Sunday, August 31, 2008

Filling Space

In a sense, every day is a blank slate.  As each day progresses some kind of message will be written or recorded to mark that day.  That message may be one of fear or hope, victory or defeat, encouragement or despair.  We play a role in the message that is written on the day of other folks, too.  We can assist or avoid, berate or buoy, and help or hinder those around us.  And every day is a fresh chance for these things to happen.  I am reminded that just as each day represents great openness for different kinds of experience, so there are many ways in which there is space to fill in our lives.  There is outer space and inner space.  Of course there is the outer space beyond earth's atmosphere and there is inner space within our vast oceans.  But I think the more important spaces are the space outside our personal lives that fall between us and the world around us and the space inside our hearts and minds where we connect with ourselves and with our God.  I believe that God specializes in filling space better than we can.  Left to ourselves, we often fill the emptiness inside and outside our lives with junk and we can feel cluttered like an overstuffed attic.  But we have the privilege of allowing the Lord into our inner space.  He seems to be effective at cleaning the attic, reordering what remains and adding beauty.  It seems that when we allow Him to redecorate our inner space, we begin to see and to affect the outer space differently too. 
It's not that our lives are empty so much as how we choose to fill them!
Psalm 107:9 For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness.
Rob Smith

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Breakfast with Jesus

We lead busy much so that we often get up and launch into our days without proper preparation.  Many folks don't even eat breakfast.  Getting a good start can make all the difference each day.  Studies show that eating a good breakfast is linked with longer lives, less chronic disease and better overall health.  Here's another aspect: "The effects of a skipped breakfast are short attention span, lack of alertness, longer reaction time, low blood sugar, decreased work productivity." (thanks to Nancy Schmieder of Better Living Ministries)  .You are also putting fuel in your tank to energize your day.  I think the same is true in our relationship with the Lord.  Just as our energy and concentration can wane early without breakfast, so our spiritual focus can wander if we haven't begun our day with the Lord.  The contents of breakfast are important too.  We need fiber and high quality energy sources for best results.  We also need the fiber of God's Word and the energy that comes from being in His presence.  Think about having breakfast with Jesus.
John 21:12-13 Jesus said to them, "Come and eat breakfast." Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, "Who are You?"—knowing that it was the Lord.  Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.
Rob Smith

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Knowledge is power

If we had to understand how the foot worked before we could walk, we never would.  I doubt many of us really understand how our bodies function, how electricity happens or how the internal combustion engine powers a car.  That doesn't stop us from eating, turning on the lights or driving to work each day.  We are confident in things that are familiar.  I think faith is something like that too.  We may not understand how God made it all happen or why He cared so much for us that He sent His Son to rescue us.  But when we have experienced that divine rescue on a personal level and have learned to lean against Him, only to find Him leaning back...we are reminded that the most important kind of knowledge is the kind that starts with Him knowing us! 
Galatians 4:9 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?
Rob Smith

more than conquerors

Romans 8:37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
This morning I read the verse above and the phrase "more than conquerors" stood out.  I realized that, in Christ, and because of Christ, we have victory over sin and so much more.  We normally focus on gaining victories in life: victories in sports, business, and personal goals.  But what does "more than conquerors" mean?  What is past the victory or greater than winning the war?  I suppose the answer comes from the rest of that passage (verses 38-39) "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  We are more than conquerors because the victory in Christ has created a bond with our Lord that cannot be broken.  Moreover, we are more than conquerors because we have conquered sin in order to live in a new way.  We were made to experience life on the far side of victory where we have the real opportunity to walk with the Lord, to inquire of the Lord and to worship the Lord.  Sometimes I think we stop with the victory and fail to enjoy the fruits of that victory.  Life is more than winning a gold medal!
Rob Smith

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

high interest

In the financial world there are two familiar terms: present value and future value.  Money and property tend to appreciate or earn interest and the future value of possessions and cash generally project to be greater than the present value.  The thing that determines how much the property will grow is the interest rate that is used.  Naturally, a higher interest rate means that there will be more growth.  A few percentage points in the interest rate can have a big impact on the amount of growth over the course of years.  For example, $1,000 will grow to about $2,400 over 30 years if the interest rate is 3%.  That same $1,000 will grow to about $5,700 over the same period with an interest rate of 6%.  It occurs to me that we are something like a valuable possession of the Lord.  Fortunately He is prepared to invest us with the highest interest...His interest...and there is no telling how much growth we might result in over the course of our lives!  We need to yield to His investment plan.  (By the way...if He has fewer years to work on us, He can step up His Interest rate!!)
Matthew 25:14 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
blessings, with interest
Rob Smith

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

celebrating nothing

We live in a world that celebrates the lack of certain things almost more than the presence of certain things.  We look to live in places that are crime-free, with no taxes that afford no delays as we commute short distances.  We scour store shelves and display cases for zero calorie, low-fat drinks and foods that provide little nutritional benefit so that we can weigh less.  We want shorter work weeks with less stress and fewer responsibilities so that we can spend more time doing nothing.  It's almost like we're living in the negative of a photograph rather than the actual print.  But we have much to do, to be and fill our lives with daily because we have a living God who has fashioned each of us for positive purposes and to make a difference.  If we are to celebrate the absence of something, let it be the absence of thoughts and actions that may break our relationship with the Lord.  We have work to do!
James 2:25-26 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Rob Smith

Monday, August 25, 2008

new ways to move

One of the stories that touched my heart the most from the Olympics centered on South African swimmer Natalie du Toit.  She was a most unusual athlete.  One of her legs is missing as a result of a motor scooter accident back in 2001.  Already an accomplished swimmer before the accident, she was back in the pool within 4 months of losing her left leg at the knee.  She is the first amputee athlete to swim in final heats with able bodied athletes and she qualified this past spring to swim the 10 kilometer open ocean swim in Beijing with a fourth-place finish at the world championships in Spain this year, finishing only 5 seconds behind the winner.  She was the first disabled athlete to carry the flag for their country at the Olympic opening ceremonies.  One thing that struck me was her comment about the feeling she has in the water:  "When I take my (artificial) leg off and I'm completely free in the water," Natalie du Toit said, "that's who I am."  In the water the missing leg is not so important as on land.  She is supported by the water and can use the rest of her body to move at a world class level.  I am inspired to have a new view of setbacks...they may just be creating channels to succeed in a different medium.  When we are limited in one area there are unlimited opportunities to find new direction. 
Genesis 41:52 And the name of the second he called Ephraim: "For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction."
Rob Smith

Sunday, August 24, 2008

chemistry of life

I was thinking this morning about our physical composition, as humans.  It struck me that we are made up of the same chemicals that are in the soil and the air.  Over 99% of our body is composed of 10 chemical elements.  Oxygen, carbon and hydrogen makeup 93% by themselves.  Altogether we are made up of 60 different chemical elements including trace amounts of copper, tin and even arsenic.  You see, the Lord assembles each of us from the same ingredients that form the earth we walk on and the air we breathe.  In one sense we are nothing more than the sum of our physical surroundings.  But in another sense we are spiritual beings, whose composition cannot be entirely identified by our chemistry.  We have life because all of those chemicals are fashioned into complex systems that are completely interdependent and permit us to breathe, to see, to move and to enjoy a high level of physical existence.  But there is no chemistry that will capture a prayer, that can define faith, or that can reflect the relationship we have with the One who forms us.  It must be that we are also made up of the elements of heaven! 
Ezekiel 37:5-6 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: "Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD."
Rob Smith

Saturday, August 23, 2008

the way to success

When the measure of success is domination then the weapon of preference is war. 
Whenthe measure of success is knowledge then the weapon of preference is education.
When the measure of success is prosperity than the weapon of preference is money. 
When the measure of success is peace then the weapon of preference is love.
And when the measure of success is living forever then the only way is Jesus.
just a thought for a sunny Saturday in August.
Rob Smith

Friday, August 22, 2008

a reliable judge

You probably have been watching some of the Beijing Olympics over the past few weeks.  It's an amazing spectacle with so much happening at the same time that it dwarfs a "three ring circus" for scope and color.  And what an amazing challenge for the home country to build all the state of the art facilities and to marshall the army of people for all the tasks that make this massive event run.  By most measures China has done a first class job and demonstrated how advanced they are industrially and technologically.  One thing that technology and modern techniques has not changed, however, is human nature.  I find it interesting that some of the sports require judges, rather than stopwatches, to determine the winners.  Since countries compete with each other they need judges from various countries to mitigate prejudice.  One of the lady's gymnastic events resulted in a tie for first place and a complicated system of tie-breakers was needed to settle the title.  As we compete in the Olympics of daily living, I am glad that there is a Judge who is without prejudice and can be trusted.  But, most amazingly, I'm glad that He will award the gold medal of victory to all who will come to Him, admit they are unable to win in their own strength, and place their trust in His Son.
Psalm 98:8-9 Let the rivers clap their hands;
         Let the hills be joyful together before the LORD,
         For He is coming to judge the earth.
         With righteousness He shall judge the world,
         And the peoples with equity.
Rob Smith

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Numbers 1:18 and they assembled all the congregation together on the first day of the second month; and they recited their ancestry by families, by their fathers' houses, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and above, each one individually.
I was thinking this morning of how we live our lives individually.  There are billions of us and our human numbers are increasing.  But we have individual identity.  I stopped by an old gravesite this morning.  Some of the gravestones had no inscriptions and were very old...but one of these had been decorated recently with some kind of bouquet.  The person buried there was unknown to me but well known to another.  Another grave represented a man born the same year as myself and who had died about two years ago.  Someone had placed a golf club on that grave.  We live and leave our mark individually.  We find our identity in our families, our accomplishments and our faith.  I was struck by the value of each life as it is lived individually and was grateful that the Lord longs for us to know Him personally.  We worship Him in larger numbers.  We carry burdens for the world.  We are part of His body of believers.  But it is our personal relationship that distinguishes us as believers and that marks our worth in His eyes.
Psalm 33: 13 The LORD looks from heaven;
         He sees all the sons of men.
 14 From the place of His dwelling He looks
         On all the inhabitants of the earth;
 15 He fashions their hearts individually;
         He considers all their works.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

the owner's manual

There were plusses and minuses to buying my car recently on EBAY.  I got a great financial deal and found just the car I wanted.  One minus was that the car came with no owner's manual.  This first surfaced as an issue when I was trying to figure out how to adjust the outside rearview mirrors.  Some family members suggested I try to reposition the mirrors manually but I was sure that there would be a button somewhere to do it.  Through the wonder of the internet I found my owner's manual online and downloaded it.  I found myself hungry to scan through the whole thing (200 plus pages) uncover all the exciting secrets of my dream car (and also locate the mirror controls).
This morning I read 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.  I realized that I need to have the same hunger to read through God's Owner's Manual that I had to search out all the features of my car.  Just as the information about the rear view mirrors was buried inside the manual, so the answers to my specific life needs are in the Bible.  If I want to be "complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" I need to be familiar with the entire Owner's Manual..not just my favorite sections and I can't leave the manual in the glove compartment!
Rob Smith

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

heart transplant

I remember as a teenager hearing about the first heart transplants.  Dr. Christiaan Bernard of South Africa performed the first human heart transplant to a fellow named Louis Washkansky in December 1967.  Unfortunately the patient only lived a few weeks.  Dr Denton Cooley performed the first transplant in the U.S. about 6 months later and the patient survived 8 months before his body rejected the transplanted heart.  Survival rates are much better these days, with about 70% of transplant recipients living 5 years and one gentleman has survived 29 years and is still going strong!
But you wouldn't think our Creator would design the need for a heart transplant into our lives, would you?  This morning the following scripture stood out to me:  Ezekiel 36:26-27 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.  I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
It occurs that the Lord has been doing successful heart transplant surgery for a long time.  Apparently the strongest anti-rejection drug is the Holy Spirit, which allows the new tender heart to not only avoid rejection, but to thrive.  In a way you might say that the donor of this new heart is the Lord Himself.  It wasn't a car accident that made that great heart available, but He did lay down His life that we might experience a change that can most accurately be described as living with a new heart...a heart from God.
Rob Smith

Monday, August 18, 2008

building a home

There is truly no place like home.  There is that place that is more than just a place where there is rest, acceptance and a place to grow and to be raised.  Home is not a house, really, it is some kind of relationship center.  It's where husbands and wives are also moms and dads and where children are also brothers and sisters.  It's where the problems of living that go with growing up, growing away and growing old can surface and be addressed in an atmosphere of agape love.  It struck me that when a man and woman marry they aren't just realizing the fulfillment of great personal needs.  They are also creating something much bigger than themselves: a new home.  There is some wonderful chemistry that mixes man and woman and adds a blend of children with spices of grandparents and friends to establish this most important relationship center.  I think that's why marital discord and divorce are especially sad.  Once the marriage is in place, it's no longer just about two individual people.  It's about the home that swirls in and through that marriage.  One can understand that, in this respect, divorce is often something like splitting the atom with damaging forces that go far beyond just that cell.  The wonder of the home is part of the great mystery God fashions when two become one and a new place of rest, acceptance, healing and growth emerges.
John 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
Rob Smith

meeting ourselves

It occurred to me that we really can't know ourselves without the Lord.  Of course, we're very well acquainted with ourselves.  Our self-relationship began at a young age and, for the most part, we're comfortable moving about in our skin.  As we grow up we uncover innate skills (or the lack thereof) in every area of life.  We get a lot of input and feedback from family, friends and others (like childhood bullies and neighborhood sports where you find your worth based on the order you're selected for a team).  We're taught to apply ourselves in every class and every task we're assigned and we're encouraged to believe that willpower and effort will result in success and help us define our identity.  But I suspect that each of us has a design that is uniquely our own.  The key to finding that blueprint is to first find the architect who has drawn each plan.  Rather than believing we must succeed in all we do, we learn to hone our successes along the grain that was built into our frame.  We are liberated to play that role on the planet that blends and harmonizes with others and we find that the needs of others represent the opportunities we were made for.  I don't think it can be overstated that when we find the Lord, we find ourselves.
Psalm 139:13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
      you formed me in my mother's womb.
   I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking!
      Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
      I worship in adoration—what a creation!
   You know me inside and out,
      you know every bone in my body;
   You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
      how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
   Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
      all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
   The days of my life all prepared
      before I'd even lived one day.
Rob Smith

Saturday, August 16, 2008

travelling on Good Hope Road

There is a lovely country road not far from where I live.  It starts near Diascund Reservoir, off Rt. 60 near Lanexa and winds toward New Kent County Courthouse.  I'm not sure why, but roads that date back before the automobile tend to be windier and hillier.  I guess we weren't in such a rush to get from Point A to Point B back then.  This particular road is named Good Hope Road.  After you travel a few miles and pass a number of farms and stables, you spot a small Baptist Church on the left.  A sign over the door says Good Hope Church, Organized 1887.  There is a church cemetery nearby with gravestones that date back to the 1800's, including a Mr. Williams who served in the Confederate Army.  I thought, "What a wonderful name for a road and for a church...Good Hope..."  I felt the presence of Jesus driving down Good Hope Road late this afternoon and almost cried as I realized that I am travelling down Good Hope Road every day.  Jesus is our Good Hope...He is the reason we have hope...He is our only hope and He is a very present hope.  Aren't you glad that He made it possible to travel Good Hope Road no matter what road you find yourself on!
Romans 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
blessings with a Good Hope!
Rob Smith

Friday, August 15, 2008

people per square foot

We human beings really tend to think that the world revolves around us.  Our news is about politics, business and crime.  Our time is spent in the marketplace, factories and shops.  Our passion is to win in sports, business and war.  We are so attracted to a people-centered life that we build very tall buildings to try to pack as many people into a small area as we can.  The Empire State Building in Manhattan occupies a piece of land about two acres in size.  About 15,000 people work there and the building shoots up a quarter mile into the sky.   Jamming 15,000 people into two acres seems a shame to me when there's so much acreage with no one to enjoy it.  But we are just drawn to each other.  Sometimes we need to be reminded that we are not the "prime movers" of the earth.  If there is a positive aspect to hurricanes, tornadoes and volcanic eruptions perhaps it is their demonstration that man does not have ultimate control.  It is also comforting in our daily lives to be reminded that we don't have to "make it happen" every day.  There is a sovereign God who is holding it all together.  Rather than being the center of it all, it is good to be reminded that He is!...And more personally, He can be at the center of our lives!
Psalm 31:24 Be of good courage,
         And He shall strengthen your heart,
         All you who hope in the LORD.
Rob Smith

Thursday, August 14, 2008

God's career track

Romans 8:28-30 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
There is a pipeline that we parents like to see our children travel through as they progress from childhood to independent adult living.  We follow growth from infancy, toddling, preschool, elementary through high school and then college or vocational education and on to successful jobs, marriages and new families.  We take encouragement as our children move from rung to rung, just as we did when they climbed the rungs of the jungle gym in the school playground.  This morning it occurred to me that the Lord has a pipeline for our progress as well.  Instead of preparing us to mature from physical infancy to adult independence, though, He is taking us through progressive awareness of Himself, conforming us to the image of His Son and ultimately presenting us complete in the Heavenly realm.  We have the sure sense that just as our children need the continual help of parents, friends and teachers to mature so we need an ongoing relationship with our living Lord to mature spiritually.  There is great comfort in knowing that there is One with a trustworthy plan to find us, to save us and to make us new in a program that results in successful eternal living.  It's good to know that our Heavenly Father is watching over us as we move from rung to rung, ready to catch us if we slip!
Rob Smith

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

fruit on the bottom

Recently I've become a fan of eating know those small cups filled with white creamy stuff.  They seem like a good way to eat a lighter lunch.  I've tried a few different kinds but my favorite ones have real fruit on the bottom of the container.  The first thing you do after peeling back the cover is stir the fruit up and mix it into the yogurt.  The strawberries, raspberries or blueberries color the whole mix and the flavor of the plain white yogurt is completely changed.  I also like the texture of the real fruit.  I think it improves the plain creaminess of yogurt.  I think we can be like "fruit on the bottom" yogurt.  The Lord has gifted each of us spiritually and blessed us with His Holy Spirit.  Unfortunately we can allow the fruit of His spirit to remain "on the bottom".  If we dig a little bit the fruits of the spirit will permeate us and create a much more appealing flavor!
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Rob Smith

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

bow or yield

What is it about us that makes us think we are in control?  What is it about us that thinks we determine our lives?  What is it about us that causes us to live in constant denial, wanting to believe that life will always go on as it has in the past.  Somewhere inside we know that we have very little control and virtually no idea of what life holds for us, even beyond the present moment.  Somewhere inside we know that much greater forces exist than we control to direct the events and the impact of our lives.  Somewhere inside we know that life has been a progression from youth through adulthood, with change the only constant, and physical death an inevitability that we do not want to face.  This morning, I sat in the midst of one of God's gardens, on the edge of Richardson's Mill Pond, with fog lifting from the water like some kind of heavenly meringue.  I realized that I face one of two choices:  I can continue to work my own agenda and try to shove God into the background or I can willingly bow before Him and His plan.  There is unknown either way.  I don't know what my plans will achieve and I don't know what God has for me either. But it makes a lot more sense to rely on the one who placed me here.  After all, I'll either bow to His plan or yield to it as I suspect He will have the final word anyway! 
Psalm 95:6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
         Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
 7 For He is our God,
         And we are the people of His pasture,
         And the sheep of His hand.
Rob Smith

Monday, August 11, 2008

the core of things

Psalm 119:57 (The Message)  Because you have satisfied me, God, I promise
      to do everything you say.
   I beg you from the bottom of my heart: smile,
      be gracious to me just as you promised.
   When I took a long, careful look at your ways,
      I got my feet back on the trail you blazed.
On Saturday I attended an early morning fitness session with my wife.  A young man from New Zealand is visiting friends and he's a fitness buff.  He put us through some strenuous exercises that tested our whole bodies.  The hardest exercises for me were the ones that dealt with my "core"...a word they use now for the abdominal area.  My core is weak and I found that my back was doing too much of the work.  If I can strengthen the front of my body, I can take a burden off my back.  As I reflected on the advantage of exercise I realized that something similar happens spiritually.  If I work on my spiritual "core"(my upward focus on the Lord) I'm less likely to stray from Him.  If I develop my personal enjoyment of Him daily through intimate personal time in prayer and the Word, I am more prone to think and do what is right and, when tempted, recognize and flee.  This is because I'm sensitive to my Lord and want nothing to come between us.  By strengthening my spiritual "core" I take the load off my weak human "backbone".  I actually found that this works in a practical way.  Yesterday my wife and I had lunch at a fast food place and the cashier gave me too much change.  I realized this as I was sitting down to eat and I dealt with the competing thoughts of keeping the money or returning it.  I remembered that the Lord I'd been with that morning was aware of the situation and so I returned the change.   I need to keep working on my "core" physically and spiritually because my personal backbone is too weak to support good health.
blessings from my core to yours!
Rob Smith

Sunday, August 10, 2008

the sky

1 Thessalonians 4:17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
The last several mornings (and evenings) we have had beautiful weather and amazing skies to gaze upon.  The sun has been shooting shafts of light through bouquet arrangements of clouds and a surprising range of colors has been on display.  I was struck with the many personalities of the sky...ranging from somber shrouds of gray through angry thunderheads of black to cloudless blue that wallpapers the black of space with beauty.  In a sense the sky is a painting that God is reworking each day.  With the dawn He makes a statement: "I believe I'll do this once more" and He creates 24 hours of new experience as if it were the very first day.  You might say that the sky represents one of those phenomena where we meet the Lord.  We even call the skies the heavens and it seems to be a place where earthly life and heavenly life join.  Our own moods can be greatly affected by the sky we are under.  After three days of gray skies I am always ready to see the sun!  The scripture above reminds me that in a very literal sense, one day, believers will join the Lord in the midst of the clouds to join Him forever.  Maybe that's one reason He keeps changing the picture we see above we'll keep looking up!
blessings (and best wishes for Ginny in Hendersonville for a gorgeous sky today!),
Rob Smith

Friday, August 8, 2008

thought life

It has occurred to me in the past that the only thing we actually control is our thoughts.  We have the power to decide what we will think about and the choices are far-flung.  There is no law, form of government, or external force that can know or control our thoughts.  This led me to consider how much of our identity is wrapped up in our thought life.  Our brain is a highly organized tangle of nerves, described as circuits that fire like spark plugs and that interconnect to house memories, opinions and habits.  Somehow I have a hard time believing that my identity is the sum of these electrochemical activities within my skull.  The experience of living seems so seamless...thoughts, decisions, opinions, heart-felt emotion, spiritual convictions are complex in nature and yet develop and flow with order and peace.  And then there is the quality of our lives that is eternal and goes beyond life in this body.  We have the confidence that we will know who we are even after we depart this fleshly vessel.  That suggests to me that the essence of who we are, even here, cannot be isolated to the work of neurons and purely physical phenomena.  I believe that we are more essentially spiritual beings, even here, than physical ones and that, one day, in eternity we will realize that the mind, like the body, was primarily a tool to help us function during our physical lives.  I apologize for the "heaviness" of this thought today, but I am excited about giving a larger weight to living spiritually even while still breathing the air of planet Earth.
Genesis 1:27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Rob Smith

Thursday, August 7, 2008

a clean heart

This morning, as I gazed over the mill pond on Diascund Creek, I was also reading about having a clean heart. (Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart;  Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.)  I thought about how I'd generally seen the need to confess sin as an end in is necessary to be cleaned when you're dirty.  I know it is inevitable that my thoughts and actions will stray and there is the need to deal with that tendency.  But this morning I saw that having a heart that is clean is not important just because of the absence of sin, but because it makes a close walk with our Lord possible.  Just as a smudged window obscures the most beautiful of scenes from view, so a heart that has spiritual dirt is smudged and we cannot see, feel or hear the Lord.  I felt a renewed desire to houseclean my heart frequently, that I might know Him better!
Rob Smith

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Goal Setting

Philippians 3:13-14 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.
I've never been a very good "goal setter".  I remember my father asking me what my goals were when I was in high school.  I had to admit that I'd never thought about it!  I have always been more of a "go with the flow", spontaneous type of person.  I have known very effective goal setters and I have admired their ability to define "stretch" objectives for career and personal accomplishment.  So I think this is one of the things that divides the world into two camps: the goal setters and the non-goal setters.  But as I read the above passage this morning I thought about the one goal that all who love the Lord Jesus need to have.  Don't you love the goal of "the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus"?  If I want anything to be my goal...that's it!  The interesting thing about attaining this goal is that I need to forget my past...not dwell in it...and start fresh each day.  Finally...a goal that works for those of us who are spontaneous types!
Rob Smith

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

the smell of corn

If I say, "Picture the smell of a field of corn" I bet you can imagine that subtle aroma.  If I say "Put the smell of corn into words" I bet you'd be hard pressed to accurately describe it.  The smell of corn is a specific experience that is common to all and yet there is no language to capture it.  When we invite the Lord Jesus to come into our life He does just that.  He fills our heart with a feeling that words cannot capture.  If you have opened your life's door to Jesus, you know exactly what I'm saying.  There are many who cannot relate to this sensation because they've not yet asked the Lord into their life.  In a sense it would be like asking someone from the rice paddies of Viet Nam to picture the smell of a field of corn, when all they'd ever known was rice.  Just as the smell of corn is specific and knowable, so the presence of the Lord in our lives is specific and knowable.  He affects our mind, heart and body and awakens our spiritual identify.
If I say, "Picture the presence of Jesus in your life" I hope you can imagine that subtle aroma!
Psalm 16:11 You will show me the path of life;
         In Your presence is fullness of joy;
         At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Rob Smith

Monday, August 4, 2008

nonspecific symptoms

Have you ever had a general sense of malaise; a sickness that couldn't be clearly identified but that produced vague symptoms of being unwell?  Perhaps there was a low grade fever, lethargy, general lack of energy? You just didn't feel right.  Apparently there are about 57 illnesses that can start that way and even vague symptoms should be checked out medically.  It struck me that many of us carry "nonspecific symptoms" of feeling unwell throughout the day on the spiritual level.  For some reason a general sense of fear and worry can fall over us like a morning fog and we can move through the hours of our experience with a background sense of dread.  As believers in the Lord Jesus, this ought not to be.  I think we need to stake a claim each morning that we belong to the risen Savior, we have been (past tense) delivered from sin's dominion and there is no reason why we shouldn't throw off the shroud of "nonspecific fear" and embrace joy.  If we start our day by acknowledging our absolute dependence on Him and also acknowledge our absolute inability to see what lies ahead or to control the day's events, we may find ourselves walking in rest rather than paralyzed by doubt.  We are the Lord's and it is good to be reminded that He wants to walk with us in a very specific way!
Matthew 28:20 (part) "I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen
Rob Smith

Sunday, August 3, 2008

by still waters

There's just something about water that brings peace simply by gazing at it.  I've recently enjoyed visiting some of the many reservoirs, ponds and rivers in our area as I've driven local back roads.  I especially like the ponds.  Many of these were mill ponds that date back a few hundred years when water powered the machines that ground the wheat and corn grown in the local fields.  Today they are home to amazingly diverse and beautiful wildlife.  This morning, as I watched a string of geese paddle across one pond, I heard a splash behnd me.  I turned around to see three or four round, furry heads looking up at me from the water's surface.  They were otters!  As I thought about the peace of the pond waters, it occurred to me that a still pond is perfectly flat.  It is also dependably level.  Further, it's shiny surface reflects light almost as brilliantly as the source.  Perhaps the appeal of still waters comes from the parallels to our Lord (peaceful, dependably level, and full of light).  I think we like to be close to something that captures these qualities of our Heavenly Father.
Psalm 23:2-3 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;  He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul;
Rob Smith

Saturday, August 2, 2008

please wait for update

Tonight I was helping my Mom set up her new laptop computer.  I'm very proud of this lady in her mid 80's and her willingness to take on computer technology and the internet.  Unfortunately I wasn't totally successful at getting her online...we'll try again tomorrow.  But during the process of starting up the new machine, we waited during several applications as they were loaded and as the new computer was made ready for use.  It struck me as we tried to patiently wait for all the "downloads" to complete that something like this is happening now as we live out our earthly days.  In a sense there is a lifetime process of "downloading" that is taking place in our lives as spiritual paths are built into our frame.  Perhaps we will appreciate, from the heavenly perspective, how the Lord used every circumstance, crisis and relationship during our days in the skin to prepare us for use later, in the next dimension.  Just as we must patiently wait for the new computer to be programmed for use, so we walk in patience now as we look to be of greater use during this life and in the life to come!
1 Corinthians 6:2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? 4 If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge?
Rob Smith

Friday, August 1, 2008

the first choice

I have a friend in church who owns a small business.  His company provides repairs to homes damaged by fires and flooding, or any kind of water damage.  My own daughter used his company when they had damage from a washing machine that discharged water in the wrong manner.  A few days ago my work associate and I were driving to meet clients in Northern Virginia.  I spied a commercial van that was in the same business and was struck with their slogan: "First choice in cleansing and restoration"  They may well be the first choice in that area for smoke, fire and water repairs but I think you know who the real "First choice" is for cleansing and restoration.  I suppose all of us are in need of cleansing from the sin damage we bear and to be restored to our Lord.  Certainly, Jesus is the real first choice (and only choice).  He really has no competition for that title...and He still makes house calls!
Mark 8:25 Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly.
Rob Smith