Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Heaven help us

Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Without the bill, Ryan added, "the worst is yet to come."

"We're in this moment, and if we fail to do the right thing, Heaven help us." he said.


I was struck by the quote above spotted on the internet yesterday.  A fascinating thing is happening right now.  There is a sense of national crisis...problems that seem to touch every person and every home in our land.  Politicians, media and just about every American is spending at least part of their day thinking about the same issue.  The problem seems complicated and serious.  There are concerns that our quality of life, and perhaps even our basic needs, could be affected.  We need an answer and we seem to be crying out for help.  Representative Ryan felt desperate enought to invoke "Heaven" in the quote above.  It's interesting that Heaven is characterized as a safety net rather than a source of wisdom and solutions.  The current financial crisis reminds me of the always-present sin crisis.  This facet of human nature that is common to all, affects our quality of life...indeed the defference maker between eternal life and death.  You would think our people, media and leaders would be interested in a sin solution even more than a "subprime loan" solution.   I wish our people would cry out as much for help with this issue as we are for the financial ills we have...but I suspect we'll need to reach a point where we need Heaven as the first choice rather than the last resort before that occurs.


1 Peter 2:4-8 (The Message Version) Welcome to the living Stone, the source of life. The workmen took one look and threw it out; God set it in the place of honor. Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which you'll serve as holy priests offering Christ-approved lives up to God.



Rob Smith


Monday, September 29, 2008

turned upside down

NEW YORK (Reuters) - David Blaine's "Dive of Death" wasn't, after all -- the magician and showman ended up alive on Wednesday night following his 60-hour stunt of hanging upside down in Central Park. Blaine, 35, had dangled from a cable attached to a large scaffold structure built high over the park's Wollman Rink since Monday, except for regular breaks for water and medical checks during which he was upright for periods of a few to several minutes each.
It's remarkable how captivated we are by stunts that challenge perfectly healthy lifestyles.  The dramatic performer, David Blaine, has buried himself underground, inserted himself in a block of ice and stood 90 feet in the air on a 2 foot wide platform for days to entertain and amaze.  But his most recent display of hanging upside down for 2 1/2 days really spoke to me.  I suppose the premise was that living upside down over an extended time was a death defying escapade.  However, I think that most of us pull off a similar feat for much longer periods.  Rather than live "right side up" we often prefer to allow the lower side of our fallen nature to dominate and cause us to walk through our days upside down.  The results are all around as we note countless failed marriages where individuals put self above family, failed businesses where owners put greed above honesty, failed individual lives that place the pleasing of unhealthy desires above self discipline.  It seems that "living upside down" is more of a normal occurrence in human life than a rare one.  Perhaps that's because too few of us are looking up and too many are looking down.
Romans 7:23-25 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
Rob Smith

Saturday, September 27, 2008

as the sun passes

It is good to reflect on the brevity of our lives and the eternity of our God.  Like looking through the wrong end of a telescope, sometimes I think we have a way of minimizing God when we should be magnifying Him.  We carry this sense that "just as it has been, so it will be" from one day to the next.  We ought to cherish the new day as a pearl being placed on the eternal string of jewels our Lord is fashioning as an everlasting display of His glory.  This morning I realized my life is like a single day.  The sun, which provides light from generation to generation, also lights my everyday.  And the Lord who created light and reigns across generations also lights my inner person each day, as well.  But just as the day has a dawn and a dusk, my life under the sun does too.  One measure of the wonder of God is that He breaks through into each day, as much as He has since the first day.  While I live under the sun....this is the greatest time of challenge to worship Him.  When I'm past the dominion of the sun and in presence of the Son my worship will be certain.  But now I must choose Him, as He has chosen to shine into my life so faithfully.  Please join me in looking up... bowing down..., and adoring our faithful God!
2 Corinthians 4: 6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Rob Smith

Friday, September 26, 2008

death row

Imagine yourself on death row.  You've been there for eight years and you've exhausted nearly all your appeal opportunities.  You were placed at the murder by eyewitnesses but they must have confused you with someone else because you weren't there...you just couldn't prove where you were with your own witnesses.  Your future has compressed to a few days, or possibly weeks.  Your opportunities in life seem gone.  Your enjoyment of life has evaporated.  Your relationships have come down to a few dedicated friends and family members.  Life has become consumed with death.    But then the real murderer surfaces.  Unhinged by the prospect of an innocent man taking his punishment he steps forward, confesses and reveals details of the crime that only the killer could have known.  You are declared innocent and walk out the prison door.  How will you look at life from that day on?
We all have been on death row and the smell of death has permeated every aspect of our lives.  Ahead of us lies only judgment and we truly are guilty.  We may try to shove death into the recesses of our minds...but it is always there.  But then appears Jesus to accept our penalty, despite His innocence.  We grasp the meaning of this freedom and walk out this prison door.  How shall we look at life from this day on?
Hebrews 2:14-15 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
Rob Smith

Thursday, September 25, 2008

grapes and wine

I was standing in the sandwich shop near my workplace the other day.  They also sell wine there and have a large inventory.  There are bottles of wine from around the world in the store.  While the inventory of wine is constantly changing, I suspect that some of the bottles have been there for some time.  I guess that's one nice thing about a wine inventory.  It doesn't spoil due to extended shelf time.  It occurred to me that something has to happen to the grapes to extend their lives.  You can't leave a bunch of grapes on the shelf very long before they shrivel and spoil and attract insects.  But there is a process by which the grape juice is transformed and has a built-in preservation due to the chemical change of fermentation.  Interestingly, the key to grapes becoming wine is a third party...yeast.  Yeast is a simple fungus that occurs naturally around grapevines.  It is the catalyst for the dramatic chemical changes that convert the temporary quality of grape juice to the more permanent qualities of wine.  Chemically, wine is very different from grape juice.  The yeast works to convert the sugars through a series of transforming chemical reactions into alcohol and, of course, this has a great effect on the taste and impact to our bodies.  The change is so great that the liquid needed a name change from juice to wine.
Jesus is something like the yeast.  He is all around us and is able to act on us, as we allow Him, to transform our nature from something temporary to something permanent.  And just as the flavor of every bottle of wine is unique so will you be!
Luke 22:17-18Taking the cup, he blessed it, then said, "Take this and pass it among you. As for me, I'll not drink wine again until the kingdom of God arrives."
Rob Smith

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

quantitative vs. qualitative

I remember reading many case studies of companies and their problems when studying for a masters degree in business.  Invariably the problems fell into two basic types: qualitative and quantitative.  Qualitative issues turned on things like product selection, corporate culture, and organizational structure.  Quantitative issues pertained to things like pricing, cost management, and financing.  It seems to me, in light of recent economic crises, that we have allowed the quantitative dimensions to override some very important qualitative ones.  The drive for ever-increasing profits, for numbers that only show growth year over year and for financial gain have become our primary yardstick for measuring success.  The problem when quantitative measures trump qualitative ones is that there is no satisfaction and, invariably, corruption consumes the environment.  We forget that the numbers side of life should serve the values, or qualitative, side of life.  Honor, honesty, nobility and kindness are the dimensions within which numbers and dollars can thrive within healthy bounds.  As those who breathe the air of Heaven and rely on a living God, we know that the wellbeing of our nearest neighbor and our attitude toward those we walk among daily is the surest measure of a life well-lived.
Proverbs 18:11-12 (The Message version) The rich think their wealth protects them;  they imagine themselves safe behind it.  Pride first, then the crash, but humility is precursor to honor.
Rob Smith

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

guarding the investment

1 Samuel 12:22 For the LORD will not forsake His people, for His great name's sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you His people.
We have faced, and are facing, difficult financial times.  When markets roll like 30 foot ocean waves, causing our personal financial ships to toss and giving investors financial seasickness we get a good read on just how protective folks are for their hard-earned savings.  This is not a time when people are apathetic about their investments and it certainly isn't a time when people spend frivolously.  We care very much, and are very protective of the things we are deeply invested in.  The scripture above reminds me this morning that the Lord has a similar attitude toward us.  He has gone to great lengths to reclaim his wayward creation and He has a great deal invested in the salvation and preservation of His people.  It occurs to me that He isn't likely to walk away from those He's saved and He isn't likely to give up on us when we go through difficulty as we negotiate the ocean waves of daily living.
Rob Smith

Monday, September 22, 2008

fresh air

I am so happy that autumn is starting to make an entrance.  We have such serious humidity here in Tidewater Virginia during our long summer that when the lower humidity and cooler temperatures show up, we are more than ready to enjoy them.  It seems like the quality of air is fresher and it's almost like we're experiencing the crisp feeling of fall for the first time.  I'm reminded this morning that God's Word is also fresh air.  As we are currently working our way through the book of Genesis and are visiting the old story of temptation, conflict and sin we are also seeing new insights into God's "Urgent Care" approach to restore His creation.  We have been touched with the immediacy of God's communication and His plan to help men look in so they'll look up.  We have seen that Satan's strategies to twist God's words and play on our tendency to put ourselves in the center haven't changed one bit since the Garden of Eden.  We were moved to see how Eve didn't receive her name as "the mother of all living" until after the sin crisis appeared.   We feel the fresh air of God's Word.  Like the season of autumn, His Word is not new but it brings the cleansing, brisk air of truth, which is so refreshing!
Psalm 119:14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
         As much as in all riches.
 15 I will meditate on Your precepts,
         And contemplate Your ways.
Rob Smith

Saturday, September 20, 2008

live long or live well

I noticed that the world's oldest living man just turned 113.  It seems when stories are written about folks who reach such advanced ages they always talk about what they eat and what they attribute their longevity to.  In this case, Tomoji Tanabe of Japan favors vegetables, but he likes shrimp and drinks milk every day.  I wonder what the quality of life is, say from age 95 to age 113?  Certainly I was impressed that Mr. Tanabe wants to live another 10 years.  If I were to double my current lifespan I'd be close to Mr. Tanabe's age.  I don't really expect to live another 56 years and I don't particularly want to go quite that long.  But sometimes I think the focus is off a bit.  Regardless of how long we live, we have the opportunity to have a quality day each day.  Good health and proper nutrition may well lead to a long lifespan, but more importantly these habits can enhance our "todays".  For some reason our minds often tend to run to the future or lag behind in the past.  I was also intrigued to read that, until recently, Mr. Tanabe kept a daily diary.  It seems that he had long savored the daily experience of living.  I suppose the thought I'm entertaining is the blessing we have of extracting just as much life as we possibly can today...and leave the number of todays up to the One who has them numbered already.
Psalm 139:16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
       All the days ordained for me
       were written in your book
       before one of them came to be.
 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
       How vast is the sum of them!
Rob Smith

Friday, September 19, 2008

a relaxed mind

Night before last my wife Shirley came home from shopping and declared that she couldn't find her work keys.  She had gone from her job to the stores and had left the keys somewhere.  We combed every inch of the car.  She looked through her pockets and purse multiple times.  She called the hospital where she works and the store where she'd tried on clothes to see if the keys were there.  We had no luck locating the keys and, no matter how hard she thought, she couldn't solve the mystery.  Then an amazing thing happened.  During the night she awoke suddenly and remembered:  the keys had been left in a lab coat (she's a nurse) and left in a locker at work.  I thought it fascinating that the answer didn't come when we were working hard to find it.  The answer came when her mind was at its most relaxed state.  It reminded me of the need we have to spend part of each day in a relaxed frame of mind and listening to the Lord.  A vital aspect of our walk with Him is to simply listen.  The answers may come at those times rather than when we are focused on our issues and stressed about our life problems.
Hebrews 4: 8-11 (The Message version) And so this is still a live promise. It wasn't canceled at the time of Joshua; otherwise, God wouldn't keep renewing the appointment for "today." The promise of "arrival" and "rest" is still there for God's people. God himself is at rest. And at the end of the journey we'll surely rest with God. So let's keep at it and eventually arrive at the place of rest, not drop out through some sort of disobedience.
Rob Smith

Thursday, September 18, 2008

personal Genesis

We're reading Genesis and just covered the creation account in the first few chapters.  It hardly seems a day goes by that you don't hear about the creation vs. evolution controversy.  There is a strong groundswell of support to teach creation alongside evolution in school systems.  Evolutionists seem to enjoy mocking those who line up with the biblical account.  The thought occurs this morning that I probably would be squarely in the camp of a pure evolutionary approach if I hadn't had my own personal Genesis about 36 years ago.  It is because the living God found me, and I experienced faith awakened, that I learned to trust God's Word.  It is because His Word pierced my soul and heart and then my mind that I met His Holy Spirit.  Since that day I have had the ultimate of confidence in the Bible.  I discovered the one who had knowledge of me and that reconstructed my concept of my knowledge of all else.  After finding the Lord by trusting in Jesus' redemptive work the Bible no longer had to prove itself as true.  Its truth was established when it answered the greatest question and met the greatest need of my life (Who am I and Will anyone help me?).  I believe that before most people will accept the creation account of the Bible they must first become new creations themselves, because that kind of Genesis leads to Revelation.
John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

everyman's frontier

Each day we venture into new territory...not as wild as Alaska, perhaps, but none of us has ever been the age we are today, at the current stage of living we find ourselves.  I used to think that "old folks" had it all together because they'd weathered all of life's storms and seemed to have made it through successfully.  I now know, as I am becoming one of those older folks, that every day presents far more "unknown and new" than "old and familiar".  In a very real sense we have never been to the place we find ourselves each day.  From the changing conditions of our own bodies, to the dynamics of change in relationships with children, grandchildren and friends, who are also changing, we live in a dynamic process.  I think it is because of the constant quality of change and uncertainty that we need to be lashed securely to the Rock of Ages.  Secure with Jesus, I am comfortable to live in life's frontier of change.
Psalm 59:16 But I will sing of Your power;
         Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning;
         For You have been my defense
         And refuge in the day of my trouble.
Rob Smith

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


With yesterday's news of two financial giants crumbling (Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch) I thought of how interconnected our economy is.  One number, the interest rate, affects how much people and companies can borrow.  When that number is a small one, a lot of borrowing is encouraged.  Borrowing allows people to acquire things they wouldn't otherwise be able to afford and for companies to expand without having the assets to do so, otherwise.  That one number plays right into our natural tendency towards greed.  I thought about how widespread the impact is from that one number and how tightly interconnected we all are economically.  We are a large world, but in many ways we are small and tightly linked.  Our decisions and actions personally and corporately echo across the world.  On the flip side of this concept, our lives make a positive difference around the world as well.  One life positively influencing another changes our entire world and reverberates geographically and forward across time.  Just as one number leverages our economy, so one life can leverage great change.  Of course, Jesus is the greatest example of this as His One life continues to bring hope to generation after generation.
Hebrews 11:4 By an act of faith, Abel brought a better sacrifice to God than Cain. It was what he believed, not what he brought, that made the difference. That's what God noticed and approved as righteous. After all these centuries, that belief continues to catch our notice.
Rob Smith

Monday, September 15, 2008

rescue operation

"Rescue crews were mounting a door-to-door search of homes in Galveston and other coastal towns, local officials said Sunday.

'There is not a square foot that will not be searched,' Galveston City Manager Steven LeBlanc said."
Shortly after Hurricane Ike slammed into the Galveston area of Texas early Saturday morning rescue crews from the Coast Guard and National Guard have been actively looking for some of the 20,000 folks estimated to have remained in their homes through the storm.  Interestingly, relatively few have been spotted from the air and it looks like they may have hunkered down in their homes to ride out the storm.  I appreciate the proactive effort that authorities are making to find and to save people.  This morning I'm reminded that, as believers, we're part of the rescue team that God has put together to save folks from Hurricane Life.  I'm reminded that I wasn't just saved to be safe personally...I was saved to help others also find safety in the Lord.  A passage in Acts caught my eye where Jesus is speaking to Paul during his conversion:   Acts 26:17-18 'I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you,  to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.'
I have been saved to help others find safety in the Lord.  Some have no interest in being rescued, but I suspect others will reach up with eager arms to be lifted from the debris.
Rob Smith

Sunday, September 14, 2008

at the speed of life

We are a fast-moving people and we are constantly trying to move faster.  I, myself, enjoy driving my little roadster with the top down on back country roads (hopefully not too fast!).  We like fast cars, fast planes, fast decisions and fast food.  We move on the fast track if at all possible and we prefer to walk through airports on floors that are already moving so we won't miss a connection to our next destination in a life where we hardly have time to catch a breath or read the comics on Sunday.  I had a chance to put my little 8 foot kayak in Richardson's Mill Pond a few times this weekend.  It's a small body of water that is somewhere between a pond and a lake in size.  I have seen herons, eagles and geese surrounding the pond and longed for the chance to get out there among them in the kayak.  You can't move very fast in a kayak, but you do move quietly.  Your speed is something like the speed of a relaxed duck.  But because it is quiet and slow I was able to get fairly close to some of the wildlife before they became nervous and flew away or slipped into the water.  I was so low to the water that I noticed the heads of turtles poking above the surface ahead of my, curious at this awkward intruder in their midst.  The overall sensation was very peaceful as I felt a "oneness" with God's creation on that pond.  It reminded me that even though the speed of light is the usual measure for moving fast, I'd rather travel a little slower, "at the speed of life".
Psalm 116:9 I will walk before the LORD In the land of the living.
Rob Smith

Saturday, September 13, 2008

tenderly with freedom

The choir is practicing some great music for upcoming Sunday services.  One of my favorites is called "Bow the Knee".  It speaks majestically and warmly of our need to trust God even when we don't understand what's happening in our lives.  As we sang in practice, I noticed the composer had three words written above the beginning of the music: "tenderly with freedom" to convey the kind of feeling we should inject as we sing.  I was struck with the parallel to our Lord and His manner as well as his mission in our lives.  Our Heavenly Father and His Son are obviously mighty but they are also tender.  We sometimes think we are strong but we are fragile and so we need His strength to uphold us and we also need his sensitive touch to protect and gently lead us.  It is because we are secure in His strength and His tender hands that we are free to know and love Him.  Our freedom leads us to gratitude and we find ourselves eager to "Bow the Knee".
Job 14:7 For there is hope for a tree,
      If it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
      And that its tender shoots will not cease.
Rob Smith

Friday, September 12, 2008

our reasonable God

Often, folks who seek to criticize followers of God do so with arguments suggesting religion to be akin to superstition.  Believers are thought to have swapped their intellect for irrational traditions and trust in an invisible and distant "Force".  This criticism may be valid for some who have not come to know the living God, but this morning I was struck with the supreme logic and rationality of our Heavenly Father.  Our greatest root problem is an invisible one...we know it as sin.  We needed the help of the invisible God to solve an invisible problem that shows up visibly every day.  We tend to think of ourselves more as natural creatures than as spiritual ones, but our core is spiritual and we need spiritual solutions.  There is no think-tank or breakthrough in scientific research that will unravel sin.  The United Nations Security Council doesn't exist to solve the sin problem...it exists because of the sin problem.  I can think of no more rational decision a person can make than to acknowledge their spiritual reality, their spiritual inadequacy and their need for the only spiritual solution...finding and trusting God, who is spirit and truth.
Isaiah 1:18 " Come now, and let us reason together,"
      Says the LORD,

      " Though your sins are like scarlet,
      They shall be as white as snow;
      Though they are red like crimson,
      They shall be as wool.
Rob Smith

Thursday, September 11, 2008

bad moods

Where do bad moods come from?  Sometimes you find yourselves with a gloomy outlook and don't know specifically why.  That's how I felt yesterday.  So I took inventory of the various issues and circumstances of my day.  After considering the reality of my day I realized there was no reason to have a bad mood...so I took my bad mood and put it on a shelf, high and out of reach.  I am struck with the idea that we can purpose to be joyful.  Certainly we do have problems, issues and circumstances that can be difficult.  But I believe it is possible to elevate and see them from a better perspective and it is also necessary to be joyful in light of the great work that has been done...and is being done...within our lives by the living God.  I suppose that is why we need a command from our Lord to "be full of joy" or to rejoice...it just isn't always the natural thing to do!
Psalm 118:24 This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
Rob Smith

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

our closest relationship

Isaiah 59:12 For our transgressions are multiplied before You,
      And our sins testify against us;
      For our transgressions are with us,
      And as for our iniquities, we know them
Nearer than any relationship with others is the relationship we have with ourselves.  This morning the passage above reminded me that when I wander from the Lord and when I sin I choose to have a relationship that constantly carries the weight of that load.  There is some part of my heart and mind that never loses awareness of the separation from the Lord.  We may have freedom to choose our path and others may not be aware when our choices are poor...but we know and we cannot escape the twisted feeling inside that results from those choices.  I am struck with the thought that there is no "neutral" walk.  We walk in line and in alignment with our Lord, or we walk our own way.  What peace we have in our relationship with ourselves when our relationship with our Lord is right!
Rob Smith

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Psalm 24:16 For a righteous man may fall seven times
      And rise again,
Psalm 37:24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
         For the LORD upholds him with His hand.
The world often has a problem with Christians because of their hypocrisy.  Christians purport to trust in a living God and commit to doing what is right.  Christians subscribe to the idea that the wellbeing of others is more important than their own.  Christians commit to honesty in all endeavors, within and without their homes.  Christians spend a lot of time with other Christians worshiping their God.  Yet Christians still fall.  The amazing paradox, to me, is that the Lord allowed for that.  The Christian is declared righteous because of the work of another on the Cross.  And just as a parent inevitably must clean up and straighten up a child who has transgressed a household rule, the Lord has provided for our inevitable failures.  Just as we did not achieve a right-standing with our God by our merits, so we cannot stay true in our own strength.  But like the righteous man of Psalm 24 and 37, we must allow the Lord to hold us up and raise us up.  Perhaps each time we fall and then discover we've not been abandoned by our heavenly father our fragile trust and incomplete maturity actually advance...as we discover the One who absolutely never falls or fails.
Rob Smith

Monday, September 8, 2008

the acorn

My grandson, Peter, found an acorn near our house yesterday.  It was young and green (like him)!  I researched acorns and learned some interesting background about them.  Acorns are a major source of food, not only for squirrels but for many animals.  Birds like woodpeckers and blue jays and larger mammals like bears and deer eat them.  In fact, in autumn, acorns make up about 25% of the deer diet (locally they supplement that with some of the tasty plants in our own yards!).  Acorns actually take a while to mature...between 6 and 24 months.  There are people groups that eat acorns as well.  It turns out that are rich in fats, proteins and minerals.  The Koreans make acorn jelly and acorn noodles, for example.  But the most fascinating fact about acorns to me is how they are dispersed to grow into new oak trees.  You see, the acorn is a relatively heavy seed and it falls directly beneath its parent oak tree.  This isn't an ideal location for a new tree to grow because it would be too much in the shade and competing root structure of the parent.  It needs some help to be carried a little farther away.  This is where the squirrels come in.  They store acorns in various "caches" some distance from the original tree, buried in the ground.  They generally remember where they've left them, but occasionally forget.  Fortunately enough of these displaced acorns are left uneaten to germinate and grow into new oak trees.  This reminds me of the Gospel.  The Gospel is, at the same time, great food for living and a wonderful seed that brings new life.  However, the Gospel of Jesus needs to be carried some distance from each one who already has "germinated".  All the "Oak trees" of the Lord aren't intended to be concentrated in one place.  We who have found the Gospel to be the best food for life should also be carrying this precious seed to new locations as a natural part of our spiritual lives.
Genesis 1:11 Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth"; and it was so.
Matthew 13:37-38 He answered and said to them: "He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one.
Rob Smith

Sunday, September 7, 2008

heart health

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in our country today.  It claims almost one million lives annually and there are about 16 million Americans still living who have histories of heart attacks or severe heart pain.  73 million of us have high blood pressure and 6 million of us have strokes each year.  What a marvelous organ the human heart is.  It weighs about one pound, beats about 2.5 billion times over a 70 year span and is strong enough to shoot blood 30 feet from an open blood vessel.  One of the amazing things about the heart, to me, is that every beat of the heart accomplishes two things:   it moves oxygen-rich blood out to feed the body and it also moves oxygen-poor blood to the lungs to be cleaned and restored.  It reminds me of the importance of maintaining our spiritual hearts, as well.  We are called to spiritual heartbeats that continually move the oxygen of God's Spirit to our souls while we are also processing the unclean thoughts, actions and attitudes that compromise the quality of our relationship with God.  And we need to watch what we eat and exercise properly to maintain our physical hearts while we need to watch our spiritual diets and exercise, as well.  We can certainly suffer spiritual heart attacks from clogged relationship arteries.  I suppose it would be hard to overemphasize the importance of good heart health on the physical and spiritual level!
Hebrews 10:21-23 and having a High Priest over the house of God,  let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
Rob Smith

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Run through the tape

Watching the Olympics last month I noticed that one of the things that seemed to separate the top athletes from the second place finishers was the way they approached and hit the finish line.  Whether it was in the swimming pool and the end was the final wall, or whether it was the line on the track that marked completion of a foot race or whether it was the overhead bar that signalled the finish of the crew (rowing) competition.  It seemed that generally the athletes that ran, swam or rowed through the finish at full speed won.  A few exceptionally gifted sportsmen were able to let up before the finish and still win, but they could have set greater records if they'd run through the tape.  It reminded me of our lives.  We tend to think of the end of our physical lives as the finish tape.  As we approach that end in our senior years we may tend to slow because we're focused on that line.  We don't know exactly when we'll hit the finish, but we may sense it's fairly close.  As believers in Jesus and citizens of Heaven I am challenged to rethink the scope of my personal race.  If I picture the completion as occurring in Heaven rather than earth I will tend to run through the tape.  If I picture the completion as occurring here, I will tend to let up.  This morning I am excited about pushing back the finish line deep into the eternal dimension so that I can run hard through the earthly finish!
Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Friday, September 5, 2008

growing up

We are enjoying our two wonderful grandchildren, Peter and Caroline.  They are full of energy, life and questions. Isn't it amazing to watch young children progress so rapidly.  They move from helpless infants to adventurous toddlers almost overnight.  The new world they've been placed in is full of curiosities and they are hungry to understand.  Minds, bodies, hearts and emotions are growing up.  Peter was proud to show me last night that he's just transitioned from a crib to a "big boy bed".  It made me think of how the Lord must take joy as He watches us grow up, as well.  He is, after all, the proud parent and we are the children.  We eagerly watch and assist as our children eventually grow to adulthood...to mature and find purpose.  And so our Lord watches and assists as we mature spiritually.  There is great joy in being with children and there is even greater joy to see the promise of childhood fulfilled.  It is the process of life!
Ephesians 4:14-16 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Rob Smith

Thursday, September 4, 2008

the rest of the story

There are many unknowns about the Lord.  There are many questions we'd like answers to.  There are many things about this life that we just don't understand.  But then each of us is a relative newcomer to eternity and our perspective is limited to our knowledge, experience and our nature.  I sometimes think that our perspective is like that of a character in a novel.  Within our personal novels, we are the central figures and we assume that our books will have happy endings.  And as we live out our personal stories it's easy for us to think that we are more than a character...we think we are writing the story too!  And then we wonder why our stories don't play out the way we'd have written the script.  Fortunately we have an opportunity to meet the actual author. We find that we are part of a much greater book.  Chapter one of this book was written long ago and we are one of many characters.  I suppose many of our unanswered questions are due to the limits of the scenery and circumstances of the current chapter we're in.  At some point, the Lord will move us on to the next chapter and our perspective will broaden.  We're grateful that the author has introduced Himself to us and we are beginning to find out that His story is even more interesting than our own.
John 13:7 Jesus answered and said to him, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this."
Rob Smith

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

in the shadow of the mountain

There is no doubt that a mountain is impressive.  If you approach a mountain, or a mountain range, from the flat lands you are progressively aware of the presence of their majesty.  I'm sure that much of that impression comes from living daily in the flat lands, where sky, trees and fields surround.  This morning it occurred to me that I live in the shadow of a mountain continually, and so I sometimes do not even see the mountain.  The Lord is my mountain and He rises powerfully all around my life.  There is nothing I can set my eyes on that doesn't have its origin with Him and there is no inner function of my mind or body that doesn't have its authorship with Him.  But somehow I can become dulled to the presence of the mountain that is the Lord.  I can walk past the mountain without looking up at its peak.  I can scale the sides of the mountain and feel only fatigue rather than glory in the view from its elevation.  It helps me to think of the Lord as the mountain I live by daily.  If I can heighten my awareness of that wonderful mountain I will be reminded of the Lord's continual presence and power.  One of the beauties of a high mountain, rising up from the flat land, is its visibility from all around the base and from quite a distance.  And so we all can look up to the mountain of the Lord, as He looks down and sees us all as well.
Micah 4:1 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
      That the mountain of the LORD's house
      Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
      And shall be exalted above the hills;
      And peoples shall flow to it.
Rob Smith

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

the best dance

I remember the excruciating conflict of junior high dances.  Being painfully shy of girls but wanting to dance with one I remember wrestling with two anticipations: a delightful experience and possible rejection.  It took a lot of courage to approach a girl and ask for a dance (and there actually was rejection a few times!!).  But this morning I was thinking about our dance with the Lord.  We may draw back from approaching Him, knowing we are full of faults.  But somehow we know that only He can deal with those faults and only He can provide the joy life was intended to hold.  So, with some trepidation, we cross the dance floor and ask Him to come into our lives....and find we are not rejected!  The dance begins.  We find that He has been waiting for us to invite Him and He has much to show us.  He restores us and takes the guilt from us and then, as we dance, He gives us peace.  Sometimes we let the dance end and walk away from Him...but He remains on the floor and beckons us to resume. 
He has more for us ...purpose ...truth ...meaning ...completeness.  Ultimately, we find the greatest joy as we allow Him to lead the dance.  We find, over time, that He is the one who planned the dance and who has invited us to come.  And He waits on the dance floor every day for new and old partners, alike.
Jeremiah 31:13 " Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance,
      And the young men and the old, together;
      For I will turn their mourning to joy,
      Will comfort them,
      And make them rejoice rather than sorrow.
Rob Smith

Monday, September 1, 2008

motorcycle gang

Yesterday we enjoyed a visit to Virginia Beach to connect with friends.  During the trip we saw a few groups of motorcyclists buzzing by.  One pair of cyclists especially caught my eye.  They wore sleeveless leather vests (with "Maryland Mongols" in script on the back) to display their large biceps covered in tattoos.  They each were built like middle-aged wrestlers and they roared past on their Harleys.  We also saw some larger groups, including one with reflective tape on their backs in the form of a cross!  I thought about cycling and how it epitomizes a feeling of freedom on the road....nothing but the roar of the engine, the wind blowing by and two wheels to carry the rider on his personal chariot.  But there is something about the experience that causes these fiercely free folks to band together and cycle in clusters.  They like being independent and they like being independent with others who are independent.  I think fellowship is something like that as believers in Christ.  We like the freedom that comes with having Christ in our lives and we like being around others who also share that freedom.  In fact, a lot of the joy of the Christian life is the "being together" part.  Truly we have been set free to share that freedom with others!
1 John1:2-4 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—  that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.  And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.
blessings (see you on the road!)
Rob Smith