lives?  We don't know the potential that can be unleashed over the next 24 hours.  In all of time this day has not yet occurred.  How will we see the Lord in the next day?  Will we see Him in a child?  Will we see Him in his creation, which is slowly awakening from winter's sleep?  Will we find Him waiting for help in someone with a flat tire or in an elderly woman simply struggling to open a heavy door?  Will the Lord bring a friend to mind who is wracked with pain or in the midst of a relationship crisis?  Will there be a heaven-arranged chance to encourage one who has not yet found the Savior or to enjoy the tenderness of a kiss from our spouse? 
When our kids were young there was a fun game called "Where's Waldo" where they'd try to find a goofy guy with glasses and a beanie in a crowded picture.  It was fun to search intently until he was could rest assured he'd be there.
Why don't we try "Where's Jesus" in the next day.  Let's look intently and see if we can find Him in the picture of our day.  We can rest assured He's there.
1 Corinthians 2:9 
       But as it is written: 
      “ Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
      Nor have entered into the heart of man
      The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
Matthew 25:37-40 (The Message):  'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'
Rob Smith

Monday, March 19, 2007

Correction to snowflake construction

Sorry, this snowflake was a little flakier than usual...that's two molecules of hydrogen for one of oxygen !!

unique with much in common

We remember learning about how each snowflake is like every other snowflake because they all have six sides and yet every snowflake is unlike evey other snowflake because of its distinctly designed edges.  The common hexagonal structure is due to the chemistry of water, with two molecules of hydrogen for each one of water providing a common foundation for each flake.  The unique shape of the six sides comes from each flake having a unique exposure to temperature and wind as it forms in the sky, before dropping to earth.  It's interesting to consider that we have much in common with every other person.  If that weren't the case it would be difficult for doctors to figure our what was wrong with us and for shoemakers to have a manageable inventory of sizes.  Of course we also have a common tendency to wander, to stray, to go our own way.  I think it's fascinating that the Lord has designed us with so much in common with each other that we can relate and help and interact effectively but also made us each uniquely, partly through our DNA and partly through the unique path our lives have traced.   I suspect that much of our fulfillment comes from using our uniqueness to help others as we wrestle with the common challenges of life and our common need for the Lord.
2 Corinthians 1:6  Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.
Rob Smith

material to spiritual

We each get the opportunity to participate in a great miracle, and we can participate often.  It hit me over the weekend that when we give money to the Lord He can use it to transform lives.  We give from our material goods and God does a transforming work, using the material to form permanent spiritual change in our lives and the lives of others.  When I think about it that way I get really thrilled about wanting to give more to Him.  I thought about Old Testament burned sacrifices and how the offering converted something created, like an animal, into smoke that wafted up to heaven, becoming a picture of the material changing to spiritual.   I guess, in a sense, that's what our lives are for: to convert our natural time, effort, attitudes and focus into that which is spiritual, eternal and in tune with the Lord.  Maybe that's what Paul was getting at in Romans 12:1-2  "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
Rob Smith

Sunday, March 18, 2007

"ain't nothing like the real thing, baby"

Marvin Gaye came out with the song "Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby" in 1968.  It says that nothing can take the place of really being with the one you love: not a picture, not a letter, and not even memories.  Nothing can take the place of that "sweet voice whispering in my ear".  There's just nothing like the real thing.  When you've known love like Jesus gives, you don't want to settle for anything phoney or shallow.  You don't want to talk about comparative religions.  You don't want to hold hands with a religious icon.  You don't want to debate your faith with others in some heady way.  You don't want to ignore His interest.  You just want to be with HIm, tell Him everything that's on your heart and mind and let HIm reach you with "his voice whispering in your ear".  Because He really is the Real Thing.
Song of Solomon 2:3 
      Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods,
      So is my beloved among the sons.
      I sat down in his shade with great delight,
      And his fruit was sweet to my taste.
John 20:27 
Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
Rob Smith

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Going batty

I just have to tell you'all about the amazing things I learned about bats this morning.  I turned on the TV and there was a nature program on bats, living in a particular cave in Texas.  Would you believe 20 million bats live in this cave!  That's about 200 adult bats per square foot, hanging upside down.  The female bats give birth to their "pups" as they hang there from the roof of the cave and the poor baby bats have to hang on or they fall to the cave floor and become food for other cave dwellers.  At dusk millions of bats swarm out into the sky tracking down insects with sonar signals.  When the mother bats return to the cave they have no problem locating their particular pups among the millions there and the babies recognize the unique call of their mothers.  Just as the bats rely on high pitched sounds to track their prey, they also call out to their offspring the same way.  I cannot get over the fact that mother and baby are able to find each other.  It reminded me of Jesus as the good shepherd from John 10: 27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me."  Just as those bats all look the same to me, I tend to think of people as a great mob, sometimes.  But Jesus sees us individually and we, who have come to know HIm, hear His voice and recognize His wonder we want to follow Him!
blessings to all,
Rob Smith

Friday, March 16, 2007

God is spirit...and so are you

In a way it's not difficult to conceive of God as spirit.  After all, we can't see Him or perceive Him directly like we can His creation.  So scriptures like John 4:24  "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”  make a lot of sense to us.  Less obvious is the fact that we, also, are spiritual creatures.  We're so immersed in this natural life and so familiar with the dimensions that are defined by our natural senses that our spiritual identify can seem abstract, almost unreal.  Of course, the truth is that our natural life is very temporary and there is a part of us that is eternal, housed for a brief while in a created body (I like to think of our bodies as "organized dust").  Job 32:8 tells us:  "But there is a spirit in man,  And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding."  Somehow I don't think you'll find our spirit in our anatomy.  There's no such thing as a spiritual pathologist, who can examine the condition of our spirit when we died...the spirit is the essence of who we are and it doesn't linger when the body wears out.
Here's an encouraging passage from 1 Corinthians 15, starting in the middle of verse 42: "The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord] from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man."
Won't it be great when history no longer separates us from direct fellowship with the apostle John and to walk in the same dimension as Peter and Paul.  Isn't it wonderful to begin a personal fellowship with Jesus here that will so heightened when we are with Him in heaven.
Rob Smith

Thursday, March 15, 2007

No separation

This past weekend my wife and I had the high privilege of baby-sitting our 14 month-old grandson, Peter, while his parents got away for a few days.  It was the first time they had been away from their son overnight.  We had a great time and received far more than we gave just to be with him.  When a child is young the parents must be very close at hand to make sure basic life needs are met and the child benefits also from the continual bath of love and nurture.  Surely such attention in the early days, months and years helps establish a sense of security in the child.  It occurred to me that this is something like the continual presence of our heavenly father in our lives, here, when no matter our age we are "young" from an eternal standpoint.  A child grows to independence in adulthood and a child of God grows to eventually walk in Heaven for eternity.  I think this is one reason why Jesus promised never to leave us.  It's not just to keep us from feelings of loneliness.  He's at work preparing us for the next dimension.  Our grandson Peter doesn't have a clue, yet, about the challenges of taking tests in school, paying taxes, working for a wage, or leading a family.  Through the constant presence and example of his parents, he will acquire the knowledge and grow, knowing that he is greatly loved and valued.  This is much the way it is with the Lord in our lives.
Isaiah 41:10
      Fear not, for I am with you;
      Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
      I will strengthen you,
      Yes, I will help you,
      I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
Rob Smith

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

familiar roads

John Denver and James Taylor both wrote songs about country roads.  Part of Denver's lyric was: "Country roads, take me home
To the place, I belong....West Virginia, mountain momma Take me home, country roads"
    James Taylor had a similar message 
"I guess my feet know where they want me to go...Walking on a country road."  I really identify with those songs because the sense of peace on a country road is something special.  If the particular road is also a familiar one you can have a warm combination of memories with the peaceful setting.  I guess all of us travel down familiar roads on a daily basis...most of us call it commuting, and it's not necessarily a peaceful experience.  But as pleasant as those nostalgic country roads can be, I think we're called to forge new roads sometimes and break out of the familiar.  The comfortable path can become a rut and the familiar road can numb us to the adventure we're called to.  Instead of just letting the roads lead us home, we need to let the Lord help us to build new roads because there are many in this world (and in our community) who haven't had anyone walk down their path yet with the simple message that Jesus had His eye on them from up on the cross, years ago.  He wants to walk beside them, too, on their road.
Nehemiah 9:12
      Moreover You led them by day with a cloudy pillar,
      And by night with a pillar of fire,
      To give them light on the road
      Which they should travel. 
Rob Smith

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

More than a purchase

We often wonder how we can be effective to share the Lord with others.  It's common to believe that there are infrequent opportunities the Lord brings our way that are obviously intended for us to share our faith.  Yesterday it occurred to me that we have a simple opportunity that takes place daily, and often multiple times each day.  The nature of life causes us to transact with others to purchase our goods and services.  Although technology is now separating buyer and seller through market places such as EBAY and gas pumps that silently process our plastic cards, most transactions still involve direct contact with another person.  During the brief exchange of words and cash we have a clear chance to value the person on the other side of the counter more than we do whatever we are buying.  The thing purchased does not compare in the slightest degree in value to the eternal worth of the person with whom we are dealing.  A good deal, financially, is to be appreciated.  But a better deal can be had.  Through our attitude and few words we can recognize the other party as a human being and send a brief signal of love.  We can establish the briefest of relationships by addressing the other person by the name they display on their nametag.  We can smile and go one step beyond "Have a good day" to find something just a little more creative and personal to appreciate about them.  The attitude of the world is to focus on the thing purchased and one's own interest.  Our attitude in Christ sees the thing purchased as God's provision and the person over the counter as God's masterpiece.
Deuteronomy 10:18 He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. 19 Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Rob Smith

Monday, March 12, 2007


I believe that every person has the potential to come into a saving relationship with the Lord.  One of the reasons I do is because the Lord has planted a seed of knowledge about Him inside everyone.  Here is an interesting passage from Romans 1:19 "since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made"
You might say that there is a "seed" of God's knowledge planted in our hearts and with the right conditions that seed can germinate into full life.  It made me think about the process of a seed, which can lay dormant for years in a seed bag but, when placed in the soil and surrounded with the right conditions, becoming an active, living plant.  It turns out that seeds need three basic things to germinate: water, air and temperature.  Water enters the seed and causes it to swell, cracking the shell and activating the starch within to startup the processing of food, stored there for the initial growth stage.  Once the seed is cracked, oxyygen is needed to sustain metabolism (if a seed is waterlogged, the oxygen won't be effective).  Seeds won't germinate unless the temperature is in the right band and interestingly, some seeds won't germinate unless they've been "shocked" by a frost first (other seeds actually need intense heat to help crack the from a forest fire!).  As we participate in the germination process, we can see that the potential for life can be activated by the water of our love in sincere relationships and the Word of God generating faith to cause shells around hard hearts to crack open.  Often our seeds need some life shocks, like intense cold or heat, just like the plant.  To sustain growth, warmth and light, from fellowship and the truth of God's Word will sustain spiritual development until ultimately our "plant" breaks the surface and finds its complete identity.
Rob Smith

Sunday, March 11, 2007

gifts are for giving

When I was young Kodak used the slogan "Give the gift that keeps on giving" to promote its cameras during the Christmas shopping season.  That's a smart concept.  A camera is one gift that continues to give memorable pictures of family and record important life activities to share with others and to preserve memories.  Recently, it has occurred to me that all gifts that the Lord has blessed us with personally are meant to bless others, as well.  Of course there are basic gifts of our daily food, clothing and shelter (not to mention jobs, safe travel, and innumerable answers to prayer) that meet specific needs of ours, and can encourage others who may see our lives held in the Lord's hand.  But what I'm really thinking about are the gifts of personality, mental abilities, physical strengths (and weaknesses), and spiritual gifts that our heavenly Father has built into our frames that make each of us unique.  I now realize that all of these gifts are not meant to have a dead end as they've been poured into your life and mine.  It's not enough to be thankful for God's help or to only realize personal gain from strengths He's given us.  The real joy comes from using the gifts we've been given by giving to others.  God reaches through our lives to do much of His work.  In so doing, He builds faith, in us and through us.  This is a smarter concept than even Kodak had.
1 Corinthians 12:  12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be?
Rob Smith


Saturday, March 10, 2007

almost spring

There are four seasons in the year: winter, spring, summer and fall.  There are also four periods of time ahead of each season, when we are ready for change.  Now it is late winter and we are ready for spring.  It is still cold, the trees are yet bare and the air is not full of fragrance (and pollen), but for those of us who have walked the earth for a few years, we are confident that spring will come again.  We begin to long for warmth and pleasant days where our eyes are fed with color and new life springs from the ground.  There are places in the world that are winter year-round.  Imagine living there your entire life and then visiting Virginia in April for the first time.  Your senses would go into overload as you processed the beauty through sight, smell, sound of birds and touch (taste comes when the strawberries are picked a little later).  There are times in our lives that are like winter, cold and without beauty.  These times call for faith because the Lord is bringing change even when it can't yet be seen.  Spring, for you, is not far away!
2 Samuel 23:4 4 And he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises, A morning without clouds,  Like the tender grass springing out of the earth,
      By clear shining after rain.’
Rob Smith

Friday, March 9, 2007

total trust

Do you remember the first time you walked out a diving board and faced the challenge of diving into the water?  I remember watching other kids dive for a while before I got the courage to try.  They seemed to be having a lot of fun.  I was afraid of it for a while because I didn't know what it would feel like to hit the water and I was also concerned about looking silly (bad technique) or doing something dumb like slipping off the board sideways.  I also realized that for a few seconds I would be the center of attention around the pool, because when you're on the diving board you're very conspicuous.  At some point, however, my sense of adventure outweighed my fears and I gave it a try.  To my amazement, no one said a word about my first dive....and it was really fun.  The second dive quickly followed, as I scurried around to get in line again.  I think our walk of faith is like this.  We may watch others trusting in the Lord for various aspects of their lives (salvation, health, jobs, family needs, life purpose) but we may hold back from walking out on the board, ourselves.  We don't know what it will feel like to let God catch us.  Over time we may see that others who have trusted in Him are finding that He will hold them up and they even seem to be enjoying their lives.  We may feel that stepping out in faith will make us conspicuous, different from others who are just lounging around the pool and, I guess that's true.   I think the Lord wants others to see that when we dive into the Lord's arms He will not only bring us back to the surface, He'll bless the experience!  (Let's get back in line for another dive!)
Proverbs 3:5,6  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him,
      And He shall direct your paths.
Psalm 71:5  For You are my hope, O Lord GOD;  You are my trust from my youth.
Rob Smith

Thursday, March 8, 2007

the peoplesphere

The sky above is divided into thick layers, that make up the atmosphere.  Most of the air and weather is held by the closest layer above the earth, called the troposphere.  It extends about 10 miles above the surface.  There are three other layers (stratosphere, mesosphere and thermosphere) that extend out to about 400 miles.  Each layer has important roles in shielding us from the harshness of space and providing conditions for us to breathe and live.  Of course, the earth has layers below the surface too (like crust, mantle and core).  But I have been thinking about a very thin layer just above the earth's surface.  In this layer lie almost all of our daily stresses and problems.  I call it the "peoplesphere" and it only goes from about the earth's surface up to 8 feet above the surface.  Thinks about it:  if you could build your house 20 feet above the earth, and move through your day at that level you'd run into very little interference from others.  You could avoid traffic jams, lines in the grocery store, avoid fears of robbery.  Of course it might get a little lonely.  Yes, the drama of life is very much concentrated on this narrow band where the sons and daughters of Adam roam.  Somehow, we tend to think our problems dominate the universe, but it's good to be reminded that we have a great God who holds us and keeps us safe in a very large universe where every layer reflects His design.
Hebrews 1:10 He also says,  "In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Accept no substitutes

It's not uncommon to hear the phrase "accept no substitutes" in advertising.  Usually it centers around copy-cat products trying to ride on the coattails of some popular item.  Pharmaceutical companies deal with this when their drug patents run out and generic drugs can make the same chemical product and sell for less.  Not long ago I needed to buy word processing software for my home computer.  I looked over the prices of the flagship of word processing (Microsoft "Word") and then settled on a cheaper product that offered all the capability of Word at about 1/10 the price.  Unfortunately, what I saved in money I added in frustration as I wrestled with simple tasks like opening a new document and changing fonts.  Sometimes it's worth it to pay a little more.  When it comes to our spiritual food there are many good books, tapes, shows and seminars and they may have great merit.  There are also self-help programs, all kinds of meditation approaches and positive thinking guidance.  But when it comes to how we'll spend the limited time we have on feeding our inner person there just is no substitute for the Word (not Microsoft).  Nothing else bears the imprint of the author of life and no other program can explore our innermost being.
Hebrews 4:12  For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Only the Bible can give us the true reflection of who we are, where we are, and what we need....accept no substitutes!


Rob Smith

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

A mighty monarch

My friend Billy Ray Johnson sent me some information about the Monarch butterfly that just blew me away.  This tiny creature will migrate round trip from places like Minnesota to Mexico and back, travelling up to 3,000 miles.  They normally live solitary lives, but when they travel they move in flocks.  Amazingly they actually gain weight as they travel, by feeding on nectar.  Not all Monarchs migrate.  They have a short life, not living a full year.  Only the butterflies that are born in late summer will travel.  Once they've made one round trip, returning to their summer homes in the spring, three generations of butterfly will be spawned before the next migration.  It is the great grandchildren of the butterflies who made the previous migration who make the next round trip.  Somehow, they know exactly what to do and where to fly.  In fact, they are known to return to the exact tree their grandparents did the previous year!  Wow, how does that happen?  Of course this is a great natural wonder of the Lord.  But it reminds me that we owe a great deal to the patriarchs of the Old Testament, by whose examples (good and bad) we find our way and it is by the courageous lives of the early church, and believers through the generations that the truth of God's love and plan for redemption has been transmitted to us, because none of us had been there before.  And isn't it wonderful that we have found our way to the same tree...the tree of life in Jesus! 
Let's pass on the travel plans to heaven we have learned to the next generation of (human) butterflies!
John 14: 4-6  And where I go you know, and the way you know.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Rob Smith

Monday, March 5, 2007

Color and contrast

My dad spent his career in the engineering side of television.  He started as a cameraman for NBC after World War II and he was in the vanguard of TV.  He actually built their first home TV set from parts.  Later, when I was young we had one of the first color televisions in our neighborhood.  People would come over from nearby homes to watch the few shows broadcast in color and they'd be amazed at the difference color made to the picture.  I'm sure many of you remember when most shows were broadcast in black and white.  This morning I was thinking about the importance of the black and white picture.  Color is closer to the actual sight we see, so it's more accurate to the eye.  But, sometimes black and white can make a clearer picture because it's all about contrasts.  I suppose my point is this: While we appreciate the beauty and the glory of a world full of depth, dimension and color we need to remember that we move through a spiritual world of sharp contrasts.  There truly is but one true God and one way to come to Him (through Jesus).  There certainly is a natural life for us and there is also a supernatural, eternal life.  Just as God lives, so He has established right and wrong.  We experience fear and faith, honesty and dishonesty, love and hate, peace and disquiet.  We live in a world of color but we also live in a world of stark contrasts.  We must come to grips with the "black and white" picture of life to fully enjoy the color.
Romans 2:14-16 (The Message Version) When outsiders who have never heard of God's law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God's law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God's yes and no, right and wrong. Their response to God's yes and no will become public knowledge on the day God makes his final decision about every man and woman. The Message from God that I proclaim through Jesus Christ takes into account all these differences.


Rob Smith

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Circumstantial evidence

Yesterday I was thinking about the word "circumstances".  I'm not a language expert but I can see the little word "circle" or "circumference"  and the word "standing" contained in there.  It hit me that circumstances are things that 'stand around' us.  The problem arises when the things that are standing around us start to control what's inside of us.  I realized that circumstances don't have to drive my life unless I let them.  My inner person is where the life takes place and where the attitudes toward circumstances are formed.  It's liberating to consider life set free from control by circumstances.  I need to stop standing around and letting the things that stand around me control my joy and frame my life!
Ephesians 3:16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man
Rob Smith

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Possession Obsession

My wife and I are just starting to build a new house.  They've dug the foundation and I find it so exciting to go to the site and imagine what the house will look like.  I've been aware that some part of me has been developing an unhealthy attitude about "owning" this great new house (even though I'm totally aware that the Lord is making it possible).  This morning, as I was walking around the new lot I was reflecting on the problem with possessions. 
A few ideas hit me: 
How can anything temporary (like my earthly life) think it can own something permanently?  I may be here a day, a decade or a few dog's ages but I'm almost certainly not going to last as long as this new house.  Do I really own anything material?  Of course, the answer is that it's not in the ownership.
How can anything permanent (like my eternal life) be satisfied with owning something temporary (like a house of wood and cement)?  Of course, the answer is that it's not in the ownership.
The answer...the satisfaction...the joy... has to come from how we'll use this house for the Lord.  It will be a place to adore Him, a place to share Him, a place where we hope to introduce others to Him, a place where we enjoy His presence and acknowledge His favor.
Finally, I see the purpose of possessions.  They are nothing more than tools to help us and help others draw near to the One who will love us forever.  I'm so glad that He possesses me (how about you)...
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. [The Message version]
John 10:27-29  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.
Rob Smith

Friday, March 2, 2007

Each breath

There is all around us an invisible substance that we continually take into our bodies and that sustains our lives.  We call this substance air.  Air doesn't get a lot of attention from us.  We breathe it in and we exhale back to it.  But we can't live long without it.  If we go diving into the ocean we have to take some air with us.  If we go to outer space we have to carry the air along for the ride.  If we live in a submarine we have to manufacture and clean our own air.  Isn't it nice that we can go through a normal day and not have to consciously think about our source of air?  We just have to breathe and our lives are sustained so we can do all the things we need to do.  One of my favorite Christian songs is called "Breathe" by Michael W. Smith.  Its lyric says "This is the air I breathe, Your holy presence living in me".  We learned in the bible that man first came to life when God, Himself, breathed into Adam.  Genesis 2:7  "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being."  Just as air sustains our natural bodies, so the spiritual breath of God sustains our inner person, our eternal being, our spirit.  We don't see this air of God, either and it doesn't demand or receive a lot of attention during our day.  However, it is as vital as oxygen to support the eternal side of our being.  In fact when we receive Jesus into our lives, in a sense, we have allowed the Lord to resuscitate us, something like a first aid worker would perform a "mouth to mouth" rescue.  At that point we are breathing the same air as the Lord because in 1 Corinthians 6:17 we learn "But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him."
Today, as we breathe, let's reflect on the spiritual air that we have in common with our Lord.  We are united in spirit.
Rob Smith
p.s.  without air we cannot sing!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Expecting Jesus

Jesus is alive.  As Christians we know this to be true.  We believe in the resurrection story and we're confident that He returned to be with the Father in heaven.  We look forward to HIs return one day.  But sometimes I think we forget that He is also with us here and now!  Here are a few verses:
Romans 13:14         Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
1 John 1:3              We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:9    God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
1 Corinthians 5:4 4 When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present,
Why don't we go through today with the expectation that Jesus will show up in our individual lives.  He can show up in our thoughts at work, or in line at the grocery store.  He can show up in the midst of our current anxieties.  He can show up in the middle of a dispute between a parent and child.  He will find us when we think we are alone in our fear and discouragement.  He will fill our minds with joy as we reflect on truth.  In fact, isn't this the great thing about being a Christian?  We have the privilege of seeing the Lord "show up" in our personal lives!
Rob Smith