Saturday, June 30, 2007

We need the desert to appreciate the promised land

Deuteronomy 8:2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.
There was "good news" and "bad news" as the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land.  The bad news was they'd have to fight and conquer many enemies. (Deuteronomy 7:1 When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you- ).  The good news was that the Lord would give them the victory and would bless them.  They  had to depend on the power of an invisible God to protect them.
Their preparation was forty years in the desert.  Deuteronomy 8:3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
They had experienced God's protection and provision for an entire generation in the midst of a place where no people would choose to live so that they would believe He would be their strength in the land where everyone wanted to live.  If you are going through dry times, difficult times, desert times...even if they have lasted for a while, the Lord may be preparing you in the same way.  Under it all, He loves us just as He loved the Israelites: Deuteronomy 7: 7 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.
If you're in the desert, love the Lord and learn to lean on Him.
Rob Smith

Friday, June 29, 2007

a jolt from heaven

Job 37:3 He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven and sends it to the ends of the earth.
Last night we had thunderstorms roll across the state, bringing much-needed rain.  I thought about the power within lightning and how it represents a connection between heaven and earth.  A little research told me that a lightning bolt travels at 100,000 miles per hour and has temperatures approaching 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enought to turn soil into glass (about five times hotter than the surface of the sun!).  But the most interesting fact I saw was the electrical relationship between the lightning bolt and the ground.  Most lightning starts with a negatively charged "leader" stroke that moves from sky to ground.  That is followed by a positively charged "return" stroke.  The leader stroke creates a conducting path between the cloud and the ground and the return stroke comes back up from the ground, following that path.
It reminded me that God's intense energy expressed toward us through the love and life of His Son, the greatest "leader stroke" of all time has created a return path that is charged and ready for us to follow on our "return stroke" to a relationship with Him.  I hope from now on that I'll be reminded of the intensity of God's love for us when I see lightning.  The boom of thunder created by the superheated air, expanding rapidly, is like the voice of God declaring His fervent love and reclaiming His creation.
Job 37:4 After that comes the sound of his roar;
       he thunders with his majestic voice.
       When his voice resounds,
       he holds nothing back.
Rob Smith

Thursday, June 28, 2007

be strong and courageous

Joshua 1:5-9  "No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.  Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."
Moses had just died and turned the reigns over to Joshua.  After wandering in the desert for 40 years, Joshua faces the awesome transition to leadership without benefit of Moses to mentor him and the timing couldn't be more stressful.  They are about to face enemies in the "promised land" and he must rally the Israelites.  Isn't it interesting that the Lord tells Joshua three times "Be strong and courageous"!  There are two more important messages: Follow God's directions precisely and remember He will always be with you.  This is good advice for us as well.  We face the challenge of the unknown with each new day.  God has a promised land for us to claim in each day.  There is work to be done and lives to be claimed for Christ.  But it is critical that we meditate on, and stay in, God's word.  I am greatly challenged by verse 8 to want to spend more time immersed in the word, because then I'll be more likely to carry it out.  I don't have to worry about "over obeying" Him.  And what tremendous encouragement in verse 9 that the Lord, Himself, will be with me continually!
Be strong and courageous, as you claim your share of the Promised Land today, and every day!
Rob Smith

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

turtle crossings

Imagine you're a turtle.  You've just slogged through weeds and rocks and gravel for a few hundred yards.  Suddenly you break out into the open.  You find yourself on a firm smooth surface that is easy to walk across.  You think you're in turtle heaven!  Unfortunately you are crossing a major highway at night.  You have no idea of the danger.  I think this is how many of us live.  We may have been slogging through hard work, slow progress and low reward.  At some point we think we've broken out into the open when we hear the paid message on TV about getting rich in real estate with no money down...or we experience a drug of some kind that seems to lift us away from our problems...or we find the "perfect person" and just know that marriage and continual bliss will be the outcome.
At times I think we're all turtles crossing the road.  We think we have plenty of protection from our hard shell (yeah we're tough) but we are no match for the tractor trailers of life that can roll over us.  Recently I saw a young man stop his car and carry a turtle off the road and into the woods.  It reminded me that we need the Lord to do the same for us.  We don't always recognize danger and we aren't always fast enough or clever enough to escape...but He sees the danger and He is able to deliver us.
Doesn't your heart go out to the turtles on the road?
1 Samuel 17:37  "The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine."
Blessings (cross with care fellow turtles),
Rob Smith

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Characterized by Hope

Sometimes we become convinced that things just aren't going to work out.  There's some part of our person that goes into a self-defense mode when we see defeat beginning to surround us and rather than believe the possibility that things might work out we swallow the "probability" we've convinced ourselves of that they won't.  If we're not careful, that inner retreat can cause us to give up our most effective weapon to ultimately win.....our hope that the possible can beat the probable any day.
Tonight I watched the Chapel men's softball team win a game in the final minute (they cut off the games at one hour) when they had not led for 59 minutes.  From the first inning, the Chapel team was in a hole, having given up four runs in the top of the first inning.  Every time they battled back to tie, the other team would forge ahead.  There were frustrating plays when the other team's hits seemed to know how to dive just below our team's gloves and our solid raps raced like laser beams with hard impact, but straight at their fielders.  When our team came up for the last at bat, there were only about 8 minutes left to play.  We got a couple men on, but we also made two outs.  It looked like our errors in the field and our lack of hitting earlier had caught up with us, but the players kept hoping.  Somehow, in the final few minutes we scored three runs to forge ahead, just as time was called.  Somehow, I know that if all the players had stopped hoping the game would have been lost with the hope.  But good things happen when we don't quit, in sports, and in our walk of faith and hope.  We won't always win the game, but when we live in hope we're reminded that there is nothing that can take away the victory we already have in Christ and there is nothing that should rob us of that joy, which is linked directly to eternity and to the one who has promised to come back for us.
Hope is most needed when defeat seems most certain.
Romans 5:2-5 "And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."
Rob Smith

Monday, June 25, 2007

Body ministry

Romans 12:5 "so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others."
I've been going to physical therapy three times a week for the past month.  I'm working at regaining mobility to my left arm.  The upper arm bone had been shattered in March and now it's necessary to retrain all the muscles and connecting tissue how to lift and extend to normal limits.  Today, during therapy, I realized that my own body is helping itself heal.  One of my exercises involves a pulley.  My good right arm pulls down on the cord and the pulley causes the left arm to raise as it holds the other end.  I've been working at increasing the height that my left arm will extend.  I realized today that I would have been in a bigger bind if both arms had been broken.  I couldn't have used one arm to help the other.  In that case I probably would have had to rely on the strength of another person to stretch my left arm.  I suppose that, either way, there is an illustration of body ministry.  In Christ we are one body with many members.  When one part of the body hurts, the entire body hurts.  Fortunately, because the body has many members there is plenty of help available. 
I have experienced this help personally over the past few months from many others who love the Lord and have identified with my pain and lifted my arm in every way: by prayer, encouragement and acts of service.
In a larger sense many are hurting who are outside our body of love.  We have the opportunity of "raising their arm" when they may least expect anyone to care.  What a great way for Jesus to show Himself through our lives!
Rob Smith

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The end is the beginning

When our children are growing up we tell them to face difficulty and not to deny it, or run away.  We tell them not to procrastinate when faced with unpleasant assignments and taxing projects.  We tell them to look problems straight in the eye and go after them.  We need to apply this wisdom to our own lives if we are going to be truly free and if we would experience life abundantly.
The reality of our life's limited duration in the flesh is ever before us.   A day doesn't pass when we don't consider our age and the sense of sand moving through the hourglass.  We sometimes wonder at the face that stares back from the mirror, at how it is changing and progressively growing older.  Beneath all of our consciousness is the drumbeat of time that reminds us that one day we will die.  Yes, we will die.  We were born and we will die.  We've known a number of others who have passed on before us and we know we will... we must... go through that door too.  We don't consider this a pleasant thought.  Regardless of our spiritual experience, we really don't relish the concept, or anticipate the reality of death with eagerness.  (OK, take a deep breath)  The great truth in Jesus is that He has taken death captive, made it His prisoner.  He has conquered death...shown us that there is life on the other side of that mysterious door.  He also has removed the sting of death, which is having to stand naked before God with our track record of sin and failure, after we die.  I think we really need to nail it down, once and for all, that our sins...our failures have already been addressed perfectly and adequately in Jesus.  If we allow a fear of death, in any shade or shadow, to tinge our life experience then we somehow diminish what Christ has done for us.  I believe too many people allow the shadow of dying to fall over their days here.  As Christians we believe that death is the time when we, as fully ripened fruit, are plucked with perfect timing to add something special to Heaven.  We don't want to go either too early or too late, as fruit is unpleasant in either condition.  If we are to walk in victory with a passion for the eternal dimension of life in Christ that really is refreshing to this world, we must start by staring death straight in the eye and declaring our fear of dying is forever dead.  Praise God, we walk in life and from life to life!
Hebrews 2:14-15 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
Blessings to in hope!
Rob Smith

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Expectant faith

It occurred to me today that I should expect to see God show up in my life.  After all...He did plant me here...He did break into my understanding and help me to see my need for Him.  Too often I come to Him and try to fit Him into my agenda...heal my sickness...give me the better job...bring me the wife and kids...take away the stress, the mess and help me to impress.  Too often, if I'm honest, I'm still the center and He is in orbit around my life.  What if I got really still and admitted that He may have plans that I'm not even aware of.  I wonder if I'm looking to find His find the people He wants me to connect use the gifts He's invested in me.  Mystery of mystery...can I find HIs purposes for me...the ones He thought up eons ago when He mapped out the universe? 
It occurred to me today that if I get real quiet and draw real close to my Lord, I should expect to hear His whisper.  If I settle...get still...I should expect to feel His nudge in the right direction.  If I look around I should expect to see people He brings into my life that He wants to reach through me. 
Too often I have defined faith as the expectation of God doing what I want done.  Today I will start to expect God to do things that I haven't been expecting and I will still call it Faith !!

 1 Corinthians 2:9

    However, as it is written:
   "No eye has seen,
      no ear has heard,
   no mind has conceived
   what God has prepared for those who love him"

blessings in your faith adventure,
Rob Smith

Friday, June 22, 2007

The greatest ambition

America has always been the "land of opportunity".  I read somewhere that we are the only country that was founded on an ideal...that men ought to be free.  We are also a nation of immigrants.  Apart from the natives we met on our arrival, none of our ancestors was here more than a few years before the King James Bible was published.  Our shores have been a refuge and a source of hope to millions....and this is true even today.  But sometimes I think we set our sights too low when it comes to claiming our hope, exercising our freedom and fulfilling our ambitions.  It is understandable that those who have lacked jobs and been denied education and opportunity would cherish the chance to learn and to earn and to see their families have a better quality of life.  The combination of freedom and our vast natural resources has spawned a nation of entrepreneurs.  We still will reward a good idea, no matter who has it.
But sometimes I wonder if we haven't lost sight of "the greatest ambition", which has nothing to do with job opportunity, new inventions or career advancement. 
David said in Psalm 27:4
         One thing I have desired of the LORD,
         That will I seek:
         That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
         All the days of my life,
         To behold the beauty of the LORD,
         And to inquire in His temple.
Here's how Paul described the greatest ambition in Philippians 3: 8-14 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ  and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 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.  Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
blessings to you in your quest for Christ!
Rob Smith

Thursday, June 21, 2007

par for the course

I was watching the U.S. Open Golf championship last weekend and the scoring system stood out to me.  The way you win a golf tournament is by having fewer strokes than anyone else.  So, I thought, why don't they just show a running total of how many strokes everybody has instead of how many shots they're over par or under par (just about nobody was under par)!  After all, in a basketball game they just show you the running score and at the end whoever has more wins.  Then I realized that all the players were at different stages, on different holes, and the total scores didn't really tell you anything.  By using the Par system you could compare how players were doing even though they were on different holes.  Life is like golf.  I suppose at the end of our lives there is some kind of cumulative score.  But we need to know how we're doing now.  We don't want to wait until the final hole of our life for a final score...we need indicators along the way.  Of course, as people who have trusted in the work of Jesus on the cross for our personal salvation, we know that our salvation has been established by our Lord and we cannot lose it, because we will not play a perfect game while we live in the flesh.  But we do need indications of our spiritual health and effectiveness.  During the game of life there is much the Lord would like to do through us.  That's why I'm glad we play by the Paraclete system.  Paraclete is another name for the Holy Spirit.  One of His roles, in our lives, is to convict us when we're playing below par (when we sin) and to clarify truth and show us the way forward (hand us the right club and get our body positioned right for the next shot).  He's like a "live-in caddy" who is there to help us along the way.
John 16:7 "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.

 8 "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;

 13 "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.


Rob Smith

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

headlines and commandments

Here are the Ten Commandments from Deuteronomy 5.  Recently it hit me that most of our news headlines could be directly linked to them.
Deuteronomy 5:
7 "You shall have no other gods before me. (Consider the current wars around the world and how they tie to this command)

 8 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. (Consider the worship of money and power)

 11 "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. (Consider the rampant abuse of the Lord's name in popular media)

 12 "Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. (Consider the lack of spiritual rest and focused reflection on the Lord)

 16 "Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.  (Consider the breakdown of the family such that about one third of American children don't have a father in the home)

 17 "You shall not murder. (But we do...and we hear about it daily)

 18 "You shall not commit adultery. (But we do...and we have made it acceptable in the movies and on T.V.)

 19 "You shall not steal. (But we do...from back alleys to corporate boardrooms)

 20 "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. (But we the courts and halls of government)

 21 "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor's house or land, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."  (But we do....if fact we foster a culture of envy, where we want others to wish they had what we do)

The next time you read the paper or watch the news see how many commandments relate to the headlines.  We like to think we live in a modern, progressive era.  But somet things never change!
Rob Smith

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

living in a love story

I watched an inspirational sports movie, called "Hoosiers" last night.  One small piece of the movie showed how a man and a woman, even though no longer young, needed one another.  I was reminded that I live in the middle of a love story every day when I reflect on my lovely wife and how the Lord must have loved us so much that He wouldn't leave us to struggle through this tough life separate and alone.  I've touched on this before but feel it's worth mentioning again that the beauty reflected from husband and wife, coming together like a jig saw puzzle reaching completion, is one of the greatest demonstrations that God is alive, that God is behind our design and that God is in the middle of our lives.  If man would have designed it, we'd all be very similar.  What designer purposely builds weaknesses into his primary products?  But the Lord has intentionally created man and woman with weaknesses so that they might help one another.  Marriage is a relationship built on designed need.  I think that's why we are so touched and that's why we resonate with such profound agreement and joy when we reflect on our own marriages and on those of others, as they stand across the years.  In a very real way, each of our marriages is a living proof of the reality of God and of His incredible love for us.  Maybe that's why He chose to use the illustration of a Bride for His church.
Genesis 24:40 "He replied, 'The LORD, before whom I have walked, will send his angel with you and make your journey a success, so that you can get a wife for my son from my own clan and from my father's family.
 51 Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master's son, as the LORD has directed."
58 So they called Rebekah and asked her, "Will you go with this man?"
      "I will go," she said.
64 Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel 65 and asked the servant, "Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?"
      "He is my master," the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself.
 66 Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. 67 Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; 
blessings (with thanks for Shirley),
Rob Smith

Monday, June 18, 2007

kingdom conditioning

 John 11:47-48 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.  "What are we accomplishing?" they asked. "Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation."
This quote comes just after Jesus has brought Lazarus back from the dead.  Isn't it amazing that the Pharisees could be so caught up with the politics of their time that they couldn't grasp the meaning of these miracles!  The logical side of their brains recognized that this must be God, HImself, because man couldn't do such awesome feats.  Unfortunately they were so conditioned to the limits of this life and this world and the authority of men that they couldn't see beyond and realize that a far greater power than Rome walked among them.  I think we also can become so conditioned to this life and this world that we forget that under it all, over it all and through it all the Lord reigns and His power and plans will prevail!  The wonderful power of God is not a is the sure means of our salvation, if we will accept Him and yield to Him.
Rob Smith

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The majority isn't always right

Almost every major issue in America is tested by public opinion polls.  Opinions on war, economics, marriage, parenting and just about every matter of significant interest is evaluated by surveys and polls.  The results are generally assumed to indicate the will of the American people and it is implied that we ought to honor the majority opinion.  We put a lot of stock in the will of the people.  Our country is ruled by the people and not by a monarch.  But we need to remember that though the majority may rule, the majority may not always be right.  This came home to me when reading the story of the spies who were sent to investigate the promised land before the Israelites attempted to move in.  The spies came back after 40 days of evaluating the conditions of the land and its inhabitants.  Ten of the twelve spies complained of giants and fortresses and protested that the dangers were too great.  Two of the spies (Joshua and Caleb) acknowledged the dangers but spoke out with confidence that the Lord was fully able of giving victory over the challenges.  Numbers chapter 14 records the response of the people.  They chose to follow the message of fear given by the majority of the spies, rather the message of faith delivered by two.  The thought today is to make sure you are not following the crowd, particularly the crowd that opts for shrinking back in fear.  The right way may well be proclaimed by a few, who have learned to look past fear and grasp, in faith, the strength in God's arms.  Remember, as believers, we each have direct access to our Lord!

Numbers 14

1 That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, "If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! 3 Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn't it be better for us to go back to Egypt?" 4 And they said to each other, "We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt."

 5 Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. 6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them."

 10 But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. Then the glory of the LORD appeared at the Tent of Meeting to all the Israelites. 11 The LORD said to Moses, "How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they."

blessings (and Happy Fathers's Day),

Rob Smith

Saturday, June 16, 2007

face to face with God


Moses life is challenging me as I have been reading a survey of the Old Testament.  In the book of Numbers the story is told of how Moses' brother, Aaron, and his sister, Miriam, were jealous of Moses.  They tried to undercut his authority and started rumors about him because he had a wife that was not from Israel.  It appears they wanted a bigger piece of the leadership action and they didn't mind stepping on Moses to do it.  But the amazing thing, to me, is that they have forgotten that God sees them in all their pettiness.  How is it that they could so easily forget that the same God who delivered them from Egypt, split the Red Sea, and just then had provided meat miraculously could see what they were doing to harm Moses?  I love what the Lord says about Moses during this situation: Numbers 12:3 "(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)" is the man God has used so powerfully to save His people and yet it has not gone to his head.  Moses has reacted to God's reality by allowing self to diminish and God to increase.  I really enjoyed the discipline session the Lord had with Aaron and Miriam.  Look at Numbers 11:4-9 

 4 At once the LORD said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, "Come out to the Tent of Meeting, all three of you." So the three of them came out. 5 Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When both of them stepped forward, 6 he said, "Listen to my words:
       "When a prophet of the LORD is among you,
       I reveal myself to him in visions,
       I speak to him in dreams.   

 7 But this is not true of my servant Moses;
       he is faithful in all my house.

 8 With him I speak face to face,
       clearly and not in riddles;
       he sees the form of the LORD.
       Why then were you not afraid
       to speak against my servant Moses?"

 9 The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he left them.

The thought that strikes me is that we have the same privilege Moses had of knowing God face to face.   This was purchased for us by Jesus and available for us by faith.  Why should we let any petty problems or trivial ambitions prevent us from the high-quality face to face relationship the God intends us to have with Him?


Rob Smith

Friday, June 15, 2007

What's under everything?

After three months of waiting, our builders will be pouring the concrete for our basement foundation today.  In recent days I've been driving out there to check progress.  I've walked around other new homes and looked at the foundations that were recently formed.  It hit me that the concrete foundations, while very thick and strong, are not particularly attractive.  The concrete has rough edges and steel rods running through it.  If a house were nothing but foundation, it might serve well as a bomb shelter but it sure wouldn't be very attractive (low curb appeal for sure).  Well, fortunately, they'll dress up the concrete surface that is exposed with bricks and cover the rest with dirt.  When you drive up to the house you won't see the foundation, you'll see what the foundation supports.  I'm sure my analogy is very transparent today.  The foundation of our lives is Christ ("On Christ, the solid rock I stand.  All other ground is sinking sand"...from the old song).  Christ has built His foundation within our lives by going through some unpleasant (really ugly) treatment at the hands of men and He was willing to be cut off from His father in heaven and suffer our punishment.  Sometimes, also, it takes difficult times with pain and trial in our own lives to come to Christ and realize He is the only dependable base.  When you scrape off everything else...when you push the dirt away...what is holding you up!  I hope Jesus is under everything else in your life...He is the only solid foundation.
1 Samuel 2:8
       He raises the poor from the dust
       and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
       he seats them with princes
       and has them inherit a throne of honor.
       "For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's;
       upon them he has set the world.
Rob Smith

Thursday, June 14, 2007

We are and we are becoming

When we take a snapshot of anything we see, the object of the picture appears to be static and unchanging.  A look out our window today will show trees in full leaf, mild temperatures and possibly a light breeze.  The interesting thing is that all the elements that go into the picture are in a constant state of change and one season is gradually and continually moving on to the next season.  We see it in our personal lives, as well.  Youth turns to adulthood and moves to senior status in a gradual fashion as we move through life's seasons.  Each day may appear to be very much like the day before, but the Lord is weaving into our day experiences, lessons, opportunities for decision and relationship challenges that all are gradually shaping our character and forming us.  One beauty of God's plan to grow us is that it doesn't peak and then diminish, as our physical body does.  Rather, we can continually grow and develop spiritually throughout life here before we transition to be directly with our heavenly Lord.
Ephesians 4:12-13  "to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."
Rob Smith

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

all can win

Last night I enjoyed the Chapel Men's softball games (they played a doubleheader).  The first game had a dramatic ending as Hawley Smith crushed a massive home run to win the game in the bottom of the final inning (truly a "Hawley-wood ending").  Earlier in the day I'd been thinking about how competition is so much a part of our lives.  Think about it...we compete for grades in school, we compete to win kickball during recess, our kids compete for neighborhood swim teams.  When we grow up we compete for the best jobs and then we compete on the job for the best raises and career opportunities.  (come to think of we do anything but compete??) When you compete there are winners and there are losers.  While it's very satisfying to win, and if you win on a team it's a great unifying feeling, there are some challenges with winning.  We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that, when we win, we are actually better people than those we beat.  This can be the source of unhealthy pride, just as losing can be the source of unhealthy discouragement.  But the essence of today's thought is that Jesus came to make it possible for all to win.  Christ came for All !!
Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
Matthew 12:15 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick
Mark 16:15 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation."
Luke 9:48 Then he said to them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you allhe is the greatest."
John 1:7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.
John 1:12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
People are not the enemy, they are the object of the Lord's affection.  There is an enemy, the devil, and if we compete it is against the devil to win the souls of men, women and children for their eternal destiny.
Rob Smith

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

oppressed but multiply

I was reading the Exodus story of how the Egyptians were increasingly frustrated by the Hebrews.  The descendants of Joseph and his brothers had expanded and multiplied greatly in numbers and the pharaohs had forgotten all the good things that Joseph had done to save Egypt during famine.  The Egyptians feared that the Hebrews would ultimately join the enemies of Egypt and overthrow the leadership so they decided to enslave the Hebrews, to put their lives under tremendous control and to break their backs and their wills under slave labor.  But it didn't work out the way the Egyptians expected.  Instead of diminishing, the Hebrews increased: Exodus 1:11-12 " So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh.  But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread;"  Then the Egyptians ordered all the male babies to be killed, something like the genocide we still hear about today in dark areas of the world.  However, that plan backfired when one of those male babies was spared and raised ironically within Pharaoh's household.  Of course Moses grew up to become the ultimate solution to deliver the Hebrews.  The thought today is that all of us will face oppression and discouragement.  There will be times when we do not understand why we are encountering great difficulty.  We need to remember that we belong to the God who is above every power.  He does know our situations and He does hear our cries.  Most wonderful of all, he cannot be constrained by any evil plan.  In fact He will stand the plans of evil on their head and cause good to come from bad intentions.  Ultimately, God's plan will always succeed!
The brilliance of the sun lies behind the darkest storm cloud.
Rob Smith

Monday, June 11, 2007

Instant Gratification

Our American culture is often described as one of "Instant Gratification".  We want to see instant results when it comes to weight loss and growing new hair on bald heads.  We like to have the things we want before we can afford them and so we often buy on credit.  Then when we have bad credit we create an industry that allows you to get then things you want anyhow, on monthly payment plans that would embarrass Scrooge, himself.  In our hearts, of course, we know that patience and hard work are the key virtues to follow.  Somewhere inside we know that all good things take time and are worth saving for, or acquiring gradually. 
But I do have some good news for the instant change crowd.  When we turn to the Lord and He enters our heart, dramatic change is possible...even likely.  That's because you are totally new!  2 Corinthians 5:17 "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"  That's right, even though you are living in the same physical body, you are actually a new creation when you have invited Christ in.  Rather than depending solely on will power, personal experience, innate intelligence and "street smarts", we now have a new identity that reflects the actual presence of the Lord in and through our lives.  Perhaps you have had the experience of inviting the Lord into your life and seeing some of your own attitudes and behavior changing, almost overnight. 
No matter where you are in life, it makes sense to turn to the Lord.  Only He can make things right.  Deuteronomy 30:2-3 "and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today,  then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you."
Rob Smith

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A good agent

The leading agent for aspiring professional baseball players is a fellow named Scott Boras.  Scott has achieved a reputation for getting multimillion dollar signing bonuses for top draft picks in the annual major league draft.  He's approached by about 150 families to represent their kids and he settles on representing about a dozen.  Many of his players have gone on to do well in the major leagues and so the business keeps coming to him.  It would be hard to overestimate the value of Scott as he represents these young players.  We need a good agent too.  Eternity is at stake and we need someone who can represent us effectively.  I'm glad that Jesus has taken me on as a client.  The good news is that, unlike Scott, Jesus won't limit his clientele to a dozen per year...He can handle many more!  I'm not expecting a multimillion dollar contract...fortunately my sights are set far higher than that! 
1 Timothy 2:5 "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus"
Hebrews 9:15 "For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant."
Amazingly enough, now the Lord wants us to represent Him, as His agent,  to other men, women and children here!
2 Corinthians 5:20 "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God."
Rob Smith

Saturday, June 9, 2007

start with contentment

I have a sneaking suspicion that many of us start our day with the following question in our minds: "What in the world am I supposed to do, today?" 
We may know from our routine that we'll be getting dressed, we'll head down the road to our job, we'll have lunch and deal with various issues that come our way, but there may still be a vague unsettled feeling because we know that, under it all, life is serious business and we sense that we're here for some specific purposes. 
Today the thought hit me that there is absolutely nothing I can do that will top what God has completed in Jesus.  As a result of the Cross and Christ's resurrection the great work of restoration to God is truly finished!  Consequently I am set free to start each day with total contentment.  Rather than worrying that I might miss some key assignment, I can focus on the security and comfort I have in Jesus.  It's not that there aren't important things to be done (and I don't endorse complacency or laziness)...but as I start with contentment and joy in the Lord I believe my actions will be have their origin in God's love and not my mind, by itself.
Proverbs 19:23 The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.
Rob Smith

Friday, June 8, 2007


Remember when you were a kid and you went swimming in the pool?  Sometimes you'd play with an inflated ball in the pool.  No matter how hard you tried to hold that ball under water, it insisted on bobbing to the surface.  The ball might have weighed all of 8 ounces, but because it was filled with air it would hold you up as you wrapped your arms around it.
When we invite Jesus into our lives, He comes with His holy air to inflate us.  As the Holy Spirit (spirit also means air) fills us, we will continue to bob to the surface no matter what pressures and problems try to push us under.  The Lord is a buoyant presence and He will lift us up!
Ezekiel 43:5 "Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple."
Keep holding onto Him!  He will hold you up.


Rob Smith

O.K., everybody, time to get into the pool!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Shadow theology

Yesterday I took a walk during the middle of the day, when the sun was out.  I was conscious of the intensity and brightness of the sun.  As I glanced down I thought about my shadow on the road.  I realized that my shadow was proof that nothing stood between me and the sun.  Even though the sun is 93 million miles away, nothing blocked its rays until they struck my body and cast a shadow on the road.  So it is with the Lord.  He shines on us in such a way that nothing blocks his direct light and warmth and the full impact of His person is felt on my life.  Because we know Him and because He shines on us, we can rest assured He is painting His presence in the shadow He casts.  Look today for the shadow!  His light is striking you even now!
Luke 11:36 "Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you."
Rob Smith

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

marinated souls

Many of us wrestle with ourselves when it comes to our walk with God.  We know that we should commit more of our heart to HIm...more of our time.  We try to balance our lives of work, family, friendships, community and faith and can be stressed trying to "make it all happen".  Yesterday it occurred to me that we are like a steak dinner that is being prepared on the grill.  We have two approaches to seasoning the steak: adding spices, salt and pepper to the steak after it's been cooked, or marinating the meat in a blend of spices before cooking.  I've found the marination approach works better (my wife deserves all the credit..does the work).  The spices and enhancing flavors are absorbed into the steak and after cooking produce meat that is tasty all the way through.  Adding salt and pepper...even steak sauce...after cooking doesn't seem to have quite the same effect.
We can live our Christian lives similarly.  When we allow ourselves to be "marinated" in the Lord, through attitude, prayer, time invested in His word we are more "flavorful" for HIm.  Not only that, but His presence has worked its way all the way through us.  If we sprinkle God on top, there's not much left of Him below the surface.
Basically, I think we need to be overwhelmed, saturated, totally surrendered to Him.  Then we won't be torn so much between influences and we'll experience a richer walk.  Maybe this what Paul was referring to when he said "For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;" (Colossians 1:9)
Rob Smith
p.s.  Thanks to Don Craig for planting the idea of being "marinated in the Word" in my mind

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

High yield

This morning, on my walk, I passed a cornfield filled with young plants.  It was impressive to look across the shimmering wave of green leaves that are giving the normally flat bed of earth a third dimension of vertical growth.  As I considered the field I was most struck by the density of plants.  I paced off a 10 by 10 foot square and found 80 plants were contained in 100 square feet.  If every stalk eventually bore four ears, over 300 ears of corn would come from that 10 by 10 section.  Wow!  That really impressed me.  This farmer is really going for a high yield!
Of course the farmer doesn't plant corn every year.  He rotates crops and sometimes allows the field to lie dormant to restore vital nutrients.  But when it's time for the corn, he really steps on the gas and gets a lot for his acreage.
I believe the Lord has a similar plan for each of our lives.  He is looking for high yield.  He knows that it will be achieved by soil preparation.  That's why he cultivates us with trials, fertilizes us with grace and plants us with the Word of truth.  Sometimes He lets us rest, like the unplanted field.
Be encouraged.  The Lord is tending your life like the cornfield.  As we walk with Him and trust in Him we will ultimately shimmer like the leaves of the cornfield and we will yield fruit that is pleasing to Him.
Luke 8:8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.  When he said this, he called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
Rob Smith

Monday, June 4, 2007

One fear only

Fear is common and comes in many flavors and colors.  I found a website that lists "phobias" alphabetically.  There are hundreds described there...everything from "Ablutophobia", which is the fear of washing or bathing (pity the roommate or spouse), to "Zoophobia", the fear of animals.  There are some humorous fears, like Linonophobia.  This is the fear of string.  I wonder what has to happen in someone's life to cause that one to surface.   More seriously, people can be paralyzed by fear.  It seems to me that all fears have something to do with our inability to know the future and to control our environment.  Recently I saw a passage in Isaiah that helped me understand the secret to dispelling the many fears that can rob our vitality.  The prophet helps us see that if we carry one fear, the fear of God (which is really appropriate, because He is the one who does know the future and does control our environment), we can escape the other phobias.
Isaiah 8:12-14  "Do not call conspiracy
       everything that these people call conspiracy;
       do not fear what they fear,
       and do not dread it.

     The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy,
       he is the one you are to fear,
       he is the one you are to dread,

     and he will be a sanctuary;"

Fear the Lord and fear nothing else!


Rob Smith

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The big question

Inside everyone is the big question.  It can lay dormant for years, but it is present nonethless.  Ultimately it will either be addressed or repressed, with unfortunate consequences.  The question:  "Who am I?" 
As we grow we wonder about our identity and we wonder about our purpose.  Ultimately we want to know more of the nature of our identity...what is our connection to the past and what is the plan for our present and future.  I have heard stories of adopted children, who, when they became adults, went to great lengths to find their biological parents.  They wanted to understand more of their origins and of the kinds of people that came together to give them life and invest them with so many specific characteristics in appearance, personality and talent.
As believers, we are all adopted children. 
Ephesians 1: 4-6 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
We will find the answer to the big question when we turn to the one who adopted us for eternity.  We learn from the scripture above that He formed plans for us before He created the world.  Is there any wonder that the Lord so strongly urges us to seek Him.  As it says in
1 Chronicles 16:11 Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.
Rob Smith
p.s. Why not turn to the Lord today?  After all, how much did you have to do with your presence on earth, anyway?

Saturday, June 2, 2007

And so it begins...

On May 8, our granddaughter was born.  Caroline Rose entered the world and another living person began her journey through time and space on our planet.  This is the center of life's greatest drama...the individual human life.  As her family, we adore her.  Her parents are absolutely committed to meeting every need and responding to every sickness.  They will surround her with a home that embraces her absolutely and recognizes her as God's gift.  As grandparents, we see the story continue to the next generation and we are filled with joy.  But our love and attention is dwarfed by that of her heavenly Father.  He knew she would live from the beginning.
Psalm 139:15-17 
       My frame was not hidden from You,
         When I was made in secret,
         And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
    Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
         And in Your book they all were written,
         The days fashioned for me,
         When as yet there were none of them. 
      How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
         How great is the sum of them!
Every person is formed of dust.  The elements of the earth are brought together per God's design.  Wondrously, what began as dust is destined for eternity.
Psalm 103:14 For He knows our frame;
         He remembers that we are dust.
Hebrews 10:14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
It will be our joy to watch God's plan unfold in Caroline's life, as we have witnessed the miracle of His loving plans come alive
Psalm 33:11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.
blessings to the living (and those yet to be),
Rob Smith

Friday, June 1, 2007

narrow path, clear path

We like the idea of having a wide tolerance for access to God.  After all, why should one religion be superior to another in this regard?  While it may seem overly limiting to consider  the path to God as limited, this is the way God, himself described it.  Moreover, even nature tells us that a narrow tolerance is normal, even for physical survival.  The human body has specific needs and a narrow band of acceptable limits for temperature, water, food or oxygen.  While we are remarkably adaptable, we can't live outside those limits.  It is not a matter of being unkind or unfair that we must live within these tolerances.  They are facts of our existence.  The book of John 14, verse 6 has the following quote:  "Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."  In Matthew 7, verse 14 Jesus also said, "Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."
It's not so much that God is restricting salvation to few.  It's more about the clearly defined and distinct path each person must follow to find the Lord.  After all, if you'd paid a huge ransom to rescue your children, as the Lord did when Jesus was crucified, you'd want them restored to you, as well!
The path may be narrow, but the directions are clear.  As Jesus says in John 11:25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;"
Rob Smith