Sunday, September 30, 2007

His presence

We use our five senses to perceive changes in our surroundings.  Whether you are considering temperature changes, the sound of footsteps approaching on a sidewalk, the glare of direct sunlight, the aroma of fresh baked pizza, or the taste of a sizzling steak... we avoid trouble and savor the experience of living via these marvelous physical senses.  But you know we use other non-physical senses too.  Have you ever felt someone looking at you only to turn and find there was someone actually looking at you?  Have you ever wondered where a marvelous and original idea came from when you know you can't take full credit?  We struggle with the nuts and bolts of relating to God.  We don't audibly hear Him or see the Lord with our eyes and so we reason that we can't know Him as we know people around us.  But I believe that the Lord is so present all around us that we can know that He is there.  We may have to get really still and we may need to focus our thoughts on Him.  The bible talks about setting our minds on the Lord.  He certainly connects with us as we read His word with care and sincere interest.   As we age we lose some of our sensory acuity with sight and hearing...but our spiritual perception can increase through all our days.  Paul was so confident that believers could sense the presence of the Lord that he described the Holy Spirit as an evident "down payment" that can reassure us that the Lord is living within.
Ephesians 1:13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
Luke 12:12 For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.
John 14:25 “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you."
One of God's greatest gifts is for us to know Him directly through His Holy Spirit.  We shouldn't settle for 'knowing about God' when we can really know Him personally every day!
Rob Smith

Saturday, September 29, 2007

unlock the energy

I have had a problem with my lawnmower sputtering and quitting, ever since I left it out in the rain one night a few months ago.  I was sure the problem was water in the gas.  Fortunately there is a product you can buy to add to a gas tank with water that permits the engine to run again.  It worked!  I was able to run the mower and cut our new lawn without a problem.  This made me think...what if you could add a chemical to water and make it run in an engine.  It turns out that there are some mysterious stories about men adding a green powder made from coal to water and running car and boat engines successfully.  Supposedly some of the inventors of this powder have disappeared mysteriously and one has forgotten how to make the formula.  You can imagine how unhappy the oil companies would be if water started filling automobile tanks instead of gasoline.  Whether there is any truth to these stories or not I don't know...but it does make me realize that when the Lord is added to our common human lives there is power from heaven that pours through us.  There is a potential energy within us that is released and activated.  There is a change within us that is like a chemical reaction where two elements are combined, heat is released and the resulting substance is forever changed.  Have you received the Lord into your life?  One way you will know is that you become a new person and you will have a new and different kind of energy that you might call "heavenly fuel".
Matthew 9:17 Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
Romans 6:4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Acts 1:8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Rob Smith

Friday, September 28, 2007

Why not you?

Imagine if you were the only person remaining alive after some great worldwide catastrophe.  Do you think the Lord would still be around?  What do you think the chances would be that he would hear your prayers and, if He was still in the habit of answering prayers, whose prayers would He answer.  You wouldn't have a whole lot of competition for God's attention then, would you?  Of course the reality is that God is able to "multi-task" better than any of us.  He's able to see each sparrow fall from the sky and He certainly hears our prayers, when they are still only thoughts not yet formed into words.  Somehow I think we believe a lie that God may hear other folks' prayers and He may respond to other people when they hurt and when they cry out, but He doesn't hear "me".  So I ask, "Why not you?"  Who in this world is God more interested in than you?  Whose problems, needs, anxieties, fears, doubts and uncertainties weigh more heavily on His heart than yours?  No one is dearer to our Lord than you and if He loves the people He formed, He loves you as much as anyone He ever blessed with life.  Every promise He ever made and every plan for our benefit was fashioned for you.  Remember, He formed you uniquely to know you individually and there is no one He loves more than you!
Mark 6:53-56 They beached the boat at Gennesaret and tied up at the landing. As soon as they got out of the boat, word got around fast. People ran this way and that, bringing their sick on stretchers to where they heard he was. Wherever he went, village or town or country crossroads, they brought their sick to the marketplace and begged him to let them touch the edge of his coat—that's all. And whoever touched him became well.
Rob Smith

Thursday, September 27, 2007

point and click

Like many of you, I spend a lot of time on the computer.  We find our way around the computer screen by "pointing and clicking" our mouse.  It is a fast and effective way to identify the next action to take and then to make a choice or choose a direction.  When we click the mouse to make a selection, it leads to another set of choices, and on-and-on until we find a destination to read or work from.  It seems a lot like the way we move through life.  Each day we scan the screen of our day and "click" to make a decision.  This leads to another set of choices and we click again.  Each time we click, we leave some options behind and open up new ones.  Fortunately, with the computer you can hit the "Back" key if you've made a mistake and you can return to your previous screen.  Life isn't generally like that.  You can't go back to the point before an important choice and act as if it never happened.  That's because we're changed by our choices and we can't undo the change very easily.  Sometimes when you're unsure of your next step on the computer you can pull up a menu that shows all the choices for a given program.  You can read the menu before you make your selection and avoid wasting time.  Similarly, it can be wise to step back and look at the site map of our life choices before "clicking" on a major decision.  It can be useful to "Google" for background information, too.  Unfortunately, it's also easy to get distracted on the computer screen and start clicking on unrelated or irrelevant choices.  Distraction is also a challenge in our life choices.  It's good to remember that the Lord has a path He wants us to "point and click" to follow. 
Psalm 25:4 Show me Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A new heart

We were all amazed about 40 years ago when a South African doctor, Christiaan Barnard, transplanted a heart from a brain-dead patient to Louis Washkansky.  Louis lived for 18 days, dying from pneumonia.  The procedure has been improved and these days survival rates are typically years instead of days.  The longest surviving transplant patient, Tony Huesman, received a transplanted heart at the age of 20 in 1978.  He was still doing well in 2006, 28 years later!  In some ways the idea of continuing to live with someone else's heart is difficult to wrap our minds around.  Certainly it represents one of life's great "ultimate sacrifices".  And...the heart seems to represent our center...our source of physical vitality and the symbol of our emotions.  (I used to joke that if anyone wants to know whether the "quickest way to a man's heart is his stomach", they should ask Dr. Barnard).  But our thought today is that we all must receive a heart transplant to become alive spiritually and for eternity.  The Lord has come to transform us with the ultimate "makeover" as we invite Him into our lives by faith.  As He takes residence by His Spirit within our framework He helps shape attitudes, values, and actions.  Our perspective on life is reformed and our sense of purpose is extended to heavenly dimensions.  We start really caring for others with the Lord's love. 
Ezekiel 36:26 "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."
In a very real sense we receive the transplanted heart of Christ when we place our trust in Him !
Rob Smith

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

the Lord in an apple

Genesis 1:And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
When you shine the skin of a red apple you can see the Lord  in the reflection.  He formed this marvelous little sphere to accomplish three things: feed our appetites, reproduce more apple trees and display glorious beauty.  In so doing He captured the essence of His plan for us, as well.  In the Lord's wonderful way, we are given the spiritual food we need to mature as hIs children.  We are designed to pass on the truth of God's love and redemptive plan.  We are also intended to show the beauty of our Lord.  Through our lives, as we are rubbed  through trials, we also reflect the Lord in our skins and it must be a beautiful thing for Him to see His great loving  truths be reproduced in each new generation. 
This fall, when you're chomping on a Shenandoah Valley apple, remember God's complete plan and remember that you bear the seed of eternal love that, alone, can save.
Rob Smith

Monday, September 24, 2007

own/control vs. give/enable

The thought has been buzzing around my brain that we have got it all backwards.  We walk through life like we're looking through the wrong end of a telescope.  We start with ourselves in the middle of the action and build life habits that seek to build a bigger self.  We think happiness and fulfillment will come as we own more and as we control more.  We find that as we own more and as we control more we only want more.  Just as we can condition our stomach to want ever-larger portions to feel satisfied, so we can stretch our appetite for every other desire that starts with I and me.  This happens at the country level too and has resulted in countless wars as people groups seek to own and control more of this world's geography and people.  I think one of the profound teachings of the Lord is to find real happiness by living inside out lives.  Inside out lives seek to give rather than own and to enable others rather than control them.  We were created to be part of the Lord's plan to complete His creation and that's why He's given us so many varied talents, abilities and qualities.  We look up for our power and we look out for our purpose.  Just as the Lord said in Matthew 10:39 "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it."
Living really is about giving.
Rob Smith

start by looking up

Each day is a fresh opportunity to make any one of millions of choices.  We have tremendous freedom to decide.  We can just let routine carry us, like a dy stick floating in a river current.  We can allow any one of hundreds of fears and uncertainties grip us and paralyzed us.  We can connive and scheme to try to make circumstances fit our self-concocted dreams.  In a sense it all starts in our mind.  Or we can start by setting our mind on the mind of the Lord.  He actually is the one who manufactures each day.  why don't we just look up!  Psalm 118 tells us in verse 24 "This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it."  What if we brought a sense of discovery to the day, with the expectation that, like a beautifully wrapped gift, something special and something planned by our Lord is contained in the next 24 hours.  Our challenge will be to unwrap the gift and find the Lord in the new day.  In a way, each day is a new creation and a fresh chance to renew our personal walk with the God who knows us by name.  We can ask the Lord, like the writer also does in Psalm 118, verse 19 "Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them,  And I will praise the LORD."
Rob Smith

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Isn't it amazing what a night of rest can do for you, even if you were totally exhausted the night before?  Yesterday some great friends and family helped us move appliances and a storage room full of garage and household belongings.  Afterwards, Shirley and I worked for several more hours relocating items and setting up a new table.  The day had started about 5:30 am and ran until about midnight.  I was almost as tired as I was cranky.  But amazingly enough when I awoke this morning I felt fresh and restored and ready to go again.  I have a new laptop computer and it runs on a battery.  At the bottom of the screen a display tells me what percentage of energy remains in the battery, so I can know when to recharge.  If you could put the same kind of display on us you'd probably see the energy percentage drop from 100% when we get up to zero at bedtime.  So sleep is a lot like recharging our own battery.  There are times when we keep trying to push through fatigue, but it's good to remember that our physical limits are from the Lord, just as our physical strength. 
Psalm 127:2 It is vain for you to rise up early,
         To sit up late,
         To eat the bread of sorrows;
         For so He gives His beloved sleep.
Rob Smith

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Heavenly address

This past Thursday Shirley and I closed on our new house...Any of you who have bought a house are familiar with the reams of forms that must be signed.  As the lady handling the settlement said, the sellers and mortgage companies leave no room for lawsuits.  I think they just wear you down by signing your name so many times that you just want to get out of there and think about anything but mortgages, settlement costs and all the details that are beyond comprehension in buying a home.  We ended up with a package of papers almost an inch thick!  Where do they file all those forms?  Are there really some kind of auditors that wade through those documents for some reason?  Anyhow, it made me realize that I'm so glad I have a heavenly address waiting for me, one day.  I just can't imagine getting to heaven and having an angel say, "Welcome to your heavenly rest.  Your mansion is ready for you...please just sign here, and here, and here..."  I'm also glad that there will be no mortgage on the heavenly home.  It's good to know it's all been paid for by a Jewish carpenter a few thousand years ago.
John 14:2-3 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
blessings to heavenly neighbors,
Rob Smith

Friday, September 21, 2007


We had to buy a dishwasher with our new house, even though it wasn't the one we wanted (don't ask me to explain).  Anyhow, our construction supervisor helped explain to me how we can disconnect the one that was installed so we can install the one we want.  It turns out that most of the connections are easy to remove with a few twists of a screwdriver.  When it gets to the actual electrical power hookup, however, we have to remove a small aluminum box and do a little more work because the dishwasher was "hard-wired" to the electrical power to ensure a strong connection.  I realized that there are all kinds of connections in construction...some are temporary or easy to hook up or disconnect.  These are temporary links or ones that may need periodic repair.  The "hard wire" type are more enduring.  Then it occurred to me that I really want to be "hard wired" to the Lord.   None of this quick-disconnect stuff.  I know from the Lord's point of view, we're linked tight for eternity.  But from my end of things I can tend to try to pull out of the connection or wiggle away at times.  Let's have no more of that!  We're going to seek to have such a hard-wired connection that it will be hard to see where the wires actually come together.  There really is no other power source worth plugging into.
2 Samuel 22:33 God is my strength and power, And He makes my way perfect.
Rob Smith

Thursday, September 20, 2007

guilt and innocence

I have followed the doping case against cyclist Floyd Landis for the past year.  He grew up a Mennonite in Pennsylvania and went on to win the Tour de France last year with an amazing come from behind effort in the final days.  Unfortunately it was reported that he failed a drug test and his title was withheld.  There is a great deal of controversy as to whether the drug test was fraudulent and much doubt as to whether he actually used any drugs.  After a year of review, the findings were upheld.  Two judges said guilty and one said innocent.  As a result he has permanently lost his title to the 2006 Tour de France and is banned from the race for two years.  I have been pulling for him and hoping that he'd be found innocent.  I really don't know if he's innocent or guilty.  But two things I'm certain of: (1) the men who have judged him could be wrong about their finding and (2) his guilt or innocence doesn't depend on the findings, but on his actions.   A man named Darryl Hunt spent 19 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit.  As he addressed first year law students at Duke University, he said, “For 19 years I sat in prison for a crime I didn’t commit because people wanted to win, not because they wanted justice and for the truth to come out.”  Sometimes it is the ones who enforce law who commit the crime.
We are not guilty because we're caught just as we are not innocent if we are not caught and we're not guilty because a judge says we are.  We are guilty or we are innocent before the Lord.  No one really gets away with anything because the God who is Judge sees all.  I think it's good to be reminded that we walk transparently before the living God.  It is He who is pleased and it is He who is displeased by our attitudes and actions.  Until we reach the point where we live for the Lord, we aren't really serious about living rightly.
Job 11:11 For He knows deceitful men;
      He sees wickedness also.
      Will He not then consider it?
Rob Smith

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


We hear a lot about being overwhelmed.  We're overwhelmed with work, with parenting, with school.  Our plates are full, our schedules are packed, our action lists keep growing.  While we're looking ahead to the next weekend, we're still catching up with last weekend's projects.   Anxiety and pressure hover around us like a squadron of mosquitoes...... Can you remember swimming in the ocean when waves were rolling in?  Sometimes you rode the waves, sometimes the waves slapped you around and threw you down.  One way to stay in the water and avoid being thrashed is to dive under a wave just as it's about to break.  The water rolls overhead and you experience nothing more than a gentle nudge.  There is a way to be overwhelmed with Jesus that is similar.  As life's pressures try to break over us like waves, we can focus on the strong hand of Jesus that holds us constantly and will shelter us.
Deuteronomy 7:19 "the great trials which your eyes saw, the signs and the wonders, the mighty hand and the outstretched arm, by which the LORD your God brought you out. So shall the LORD your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid."
Rob Smith

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


When you stand in an open place, you can see the horizon surround you.  It seems far away and it is the visible limit of your world.  When I was in the Navy, we would see the smoke stack of a ship as it approached before we would see the hull.  This reminded us of the curvature of the earth, even over a distance of 10-15 miles.  There is so much more of the world beyond the visible horizon.  We live our lives with something like a horizon all about us.  It often takes the form of our present circumstances, which can seem to be the limit of our lives.  Our jobs, our age and place in life, our financial status, our family situation, our past problems and sins....even our present successes...all these things can form our personal horizons.  I think this is why the Paul says in Colossians 3:1-3 "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."  There is more, so much more, beyond our horizons.  We were designed and built for eternal life.
Isaiah 40:25 “ To whom then will you liken Me,
      Or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One.
       26 Lift up your eyes on high,
      And see who has created these things,
      Who brings out their host by number;
      He calls them all by name,
      By the greatness of His might
      And the strength of His power;
      Not one is missing.
Rob Smith

Monday, September 17, 2007

properly dressed

Sometimes  I think we make the mistake of going into our day without dressing properly.  Just as we check the mirror to make sure we haven't forgotten something obvious before heading into the day, we need to check our heart attitude, as well.  Fear, worry, pride and other self-centered thoughts can easily dominate our point of view as we move into the world.  For some reason, despite inviting the Lord of Heaven into our lives, we plunge into the day without clothing ourselves in His presence.  Instead of a sense of peace and security and instead of  inviting the Lord to take the lead through the unknowns and the routines of the day, we just take it on in our own feeble and flawed self.  Beyond having a healthy bowl of cereal and banana, we do well to invite the Lord to fill us for the day ahead.  He's way ahead of us when it comes to knowing what we will face and He is able to prepare our heart and fill our mind and bring His word to our memory as we face each challenge.  In many ways, Jesus shines best in our day to day living.  Isn't that what other people are looking for, too?  They look for a God who makes a difference in the every day living of life.
Ephesians 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Rob Smith

Sunday, September 16, 2007

We're Number 1!

It's football season...high school, college and pro.  Something we'll hear a lot over the next several months is: "We're Number 1, We're Number 1".  Given a choice I guess we'd all like to be Number 1.  It sure beats being number 362 and, really you don't even want to be number 2.  Can you imagine a cheer that went: "We're Number 2, We're Number 2!"  (Although Avis car rental centered its advertising for years around the theme that "When you're number 2 you try harder").  It occurred to me this morning that, as Christians, we really are Number 1.  That's because Jesus is Number 1.  The fact is, if you're rank-ordering gods to worship there's Jesus (and His Father) at Number 1 and all the rest are false gods.  No other god is the true God.  There is no other authority over life and there is only One who created us, fashioned a pathway across human history to be restored to Him (despite our sin) promises to indwell us in our human experience, and also can be counted on to come for us when it's time to move on to heaven. 
   Deuteronomy 32:39 "See now that I myself am He!
                                  There is no god besides me.
                                  I put to death and I bring to life, 
                                  I have wounded and I will heal, 
                                  and no one can deliver out of my hand."
 1 Samuel 2:2 "There is no one holy like the LORD;
                       there is no one besides you;
                      there is no Rock like our God.
 Psalm 113: 5 Who is like the LORD our God,
                    the One who sits enthroned on high,
1 Corinthians 8:6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
I guess we really should cheer "He's Number 1, He's Number 1" because our God has given us a great victory, that will last far beyond this football season. (Aren't you glad that you are one with Him! are, aren't you...?)
Rob Smith

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Small packages

The human brain is a small package.  It only weighs 3 pounds, yet it is the home of our conscious thought, involuntary body function, and emotions.  It is where all that is represented by our personality resides.  We're talking about 100 billion nerve cells and a quadrillion connections between nerves.  The brain uses about 25% of all the body's energy (infant brans consume 60% of their energy).  The entire brain is surrounded by special fluid to protect it from shocks and every day the body makes about half a quart of new fluid to keep it fresh.  I think it's amazing that, as complex as the brain is, and as multi-tasking as it functions, with thousands of conscious and automatic processes being handled every second...we feel a seamless oneness to who we are.  We don't feel like we are the sum of multiple processes and our experience in living is, generally, a focused attention on whatever we set our minds on.  In a sense, part of the brain functions as a servant to do all the maintenance functions so that the conscious areas of thought can use wonderful qualities of imagination, problem-solving and communication.  Scientists still have a hard time isolating just how the brain defines consciousness.  Somehow, I suspect that beyond all the neurons, fluid and physical energy there is an eternal soul that lives temporarily in our brain but goes on in a new body when we leave this earthly dimension.  And then, we know that our head needs the covering of another Head.
Colossians 2:18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.
Rob Smith

Friday, September 14, 2007

How deep the heart

My Mom and I went to a movie tonight that had a very dramatic theme and involved great personal loss for one of the characters.  I thought about the depth of feeling a person has for matters of the heart.  It seems to me that the heart is a well.  Its depth is so great that its bottom is beneath us.  And it seems to me that the heart is the sky.  Its height is so great that its limit is beyond our sight.  When we are moved to care and when we are moved in pain and when we are lost in grief our heart is the well and when we are in love and when we are loved and when we know we are one with the Lord, our heart is the sky.  I think we need both extremes to be complete and so I suppose that is why it says in Ecclesiastes 1:1-2 To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die;
I think the Lord made us with an amazing potential to grasp life...more than a mind, alone, we are heart.
Rob Smith

A Nation's Strength

Where does the strength or weakness of a nation come from?  Does our strength spring from our wealth?  Is it tied to our military power?  Are we strong because we follow a particular form of government?  Interestingly enough, I believe that the strength of a nation is the summation of the character of her people, as individuals.  Wealth, power, and government are only manifestations of a people's character, for the country as a whole.  But there is one more manifestation of character that becomes the most appropriate measure of a nation's strength and that is righteousness.  Just as the measure of a well-made house can be tested with a plumb line and a level, so the true nature of a people can be found in their pursuit and expression of the living God, which then finds expression in right living.  Right living on a broad scale is a refreshment to this world, which totters continually around a moral axis that is decidedly off center.  A country that finds itself with a shell of strength, with wealth, power and freedom but that has retreated from the core of right living becomes a papier mache figure that will crack open, eventually, when battered with enough force.  The strength of a nation is built on the spiritual health of her citizens and as we seek to share Christ and live for Christ, we do much to restore that strength.  The world looks for an example of a people whose God is the true God.
Psalm 33:12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.
Isaiah 58:Yet they seek Me daily,
      And delight to know My ways,
      As a nation that did righteousness,
      And did not forsake the ordinance of their God.
      They ask of Me the ordinances of justice;
      They take delight in approaching God.

Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalts a nation,
      But sin is a reproach to any people.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

China and Christmas

Here are a couple of blurbs from the news today:
(1) BEIJING - The Chinese-made toys children [in the U.S.] receive for Christmas this year will be safe, the head of China's product safety agency said Wednesday, pledging that problems over the use of dangerous lead paint will be resolved in time for holiday exports.
(2) A well known leader of a house church in China was behind bars Sunday, September 9 after receiving a shipment of 3 tons of Bibles donated  by South Korean churches.  He was allegedly beaten according to fellow believers.  A crackdown on house churches has been linked to concerns by Chinese officials about the spread of Christianity, ahead of the Olympics in Beijing next year.
I just find it paradoxical that any aspect of our Christmas celebration would depend on China...even toy gifts.  This is a Communist country that persecutes Christians who actively share their faith.  I am reminded that the power of money drives so much of our world, even linking the USA with Communist China in trade.  These days, 87% of all toys imported into the U.S. come from China.  I think it's time for us to export Christ more effectively to those folks and to work and pray hard on behalf of the Christians who must celebrate and serve their Lord with great discretion.  I am also reminded that the celebration of Christmas has nothing to do with the material aspect...only the spiritual adoration of our Savior!
Matthew 5:10-12 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Rob Smith

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Lost in a sea of people

There have been a few news stories lately about folks being lost in rugged parts of our country.  This past Thursday, 76 year-old Doris Anderson was found after surviving two weeks in the Oregon woods without having food or even a jacket.  She'd gotten separated from her husband when he went for help after breaking his wrist during a hunting trip.  When rescuers came to her side, she was barely conscious with a body temperature dipping almost to 90 degrees.
In a way it's not surprising that folks can get lost in vast outdoor wildernesses.  One of our great legacies in America has been our vast primitive and unspoiled remote area.  From canyons to mountain ranges; from great inland lakes to rocky river rapids; from arid deserts to steamy swamps...adventure and excitement are the companions of risk and danger.  So we hear quite often about massive rescue efforts to find those who become lost in those places.  Perhaps less obvious is the remarkable truth that people also get lost in the midst of other people.  There are deserts and swamps of the human condition just as they exist outdoors.  Unfortunately these conditions are not always obvious and those who are sinking or stranded or starving in soulful crises are often lost.  Sometimes these folks don't realize their lost condition and sometimes they don't want to face reality.  Sometimes they try to save themselves and, wonderfully, sometimes they are saved when the rescue rope of Jesus' trustworthy promise reaches them, they grab hold, and are pulled up and out to safety.
There was a wonderful, apparently miraculous, ending to Doris Anderson's story.  Just as the search party had given up hope here's what happened: "He said he and Baker County sheriff's deputy Travis Ash were looking for scavenger birds when they heard, but did not see, a flock of ravens that led them to the woman."
The Lord still reaches the lost, wherever they are, because He commands the ravens and He inspires His saints to be in the rescue party.
Job 26:1 But Job answered and said:

 2 “How have you helped him who is without power?
      How have you saved the arm that has no strength?

 3 How have you counseled one who has no wisdom?
      And how have you declared sound advice to many?


Rob Smith

Monday, September 10, 2007

walking through a cloud

It's all in your point of view.  This morning I was pleased to get out for an early walk, hoping to connect with Jesus for a few minutes.  But as I stepped out to the front porch, I saw that fog had settled in and I wasn't going to get any inspiration from a clear sky or a rising sun.  As I trudged throught the moist air and I reflected on the conditions I remembered that fog is nothing more than a cloud that's settled on the ground.  I remembered thinking during airplane flights about what it would be like to float or walk on a cloud, perhaps like an angel, because clouds are of the sky and the sky is close to heaven.  Then I realized that God had blessed me today because I can't fly to the clouds yet or walk in the he brought a piece of sky down so I could walk through a cloud on earth.  So, there you have can look at walking in a fog as a metaphor for dullness or being lost...or, you can choose to trod on a piece of heavenly real estate that our Lord has lowered from heaven, like a spiritual carpet.
Revelation 10:1 I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.


Rob Smith

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Rock relationships

A few years ago, my son-in-law, Mike Cook, was studying at Gordon Conwell Seminary.  This is located near the Massachusetts harbor town of Gloucester (location of the "Perfect Storm" story and movie).  The harbor is very picturesque and is lined with large rocks.  Mike went fishing on those rocks one afternoon.  He dropped something as he was fishing and, as he reached down he lost his balance on the smooth and slippery boulders and tumbled fully clothed into the harbor.  The large rocks were difficult to climb back up because they curved under as they came down to the waterline.  After battling the rocks to climb back, Mike found a space next to the rocks to wedge into and to climb back.  As a former Tribe Quarterback, Mike is very strong and he pulled himself back up, soaked from his shirt to his socks, but OK.  As far as he knew no one had seen this happen and, if he hadn't been able to climb up by himself, or if he'd been too weak, the story could have turned out differently.  Jesus is the Rock of Salvation.  He calls us to have a certain kind of "rock relationship".  Just like the rocks of Gloucester can either be a strong platform for fishing, or a slippery slope to watery danger, so does Jesus want us to have the kind of relationship where we stand on Him in security.  We don't want anyone to miss the security of the eternal Rock and slip into a dangerous place, where they can't recover.
Daniel 2:34-35 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them.  Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.
Acts 27:29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight.
1 Corinthians 10:4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.
Romans 9:33 As it is written:
   "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble
      and a rock that makes them fall,
   and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."
Rob Smith

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Tear down to build up

This morning a lot of folks were helping prepare the new children's facility at church for reopening.  It was really fun carrying boxes and pushing brooms and feeling part of something special.  The Chapel has used contractors for most of the new construction but much of the children's wing improvements have been done in-house by staff and volunteers.  It occurred to me that our church has had to make ongoing building modifications over the years as we've grown.  Often walls are knocked down or moved and things are unsettled for a while.  I thought about the way that the Lord does something similar in our personal lives at times...some discomfort can come when he knocks down some of the personal walls we've built and rearranges our circumstances to get our attention and to help us grow and develop.  I talked to our head of facilities, Dean Ross about the need to knock things down in order to build something new.  He said the reality is that often perfectly good facilities have to be destroyed to meet future needs and growth.  That's something like what happens in our lives.  We wonder sometimes when it seems our perfectly smooth life is upset by unpleasant circumstances.  It may be that the Lord is getting us ready for the future He knows is coming for us, when all we can see is what's happening now.   It's good to be reminded that our lives are really His.  I think it's safe to say He has the big picture!
1 Peter 1:6 "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ"
Rob Smith

Friday, September 7, 2007

caskets for rent


An Ad I saw today:

Families are increasingly requesting to rent a casket. To facilitate this request we offer a casket designed to allow for this service. The casket is a specially crafted unit that facilitates an inner simple container to hold the body. The casket itself acts as a "shell" around this container making it suitable for public visitation and viewing.


It turns out that money-saving creativity has reached the funeral and burial process.  Today I heard that you can actually rent a casket.  When I first heard that you could rent a casket I wondered who was going to collect the casket when the lease was up.  But then I got a clearer picture.  A heavy, high quality casket is used for the funeral and then the occupant is transferred to a more modest final domicile for subterranean living.  These rental caskets are a bargain and cut the cost in half.  Increasingly people appreciate the environmental benefits of reusable caskets.  It made me think a little of what we called "hot bunking" in the navy.  They didn't build submarines with enough beds for everybody because, at any given time, some of the crewmembers were standing watch.  So beds (or racks) were kept warm as men took turns using them.  Actually I think casket rental makes a lot of sense.  A  high degree of quality is added to the viewing and funeral for those who are living and a focus on practicality is enhanced for the departed.  After all, the real person has already left.  Hopefully they've flown off to their heavenly home, never more to fret about whether to splurge or to be frugal.  (And never more to stress over recycling).

Psalm 73:25-28 You're all I want in heaven!
      You're all I want on earth!
   When my skin sags and my bones get brittle,
      God is rock-firm and faithful.
   Look! Those who left you are falling apart!
      Deserters, they'll never be heard from again.
   But I'm in the very presence of God
      oh, how refreshing it is!
   I've made Lord God my home.
      God, I'm telling the world what you do!


Rob Smith

Thursday, September 6, 2007

room to fail

"In a bid to encourage scientific risk-taking and to curb rampant misconduct, China is planning to legislate for failure, with a law that would allow Chinese scientists to report failures in their research without jeopardizing their chances of future funding."

I spotted the above quote in the news today.  It struck me that a scientist who cannot experiment without a fear of failure is a scientist who will not take great risks.  A scientist who won't act on instinct and try new methods or who can't be free to think with total creativity is crippled in his ability to discover and to push back frontiers of ignorance.  I don't have any statistics, but I think that the best scientists probably fail 99 times out of 100 attempts.  But with every failure lessons are learned and most discoveries happen in incremental steps rather than major breakthroughs.  Not only that...many unexpected discoveries have been made out of "failed" experiments.

Sir Alexander Fleming was known as a brilliant, but messy researcher.  He discovered penicillin accidentally in 1928 when he returned from vacation to find fungus growing on experiments he'd forgotten to discard.  On one experimental dish the fungus wasn't growing and that's where he found the penicillin.

Inspiration needs persistence to complete the work and faith to find results where others find failure.  In that process we find the adventure of our walk with the Lord.

Revelation 2:19 (The Message) "I see everything you're doing for me. Impressive! The love and the faith, the service and persistence. Yes, very impressive! You get better at it every day."


Rob Smith

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Heroes and Models

There are all kinds of heroes.  There are superheroes like Superman and Batwoman.  There are sports heroes like Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan.  There are patriotic heroes like Patrick Henry and George Washington.  It's a funny thing about heroes.  We look up to them and admire their powers and skills.  But somehow we don't often think we can become one.  Heroes seem larger than life itself.  On the other hand, there are people we've known who have modeled the kind of living we aspire to follow, or model.  These are often everyday people that we grow up with, work alongside of and sometimes even marry.  In fact, in my life, I'm even finding that my children are modeling the kind of character and devotion that I want to display.  Shirley and I are staying with my Mom while our home is finished.  I guess I'll have to make an exception and say that my Mom is both model and hero.   Every day I've known her she's served other people.  She just doesn't know how to put herself first.  My Mom has modeled love for me all my life and now I know that this kind of behavior isn't the norm for everyone.  I'd have to say she's a hero because I don't come close to her level of selflessness, but because it's been modeled so consistently for me, I do know the right way to live.
Jesus is both hero and model, of course.  Isn't it great that He lived the perfect life to show (and tell) us the way...but He didn't stop there!  He made it possible for us to have Him move in to our individual hearts.  With His presence and power, we can begin to model the heroic as well.
Colossians 1:10-13 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves
Rob Smith

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


"Weeds"'s not even a pleasant sounding Rhododendron or Lily or Elm.  What is a weed and when is a weed not a flower?  Basically weeds are plants that people don't like.  They're considered a nuisance.  But I would suggest that weeds are in some ways superior to the plants we humans favor.  When flash floods ravage the earth and leave the ground vulnerable to erosion where are the tulips and pansies then?  Only the unsightly, unplanted (by human hands), unpretty (for the most part) weeds will come in to populate the bare ground and hold things together.  Why, if weeds weren't part of our environment we'd probably need an army of full-time planters to hold the ground together and save valuable nutrients and minerals from bleaching out or washing away.  And since not all of us are great at maintaining a lawn, at least the weeds make it green and hold the whole thing together until we can get some help.  So I'm grateful for weeds and I even think that we can be weeds sometimes.  We can find ourselves planted in a bare area (unfriendly neighborhood, cold workplace, silent carpool, etc.) and find that the Lord has a role for us to hold things together and give Him a chance to work in a deeper way.  Just think of yourself at those times as a weed for the Lord.  Who knows what might flower as a result!
A very special kind of weed probably had a role on the day Jesus died.
John 19:2 "The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head."
Rob Smith

Monday, September 3, 2007

a heavenly investment

One of the basic principles of modern investing is to diversify investments to reduce "risk".  Investments tend to rise and fall in waves and different types of investment (domestic stocks, bonds, foreign stocks, real estate) tend to rise and fall at different times.  We've all heard that it's not wise to "put all our eggs in one basket".   This is known as having a "concentrated position".  It occurred to me, however, that when it comes to investing our heart, mind and time we are wise to concentrate our investment in one direction...not a stock or bond, but in the living God.  We will still run into some ups and downs, some serious difficulty will almost still accompany the heavenly investment.  There will be times when we are slogging through spiritual desert or overwhelmed with spiritual flood waters.  Nonetheless we know that we have a sure hope in the Lord and that He is worthy of our total focus.  Some of our investment "returns" will probably not be known in this life, but when it comes to the heavenly investment, eternity is our frame of reference.  It is wise to diversify our material investments but it is essential that we concentrate our life-focus on the Lord!
Deuteronomy 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.
Deuteronomy 11:13 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul- 14 then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil.
1 Samuel 12:24 But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.
Rob Smith

Sunday, September 2, 2007


Today I walked past an empty parking lot.  Friday night that lot had been filled with cars as folks attended the high school football game at the adjacent stadium.  It struck me that the reason all the cars were gone was because the owners remembered where they had parked.  There have been times when I've found myself wandering large parking lots trying to remember where I've parked (I'm sure you've never had that problem...).  After the William and Mary football game this past Thursday I went back to the area I was sure I'd parked and started to panic when I didn't see the high outline of my minivan....but then I recalled I'd driven my Mom's car, and it was there, fortunately.  I can be forgetful about other things.  Just today I left my navy blazer in the Church Annex where we had Sunday School.  I hope it's there on Tuesday after the holiday.  I thought about the Lord and how He has so much to remember.  Somehow He keeps the seasons on schedule and the moon revolving through its phases.  He remembers to melt the ice caps just enough to provide fresh water for the rivers.  He remembers to remind the migrating birds when its time to move on.  But most wonderful of all, He has remembered you and me.  Perhaps the greatest thing He has remembered is to forget our sin.
Psalm 136:23 to the One who remembered us in our low estate...His love endures forever.
Psalm 25:7 Remember not the sins of my youth
                  and my rebellious ways;
                  according to your love remember me,
                  for you are good, O LORD.
Rob Smith

Saturday, September 1, 2007

laying down the law

We are a country that esteems law.  Rather than a monarchy, where a king can rule by his whim,  we are ruled by laws, enacted by our elected representatives.  I don't know how many laws I'm responsible to follow but there are layers of them: local, state and federal.  That's really almost the whole purpose of our pass laws.  I was thinking about it today and, apart from many of the traffic laws or rules, I don't know many of the laws that I'm responsible to live under.  I don't think we even spend time learning most of the laws that are passed.  You'd think that it would be important to teach the laws if we're supposed to follow them.  Somehow the system works anyhow (debatable, I know...).  It occurred to me that as long as we have a strong moral compass that permeates our culture, where right and wrong are inherently known (just as East is opposite West on a compass) we probably follow 99% of the laws that govern our personal behavior.  It is that common underpinning of conscience guided by a true sense of right and wrong that really holds our society together.  So what provides this input to our personal moral compasses.  I believe we are hard-wired to heaven and have an inborn sense of right just as we really have an inborn sense of the reality of God.  Romans, chapter 1  tells us: 20-22  "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, so that men are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools."
I can't imagine what it would be like to have to carry a thick manual of rules with me to direct my every action and make every decision.  The conscience linked to God makes living in freedom possible.  But we also see from the Romans passage that it is possible to know God (or know of God or about God) without properly acknowledging Him in gratitude.  The result is foolishness and darkness.  I'm afraid we are seeing more of this in our land in recent years.  I hope we, who identify ourselves as those who love the Lord, can reflect the living and true God in such a way that others will see Him and return to Him, and His dependable guidance.
Rob Smith