Saturday, February 27, 2010

holding a diamond

Petra Diamonds sold a 507-carat diamond for $35.3 million on Friday, breaking a record as the highest price ever paid for a rough diamond.
I spotted the story above on the internet Friday.  There was a picture of a middle-aged man, beaming with pride, as he held a four inch rock up for the camera.  Of course it is amazing that such a large diamond was this case by one of the largest corporate diamond mines in the world.  But I couldn't help but think that it's just a little bit silly to think that of the two items in the picture: a 4 inch rock, and a 6 foot man, all the hoopla and value is placed on the rock and not the man.  Granted...the rock is rare and very hard and can be made into jewels, watches and impressive museum displays but how much more precious is the man holding the rock?  I wonder if God felt something like the beaming man back in the days of Genesis chapter two when He pulled us from the ground and held us up for all the heavenly hosts to see?  I suppose that diamonds are more rare than people...but how precious are the people and how unique each one is formed and how finely chiseled has our Jeweler made each of us!  You are worth far more than $35.3 million!
Job 28:12 (The Message) Neither gold nor emeralds are comparable; extravagant jewelry can't touch it. Pearl necklaces and ruby bracelets—why bother? None of this is even a down payment on Wisdom! Pile gold and African diamonds as high as you will, they can't hold a candle to Wisdom.



Rob Smith

Friday, February 26, 2010

walking with angels

Psalm 34:7 The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them.
Psalm 35:5 Frustrate all those
      who are plotting my downfall.
   Make them like cinders in a high wind,
      with God's angel working the bellows.
   Make their road lightless and mud-slick,
      with God's angel on their tails.
Psalm 91:10 No evil shall befall you,
         Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
 11 For He shall give His angels charge over you,
         To keep you in all your ways.
 12 In their hands they shall bear you up,
         Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
Luke 15:10 "Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
Today, as you walk through a Friday and anticipate a Saturday why not consider who is walking with you?  Though they may not be seen, angels are around.  They are special agents of God and they are actually involved in our lives.  We see that God sends His angels to make a wall of protection greater than any fortress to shield and deliver us.  We see that angels will go on the offensive against our enemies with strategies and tactics that far surpass anything our anger might fashion.  We see that the sovereign plans of God for our lives will not be frustrated as He sends His angels to keep us as we step through our days.  And we see that God's angels are our biggest cheerleaders.  They actually celebrate each time one of us repents and turns to God for eternal life.  When you think you are alone...think again!  God is with you and his special agents may well be acting on your behalf!
Rob Smith

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I was out for a walk this morning and on the way back spotted middle school kids moving toward their school bus stop (I can't believe how early kids go to school!).  One gal had her unzipped parka hood pulled over her head for shelter from a light drizzle but I noticed that she was already on her cell phone texting a friend who probably was sleepily trudging into the day as well.  These days it seems everyone wants to stay in touch through the wireless technology that envelops us.  What is it in us that likes to make contact and be contacted?  Of course there are important messages and personal news that we want to share and maybe we like to find a ready listener for our gripes, groans and grins.  Connecting easily with friends takes us instantly out of our alone-ness.  I have not plunged into "texting".  That's probably because (a) the buttons are too small for me to easily see on the phone and (b) if I need to reach someone I just call them.  But this technology doesn't surprise the Lord, I'm sure.  In a sense He's been texting us for quite a while.  The text of the Bible is just as personal and just as targeted as any wireless phone (and He's been wireless for some time).  As we read the words with a heart that is open, it's like our cell phone is powered on and our screen is ready to receive a message from our closest friend.  God's texts are often found in the middle of a passage that we are reading.  As we proceed, all of a sudden a phrase, a verse or a story seems to raise up in three dimensions and grab our heart.  It is at those times that we are reminded that the Lord has a personal message for us.  We love those messages and we especially love making the connection.
Numbers 23: 16 God met with Balaam and gave him a message. He said, "Return to Balak and give him the message."
blessings (get the message?),
Rob Smith

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

eternity in a day

When the sun comes up this morning and arcs across the sky,
When the ocean tides and currents run low and then run high,
When the depth of space reveals a heaven far beyond the eye,
and when a child calls for his mother,
and a husband holds his bride,
and a friend stops by to greet you,
and your heart is moved inside
Look up, look out, look in and say...
I am yours, forever, Lord,
You are the One who made it all,
Yet show eternity in a day
Rob Smith

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

the invisible man

One of my favorite shows on TV, when I was little, was "Topper".  It was the story of an man...a butler I think...who could become invisible.  I don't remember much more but the idea was intriguing.  "The Invisible Man" was also a movie and it was fascinating to think about the advantages invisibility could give someone who was trying to stop criminals and do good works.  This morning, as I read Romans chapter 2 I realized that, in a sense, we are all "invisible men".   We learn in this chapter that every man has secrets in his heart..secrets that have to do with ambitions, motivations, heart-directions.  They are secrets from other people, but they are known to God.  One day the invisible man and his secrets will be revealed: Verse 16 "on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Jesus Christ."  We apparently all carry a compass in our hearts to orient us and give us direction...but apparently our compass needs adjustment.  This chapter explains that the hearts of men...the invisible hearts...can be stubborn, judgmental, impatient, selfish and unrepentant...or they can be perseverant in doing good, seeking glory, honor and immortality.  Sometimes our invisible man thinks he can fool others by doing things and being places with the visible man that have an appearance of good...while the unseen man carries darker motives.  As Paul was addressing Jewish Believers in Rome, he explained that the measure of "goodness" was not how much they have heard the Law of God...but how much they have practiced it.  He goes on to explain that the secrets of a healthy invisible man have to do with hearts that are changed by God's Spirit and now live for the praise of God rather then men.  We seem to do best when we realize that our "invisible man" is transparently obvious to God!
Romans 2:29 "But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God."
Rob Smith

Monday, February 22, 2010

When in Rome...

I am venturing into the powerful New Testament book of Romans, where the apostle Paul laid the groundwork for faith before traveling to meet the church in Rome.  He really laid out the North, South, East and West of knowing the Lord in this great book.  I suppose it could be considered a Treasure Map to Heaven.  There is a lot of victory contained in its pages.  One thought that struck me this morning was that we all need to have faith, or trust, in something.  That's because (a) we don't know what is going to happen in our lives, (b) we can't control what is going to happen in our lives, and (c) we don't understand what's happening in our lives.  As we look out from our individual minds, hearts and eyes we really know that we are very limited in our power and understanding.  But, unfortunately, that doesn't stop us from putting our trust in the wrong places.  The first chapter of Romans suggests that we are going to place our trust in only one of two possible places: the Creator or the Creation.  I guess that is pretty much stating the obvious because, if there is a Creator, all that we see and know is wrapped up in Him or what He has made.  Apparently, the role of Creation is to reveal the Creator.  Romans, chapter 1, verse 20 says, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made".  But the problem doesn't seem to be recognizing the Lord through His handiwork...the circuit is broken when we fail to acknowledge and honor Him.  Verse 20 ends by saying "so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks."  As a result we end up walking in the dark, becoming foolish and putting our confidence in everything but God.  Things just tend to go downhill from there.  Verse 28: "And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper."  Like a wheel with the axle placed off-center we roll with a lot of bumps and life is far from what God had in mind. 
Well I can't wait to find out how God helps us get back on track as we move farther into the book.  I've never been to Rome but I feel like I can relate to these Romans.
Rob Smith

Friday, February 19, 2010


We typically put R.S.V.P. instructions at the bottom of invitations.  The folks putting the party, or the reception, together really need to know how many are coming.  Otherwise they don't know how many seats to save and how much food to order.  They also want to know the names so they can fashion name tags and assemble party favors that are personalized.  I suppose wedding receptions, formal dinner parties and children's birthdays are three examples of functions like this.  Of course R.S.V.P. is from the French: Respondez-Vous, S'il Vous Plait ("Please get back to us").  There are two critical pieces to an R.S.V.P.  One piece is the phone number to call, or address to send your reply (sometimes they're good enough to include a stamped return envelope).  The othe piece is the deadline...sometime in advance of the make your response.  Jesus is sending you an invitation to His wedding.  Interestingly...He also is inviting you to be His Bride at the same time!  But He isn't going to force you to come.  He demonstrated His great love for you by paying the price you never could pay when He gave up His life on the cross long ago.  He also showed that He was the victor by conquering death and ultimately returning to His Father in heaven.  And He is sending out an invitation to join Him, after you also pass through the gateway of death.  But He has included R.S.V.P. instructions at the bottom of the invitation.  He's looking for a personal reply, so you'll need to pray (no stamped envelopes here!).  He only wants people to come who really grasp His love for them on a personal I hope you understand that!  The interesting thing about this R.S.V.P. is the deadline.  If you haven't responded yet...and feel that you are ready...and sense Jesus inviting you...then today is the day to respond.  You just don't know about tomorrow!  (By the way...if you respond you'll discover that there are plenty of benefits even before the party begins!)
Matthew 22:4 Again, he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding."
blessings (hope to see you there!),
Rob Smith

Thursday, February 18, 2010

ice and the turtle

This morning I paid a visit to my favorite local pond.  It had been a while since I'd been there and I was surprised to see it covered in ice!  The sheer surface that is usually rippling water now looked like an olympic skating surface (though the ice was actually too thin to consider walking on).  I thought about all the life in the pond below the surface, including fish and turtles.  I also thought about the herons and the local bald eagle who depend on fishing the pond to survive.  Somehow they all have to adapt to this dramatic change in their world.  Apparently the turtles, who are amphibious and can live in the water or out of it, tend to hibernate in the winter.  One source said that they go to the bottom of the pond covered in ice and bury themselves in the muck until conditions improve.  Sometimes shocking things happen to "rock our world" too.  The unexpected can happen in the form of a sudden illness, loss of job, shocking car accident...Our routine can suddenly freeze over and we have to scramble to adapt.  Like the turtle we may have to take the opportunity to vacation in a warmer zone...who knows, the turtle may consider resting in the muck a a "turtle spa".  But it is encouraging to remember that God is not surprised by any turn of events or change of conditions.  No matter what may enter, upend or bend our world....He will be with us in it and through it and with Him we can the turtle under the ice.  (After all...He made the ice as surely as He made the pond)
Job 37:1 (from the Message) No one can escape the weather—it's there. And no one can escape from God. Wild animals take shelter, crawling into their dens, When blizzards roar out of the north and freezing rain crusts the land. It's God's breath that forms the ice, it's God's breath that turns lakes and rivers solid.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

the rest of your life

Hebrews 4: 1 Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. 3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said:
     " So I swore in My wrath, They shall not enter My rest,'"

   although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: "And God rested on the seventh day from all His works"; 5 and again in this place: "They shall not enter My rest."
6 Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, 7 again He designates a certain day, saying in David, "Today," after such a long time, as it has been said: 
      " Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts


I remember driving past one of the familiar franchise hotels years ago.  It featured a sign with various offers and marketing blurbs out front.  On this day, the sign stated an imperative: "Stop here for the rest of your life."  It was a clever "mind catcher" and I don't think many folks really thought the hotel expected them to check in for the balance of their days.  Clever phrases make for effective sales, but there is a place that you can stay for the rest of your life that will also provide the deepest and most lasting rest for your life.  We know that God rested on the seventh day of Creation.  This morning, as I was reading Hebrews chapter 4, I was reminded that even though God rested when He reached that final day, we don't automatically enter that rest just because we are part of His Creation.  Just as the Hebrew people failed to enter God's rest of the promised land through unbelief and lack of trust...when He had delivered them from we can fail to trust Him with our lives and trust Him for His promises and so fail to enter the rest of eternal life.  In a sense, the sign that the Lord holds up for us all is "Stop here for the rest of your life".  But He doesn't mean to pause for a night...He means to come out of the night and rest in Him. 
Hebrews 4:10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.
Rob Smith

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

the invisible and the unknown

Sometimes I think it's a little frustrating having a relationship with an invisible God.  Of course all of His handiwork, including ourselves, is very evident and tangible but the heart of our interaction...our communication and our thoughts, center on our invisible God.  I know that one day, in Heaven, and for all eternity thereafter we will be at the foot of His throne and I believe that we will see the Heavenly Father and Son.  But, for now, our contact is through the marvelous...but invisible...Holy Spirit.  But then I thought about all the invisibles and unknowns of my future.  I considered that I really understand very little of how life works and I absolutely cannot see and do not know the future.  I don't know how many days lie ahead or what those days will contain.  In some ways, the unknown of my life is like the greater portion of the iceberg that lies below the surface of the ocean.  I suppose one of the great miracles of life occurs when our Lord opens our heart to His reality and we invite Him in to clean us and to redeem us.  We begin a walk with the One who has known us from the time we were just an idea...when we were, ourselves, still invisible.  Through the exercise of faith and trust we have found that the invisible God hears us, cares for us, answers prayer and leads us...sometimes in spite of our best efforts to wander.  And now I realize that I need an invisible God for an unknown future.  If I can learn to trust in the invisible God I can walk peacefully and confidently into the unknown each day.  For I am not invisible to Him.
1 Timothy 1:17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Rob Smith

Monday, February 15, 2010

water color skies

Perhaps the morning showcases the beauty of the sky as the new day tiptoes in while the evening sky projects a final glow as day reluctantly surrenders to night.  This morning, as I took in the iridescent shades of light and the outline of new-formed clouds I realized that God paints the sky in water color abstracts while the earth is painted with the bold colors and sharply etched definition of oils.  The sky has subtle shades of color and clouds that entertain the imagination and allows minds to consider the infinite and to give purpose to daydreams.  The oils of the earth leave less to interpretation and guide us through our routines of land-locked living.  We travel past landscape and buildings while headed toward work and a world of problems and inescapable reality.  But as we move through each day of challenges... of issues... of victories and defeats we travel beneath a water color sky that provides an ever-present place of escape from our oil painted realities.  And we are reminded that, for all the precise definition of our day to day lives, there is much we do not know..much we do not understand...a vastness of experience that we know lies ahead of us.....somewhere through and beyond the water color skies above.  And we have come to know the Artist who is equally talented with the pastels of water color and the firmer textures of oil.  For He is also the sculptor who is fashioning us in clay.  And we suspect that one day we will walk through His gallery and live in His studio.  For now we express our thanks for placing us on His canvas.
Amos 9:6 He who builds His layers in the sky,
      And has founded His strata in the earth;
      Who calls for the waters of the sea,
      And pours them out on the face of the earth—
      The LORD is His name.
Rob Smith

Sunday, February 14, 2010

the knowledge of the holy

It was good, once again, to be in church today and to sing praises to our Lord.  His heavenly royalty was a theme of several songs as we considered the throne and the royal robe of God filling heaven.  We sang the phrase "Holy, holy, holy, holy....Holy is the Lord" in one song and I felt such peace, as if something very important has been absolutely settled.  I considered what it means that the Lord is holy.  I know that He is absolutely pure, and just, and right and full of love....and I know that I, in myself, am not any of those things.  But something happens when we still our minds, quiet our hearts and lay bare our faults before our Lord.  We become aware that He stands waiting to love us and to invite us into His holy presence.  I feel that we were made to be holy creatures...that our best and noblest sense of living lies in holiness.  Perhaps our hearts resonate with the holiness of Heaven at those times when we most closely identify with our Lord and perhaps this is what we were made for.  As if we have savored a foretaste of Heaven and are at the foot of God's throne...that is what we seem to experience as we repent of our unclean thoughts and actions and draw near to Him...even here and even in this dimension of living.  One day all who have enjoyed this taste of holiness will know it as our continual feast because in Heaven I suspect that holiness is the air that is breathed, the music that is sung, the flavor of every sense and the essence of our eternal communion with God.  There is great joy in holiness and we are complete in holiness and we are one with our God in holiness.  We, too, were made to be holy.
Revelation 21: 1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
blessings and love,
Rob Smith

Saturday, February 13, 2010

kings and kingdoms

Reading through Daniel it has been fascinating to consider the story of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.  He was, perhaps, the greatest king of the greatest empire that had ruled on earth to that point.  His palace with its hanging gardens was one of the great wonders of the ancient world.  His city of Babylon had walls that were made of stone and thicker than any modern fortress.  There were bridges and tunnels, gates of brass, wide moats and many temples to Ishtar.  It was the Washington D.C. or the Moscow or the Beijing of its day (perhaps even grander) and Nebuchadnezzar was the architect of its greatness.  He ruled 45 of the empire's brief 70 year period.  He had absolute power over every subject in Babylon.  If he said to kill, people were killed.  If he said to spare, people were spared.  Daniel and his three friends in captivity refused to bow the knee to Nebuchadnezzar in preference to the true God.  But Daniel also revealed the power of God to show the future through dreams and interpretations.  God crowned their faithfulness, not only with miraculous survival but with the amazing conversion of Nebuchadnezzar, himself.  God told the king of Babylon that he would go insane and live like a wild animal for 7 years, until he acknowledged the reality and sovereigny of the true God.  And that is exactly what happened.  The one true God showed the greatest earthly king that there really was only one everlasting Kingdom and one King.  It occurs to me that we tend to think of ourselves as the kings of our lives.  If we say that we will do something we think we can do it.  If we say that will not do something we think that we don't have to do it.  We can really believe that we rule the empire of our lives and that we have built walls thick enough to block any intrusion and tunnels to escape any danger.   But the kingdom of our lives and the kingdoms that men build are all subject to the Heavenly Kingdom and the great King of eternity.  Here are the words of Nebuchadnezzar after he'd come to his eternal senses from Daniel, chapter 4: 34 And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever:  For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,  And His kingdom is from generation to generation. 35 All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing;  He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth.  No one can restrain His hand  Or say to Him, "What have You done?"
Rob Smith
p.s. come to MiniBible class tomorrow at the Chapel to hear more from Daniel!

Friday, February 12, 2010

two horizons

As I read through Proverbs one of the themes that runs through this book of wisdom is: the Wicked and the Righteous.  I was reading Proverbs chapter 11 yesterday and a few verses especially made an impression:
Verse 4: Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.
Verse 7: When a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish, And the hope of a strong man perishes.
There are, apparently, two horizons that we can fix our eyes on as we live out our days.  I think that those who have truly discovered that there is an eternal horizon that goes beyond our natural lives are more likely to live well and live wisely while still here in the flesh.  Those who, either do not want to face the possibility of eternity or choose to ignore it are more likely to be unhappy while living out there days on earth's surface.   We spend a lot of time and energy chasing riches and strength because there are certain expectations that go with them, but as the proverb points out....whatever those expectations are they generally end with our death and they certainly can't buy favor from God.  There is another view of life that has considered and incorporated the Lord even during this life by trusting in the work and life of God's Son.  Not that we are righteous in ourselves...but in leaning on His righteousness we are confident that our goals do not end with our physical death...instead we are delivered from death to life.  In a sense there are two horizons that we can base our lives on: our brief physical life on planet earth or the eternity of living that lies beyond our brief stay on the planet.  Our choice of horizons says a lot about our quality of life and the nature of our character.
Rob Smith

Thursday, February 11, 2010

the throne room

For some reason it felt different to worship the Lord last night in church.  I think it had something to do with it being Wednesday instead of Sunday.  We had missed two Sundays in a row due to severe winter weather and it truly felt good to gather and celebrate the Lord.  As we sang...the choir its anthem ("You are my all in all")...the congregational hymn ("Victory in Jesus")...and several contemporary praise songs...I suddenly had a different picture of where we were.  Instead of a church building and a church service the place became a throne room and we were loving subjects standing directly in the presence of our King.  I could picture the Lord on His throne in our midst, receiving our praise.  As I sang in the choir and looked out over the congregation my eyes were drawn to the upper part of the back wall, where there was nothing to see physically but I pictured the Lord there, seated right in our midst.  Our pastor mentioned during the service that our attitude in church shouldn't be so much about what we take from the time together, but what we bring in offerings of praise and substance.  I think much of the joy and all of the power that I felt last night came from the attitude of true worship that was being offered by the gathered group.  As I think about it, total praise and worship is the fitting response to being in the immediate presence of our King.  From now on I hope to remember that we enter the throne room of our Lord when we gather to worship.
Revelation 7:14b So he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. 16 They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat;
Rob Smith

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

the gold standard

Throughout history hold has been used to back up the currency of nations because it has intrinsic worth due to its rarity, beauty and durability.  In recent decades the world has retreated from the gold standard because there is not enough to support the cash now floating around.  In fact there is only enough gold to reinforce the amount of money now floating in our country alone (though we abandoned gold as a standard years ago).  The world now looks to the U.S. Dollar as the back-up or reserve for the world's currency.  But recent turmoil in our economy has suggested that even that standard may change soon.  There is something pleasing about having a precious resource behind our economic engines.  It suggests that governments and capitalists and economists must be held to some kind of discipline.  Perhaps it is good to be reminded that we have the gold standard of faith in Christ Jesus.  His life, words and fulfilled promise are the kind of backing that we need to carry on in our daily lives with a strong sense that right and wrong are clearly defined, that there is purpose in living and hope for the future.  If we use the human standard to guide us we find a muddled view of morality, vagueness of purpose and uncertainty about the future.  Jesus is our gold standard.  He is precious and He is backing us up!
Job 22:24 Then you will lay your gold in the dust,
      And the gold of Ophir among the stones of the brooks.

 25 Yes, the Almighty will be your gold
      And your precious silver;

 26 For then you will have your delight in the Almighty,
      And lift up your face to God.



Rob Smith

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


There is an aspect of familiarity that is beneficial.  If we were not comfortable in our place of living and working and if it were continually different and new we would have difficulty focusing on the requirements of each day.  Habits, routine and familiar settings facilitate efficient and effective living.  But the other side of familiarity is the dullness it can foster in our perception of the wonderful and the awesome that surround us continually.  Whether it is the common beauty of the sky, the water and the hills on the horizon or the intricate mechanics of our bodies or the fabulous design of marriage and the family we are surrounded by the familiar while we are also immersed in the awesome.  And that is because we live in the presence of the Almighty.  He has fashioned a "garden" for us to walk through that "shouts" of His reality but permits us to ignore Him in our familiarity.  I suppose that is why it is good to dedicate some portion of each day to simply consider Him...His handiwork...His claim to our lives and our loyalty.  After much credit can we take for the wonders we experience in the routine of living...or for our lives themselves?
Psalm 121:1 I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
                      From whence comes my help?
                   2 My help comes from the LORD,
                     Who made heaven and earth.
Rob Smith

Monday, February 8, 2010

taking Jesus

John 11:57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he was to report it, so that they might seize Him.
I was in a Bible discussion group tonight that was reviewing and discussing John, chapter 11 and the beginning of chapter 12.  The verse above seemed to linger in my thoughts.  Jesus has just raised his friend Lazarus from death to life.  This miracle has been seen by many folks and they had one of two reactions:  many believed that Jesus was the Son of God after witnessing this stunning event but others decided it was better to place Jesus on report to the religous authorities than to consider His possible deity.  Each reaction represented a choice.  The choice was: "To whom will I entrust my life?"  The first group had discovered the living God and bowed before Him.  The second group couldn't see above the earthly forces of politics and human power. 
Later in the passage we see Lazarus' sister Mary anoint Jesus feet with her perfumed hair as a gesture of great love and gratitude.  I thought about the difference between the Pharisees desire to "seize" Jesus and Mary's tender and costly touch.   The Pharisees thought they could have Jesus just by taking Him, but they didn't realize that to hold Jesus bodily is not to control Him.  I think many folks still think that Jesus can be seized and controlled.  But they have not come to understand that Jesus cannot be taken...He can only be received.
Rob Smith

Sunday, February 7, 2010

this changes everything

One overwhelming sensation that comes from a snowstorm is the change it brings to everything you can see outside.  All that is familiar is covered or adorned with white clothing from heaven.  Trees, roads, houses and fields are re-crafted into a place of imagination and for a while we must stop all that are doing and rediscover the wonder of play.  The snow is so clean, so pure and appears fluffy light until you begin to face reality and shovel it from driveways and sidewalks.  In the space of several hours the snow comes and transforms the world from powers above us.  Snow is one of those things that would be very hard for a blind person to appreciate.  You need to be so familiar with the everyday appearance of your world to be fully stunned by the white blanket's sudden arrival.  A life that is transformed by the power of Heaven through the covering of Christ might be seen in a similar way.  A person can be so affected by the arrival of the Lord that everything appears changed.  The terrain may follow the same contours but it has a new freshness and refreshing purity.  That which is familiar has been enhanced and yet there is much that is new.  Certainly the snow of Heaven stops us in our tracks, changes our routine, and causes us to see the world we are seen differently by the world.  A snowstorm is like the coming of Christ but He will not melt and run off...His change is lasting.
Isaiah 55:10 " For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
      And do not return there,
      But water the earth,
      And make it bring forth and bud,
      That it may give seed to the sower
      And bread to the eater,
       11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
      It shall not return to Me void,
      But it shall accomplish what I please,
      And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it."
Rob Smith

Saturday, February 6, 2010

the swan

This morning was, by all weather accounts, miserable.  It has been cold, rainy and blustery for over 12 hours.  So it came as a pleasant contrast to spot a beautiful white swan right in front of me at the local pond I visit for morning devotions.  I was struck with the size and grace of this bird as it paused, unafraid of the sound of my truck, a mere 20 feet away.  Slowly the regal creature glided away from me as I noted that there was no sign of effort in her motion.  Her elegant long neck seemed to rise up from the water like a roman column seemingly separated from the lovely mound of snow-white plumage that artfully covered her body.  In the midst of a miserable morning there was perfect beauty right in front of me.  I suppose life can sometimes seem like today's weather...prolonged storms and struggles of experience, relationships, health.  We can be battered by life's winds and pelted with freezing rain by uncaring people and we can feel isolated by it all.  But, like this morning's swan, Jesus arises from the pond in the midst of our weather.  He waits patiently and gracefully before us in purity and moves within us and before us in such a way that expresses peace and promises beauty in the midst of the storm.  Like the swan, we cannot see how He moves but we are confident that He is the master of the pond that is our life.
Psalm 107:29 He calms the storm,
         So that its waves are still.
 30 Then they are glad because they are quiet;
         So He guides them to their desired haven.
Rob Smith

Friday, February 5, 2010

spiritual weight lifting

Psalm 25:1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.....4 Make me know your ways, O Lord; Teach me your paths. 5 Lead me in your truth and teach me, For you are the God of my salvation; For you I wait all the day.
Lifting weights is a popular and effective way to build strength and improve overall stamina and health.  The passage above makes me think of another healthy pursuit: "Wait / Lifting".  David tells us that the starting point for him is to "lift up my soul" to the Lord.  Soul appears to mean all that is in us...our heart, personality, mind...the total package of who we are.  It apparently is possible to focus entirely on the Lord...quite a challenge with all the distractions that pull us in multiple directions simultaneously.  But David purposed to lift his soul to the Lord.  In verse 5 he tells us that he waits before God all day long to find truth, wisdom and knowledge because God has shown His great love for us by securing our salvation. 
Yes, weight lifting is great training for physical strength...perhaps wait/lifting can be our focus for spiritual strength!
blessings (from my soul to yours),
Rob Smith

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Heaven and Main

Yesterday afternoon I found myself at the intersection of two roads:  Heaven and Main.  I was privileged to be in the presence of the Lord at the funeral and memorial service of the 31 year-old son of a good friend from church.  Although a sudden, virulent sickness stopped his heart and stole his breath at such an early place in life, he had invested deeply in living a full, energetic and creative life and he had lived with passion.  Something like 10 family members stood up, one at a time, in front of the congregation to testify to the young man's love for them, love for the Lord and the Lord's creation, and love of life.  I realized that when a Believer dies we find ourselves at the intersection of Heaven and Main streets.  Most of the time and most of our days we are immersed and wrapped up in the concerns and affairs of this earthly life.  But when a loved one dies our thoughts are suddenly riveted on the vertical dimension, leading Heaven-ward, for we will never interact again on this earthly plane with that individual.  We are left with two things to hold onto: cherished memories and the hope of heaven.  We look back at the life we shared with the family member or friend and, as the father of the young man shared yesterday, we "play the tape" of memories that have engraved our love deeply in our hearts.  And then we remember that the one who is no longer here has moved on to the place our Savior promised if we have placed our trust in Him.  It's harder for us to picture Heaven than to frame memories in our minds but we have the sure words of Jesus which were shared yesterday from John, chapter 14:1-3 "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.  In my Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also."
When we are at the intersection of Heaven and Main we are reminded that we are actually on both roads while we are here...something like that stretch of highway in the Shenandoah valley where Interstates 64 and 81 are the same road for a stretch...and then, before we know it, we'll reach the exit ramp and leave Main to merge onto Heaven's expressway to reach the home being fashioned for us by our Savior.  I hope that your Main Street of living has found the intersection with Heaven's highway.  You'll find it at the crossroad where Jesus is calling your name.
blessings (and gratitude for the zest for life that Joshua radiated),
Rob Smith

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

the sneeze

This time of year there's a whole lot of sneezing going on.  Something about winter is associated with head colds and other nasal disturbances.  For some reason loud sneezes are one of the genetic traits passed down in my family.  Not only can our sneezes be ear shattering...they can seemingly erupt without notice and startle everyone within hearing range.  It is possible to stifle, or muffle, the sneeze but you feel like you're turning all that energy inside out, and that can't be good.  So I wondered what sneezes are all about.  It turns out that there is a special part of the brain dedicated to "sneeze control".  When the lining of the nose is irritated by certain bacteria or other unfiltered particles....or sometimes when you are exposed to bright lights...certain chemicals are released that stimulate nerve endings that wakeup the "sneeze center" in the brain.  The brain then sends out an alarm to an array of muscles in the head and neck which cause a buildup and release of a burst of air from the lungs.  Part of the reflex opens the vocal cords to allow the pressurized air to flow back up through the nose and "blow out" the unwanted irritants.  It's really quite a drama taking place in our body.  It occurs to me that sneezing is just one of countless functions my body performs automatically on my behalf.  It hasn't been necessary for me to understand sneezing to sneeze and I probably understand little about most of the things my body does for me.  It makes me realize that I have been designed to focus my attention on other things than sneezing...(which will pretty much take care of itself).  Our wonderful Creator has designed us with bodies that function extremely well so that we can be freed to love and care for others who walk about in similar bodies.
2 Kings 4:34 And he went up and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands; and he stretched himself out on the child, and the flesh of the child became warm. 35 He returned and walked back and forth in the house, and again went up and stretched himself out on him; then the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. 36 And he called Gehazi and said, "Call this Shunammite woman." So he called her. And when she came in to him, he said, "Pick up your son."
Rob Smith

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

One for all

I returned to the book of Acts this morning and enjoyed chapter 17.  Paul preaches to very different kinds of people in this chapter.  In Thessalonica he speaks to Jews for three Sabbaths in their synagogue, reasoning how Jesus had fulfilled the promise of the Messiah, the Christ, by taking them through very familiar scriptures.  Some believed but others became jealous and hostile, threatening Paul's life.  So Paul moved on to Berea where he found a different audience...once again they were Jews and once again he spoke in their synagogue, but there was a different quality to their attitude.  They were used to searching out truth in the scriptures and they eagerly listened to Paul and compared his teachings with those of the Bible and many believed...but those obnoxious Thessalonians followed Paul to Berea and tried to stir up folks against him.  So, once again, Paul moved on.  This time he went to Athens and spoke to Jews in the synagogue but also to Gentiles who followed many of the famous Greek philosophers and had a tradition of many idols and cultural gods.  For these Gentiles Paul's teachings were strange and new, with nothing in their tradition or belief-structure to reinforce the message and the person of Jesus.  In fact they said (verses 19,20) "May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaming?  For you are bringing some strange things to our ears;  so we want to know what these things mean."  Paul went on to briefly summarize the identity of God the true Creator and His desire for men everywhere to turn to Him.  Once again, some rejected the message but some embraced it and believed. 
Three places...three kinds of people: familiar skeptics, earnest seekers and foreigners to faith...but one message for all.  We are struck with the truth that our God wants to reach all people everywhere with the truth of His reality and His Son's resurrection that we might all be restored to Him.
Rob Smith

Monday, February 1, 2010

feel like a king

Psalm 21:1 The king shall have joy in Your strength, O LORD; And in Your salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!
                  4 He asked life from You, and You gave it to him— Length of days forever and ever.
                 6 For You have made him most blessed forever;  You have made him exceedingly glad with Your presence.
                 7 For the king trusts in the LORD,  And through the mercy of the Most High he shall not be moved.
                 13 Be exalted, O LORD, in Your own strength!  We will sing and praise Your power.
Reading Psalm 21 this morning, one of King David's psalms, I was reminded that David demonstrated what our relationship with the Lord should look like.  He was a great king of an important nation but I was struck with the thought that we can share that greatness.  Just like David we can rejoice in our salvation.  We asked life from the Lord and He has given us eternal life, where earth is a launchpad but not a final destination.  We have found the most exquisite of joys wrapped in the warmth of His closeness...knowing we are never alone and we need never be apart from Him.  We have found, like David, the blessing of trusting...depending...leaning....even falling, upon the Lord.  We have learned that it is all about His strength..His power and not our own.  I suppose the greatness of David came from his awareness of who the real King was...and that same privilege is ours.
Rob Smith