Saturday, January 30, 2010

stairway to heaven

Genesis 28:10-12 Jacob left Beersheba and went to Haran. He came to a certain place and camped for the night since the sun had set. He took one of the stones there, set it under his head and lay down to sleep. And he dreamed: A stairway was set on the ground and it reached all the way to the sky; angels of God were going up and going down on it.
Yesterday my grandson, Peter, was excited to show me a "book" he'd written.  While waiting for his Mom in a doctor's office he'd assembled several pages of "4 year old" descriptive literature, made from colored pens.  When I asked what the book was about, he told me that it was the story of "God making everything" and his father taught him that his book was about Genesis...the book of beginnings.  The swirls and jagged bolts and flashes of color probably did capture something of the power and drama when God spoke creation into being.  But I was especially impressed with a zig-zag line on page two.  It had more definition as a distinct form.  Peter explained to me that the line was a "stairway to heaven".  At the top was a light blue square that represented Heaven, itself.  I thought how profound it was that Peter included, not only the story of creation, but the chapter that connects creation with the Creator.  I'm glad he has a picture of the stairway to Heaven.  When we pretended to walk up the stairs he pointed out that we would probably see Jesus on the way.  I hope you've found the stairway to actually does start here...and I think you will find Jesus on the way!
Rob Smith

Thursday, January 28, 2010

procedures and techniques

I was talking with a friend tonight about our military backgrounds.  While I only spent five years in the Navy, he completed a full career as a jet pilot in the Air Force.  I mentioned to my friend that, even if my sight had permitted, I probably wouldn't have chosen flying in the military.  With my "off the wall" creative side I'd be afraid of forgetting something important on a checklist and discover too late that I was out of fuel, or out of ammo or about 1000 miles from where I was supposed to be.  He explained that creativity isn't the number one thing about's following procedures.  There are certain steps that you just have to follow in a certain sequence.  There are just too many moving parts and too many opportunities for human error to preclude using a rigorous approach.  After all, your whole mission in flying is to defy gravity and you don't accomplish that easily.  On the other hand, he explained, once you have mastered the discipline of following procedures, there is room to develop techniques that hone your skills.  I suspect that these techniques may be as unique as your personality, experience and innate talent.  This reminded me that, with the Lord, there are also procedures and techniques.  There is one way to salvation and that is by bowing in faith to the Lord Jesus.  But there limitless 'techniques' in a sense because our spiritual gifts are as limitless as our Maker's creativity.  We can only overcome the gravity of our sin nature through the aerodynamic lift of grace, but once we are aloft we become freed to operate in more dimensions, more space and true freedom in ways we have been uniquely fashioned for.
Ephesians 4: 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. 7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore He says: 

      " When He ascended on high,
      He led captivity captive,
      And gave gifts to men."
blessings (with thanks to J.B.),
Rob Smith


I was considering this morning the power of "touch".  Our contact with each other physically can be in such a wide range of purposes....from violence and anger to expressions of tenderness and love.  It seems that "touch" is a major way that we express, communicate and impact others.  Research now shows that touching can help reduce pain and anxiety as well as provide comfort, boost hope and even accelerate healing.  Of course, like all forms of communication and interaction, there is a proper context for touch and it must be within the bounds of acceptable relationship.  But we have a need, from our first day to our last, to be held...hugged...greeted and encouraged in a direct way by others we know, trust and share life with.  I think that we need to be reminded that, even though we travel through our lives individually and we carry stresses, responsibilities, setbacks and victories within our individual hearts and minds.....we are greatly supported through touch as a reminder that we are travelling in the company of others, and we are not alone.  We need to touch and be touched and, of course, all touch is not physical.  I suppose the essence of healthy touch is unselfishness interest in others...sounds a lot like love.
Matthew 17:6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. 7 But Jesus came and touched them and said, "Arise, and do not be afraid." 8 When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.



Rob Smith

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Yesterday we had a sky-full of gorgeous clouds.  The sky, itself, created a perfect deep blue canvas for the cotton white shapes to be painted upon.  The artist must have been of the "abstract" school because you really couldn't discern specific objects but the shapes were dramatic and suggested castles and ships and rocky cliffs.  Of course to appreciate the cloud art you had to pause in your busy day and take a break from all the critically important things you were doing.  Then you had to crane your neck and head upward and take in the scene.  But it seemed worthwhile to do that because the great sky painter had certainly fashioned a ceiling that certainly rivaled the Sistine Chapel.  Of course one difference is that Michelangelo painted his ceiling from his back, looking up...while the artist of the sky has a "top down" approach.  After several days of solid cloud, overcast skies the blue and white of yesterday's heavenly show was especially appreciated.  I suppose it's good to get into the practice of enjoying the clouds.  One day I believe we'll see the Artist, Himself, ride into our world on them.  Who knows, perhaps that cloud will look something like a chariot!
Revelation 14:14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, "Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You[i] to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe." 16 So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.
Rob Smith

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

the tree

Consider the tree.  This silent soldier grows all around us in great numbers and in great variety and with many functions.  Its wood provides the construction materials that are the backbone of most of our homes.  All of our paper for writing, copying, news, books, (even tax returns!) starts in a tree.  Wood is what warms many of us in our wood stoves and fireplaces this time of year.  Trees provide fruit and nuts to nourish us and feed countless creatures, and provides homes for birds, squirrels and countless insects.  Trees take in carbon dioxide and manufacture much of the oxygen we need to breathe through photosynthesis.  The root systems of trees hold the ground in place to prevent erosion.  Even the shade of a leafy tree is welcome in the midst of summer.  Though often great in height they are very flexible and can weather most storms and winds without breaking.  I don't think most people would consider the life of a tree to be exciting, heroic or historic.  Yet without the tree our lives would carry a great deal more hardship.  Similarly, many of our lives may not seem to be exciting, heroic or historic as we may seem to live in a forest of people.  Yet you were planted here to uniquely offer many parallel benefits: shelter and support, all manner of fruits for ministry and care, a place for others to find rest, part of God's root structure to hold the culture from erosion and sources of God's fresh air to be distributed via His Spirit.  His indwelling presence gives flexibility and strength to weather life's storms without snapping.   The life of a person, like the life of a tree, may not be marked by drama and may not draw attention to itself...but can nonetheless be amazingly useful and productive on behalf of the One who gives life to both.
Revelation 22: 2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.
blessings (from my branch to yours),
Rob Smith

Sunday, January 24, 2010


We've been studying the "Dry Bones" vision that Ezekiel had (Chapter 37).  It's a wonderful and fascinating passage where the Lord tells the prophet Ezekiel to preach to a valley full of dry bones.  They rise up and start to move around...Ezekiel keeps preaching and the bones are covered with muscle and skin.  Then the Lord tells Ezekiel to "Preach to the breath" (or to the Spirit) so that the skin-covered bodies will come to life.  This is a picture of the restoration that the Lord was promising His people, held captive  by the Babylonians.  The story has made me think about the nature of "life" itself.  I remember in 7th grade biology learning that the definition of life has something to do with the ability to move, reproduce, and process food.  The wide variety of living things certainly testifies to the creative flair of the Lord.  But I suppose there is life with a lower case "l" and Life with an upper case "L".  Spiritual life seems tightly linked with the breath of God, the Holy Spirit.  It's almost like we have been rescued from nearly drowning and the Lord HImself has breathed His life-giving air into our being.  In our makeup as creatures of flesh, bone and blood we also have the capacity for a spiritual dimension of living that goes beyond biological function.  I suppose this is what the Lord meant in the beginning: Genesis 1:26a Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;... 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  God is Spirit and He formed us with a spiritual capacity and a spiritual nature...the essential elements of His makeup.  We spend a large amount of our energy on the physical side of our being, but we find "Life" when we allow the Lord to invest us with His energy.
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, January 23, 2010

the instrument

One of my New Year's resolutions is to begin to learn how to play Celtic (Scottish, Irish) music with a fiddle (what civilized folks call a violin).  So I've ordered an inexpensive (but supposedly decent quality) violin on-line and this past week purchased "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Playing the Fiddle".  The violin hasn't arrived yet so I've had some time to begin reading the book.  I was struck with the evolution of the instrument, itself.  The violin was a natural descendant of primitive stringed instruments in Europe.  They got serious about refining the construction between the 1500's and the 1700's and a familiar master violin-maker, Stradivari (or Stradivarius) perfected things.  The book tells us that no one has been able to improve the design since Stradivarius.  Apparently they still don't know how he formulated some of the varnishes he used.  The author points out that a violin must be light enough to resonate and transmit the music but strong enough to withstand forty pounds of pressure on the strings.  The bow is an essential part of the violin and its design has also evolved from an archery bow-like form to the more maneuverable stick-like form it has today.  Materials for the violin range from Mongolian horse hair for the bow, to Brazilian pernambuco wood, to European spruce and maple for the body.  Perhaps you've guessed that the analogy that comes to mind is that we are God's instrument...His Heavenly fiddle.  Though we are far from perfect, His design of the instrument is.  He made us of the finest ingredients of the soil and our form was fashioned to be light, but strong enough to withstand the pressures of living (with His presence and help of course).  He wanted to play music through us so He gave us a mind to respond to the vibrations of living as His sovereign bow played over our lives...daily pressures...victories to celebrate...problems to solve...changes to confront.  But he wanted the music to resonate so He also gave us a heart, like the violin's body, to transmit the sound throughout our frame and outward.  In a sense we are all playing the music of living.  I believe our Lord wants to fiddle the mountain music of His home to draw others into the dance.
Isaiah 38: 20God saves and will save me.
   As fiddles and mandolins strike up the tunes,
We'll sing, oh we'll sing, sing,
   for the rest of our lives in the Sanctuary of God
Rob Smith

Friday, January 22, 2010

Enough is enough!

Matthew 5:5"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought."
1 Peter 5: 6-7So be content with who you are, and don't put on airs. God's strong hand is on you; he'll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.
Matthew 23:11-12"Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you'll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty."
Luke 18:14b" If you walk around with your nose in the air, you're going to end up flat on your face, but if you're content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself."
Romans 5:11 Now that we have actually received this amazing friendship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding prose. We sing and shout our praises to God through Jesus, the Messiah!
I was thinking about that familiar protest: "Enough is enough!"  It is the kind of thing we either think or blurt out when we have reached the end of our rope with an unresolvable problem or when some kind of frustration seems to repeat itself.  But turned inside a positive sense... it captures an important truth.  When we have learned to be absolutely content with what we have and with who we are... and with what we can do with what we have and who we are...we enjoy a peace that sets us free from some of the scrambling and striving and wasted energy of living.  But the last verse above reminds me that we should never be content with a second class relationship with our Lord.  He has given all for us to set us free from discontent.  We need to apply our energy and our pursuit to please and worship the one who emptied the contents of Heaven to bless us with contentment, knowing that He now fills the contents of our heart.  That is enough for me!
Rob Smith

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

lasting value

The quality of our possessions is often marked by how long they last.  Watches, automobiles, lawnmowers, dishwashers, sweaters, shoes....things we depend on for work, play and basic life functions are valued according to their useful lives.  But, inevitably, the watch breaks, the car breaks down, the lawnmower forgets how to start and the shoe loses its sole.  We don't expect these things to run forever.  We do, however, expect to keep on living.  Even though every person who has ever lived in all the centuries past has passed on to another dimension...most of the people many of us have known in our lives are still living.  And so we are almost deluded into thinking that the days will just keep rolling.  But our bodies are preparing for change even if we aren't.  The joints complain, the muscles refuse, the eyes play games, the memory forgets, the ears won't hear of it and our internal organs seem to periodically go on strike.  All the while we exercise the power of denial with creams, potions, powders and lotions....but we only go through the motions.  We are right to be in denial about our demise because we were designed for a different destiny.  The "you" beneath your skin knows that there is an eternal soul that waits to be set free from this "tent".  We have lasting value, but I suspect that many of us don't consider who values us the most.  When we begin to realize that our maker has a forever view of our lives we realize that the value He places on us is far greater than the value we place on ourselves.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18So we're not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever.
Rob Smith

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

fresh take on love

We've lived together for nearly 33 years.  I've never been closer to another person.  Yet there is much about her that still seems a mystery.  She was the beauty I so longed for at 20 who showed me what real beauty was across three decades of living, struggling, growing, blowing it and hanging together onto Jesus.  She still amazes me with her insights into me and her wisdom.  She is every bit the beauty she was at 20 but I am finally able to admit now what I actually have known all along: ....that her beauty goes way beyond what you can see and has a great deal to do with the way she completes me, catches me, challenges me and causes me to keep going and keep growing.  Isn't it amazing what God had in mind when He designed marriage.  It is a beautiful interdependence that both satisfies, stimulates and soothes.  And now that I see my wonderful daughter and son-in-law lay down their lives daily for their children I realize that no other design could provide the security, love and wholeness that each one of us needs to thrive. 
I have enjoyed the benefits of God's great plan for family....and it started when I first spotted a pair of sparkly blue eyes!
Proverbs 18:22 He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD.
Rob Smith

Monday, January 18, 2010

Son of Man

Sometimes I think it is easier for me to think of Jesus as the Son of God than the Son of Man, though He was both.  I'm so aware of His Divine origin, His miraculous birth, His miraculous acts, His "hotline" to God the Father and of course, His awesome faithfulness and courage to walk through all the events leading up to and including the crucifixion....not to mention His resurrection from the dead and eventual ascension back to Heaven.  Jesus appeared to always be aware of what people were thinking around Him and He knew just how to connect with every individual He encountered.  But, lately, I've been intrigued that He also is the Son of Man.  I can have a conversation with Him.  He knows what it is to feel pain, to be despised, to be adored, to get hungry, to get tired...He not only is the only one who can intercede on my behalf before the Father, He is the only one who can relate perfectly to me while also preparing me to meet Him in Heaven.  Because He is from both and heaven and I have only known one of them...He knows what I need to learn and how I need to grow.  He is the sculptor of clay who has become the clay so that He can fashion the most useful vessels.  (And, wonder of wonders, He plans to use this pottery for a long time in a place where it will never crack or leak.)
Job 33:6 Truly I am as your spokesman before God;
      I also have been formed out of clay.
Rob Smith

Sunday, January 17, 2010

nothing between

What if there was nothing between you and God?  I think one of the great things we treasure about coming to faith in Christ is the removal of the logjam our sin has caused that blocks our relationship with the Almighty.  We have found the One who found us before we knew we even needed Him.  We had to first learn that our sin nature came as part of the package built into our human an inheritance every generation has received and then passed on to the next.  We had to first learn that we needed a relationship with a living God, a Holy God and then learn that it was impossible to have that relationship.  Impossible, that is, for us to form a bond with Him in our own strength.  We had to discover that there is a quality of life and of living that we call "eternal" that includes, but far surpasses, our brief span on earth.  We needed to know that this kind of living allows us to draw on power, direction and help from outside ourselves, outside all human relationships, outside all created or manufactured sources and even outside of the limits of time or space.  We had to lay aside all the programming we'd received from our earliest age about  "making it on our own" and "doing it our way".  But then our eyes opened and we embraced the solution to our separation from our Maker.  We acknowledged that we couldn't make it on our own.  We saw that Jesus was not only the Son of God, He was sent to rescue us because we couldn't rescue ourselves.  We admitted that we didn't really understand life...especially our own life and we didn't begin to know how to find real purpose or our eternal identify.  We dropped all barriers and were reunited with the One who had given us life and given His life that we might understand the fullness of life.  And now we know that we may be changed, but we will never really die.
And though nothing has ever blocked God from knowing every thought we have, every molecule of our body or every action we have we can begin to know Him...because there is finally nothing between.
1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.
Rob Smith

Saturday, January 16, 2010

what is necessary?

Acts 16: 1 Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek.
It is interesting that one chapter earlier we learned of the decision by Peter and the Apostles that circumcision should not be required for Gentile believers to confirm or complete their salvation.  Paul had made the long trip from Antioch to Jerusalem to get a ruling on this and clarify the issue...and then took a letter back to Antioch to let the church their hear of this ruling in the words of the Apostles (300 miles each way).  Now we see Paul having the young disciple, Timothy, circumcised!   What goes on here?  I think it turns on one word: "necessary".  It was not necessary for Timothy's personal salvation that he undergo circumcision, however it apparently was "necessary" for Timothy to underscore his "Jewishness" via circumcision.  Paul would not have held any credibility or audience among the Jews he was evangelizing and discipling  if his number one student was considered a Gentile.  So, in a sense, it was " necessary", not for Timothy, for others who had not yet believed or whose faith was fragile.  This makes me think about our primary responsibility on the far side of our personal encournter with Christ.  It is not enough that we are assured of going to Heaven...while we live in these temples of flesh and bone we need to have a passion to see others join us!
Rob Smith

Friday, January 15, 2010

who makes the rules

In the early days of the church there were many challenges, not just from persecutors outside, but also from disagreements within.  It seems that it was difficult for some Jews who had trusted in Jesus to accept Gentiles on an equal footing, when for centuries they had been "unclean" and often enemies.  It didn't seem acceptable to some Jews that these "outsiders" could now be their brothers.  They thought that the believing Gentiles should also follow the ancient requirements of the Hebrew Law, such as circumcision.  Acts, chapter 15 captures this: 1 And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."
This prompted a debate in Antioch (Syria), where believers were first called Christians, and Paul was unable to resolve the conflict.  It was decided to get a ruling on this from Peter and the Apostles in Jerusalem...almost like taking a case to the Supreme Court for an important interpretation of law.  Peter provided the wisdom needed when he pointed out that the evidence of salvation had already been displayed by these Gentiles: Acts 15:8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
Sometimes, even today, we need to be reminded of Who actually makes the rules!  We need to remember that salvation is totally defined, described and determined by the Lord.....we are carriers of the message, not makers of it!
Rob Smith

Thursday, January 14, 2010

division and multiplication

Acts 14:4The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. 
It seems that whenever Paul preached in a new location there were always two clear reactions.  As Acts, Chapter 14 tells us above, some were angered by his words and some embraced them.  Some opened their hearts and believed the message he preached of salvation through Jesus and some plotted to kill them.  Paul and Barnabas got wind of a plan to harm them and they fled from Iconium to Lystra where they continued to preach and participate in miraculous healing.  The amazing thing to me is what happened next.  A "lynch mob" from Iconium hunted Paul down, stoned him and dragged him out of the city...leaving him for dead.  But...the disciples with Paul stood over him and he got to his feet and reentered the city!  But the most amazing part followed.  After continuing to preach in that area they returned to Iconium...the very town that had organized the gang that had stoned him.  The message they had for the young believers in Iconium was expressed in verse 22: "strengthening the soul of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God".
Paul was prepared for opposition because, even though the gospel is the best message the world has ever is the worst message for God's spiritual enemy.  For all who trust in the Lord are lost to Satan for all eternity.  Paul knew that this message would divide....but that division was just the starting point for multiplication.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Acts 13:27The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath.
It is encouraging to realize that the Lord will not be out-maneuvered by any other power in Heaven and Earth.  When Jesus was put to death his enemies thought they'd eliminated a major political problem.  But God was way ahead of them.  Knowing what their attitudes would be and knowing what their actions would be, the Lord used their evil intentions and turned them around for the greatest good imaginable.  The Lord and His enemies both had the same thing in mind: to wipe out a serious problem.  But, of course, the Lord succeeded and the death of Christ fulfilled God's plan.  The thought occurs that, even in our darkest day and even when all the forces of life may seem to be aligned against us, or others we love, the Lord not only sees and knows what is happening...He can turn the darkness inside out and produce light.  Truly the greatest of hopes are needed in the darkest of days and truly we have a God who is worthy of our hope.
Rob Smith

Monday, January 11, 2010


Acts 12:1-4 That's when King Herod got it into his head to go after some of the church members. He murdered James, John's brother. When he saw how much it raised his popularity ratings with the Jews, he arrested Peter—all this during Passover Week, mind you—and had him thrown in jail, putting four squads of four soldiers each to guard him. He was planning a public lynching after Passover.

 5All the time that Peter was under heavy guard in the jailhouse, the church prayed for him most strenuously. 6Then the time came for Herod to bring him out for the kill. That night, even though shackled to two soldiers, one on either side, Peter slept like a baby. And there were guards at the door keeping their eyes on the place. Herod was taking no chances!

 7-9Suddenly there was an angel at his side and light flooding the room. The angel shook Peter and got him up: "Hurry!" The handcuffs fell off his wrists. The angel said, "Get dressed. Put on your shoes." Peter did it. Then, "Grab your coat and let's get out of here." Peter followed him, but didn't believe it was really an angel—he thought he was dreaming.

 10-11Past the first guard and then the second, they came to the iron gate that led into the city. It swung open before them on its own, and they were out on the street, free as the breeze. At the first intersection the angel left him, going his own way. That's when Peter realized it was no dream. "I can't believe it—this really happened!



I don't think any modern writer of novels or thrilling movies could ink a more amazing, dramatic and miraculous deliverance than Peter experienced in Acts, chapter 12.  Herod had already executed James, the brother of the Apostle, John, and now had taken Peter, with plans to take his life as well.  But Herod was familiar with the amazing circumstances that surrounded Jesus and His followers.  After all, there were guards posted outside Jesus' tomb and somehow He had disappeared anyhow!  So he assigned 16 soldiers to guard him !....And we find Peter, facing imminent death (though sleeping like a baby) chained to two guards, who are sleeping at his sides.  Despite the prison bars, the shackles and the guards all about Peter is delivered, by an angel.  What grabs my heart is the limitless power God has to change our circumstances to accomplish His will and to secure the best outcome for our lives.  No doubt He loved James just as much as Peter, and we don't know why one would live and one would not.  But the cleverest of men and the strongest of forces are no match for the power of God or the fulfillment of all of His plans and promises.  Sometimes we can be in the center of God's will, even if we're surrounded by "impossible" barriers.  Our God specializes in deliverance and He hears our prayers.



Rob Smith

honest humility

Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
The proud and the humble...this is another theme of the book of Proverbs.  Our natural tendency leans toward pride, apparently.  We tend to think that "I can do it"..."I did it"...when things are going well and "I didn't do it"..."I couldn't have done that" when things didn't go so well.  We are our own biggest fans and supporters.  This is the problem of pride.  It gets too much "I" into the picture.  The other side of the coin appears to be "humility".  One definition of pride suggests that it means to be 'puffed up' or inflated with our own hot air.  To be humble seems just the allow yourself to be deflated so that you can ride on another's wind.  I suppose we need to let the Lord to be the air that fills us and the air that carries us.  When we blow up our own balloons they tend to overinflate and pop!
Rob Smith

Sunday, January 10, 2010

evil reversed

If you spell "evil" backwards you have the word "live".  I guess that makes sense because to live properly and healthfully, evil has no place.  I have been impressed, as you may have been, how the comparison of evil and righteousness is such a major theme of the book of Proverbs (I'm trying to read the Proverbs chapter that corresponds with each day of the month). Proverbs chapter 10 has many verses like verse 2: Treasures of wickedness profit nothing, But righteousness delivers from death.
or  verse 6: Blessings are on the head of the righteous, But violence covers the mouth of the wicked.
It seems that this touches every aspect of living: from work, to speech, to our relationships with the old, the young, the poor, the rich...It seems pretty obvious that you should choose the "righteous" path over the "evil" or wicked path.  There just isn't much upside if you choose the downside.  Apparently we don't have much sense when it comes to knowing how to choose a lifestyle that will make us happy.  I suppose this all ties in with another major theme of Proverbs: "Wisdom".  It turns out that the word wisdom comes from ancient words that mean "to see" or "to know".  Proverbs 4 ties wisdom and righteousness together: (verse 11) I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths.  Perhaps one conclusion is that we have to "see right" before we can "live right".  Proverbs 1:7 may say it best: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,  But fools despise wisdom and instruction. 
If we want to really live the highest quality of life we need to examine the source of our knowledge to find if we "are seeing right".  If that source isn't the Lord there is a good chance we'll find we have more in common with the "fools", the "evil ones" and the "wicked" than with the "righteous" and  the "wise".
Rob Smith

Saturday, January 9, 2010

fabric and threads

This morning is bright and sun-filled.  As I drove to a favorite spot to meet with the Lord, I thought of how life can either be like "threads" or "fabric".  Threads are like different pieces of our lives: family, work, decisions, worries, hopes, plans and dreams, relations with people, relationship with God.  Life can be like a box full of these threads.  Each thread can seem to stand alone, apart from all the others.  Each thread can hold our concern or our attention and, taken together, the threads make up the pieces of our lives.  What we need is a "fabric" for living that pulls the threads together into clothing, a blanket, a covering.  The threads are too vulnerable and lacking in strength or purpose until they are pulled together into fabric or cloth.  I looked to see how fabric is made.   Here is a quote(from eHow website) about how wool is made into fabric:
"Once the wool has been spun into thread, a weaving loom is threaded with warp, or vertically oriented threads. The weft, or horizontal, thread then is run over and under each of the warp threads. As the weft threads are pushed down with each row, wool fabric is created." 
Wool is converted from threads to fabric by placing them on a loom.  First the vertical threads are established.  Then the horizontal threads have a base to be woven over.  The horizontal threads are tightened over the vertical to make fabric.  Then the threads find their purpose in useful material.  In a sense, we are meant to be on God's loom.  When our heart is in line with Him, we establish the vertical threads that all the other concerns of life can be woven over so that our lives come together in a fabric that is useful.  I believe we were meant to be more than a box of threads...we were meant to be fabric of the Lord (and He uses sheep like you and me for the wool).
2 Chronicles 3:14 He fashioned the curtain of violet, purple, and crimson fabric and worked a cherub design into it.
Rob Smith

Friday, January 8, 2010

paintings of the king

If you have been to one of the major art museums, holding paintings by the great artists from centuries past, you probably have seen portraits of many of the monarchs..kings and queens of Europe and Asia, especially.  Of course these were the days when there were no photographs and so paintings and sculpture were about the only ways to record the appearance of royalty for posterity.  The artists would pose their royal subjects with globes to show their kingdoms, swords to show their military leadership and on horses to show their hunting skill.  A friend and I are doing a study of the book of Hebrews in the New Testament.  This week we studied chapter 3.  We both were struck with the description of Jesus that opened the chapter: 1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus
It occurred to me that there are two wonderful "portraits" of Jesus given here: Apostle...and High Priest.  Jesus was the one sent by God to rescue us from our sin (Apostle) and He is the one who has actually paid the price to redeem us...and He stands before God on our behalf today as High Priest!  I thought how these two pictures of Jesus should be hung in the gallery of my heart to remind me of my wonderful heavenly King.  I suppose we could build an entire museum just of portraits of Jesus.  After all, He is the bread of life, the good shepherd, the Word become flesh, the one who actually fashioned Creation.  His very name means Savior.  He is the Christ..the one anointed as prophet, priest and king.  He is Son of Man and Son of God.  He is teacher and He is conqueror of death and He is God!  I was challenged to build a gallery of pictures in my mind of Jesus.  This is one museum that I'll buy a perpetual membership to visit.
Rob Smith

Thursday, January 7, 2010

what is man?

Psalm 8:1 O LORD, our Lord,
         How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
         Who have set Your glory above the heavens!
3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
         The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
 4 What is man that You are mindful of him,
         And the son of man that You visit him?
 5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
         And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
         You have put all things under his feet
Psalm 8 is such a beautiful poem, both for the choice of words and for the grand thoughts conveyed.  It helps us think "big picture" about who the Lord is, who we are, and how we are connected.  Because we live in a world of men, filled with the work, problems and crises of men I think we tend to forget that there is more to God's creation than men....a lot more.  And because verse 6 is true, we have quite a bit of control and impact on other works of God all around us.  But, I think we have let verse 6 go to our heads.  We tend to think that because we have a measure of control over the natural world that we are the rulers of the world.  We forget that our strength, intelligence and accomplishments are all explained by God's design which has "made him(us) to have dominion....and "put all things under his(our) feet".  We need to remember why David started Psalm 8 at verse 1 rather than verse 6! 
Rob Smith

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

fear and comfort

Acts 9:31 Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.
I was struck by the words, "fear and comfort" last night when reading through Acts, chapter 9.  The young church had been through much tumult and oppression but was maturing and learning to lean on the Lord in very practical ways.  Paul is beginning his ministry, Peter is being used of the Lord to do miraculous works just like the ones Jesus did when He walked with the disciples.  But I think "fear and comfort" captures an attitude that we can benefit from as well.  When we are in awe of the Lord and acknowledge that He is not only God of the universe but of our personal lives that does something to give us direction on a daily basis.  When we are aware of the embracing presence of the Holy Spirit that does something to reinforce that we are walking in the right direction and that we are not alone.  And just like the early church this helps guide us in peace and growth.
Rob Smith

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

alternative energy

We hear a lot about "new energy sources" as our country has become so dependent on oil from other places around the world to fuel our cars and trucks.  It really is pretty amazing how much we rely on that black liquid that lies beneath the surface of some countries that are hostile to us...or that almost hold us hostage...all because of our need for that precious resource.  So we are seeing electric cars and giant windmills and high tech batteries and solar power, etc.  We are looking for "energy independence".  Sometimes I think that we have been looking for energy sources for our personal lives.  We try almost anything to find the energy that will make us, addictions, money, meditation, political power.  It's pretty clear that one of the most wonderful results of Jesus' ascension to Heaven was the sending of His Holy Spirit...the ultimate energy supply.  Just imagine if you had a healthy way to access the same energy that created the universe and that raised Jesus from the dead!  We find, in Acts chapter 8, that the early believers had truly become empowered by this energy.  Even though they were severely persecuted and punished because of their new-found trust in the much so that they had to scatter far from their homes to survive...rather than hide their new identity in Christ, they proclaimed it wherever they went:
Acts 8:1b At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 
3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.  4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.
I don't know about you, but if people were being dragged from their homes and hauled off to prison in my neighborhood for their faith and I left town to escape that fate, I'm not sure I'd broadcast my faith to the world.  But these folks had found a new energy source and they were apparently more interested in avoiding prison so that they could bring news of this new others.  Apparently one of the wonderful results of coming to Christ is a love for others that reaches beyond our own lives.  I suppose that kind of energy "dependence" is a good thing!
Rob Smith

Monday, January 4, 2010

and I will look up

Psalm 5: 3 My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD;
         In the morning I will direct it to You,
         And I will look up.
There is something about living out our days on the planet that makes it challenging to look up.  We are distracted and attracted by all kinds of messages, activity and concerns coming from all around.  Our work generally deals with practical issues and needs of living.  Our relationships with other people are often wrapped up in our work or other daily routines.  The media blares continuously over radio, T.V., print and internet of wars, gossip, economy, crime and politics.  Our physical health, vitality and longevity are the subjects of endless research and discussion.  Yet...deep inside we know that the most important issues are the ones that pertain to our relationship with the eternal God.  And not only that....we have come to learn that the greatest satisfactions, the deepest truths, the most awesome power and the most fascinating mysteries are found in the vertical dimension.  Ultimately, we cannot explain our lives and we cannot see the future.  We need help to cope with the unknowns of life, with the surprises of life, with the disappointments of life and with the meaning of life.  We need to put a lid on the voices and the noises and the shallow relationships that come at us from the side of life and, like the Psalmist, we need to direct our voices, our thoughts and our vision upward.  If we start our day by looking up, we may look around more effectively.  Now that's what I call a "right" angle.
Rob Smith

Sunday, January 3, 2010

learning to fly

This morning, on my way to a private time with the Lord, I spied a great number of hawks circling in the sky.  My first thought was that there must be a dead animal beneath them.  But I had never seen this many hawks at one time in the air...perhaps 30 of them.  Upon stopping at the water's edge, I realized that conditions were very windy.  A few hawks were just above me hanging apparently motionless in the sky as the cold breeze supported their outstretched wings.  The thought struck me that this is what hawks do when it gets really windy...they ride the wind.  They don't hide from it or fight it.  They were made to soar in these conditions.  I read through Proverbs, chapter 3 and Acts, chapters 6-7 this morning and encountered the familiar Proverbs passage:
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
       and lean not on your own understanding;

 6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
       and he will make your paths straight.


I reflected that this kind of attitude is like spiritual "soaring".  Trusting in the Lord is like being a spiritual hawk that rises into His Holy Wind, or Holy Spirit, and relies on that energy for lift and direction.


Then I read the story of Stephen in Acts, chapter 7, when he was being interrogated by hostile Jews.  They were determined to resist Stephen and his ministry but ran into difficulty.

Acts 6:8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.  


I considered their attitude and realized that they were responding to the power of God and His Holy Wind with resistance.  Not surprisingly the story didn't have a happy outcome as their resistance led to violence and the murder of Stephen.


I realized that we can yield to God's Holy Wind, and fly, or stand against it and be knocked over.



Rob Smith

Saturday, January 2, 2010

inside outside

Acts 6:2So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word."
As the young church was growing rapidly (described in Acts, Chapter 6), they experienced growing pains just like a child or an adolescent does with physical growth.  The 12 primary disciples were torn between ministering "inwardly" to care for "maintenance" needs of existing believers and continuing to extend the message of Jesus to others "outside".  It occurs to me that we experience this same tension between inside and outside in our own lives.  If we neglect our personal walk with the Lord our spiritual "maintenance program" begins to break down and the outreach or impact side of our lives for the Lord diminishes.  As a body of believers, if we neglect the needs of those in the family of faith, we appear to the world as people who preach one message but practice another.   Just like the Twelve disciples, we need a balanced walk that builds up the inside in order to grow in a healthy way.  And just like the Twelve, we know that we can't do it all ourselves...or with our own strength. We need two other resources:  (1) the Lord and (2) each other!
Rob Smith

Friday, January 1, 2010

from disciples to apostles

The 12 disciples (11 faithful ones, of course) had followed Jesus through three years of ministry.  They had walked with Him, eaten with Him, observed Him teach and heal.  As followers of Jesus they had been disciples, or students.  In Acts, chapter 5 it is clear that they have transitioned from followers and pupils to "action agents".  We see them performing miracles, standing strong before the "Temple establishment" of sadduccees, pharisees and high priest declaring: "We ought to obey God rather than men" when they were commanded not to speak any more of Jesus in public.  They are leaders of the fast-growing church of new believers and they are filled with the Holy Spirit as their source of energy and drive.  Something has happened and those who "followed" now are carrying the flag in the front of the battle for faith.  There is a time to learn in the classroom and there is a time to 'charge into action'.  Sometimes I think that it is easier...perhaps more remain a follower.  But this generation needs agents of action just like the generation of Peter and John.  So we see a new word used to describe them: apostles!  They have become "sent ones" on a mission and they even have angels coming alongside like cavalry to enable them to succeed.  It is good to be reminded, as we begin a new year, that we are followers of Jesus that we might be sent by Him to be like the early days of the church.  It is exciting to consider the words of the angels in chapter 5: 19 But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 "Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life."  (because the people really in prison were outside those doors).
Rob Smith