Saturday, February 28, 2009

drink of choice

Sitting in the barber chair today I overheard a few people discussing their "drink of choice".  They were comparing different kinds of liquor.  I began to think about alcohol and what it is that attracts us to it.  (apart from the taste or sociability aspects).  Of course low levels of blood alcohol concentration can be pleasurable, even beneficial, at times.  (Please understand: I don't intend to disparage all drinking with these observations)  However, higher concentrations turn dangerous and can shut down body functions completely. 
But what really intrigues me is that with almost any degree of alcohol in our bloodstream our minds and nervous systems are affected and so is our "in-look" and our "out-look".   We can take a detour under the influence...away from our normal actions and reactions.  We can hide, reduce inhibitions, and escape reality.   Serious drinkers may actually be looking to make an alteration to their lives. 
I think that they're right!  Most of us need some major alterations.  Sometimes the choice may come down to chemistry or Christ.
Ephesians 5:18(The Message version) Don't drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him.
Rob Smith

when the tide goes out

When the tide goes out the rocks are exposed.  Years ago our family vacationed on Cape Cod, where my Aunt and Uncle had a summer place.  We especially enjoyed swimming on the bay side of the Cape, where the water was much warmer and calmer than the ocean side.  It was fascinating to walk out onto the wet sand of the bay when the tide pulled the water back.  You could reach down and pull clams right out of the ground.  A few hours later the water would be back, several feet deep in the same spot.  When the tide ran out it also exposed large rocks (taller than a man) that you weren't aware of until low tide.  The recent financial crisis in our country is like a low tide that has exposed some rocks of corruption that might have otherwise gone undetected.  The insurance giant A.I.G.(American International Group) was one of the first big firms to be swamped by the subprime credit crisis.  It was also the beneficiary of $150 billion of government "bailout" money.  This economic disaster has exposed corruption high up in the company.  One of the vice presidents was found guilty on 16 charges.  He was found guilty of conspiracy, securities fraud, making false statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission, and mail fraud.  He was sentenced to 4 years in prison and a $200,000 fine.  One wonders if this would ever have been discovered if the good times had continued to roll.  I couldn't help but think that this was a man that probably had most of what the world calls success: position, power, prestige and wealth.  Almost certainly the ambition for these things played a role in the corrupt practices that brought him down.  The Lord has a way of taking the tide out when we least expect it.
Proverbs 26:25 When he speaks kindly, do not believe him,
      For there are seven abominations in his heart;
       26 Though his hatred is covered by deceit,
      His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.
       27 Whoever digs a pit will fall into it,
      And he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him.
blessings (and I do recommend vacationing on Cape Cod!),
Rob Smith

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Perfection is within reach
               99 cents 
        Coca Cola "
The other day I spied an advertising poster taped to the glass of a gas station / convenience store near where I work.  It displayed the message above.  I have been a fan of Coca Cola for several decades.  It has been a faithful satisfier of my sweet tooth and its popularity has made it available everywhere.  There have been times when I suppose I was addicted to it...maybe the caffeine...maybe the flavor...maybe the fizz...I don't's a little bit of a mystery.  Maybe it's that secret formula that they use to make Coke.  I don't know the formula but that's not necessary to enjoy the drink.  I guess the only thing that has changed is the price.  Perfection was in reach for a dime when I was young.  But it is comforting to know that you can find perfection just about anywhere.  The price isn't a hindrance and when there is a longing for something sweet and thirst quenching I can rely on the words of the poster and reach for perfection.  Of course I thought about the real Perfection who comes in the form of a Person.  He also is within reach.  The price is considerably more than 99 cents, but He's got the price covered too.  Coke used to advertise itself as "the real thing".  Jesus is the "real one" who is sweeter, more thirst quenching, more mysterious and more available (and certainly more perfect) than even Coca Cola.
Isaiah 58:11
      The LORD will guide you continually,
      And satisfy your soul in drought,
      And strengthen your bones;
      You shall be like a watered garden,
      And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

beyond time

It occurred to me tonight why there is no time in eternity...why there is no beginning and no end to eternal life.  During our time on earth we are chained to time.  Time limits our days, shapes our careers, makes parents out of children and provides opportunities for generation after generation to take a stand in the sun.  Many things compete for our attention while we live in a place where time rules.  But God fashioned a place where time no longer has dominion.  Only in a place where there is no time can each of us have unlimited opportunity to be directly in the presence of the Lord.  Without distraction we can worship, wonder and wait before Him.  In a place beyond time there is no rush and there is no line waiting to see the King.
1 Corinthians 15:45-49 We follow this sequence in Scripture: The First Adam received life, the Last Adam is a life-giving Spirit. Physical life comes first, then spiritual—a firm base shaped from the earth, a final completion coming out of heaven. The First Man was made out of earth, and people since then are earthy; the Second Man was made out of heaven, and people now can be heavenly. In the same way that we've worked from our earthy origins, let's embrace our heavenly ends.

for you

Luke 22:19-20 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 
Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.
"For you" his body was given.  "For you" his blood was shed.  Our Lord told us to remember Him this way.  The thought occurred to me this morning that we generally use the cross as a symbol to remember Him.  Of course we cannot minimize the importance the cross played as the greatest stage for the greatest act of the greatest being ever to live.  Nevertheless, our Lord did not say to use the cross as the primary symbol to remember Him.  He said to remember the gift of His life via the simple elements of bread and wine...signifying His body and blood.  But I think the part that sometimes needs more emphasis is to also remember that this body and this blood were given "for you" and for me.  Truly this personalizes our memory and links us directly to Him.
Rob Smith

Monday, February 23, 2009


I was just emerging from the fog of sleep one recent morning.  It was a transitional stage of being partially asleep and beginning to wake.  This is a time of fantasy when dreams and reality seem to coexist happily.  This particular morning, for some reason, the word "breathless" seemed to float across my semi somnolent consciousness.  As I played with the word I saw that it had different facets of meaning.  An athlete is breathless when he has expended every ounce of energy to cross the finish line.  A mountain climber is frequently breathless as he struggles against the thin air and leans into a steep and impregnable surface to go where men were not designed to walk.  A prankster can stealthily sneak up behind a friend and startle them breathless with an unexpected touch or shout.  When a young man proposes marriage to the love of his life he is rendered breathless before asking, after asking, and upon receiving an affirmative response.  A newborn's first cry signals the beginning of breath and, of course, one test that a person has passed to the next dimension is when they no longer breathe.  God's Spirit is life-giving heavenly air.  We begin to breathe this air when the Lord first becomes real to us personally.  We are able to experience Him as we draw in truth as one draws oxygen into the lungs.  There are times when we are especially aware of His absolute love and are rendered breathless for a moment.  Why not draw in a lungful of Heaven right now and refresh the part of you that will begin breathing on earth and continue in the presence of the Lord.
Ezekiel 37:9-10 (The Message) He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath. Prophesy, son of man. Tell the breath, 'God, the Master, says, Come from the four winds. Come, breath. Breathe on these slain bodies. Breathe life!'"  So I prophesied, just as he commanded me. The breath entered them and they came alive!
Rob Smith

Thursday, February 19, 2009

going bananas

I was thinking about banana skins the other day.  I think it's great that the banana skin gives you time to change your mind about eating a banana.  You might even put one in your lunch bag and take it to work only to have second thoughts about eating the banana.  No can leave it on a shelf or in the bag for a few more days and still eat the fruit.  I did a little research on bananas and found that the flavor of tree-ripened bananas is far superior to the ones that ripen after being picked.  The only problem is that once a banana ripens naturally it only has a shelf life of about one week.  So to make bananas commercially viable they have to pick them early, keep them around 60 degrees while being shipped from faraway tropical sources and let them turn yellow once they are stacked in the produce section.  Interestingly, bananas that ripen on the vine don't turn yellow, they go from greenish to brownish.  You could go your whole life thinking that bananas were only so-so as a fruit because you never really tasted what a banana should taste like.  Sometimes I think that we allow ourselves to be "shipped out" for service before we ripen naturally.  We try to serve the Lord, with good intentions, but the effect doesn't seem to have the right richness or color.  I suppose we need to stay on the vine until the Master Gardener determines we're ready for distribution and consumption.  We also wear a skin to protect our tender core and to extend our usefulness for just the right length of time...not just a physical skin but the spiritual one that protects us like a shield from many problems.
(And here is one more important function of the banana, even after the fruit is eaten)
Psalm 37: 14-15 (The Message Version) 
   Bullies brandish their swords,
      pull back on their bows with a flourish.
   They're out to beat up on the harmless,
      or mug that nice man out walking his dog.
   A banana peel lands them flat on their faces—
      slapstick figures in a moral circus.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

generations to come

I'm really appreciating the Bible reading plan put out by our church this year. I'm especially enjoying my tour of the Old Testament.  One observation I've made about the first several books is that folks seemed to be aware of their legacy and their potential impact on future generations. 
Genesis 17:8 Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."
9 And God said to Abraham: "As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.
The promises of God, His covenant, was made for all the generations of Abraham. 
Exodus 12: 42 It is a night of solemn observance to the LORD for bringing them out of the land of Egypt. This is that night of the LORD, a solemn observance for all the children of Israel throughout their generations.
The works of God were meant to be remembered across all the generations.
Numbers 15: 23 all that the LORD has commanded you by the hand of Moses, from the day the LORD gave commandment and onward throughout your generations—
God intended that His instructions would be passed down to future generations.
We have God's Word on it...promises, works and instructions for living...and they are intended for all generations.  It makes me think about the need for the next generation to grasp God's reality and of the impact our lives can have in that process.  Can there be any greater legacy than that of the knowledge of our Lord?
Rob Smith

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"I will go"

Genesis 24:58 Then they called Rebekah and said to her, "Will you go with this man?" And she said, "I will go."
So this stranger from a far away land swings into your village with his thirsty camel.  You do the kind thing and offer him some water to drink and also water for the camel.  The next thing you know he's slipped gold jewelry on your arms and is asking about your family and if he can spend the night at your house.  If that isn't unusual enough, once you bring him home he starts into this fantastic story about his mission to find a wife for his master's son.  It turns out that the simple gesture of offering water to these desert wanderers was interpreted as a confirmation from God that you are the answer to his prayers....the one to become the wife he's seeking!  But something happens as the full story is revealed and you realize that what seemed to be a chance encounter was somehow planned by God..the whole chain of events shows you that there is a power greater than yourself.  Even your father and brother acknowledge that "the matter comes from the Lord". 
Just this morning you thought it would be another ordinary day in the village...chores...meals and familiar chatter with family and friends.  But by the end of the day a whole new course had been charted for your life.  You have a quiet confidence that you will be safe traveling with this foreigner to a distant land, far from your family.  You are willing...even eager to meet your husband.  You've not seen him yet but the amazing chain of events this day have convinced you that the end of the story will be as full of peace as it is full of mystery and grace.
Then they called Rebekah and said to her, "Will you go with this man?" And she said, "I will go."
Will you also go?
Rob Smith

Monday, February 16, 2009

"ripe old age"

The expression "ripe old age" comes straight from the Bible.  I spotted it this morning in Genesis 25:8 "Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people".  It struck me as curious that an old man would be considered ripe.  You would think that a young man, in the midst of vitality and health, with years of time left to accomplish and achieve would be ripe like fruit.  An old man seems more like fruit that has past it's useful time.  But then I remembered that the Bible often has a different take on tehings.  The word 'ripe' comes from an old European root that is similar to the word "reap".  A ripe fruit is one that is ready to be plucked and eaten.  It struck me that Abraham was ripe for the Lord's picking to continue his existence in Heaven.  All the seasons and years of our lives are useful, but we can be encouraged that we are only ripe when the Lord decides He is ready to pull us from the tree and take us to Heaven.
Rob Smith

Sunday, February 15, 2009


We're all familiar with the term "petrified".  I think we usually use it to describe a extreme case of fear.  My wife recently obtained a chunk of petrified wood that her parents had bought years ago in California.  It is a solid piece of rock that looks just as if it had been cut from a log recently.  It's interesting to consider what happens for a tree to become petrified.  Under certain conditions, silica attaches to the cellulose which is a major ingredient in the cell walls of wood.  After the silica crystallizes, it preseves the microscopic structure of the wood even after the cellulose is gone.*  In a sense, temporary living tissue has been replaced by rock and now the wood has become stone and can last indefinitely.  It makes me think how we trust in the Lord for our salvation and He takes up residence in our lives.  You might say that He is in the process of replacing our short-lived tissue with spiritual rock and long after our bodies are gone our lives will be preserved by the rock of ages.  You might say that to be petrified with Christ means to be delivered from the power of fear rather than paralyzed by it!
1 Peter 2:4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Rob Smith
*thanks to Wikipedia for


( from The term infrastructure has been used since 1927 to refer collectively to the roads, bridges, rail lines, and similar public works that are required for an industrial economy, or a portion of it, to function. The term also has had specific application to the permanent military installations necessary for the defense of a country.
These days we hear and read a lot about our country's infrastructure.  The multi-billion dollar economic stimulus package is expected to help rebuild our infrastructure and put thousands back to work.  I considered the makeup of our infrastructure and thought about the highways, bridges, overpasses and water/sewer systems as well as the power generation and distribution systems.  Taken together it forms the backbone of much of modern living.  We take for granted the ability to drive anywhere, obtain fresh water anywhere and plug into electricity anywhere.  Of course, it has taken decades...perhaps a few establish this infrastructure.  We now realize that we have not been adequately maintaining much of it and we have lost some degree of confidence in the safety of some bridges and many of our underground water and sewer lines are practically ancient and leaky.  Electricity will be all the more important as we seek greater energy independence in the years ahead.  We need to invest large amounts of money and labor to maintain, rebuild and expand our infrastructure.  The same may be true of our personal infrastructure.  We may have known the Savior personally for some time.  But our bridges and roads to Him may not have seen much maintenance...indeed some may not have been used for a while.  There may be some degree of sludge buildup in the lines that carry Heavenly water to us and the power lines that carry Heaven's energy to us may need a bit of tending.  Of course, the source of our needs in heaven is in perfect shape.  But, at our end, we may have taken the maintenance of our personal infrastructure a bit lightly...perhaps we need a little spiritual stimulation!
Acts 15:15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:
       16 ' After this I will return
      And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down;
      I will rebuild its ruins,
      And I will set it up;
       17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD,
      Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name,
      Says the LORD who does all these things.'
Rob Smith

Friday, February 13, 2009

let it out

Here's a quote I read on the bottom of a Kleenex Tissue box:
"Don't be bashful. Don't be shy.  It's time to unabashedly let it out!  So be messy.  Be imperfect. Be liberated and free. Be what you are. Be human. Blow it loud and blow it proud.  With KLEENEX Tissue." (thanks to Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc.)
I guess some things just go with the turf.  When you are a human being (as most folks are in my neighborhood) you can count on messes springing up...some of our own making, some of others' making, and some that just show up uninvited.  The KLEENEX folks have figured out that when the mess is in your sinuses and nose the best thing is to "blow it loud and blow it proud" and as a result you will be "liberated and free".  They want us to be honest and admit that we're imperfect.  I guess you might call this "tissue theology".  I guess it would be great if we could achieve freedom just by clearing our nasal cavities with a good blow.  And I'm sure that it's better to blow than to remain congested.  But real freedom is associated with a different part of our makeup in the regions that can't be seen.  To clear the mess that stuffs our spirit we need something more absorbent and durable than paper tissue.  We need to unload our mess with the Savior.  So next time you feel congestion of the spirit, don't wait until you are paralyzed with heartache and grief or guilt and regret.  "Don't be bashful. Don't be shy.  It's time to unabashedly let it out!  You may need to transfer the mess to the one who can really clean you up.
Hebrews 10:22 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. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
Rob Smith

Thursday, February 12, 2009

multiplied living

Yesterday I discussed the advantage of "whole hearted" following of the Lord rather than "leveraging" small amounts of our time, talent and treasure in hopes of a complete relationship.  Today it occurred to me that a better concept than "leveraging" is "multiplying" when it comes to our walk with the Lord.  Just as Jesus multiplied the bread and fishes and fed several thousand, so our Lord can multiply our lives into greater usefulness for Him than they could ever be, standing in our solitary strength.  I think we need to have a similar attitude to the boy of John chapter 6 who allowed his lunch to be used by Jesus.  There never seemed to be a concern that the boy's lunch would disappear or that the boy wouldn't eat.  And I don't think the boy kept a spare fish or crust of bread in is pocket.  Perhaps we can infer that when we completely yield our lives, the Lord can multiply Himself in amazing ways to satisfy the needs of others.  Perhaps this is part of what He meant when we were told that we must lose our lives in order to find them.
John 6:9  "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?"   10 Then Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.
Matthew 10:39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

leveraged living

One of the realities of debt is that it permits people to acquire things they otherwise couldn't afford.  So it can elevate their standard of living considerably beyond their actual means.  One of the realities of business in a free market is that through debt companies can make profits and expand on the back of money that really isn't theirs and the fortune of these enterprises is "leveraged" by borrowed money.  Now that we are in a credit crisis, many people are no longer able to service debts that have allowed them to live in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed and many businesses are failing because those struggling consumers aren't able to buy or to borrow (while the businesses themselves also struggle to make payments against debt.  Even the banks that fashion the loans depend on making many loans while holding very little actual money in reserve.  It seems to be a system that depends on the expectation of future payments to function.  It's nice when a little money can help you go a long way until you are unable to make those necessary payments.  Sometimes I think that we live "leveraged" lives before the Lord.  We like to invest a little of our time and a little of our talents and a little of our money in Him with the expectation that He will rain down blessing something like a bank provides a huge mortgage for a small amount of cash down.  But there may be a hidden blessing as our financial lives become "deleveraged" and we relearn the value of saving and buying without debt just as there is great blessing in investing larger blocks of time, energy and money in our relationship with the Lord.  His grace is free but I suspect His favor cannot be leveraged.
Deuteronomy 30:1-5 (The Message Version) Here's what will happen. While you're out among the nations where God has dispersed you and the blessings and curses come in just the way I have set them before you, and you and your children take them seriously and come back to God, your God, and obey him with your whole heart and soul according to everything that I command you today, God, your God, will restore everything you lost; he'll have compassion on you; he'll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered.
Rob Smith

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

today's renegade, tomorrow's hero

The pressure to be accepted by our peers can cause us to choose the path of convenience rather than the path of correctness.  Every so often someone comes along with a laser-like view of what is right.  Their focus is so intensely linked to a righteous cause that they are willing to be unpopular with many, if not most, during their lives in exchange for seeing the wrong righted.  During the heat of their lives, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. were despised by millions.  Yet they were not dissuaded from their quests.  There is a higher call than any man can issue and, though that call is available to every man, only a few are willing to sacrifice the praise of their contemporaries for a greater satisfaction than any man can offer.  Last night I re-watched the movie, "Amazing Grace" which is the story of one such man: William Wilberforce.  He stood, almost alone, in British Parliament against over 300 other members of that establishment for over 30 years and doggedly kept the issue of banning the slave trade before that ruling body.  Eventually he won and it was not because Parliament suddenly realized the error or the evil of slavery.  There is a need for persistence in the pursuit of such noble causes because men prefer convenience, comfort and the companionship of corruption but will finally bow to truth and right if that is the unrelenting force of a life surrendered to that higher call.  One line in the movie especially struck me when it was said that correcting one wrong doesn't correct every wrong, but correcting one wrong has an impact for right that goes beyond that one issue.  I don't think it can be overstated that one person surrendered to the call and the cause of the Lord can make a significant positive impact in this world if he is willing to be uncomfortable with men in order to make them uncomfortable with their Lord.
Proverbs 2:9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice,
      Equity and every good path.
       10 When wisdom enters your heart,
      And knowledge is pleasant to your soul,
       11 Discretion will preserve you;
      Understanding will keep you
Rob Smith

Monday, February 9, 2009

energy from light

Light from the sun is absorbed by all materials that it strikes.  When that light energy is absorbed the materials react in different ways.  Some materials become warm and some living things convert the light to food (photosynthesis).  These days there is a lot of attention given to materials that emit electrons when light strikes them.  There is a great potential to tap the light of the sun in a direct way to meet our needs.  For a long time, we have been using energy sources that also had their origin from sunlight.  Oil and coal are the result of organic material (former plant and animal life) that formed over centuries and millenia.  Of course the plant and animal life that led to the oil and coal was originally sustained by sunlight.  But by tapping the sun directly for energy we go straight to the source and don't have to wait for centuries of time to make more oil.  It occurs to me that we often miss going directly to our source of light for spiritual energy.  We seem to prefer secondary sources of wisdom.  Rather than basking directly in Heaven's Light, we often prefer to be half-baked by the lesser light coming from other men, or even our own limited insights and knowledge.  Just as we are learning to go "straight to the source" for our physical energy, it is good to be reminded that we should go "straight to the source" of our spiritual light.  This is the light that warms our souls and shows us the way to go and it is the light that functions even when the sun hides behind clouds or passes to the other side of the world. (Of course I'm referring to the Light that is a "who" rather than a "what").
John 8:12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."
Rob Smith

Sunday, February 8, 2009

means and ends

I think we get the "means" confused with the "ends".  Our culture has an obsession with money, for example.  We use it as a yardstick to measure success or failure on a personal, national or global level.  Yet money has no usefulness other than to be exchanged for material items and services that we need.  Money is a means to an end and can never be an end in itself.  I think we would be a lot happier if we focused on the "ends" as a starting point.  Examples of "ends" are: finding and using our gifts, making a difference in lives we touch every day, enjoying and spending time with our Lord as a priority.  If we get the "ends" right, I believe we'll have a better chance of getting the "means" right.  I suppose this is where having a relationship with the Lord is especially efficient, because we find our "means" and "ends" in the context of that bond.  As we seek the Lord for truth, grace and help, not only do we get the answers and grace we need...we discover the heart peace that comes from the interaction we have with Him and the joy that comes with knowing we are known.  As Jesus said: "I am the way, the truth and the life..."  Truly, He is the means and He is the end. 
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
Rob Smith

Saturday, February 7, 2009

in the process of becoming

No matter how old you are, you are still growing.  I remember hearing years ago that some parts of our body keep growing throughout our ears and our noses (made of cartilage rather than bone).  We may like to think that we have matured in adulthood, but can any of us really believe that we have completed our development.  I am always impressed when I see older believers involved with Bible study and intently participating in Adult Sunday School.  It almost seems as though the really mature folks have realized just how little they really understand about life, truth and meaning.  At some point, we understand that we were formed for much more than survival, or even success and prosperity.  We are learning, growing and developing throughout our lives.  In a sense this life is about getting acquainted with our Maker and finding out that He fashioned us for an eternal relationship that only has its beginnings on this side of physical death.  It seems that the greatest truths are also the greatest mysteries.  I suppose faith has something to do with trusting the truth even before we have solved the mysteries.  I think it adds to the adventure of living to remember that we are all in a constant "process of becoming".
Proverbs 9:9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.
Rob Smith

Friday, February 6, 2009

made for others

It occurred to me the other day that we are very conflicted in our design.  On the one hand we are essentially very self-centered.  Our first priority tends to be our own survival, satisfaction and sense of well-being.  Yet we were fashioned to help others.  We have fingers meant to interlock with another's hand to pull them to safety, to hold up one end of a sofa and to stroll connected with the one we love.  We have two eyes facing forward on our head that only can see our own face when looking into a mirror...but are meant to focus outwardly at creation's beauty, a newborn's precious face, and to spot a toddler straying from parents at a shopping mall.  We have feet that point forward to take us away from where we stand to help an older lady with too many groceries to lift, to hike a trail together with close friends, and to visit one who deals with bad news at the hospital.  It seems clear that we were made not just to satisfy ourselves but to hold, to see ,and to go to others.  Aren't we glad when they also come to us!
Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Rob Smith

Thursday, February 5, 2009

intersection of heaven and main

Where roads intersect, decisions must be made.  Drivers must choose straight, right, left or stop, as necessary.  Many people have a nebulous view of God.  To some, God is a vague and distant concept who somehow lives outside of time and may or may not have much to do with their lives.  Their view is that common sense is needed for this life and who can be bothered with a supreme being who is removed and impersonal.  One of the appeals of history is it helps us connect something that is real in our lives today with the real experience of people long ago.  We realize how much we have in common across time with others and we gain perspective for our present circumstances.  What if the God of "far away" intersected history and walked among men? That would be an historical reality that would disperse the fog of a vague deity.  That is exactly what happened about two thousand years ago.  A 33 year visit by God took place in human form.  This visit was forecast for hundreds of years before the time it took place.  The visit was recorded in detail as it happened and the visit has spawned a following that has numbered in the millions since it occurred.  Yes, God intersected history a mere 20 centuries ago so that we would be prompted to make a decision as He still intersects our minds and hearts in the present day. (It's dangerous to ignore an intersection!)
Proverbs 8:1-2 (The Message)
 Do you hear Lady Wisdom calling?
Can you hear Madame Insight raising her voice?
She's taken her stand at First and Main,
   at the busiest intersection.
Right in the city square
   where the traffic is thickest, she shouts,
"You—I'm talking to all of you,
   everyone out here on the streets!"
blessings from where the roads make a cross,
Rob Smith

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

my father's coat

This morning I was hopeful of snow.  But instead there was a brisk wintry day that had all the cold of snow without the benefits (for those of us who like snow, that is).  I wore my long wool coat to work.  In Virginia I don't feel the need to wear my warmest coat often.  It just doesn't compare to the Michigan or New Jersey winters I knew growing up.  But this is a special coat.  It is made of cashmere wool and though it is very warm, it is also quite light and very comfortable.  But more than that, it was my father's coat.  It is one of a few things that I have from my father.  With a little tailoring it now fits me just fine.  It seems that all of the things Dad left me are useful, from hand tools, to jars of nuts and bolts, a shop vacuum cleaner...and this great coat.  Dad died 12 years ago but the coat looks as good now is it did when he was still active.  When I wear the coat I think of him and I feel close to him.  I was reminded that my heavenly father also left a coat for me.  It's also very warm and it fits perfectly.  My heavenly coat covers me completely and looks as new as it ever has.  When I think about this spiritual coat, I remember the great love that my heavenly father has for me.  It seems that everything that He has given me is useful...especially this elegant heavenly coat.  Just as my wool coat fits perfectly and covers my vulnerable frame, so does Jesus cover my flaws and make me acceptable to the Father in Heaven...the one with whom I shall live forever.
Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,
      My soul shall be joyful in my God;
      For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
      He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
      As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
      And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Rob Smith

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

power in praise

Tonight we had our small group gathering.  It was a special evening because several folks had experienced indications of answered prayer...prayers that we had lifted up within our group at earlier meetings.  One person demonstrated an improved ability to walk and maintain balance despite a damaged hip.  Another individual was showing signs of improved vision after cataract surgery had not resulted in the expected quality of sight.  Test results revealed that another's mother did not have cancer.  The son of yet another group member had just received a job offer.  Of course, not every prayer request has resulted in the desired answer yet and some of the healing that has begun has not completed.  But as impressive as the answered prayers were, it struck me that it was crucial for us to thank the Lord and acknowledge Him as the source...the reason that progress was being made.  I think we are very prone to distraction and forgetfulness when it comes to rightly recognizing the action of God in our lives.  It is easy to rationalize that the healing might have happened anyhow or that the job received was just "being in the right place at the right time" or that the negative cancer test was always a possibility.  Praise focused our attitude of gratitude in the proper direction and seemed the fitting response to our calls for help.  It formed a kind of divine "thank you" that went beyond courtesy and led to worship.  Perhaps the greatest power in praise is the power it has to align our hearts rightly with our loving Father.
Psalm 150:1 Praise the LORD!
         Praise God
in His sanctuary;
         Praise Him in His mighty firmament!
 2 Praise Him for His mighty acts;
         Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!
 3 Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet;
         Praise Him with the lute and harp!
 4 Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;
         Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!
 5 Praise Him with loud cymbals;
         Praise Him with clashing cymbals!
 6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
         Praise the LORD!
Rob Smith

Monday, February 2, 2009

Leave everything on the field

Last night was the Super Bowl.  About 95 million households were tuned in to watch an enormously dramatic game.  Fans of both teams were treated to alternating emotions of despair and delight as the outcome of the game swung from one team to the other, before the Steelers fittingly topped off the game with an amazing pass completion with less than a minute to play.  I thought about those intense emotions that we, as fans, experience (even though we are far from the playing field and vicariously participate in the game as we view it through an electronic screen).  Why is it that victory is a "peak" experience and defeat is a "valley" experience.  I suppose the answer lies in the nature of competition where the outcome determines a winner and a loser.  It seems that winning makes you feel like you are the best and losing makes you feel like just the opposite.  Clearly the big game also brings out the ultimate from the athletes.  They know that to win a Super Bowl they must bring their best game, from start to finish.  When you give your all and win, the feeling of victory matches that high level of effort.  But when you give your all and lose it's hard to reconcile that defeat with the ultimate effort you just left on the field.  I think we are called to give our all in the daily game of life.  Just like the Super Bowl, our game has a finite time on the playing field of earth.  The stakes are high and include reflecting our Lord, reaching others for eternity, and walking in close relationship with the living God.  I am encouraged that if we give our all in this game we can all be winners!
2 Corinthians 2:14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.
Today I felt a freedom to get back in the game and hope to resume daily devotional thoughts.  Please feel free to let me know if you'd rather not receive them.  Blessings to you all.
Rob Smith