Wednesday, March 31, 2010

all things

I enjoyed reading through Romans, chapter 11 this morning.  There is wonderful teaching by Paul on the mystery of the gospel.  He discusses what God had in mind when He hardened the hearts of most Jews so that they didn't understand or acccept Jesus as savior.  He clarifies the strategy God had in mind to make the truths of salvation available to the Gentile world through the rejection by the Jewish people.  He also affirms the Lord's love for Israel and he explains that this "partial hardening" of their understanding will someday end when the Gentile world has had its appointed time to respond to Him.  Paul makes the point that we are seeing the fulfillment of God's plans...the outworking of His thoughts, which are beyond our comprehension.  As he says in verses 33 and 34: "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!  For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?"  I think the final verse of chapter 11 is the most comforting as we contemplate God's absolute sovereignty: "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be the glory forever. Amen."  Until God has become "from, through and to...all things" to us personally I don't think we have fully embraced Him or completely bowed before Him.
Rob Smith

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

here and now

Romans 10:6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down from above) 7 or, "'Who will descend into the abyss?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart"(that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."
We tend to separate our day-to-day life from our spiritual life.  We may think that Jesus is far away and we'll only deal with Him one day after we die and find that we are taking the golden elevator to glory or riding the dirty laundry chute to eternal doom.  "Are you going to Heaven?" or "Are you going to Hell?" seem to be the big issues.  But the passage from Romans, above, tells us that the more important question is "Have you met Jesus here?"  This is the place and now is the time to discover that the Lord is real and Jesus is very near.  When we realize that we need Him desperately now and we need Him here and when we personally believe that God truly raised Jesus from the dead a transaction takes place that determines the Heaven and Hell question.  Belief and faith are the ultimate intimate matters.  They are the stuff that make up our personal relationship with the living God.  We are not saved in a crowd, we become saved individually.  (We may worship with others in a crowd, but we're really celebrating the ultimate personal experience with God).  I think it is good to reflect on the active verbs in the passage above: believe, confess, call.  And it is especially important to remember verse 13, that "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved".  Aren't you glad that we can have peace about salvation now?  Truly this is freedom!
Rob Smith

Sunday, March 28, 2010

living in the middle ages

I suppose that times are tough no matter what era of history you live during.  Of course there are many great things about living now, with the advanced state of medical knowledge we have and with all the great technology that connects us to knowledge, news and each other.  But recent reflections have caused me to realize that I live in the middle ages in the 21st century.  I now have seen 57 Christmases.  I have memories that trace back 1/2 a century but seem like they occurred just a few years ago.  I am in the middle of life, rapidly heading deep into the final quarter of the game.  These are the middle ages because I am enjoying children and grandchildren coming after me while also being blessed with the presence of my vigorous Mom and several Aunts and Uncles in the generation ahead.  It is a great time because I have been through many battles, made many mistakes, realized all mountains won't be conquered (but don't need to be) and most of my time outside of work I can hang out with the woman who has shared all this and continues to walk with me.  It is the middle of life...the middle ages...and yet eternity beckons and our excitement is building for the forever-time that lies just ahead.  And we are sure of this one thing:...that we will be with the Lord.  So, in a sense, we aren't even near the middle...we're just lacing up our sneakers and stepping up to the starting line.  You know, the folks who lived in the Middle Ages didn't know they were in the Middle Ages.  They were living in the most modern times up to that time.  And we who are living in these middle ages, who have put our trust in Jesus, do well to remember that we really are living in two times at the same time.  We are living Now and we are living Forever.  You may be earlier in the may be deeper in the may be with us in the middle ages.  My hope is that you have come out of the Dark Ages and met the King of the Ages!
Isaiah 25:6 But here on this mountain, God-of-the-Angel-Armies will throw a feast for all the people of the world, A feast of the finest foods, a feast with vintage wines, a feast of seven courses, a feast lavish with gourmet desserts. And here on this mountain, God will banish the pall of doom hanging over all peoples, The shadow of doom darkening all nations. Yes, he'll banish death forever. And God will wipe the tears from every face. He'll remove every sign of disgrace From his people, wherever they are. Yes! God says so!


blessings (from the middle ages to all who embrace life forever in Jesus),

Rob Smith

Friday, March 26, 2010

and best of all...

A few parting thoughts seemed appropriate from Romans, Chapter 8.  We have a problem we couldn't solve and the Lord solved it through a Savior.  We still have issues that are beyond our strength but He provides His Spirit to walk with us.  Our weakness throws us closer to Him (or causes us to drift farther away).  We learn that life is not about our control but about His.  Like an unbroken mustang from the wild west we need to be broken.  Our pride needs to be shattered so we can trust and yield to the only One who loves us with a forever kind of care. 
Ultimately we need to come to the place where we really believe Romans, chapter 8 verses28-30: And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified
....and how about verses 31-34! What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
...but the grand finale (with firecrackers and cannon blasts is reserved for verses 35-39:  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written:  
"For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."
 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
For, best of all, we will be with Him forever...starting now!
Rob Smith

Thursday, March 25, 2010

a cupful of hope

We have been looking at Romans 8 the past few days and it is as rich a passage as a chocolate fudge brownie is sweet.  You can almost picture the apostle Paul in front of a gathering of believers and seekers speaking with sureness and gesturing to the crowd and towards heaven as he made the case for faith. 
We have seen that the universal problem of man stems from our "sin nature".  The Lord squarely addressed this problem by sending His Son to show that there was one born of flesh who would have personal victory over sin during His life and would absolutely conquer sin for all who would trust His sacrifice on the Cross. 
We are free from sin's reign immediately upon accepting Christ into our hearts, but we are not free from the resident presence of our sin nature.  We'll wrestle with that nature for the rest of our days and we've seen that we can win the wrestling match when we set our minds on The Lord.  We also can set our hope on the sure promises of Heaven. 
Chapter 8 tells us that a time is coming that Creation has awaited since the beginning... when the 'sons of God will be revealed (verse 19)'.  I believe that we, who have trusted in Christ, are the sons of God referred to.  Just as we have tasted salvation so all of Creation will eventually be set free.  This world has been groaning and creaking with corruption for a long time.  Romans 8 compares those pains to birth pangs.  One day we will live in true freedom and we will be wrapped in the perfect Creation God has had in mind all along. 
So we have a great future and we also have a great present, as verse 23 tells us.  We are enjoying the first fruits of the Spirit now and are encouraged to persevere until our Hope is fulfilled.
We'll conclude tomorrow with more reasons for great confidence!
blessings (with apologies for wordiness...just felt I had to do this),
Rob Smith

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

sin after salvation

As we have seen from Romans, chapters 7 and 8, we all have a sin nature, an actual "force within" that tries to drive us the wrong way on life's one-way streets.  It is a force that actually is separate from our mind and personality because it tries to make us do things we absolutely know are wrong and that, when we think about it, we don't even want to do!  Nevertheless we are responsible...sin cannot be hatched from a "sin nature" without our decision to participate.  Jesus came into the world to share our human experience.  Part of that experience was to deal with the same sin nature that all of us have. 
Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  We needed to be delivered from our sin, but we also needed to be "made right" so that we could be in God's presence one day and for eternity.  Only the sacrifice of a perfect lamb would accomplish this, as Old Testament sacrifices for sin had pictured.  Of course, we need for this sacrifice to apply to our lives on an individual basis.  Just as we have a capacity for sin, so we have a capacity for salvation.  Just as we cannot do right in our own strength, so we cannot make ourselves right in our own strength.  But, after the wonder of faith has opened our hearts to accept Christ, and His payment on our behalf we find sin's presence still in our midst.  In my opinion God allows this to help us mature and to reflect His nature.  One key to living in victory seems to be our "mind set".  We can choose what we will think about and who we talk to.  If we choose to think about the Lord and to talk to Him, we're not as likely to sin.  Consider Romans 8:5-6  For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Every day and throughout the day we can reign in our thoughts and bring them back to the Lord.  This is where growth takes place...when we choose to set our minds on the Lord, despite sin's shadowy presence.  Romans calls this "walking in the Spirit".   Fortunately we have the greatest resource imaginable to be successful in this challenge: we have the indwelling presence of the Lord:  Romans 8:11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.  We'll continue to consider the benefits that come from walking in the Spirit tomorrow.
Rob Smith

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Christ in in Christ

I've been wrestling with sin...What I mean is the concept of is our universal problem as human beings.  One thought that hit home yesterday was that we are not responsible for having a "sin nature".  Every man, woman and child since Adam has inherited the nature to sin.  As we saw in Romans, chapter 7 this nature dwells, like a separate being, within our framework.  I believe that even Jesus had a sin nature, because He was born in the flesh and was fully man (of course, Jesus didn't succumb to the sin nature..He, alone, resisted the temptation to sin).  We know that we will carry this sin nature for the rest of our natural lives.  Romans, chapter 8, addresses God's solution and how we are to implement that solution.  It seems that Christ came into the world to save us from this sin nature, but that this solution doesn't take effect on a personal level until Christ comes into our personal world.  Romans 8:10 tells us "If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness."  We need the actual presence of Christ within us to overcome the sin nature, also within.  We not only need for Christ to be in us...we also need to be in Christ.  Verse 1 says "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus".  The paradox of living after we have Christ in our lives is that we are set free from the control of sin on an eternal level while we still must grapple with it on the natural level.  Verse 2: "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death." 
Tomorrow we will look at how to cope with the sin nature after we have trusted in Christ.
Rob Smith

Monday, March 22, 2010

Under the surface

Looking out over the ocean you become aware of the changing face of the waters, from rolling waves to quiet ripples.  But you do not see beneath the surface.  Beneath the surface is a world almost unto itself.  There are undersea mountains, shipwrecks and a vast array of living things that do not resemble life on earth's surface.  We are something like the sea, as well.  Our outer person presents one impression of our identity, but there is much beneath the surface.  The undersea world can only be viewed by using special equipment to breathe and illuminate those depths.  Our "under-surface" world can only be seen with the illumination of God's Word and the breath of God's Spirit.  This morning, as I considered Romans, Chapter 7 I came face to face with one of the unpleasant features of my "under-surface" nature.  It turns out that we all carry an unwelcome resident in the "undersea portion" of our lives.  The Bible calls this "Sin".  God gave us many laws to clearly map out how we ought to live and even His chosen people could not keep those laws because of this phenomena within.  We know that it almost has a force unto itself because, as Paul says in Romans 7:15 and 16, sometimes we do things that not only do we not understand, but that are in direct opposition to what we want to do, and in fact are things that we "hate" doing.  It is as though some aspect of our lives is not under our control.  I suppose that is exactly the problem...we need help to reign in a maverick piece of our identity that lies beneath the surface that is beyond our personal power to understand or control.  Paul said that that we have a split personality, with minds that want to serve God and sin-natures that want to haul us in the opposite direction.  This is why we need a force greater than ourselves, or any human agent.  I suspect that Romans, Chapter 8 will provide some answers tomorrow!
Romans 7:24 Wretched man that I am?  Who will set me free from the body of this death?
blessings, (with hope for tomorrow)
Rob Smith

Saturday, March 20, 2010

unique and common

During our recent trip to Philadelphia we visited a remarkable exhibition of the human body called Body Worlds II.  Techniques have been developed using plastic preservatives to treat the bodies of humans, who gave permission for this during their lifetimes, so that the tissues do not continue to decay.  There were a number of exhibits, which had been totally depersonalized (faces and features no longer seen) that revealed the inner wonders of the human body: muscle, tendon, bone, nerves and vital organs.  My daughter, who is currently in the midst of Physical Therapy school at Temple University, was able to point out the names and functions of many aspects of the body that she has just been studying in her anatomy labs.  One couldn't help but think of the Creator and the amazing design He fashioned.  Something like a dozen major body systems interact to allow us to carry on the routine and voluntary actions of our lives.  And the amazing brain...a 3 pound mass of dense neural tissue and blood supply controls it all.  But a new wonder occurred to me as I reflected about the exhibition.  God designed the body in such a way that it is identical in form, function and "parts" (gender specific, of course).  This permits medical understanding and treatment of sickness and disease.  It also allows each of us to relate to one another in terms of all the physical challenges and needs of physical living.  Nonetheless God also designed the body with ultimate uniqueness (everyone's DNA is different) so that our appearances differ and we can be recognized (of course twins can be a challenge!).  He also designed the body as the perfect "house" for our spirit and soul.  The "self" that you think of as you resides within the frame of this design.  You have unique personality, interests and motivations that differentiate you from every other person.  Only God could come up with a design that perfectly marries the common with the unique.  As wonderful and enlightening as the exhibits in Philadelphia were, they were devoid of any clues as to personality.  I am grateful for what I have in common with all others and I am especially grateful that I have been formed with unique identity...and I am known uniquely to Him!.....(and so are you!!)
Romans 12:4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.
blessings, from one unique soul to my unique friends, with whom we share so much in common
Rob Smith

Friday, March 19, 2010

the ultimate you

Last night, during choir practice, a spiritual truth seemed illustrated by our talented choir director, Ted Cornell.  Ted consistently selects excellent music for us to sing.  It is music that clearly expresses many dimensions of our Lord's reality and love.  It is also music that is challenging and always requires hours of practice before we "get it right".  The thing that stood out to me last night is that Ted already has a razor sharp picture in his mind, before we start to learn the song, of what the music should ultimately sound like.  He is not only a talented musician and performer.  He is also a designer and fashioner of heavenly messages through this particular medium.  Like most designers, he has a plan in mind for the ultimate product.  As we struggle (and we do) through the learning process...getting notes, transitions, timing, ebbs and flows of volume and words he helps us work on every aspect until the music matches the design he has carried in his mind.  Ted is patient and gentle and consistently kind.  But he is resolute that we will not sing a song until it has been fully crafted.  Over the years there have been some difficult works that we have been very gradually learning and that will, one day, be ready to share.  His fine ear can listen through the many singers and hear four different parts, and instrumental accompaniment,the as they blend.  He can invariably find the voices that are out of tune and shepherd them back to the composition with kindness.  As a choir we willingly practice because we have experienced the joy of the final product and know that all the work is worth it.  There is another, Heavenly Director, who is also patiently working with us.  He too has a final product in mind for our lives.  He is shaping us now so that we will be ready to come directly into His presence.  We do well to submit to this director as well.  He is kind and patient and we will be pleased at the outcome.
Philippians 1:6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ
blessings, with gratitude for Ted's example
Rob Smith

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Walking through the Kingdom

Just a few questions as you roll into a new day:
Have you considered how you will spend today as you walk through the Kingdom?
Do you have a mindset that God, Himself, is keenly aware of your thoughts?
Are you poised to act on opportunities that the Holy Spirit brings your way for service and to extend Heaven to others?
Are you expectant of hearing from God through His Word and watchful for His activity in your life and in response to needs you have lifted to Him?
Do you have a heart that is hard-wired to your voice and feels compelled to sing (or shout) praise to Him when you are driving alone in your car (or maybe not alone)?
Do you realize that this could be the day you see Jesus, face to face?
Galatians 5:16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh......25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Psalm 15:1 LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
         Who may dwell in Your holy hill?          
        2 He who walks uprightly,
         And works righteousness,
         And speaks the truth in his heart;



Rob Smith

two unlikely actions

As I continue reading in the wonderful New Testament book of Romans I find baffling truths about our human condition.  As a result of becoming a "New Creature" by faith in Christ I learn in chapter 6 that we are called to do two things our culture discourages and/or disparages.  We are called to 'Volunteer' and we are called to be 'Slaves'.  Volunteering is often frowned on in our culture because it implies you will be used for unpleasant work...possibly even dangerous or life-threatening tasks and it isn't considered wise to step forward.  Keep a low profile we're told and fade into the crowd to avoid the sweat and risk.  Slavery has rightly become a universally despised condition of freedom deprivation and abuse of individual worth.  But in Romans, chapter 6, we are told to combine these two.  Paul puts it this way in Romans 6:17But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.  What we have not realized is that we have been slaves our whole lives until we have embraced Christ in our hearts as savior.  We have been slaves of the human spiritual disease called "sin", or our chronic tendency to choose our own way over God's way.  The chains of that bondage have been cut at the moment our trust comes to rest on Jesus and now Paul exhorts us to willingly become a different kind of slave...a slave to righteousness.  We learn in the rest of this passage (verses 19-23) that slavery to sin meant we were free from the rule of righteousness and the end result was ultimate death.  As we become slaves to God we have the one worthy Master who will hone us in ways of holiness and give us eternal life.  I suppose the question comes down to what kind of slavery we will volunteer for (slaves to sin or slaves to the Savior)!
Rob Smith

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


We hear a lot about aliens these days.  Aliens have been popular from the early days of movies and perhaps reached their greatest acclaim through the hit movie, "E.T."  There are even current T.V. shows using the alien theme.  The world dreads the possibility of invasion by a superior life form from a distant galaxy.  But alien is also a local term as we deal with "illegal aliens" and also legal aliens.  America is a country built from aliens from other countries and to some extent we continue to depend on this kind of "alien invasion" to do the hard low-paying work that native citizens have moved beyond.  But this morning I was struck with the thought that we are also aliens who have put our personal trust in Jesus for salvation.  The apostle Paul talks about this in Romans chapters 5 and 6.  He discusses how sin came into the world through the disobedience of Adam and then death and sin have passed to every successive generation of men.  At that point, before knowing Christ, we were aliens from God.  We could not speak His language or know His ways and death was our destiny.  But when the Lord opened our spiritual eyes and we asked Him into our hearts we became citizens of Heaven, set free from the dominion of sin and life was now our destiny.  So now we are aliens of this world and of sin and of death.  We may live in the same world we were born into, but we are nonetheless aliens of it.  Though we walk in the same natural bodies we were given at birth we also breathe heaven's atmosphere by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Our challenge is to live for Heaven while walking on Earth and our purpose is to reflect Heaven's light to others who still are aliens from the eternal kingdom.  We are also challenged to live the eternal culture while inhabiting the old body, with its old appetite for sin.  Such a challenge calls for daily submission to our eternal king for the help we need to live while we complete our personal alien adventure on Earth.
Romans 6:11In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
blessings (to fellow aliens of all types),
Rob Smith

Monday, March 15, 2010

death and life

What will we die for?  What will we live for?  Surely these are two of the "ultimate questions" that each of us addresses.  We give our all in living and dying to gain or protect what we hold most dear.  Today young Americans are serving on the far side of the world geographically and culturally in our armed forces.  They are putting their lives on the line, willing to die, to safeguard our way of life and to protect each other.  Our willingness to die for something shows how greatly we value it.  Having faced death, many of these young veterans come back to their homes to find something to live for.  Sometimes they struggle because, having laid their lives on the line on a continual basis for an extended period they cannot find something to live for that matches up with that battlefield intensity.  Death and life were also the measures that Jesus used to show the object of His love.  This stood out in sharp relief this morning as I read from Romans, Chapter 4.  Verse 25 says: He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.  I was amazed and moved to consider that Jesus gave His all in death because of my sin...dying in my place on the cross and then conquering death and clearing the path to Heaven for me with resurrected life.  Truly we are of great value to Jesus as He demonstrated through the ultimate measures of His death and His life.  Such love calls for a response: and now we can love Him in life and death, as well.
Rob Smith

Friday, March 12, 2010

cracks in the bell

We have just returned from a visit with our daughter in Philadelphia.  For one full day we walked through the city and took in some of the sites.  We even stopped in to see the original Liberty Bell.  As I read the history of the bell I thought it was ironic that the bell which rang to mark our freedom from England had actually been made in England about 25 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed.  We are familiar with the famous crack in the bell.  An initial crack had been repaired soon after the bell was put into service.  This widened one year in the early 1800's when the bell was being rung to celebrate George Washington's birthday and, unfortunately, the bell was then beyond repair.  Despite the crack and retirement of the bell from service it remained a symbol of freedom that later became the trademark for the movement to liberate our slaves and then the campaign to give our women the right to vote.  I thought about the freedom of our country and how it started as a great ideal but then has taken centuries to extend to all our people.  Just like the Liberty Bell there have been some "cracks" in our country as it has worked out its purpose.  We are something like the Liberty Bell.  We who have trusted in Christ for our spiritual and eternal freedom are assured of our citizenship in Heaven, the only true land of complete freedom.  Nonetheless, as we live out our days we have "cracks" in our framework and we don't always ring with a true sound.  We can recall the time when we came into faith and our bell rang out loud and clear, however, and the presence of the Holy Spirit is like the Liberty Bell.  He reminds us, by His continual presence and help, of the reality of our liberation from the tyranny of sin.  We are not perfect but the One who has come to us and saved us is perfect and will complete our freedom.
Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
Rob Smith

Sunday, March 7, 2010

lay it down

Picture a pond stretching out before you on a still day.  Everything is still.  The air is still...the sky is clear...the birds perch motionless on quiver-free branches.  The surface of the water is perfectly smooth, so mirror-like that there almost appear to be two skies.  I am only picturing this(not actually seeing it) because I am in an apartment in Philadelphia visiting my daughter.  But I wanted an image that reflected perfect peace.  I was thinking earlier today about the baggage we carry around all the time.  It is unavoidable of course that we carry baggage.  It goes with simply living.  There is baggage from all the cares we carry around.  But I think it is time to bring to mind that pond we started with and lay down all the luggage.  Just lay it all down and join in the perfect peace of our pond.  I can't help but feel that "pond peace" is what the Lord has in mind when He tells us in Matthew 11, verse 28 "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."  O.K. I know that it is hard to really lay it all down but you are just going to have to.  Be gentle...if you drop the bags you may cause a ripple to roll across the water.  (Lay it all down, now...every single care and concern.  Leave it for Jesus.  He'll be by in just a bit to take it away!).
Rob Smith

Saturday, March 6, 2010

turn on the light

I think it helps to have a big picture of God.  It's not just that He is big or that He is powerful...He is the biggest and He is the most powerful.  If we could see with spiritual eyes I believe we would be amazed at the amazing presence of our Lord.  We see with natural eyes and we grope for God as if our eyes are closed in a brightly lit room and we are searching for a light switch on the wall.  We try to find the switch from memory and we feel our way to the wall and then run our hands around until we feel the switchplate.  With opened eyes the switch is immediately apparent.  The light of our natural lives comes from a natural source, the sun.  We have a time-share relationship with this light source and only have access to it for part of the day.  But there is a light source that is supernatural.  It fits the aspect of our lives that is spiritual, because part of our identity is also supernatural.  When we walk in the glow of that light we do not stumble spiritually, just as natural light helps us find our way naturally.  Sometimes we grope our way through our day because, although we see perfectly in a natural sense, we have forgotten to turn on the switch to the Heavenly light.  It may be that we find that switch best when we close our eyes and set our minds on the very big and very present God who is right here...all around us.
Luke 11:35 Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light."
Rob Smith

Friday, March 5, 2010

near and not far

What a glorious morning it is today.  My local pond basked in a golden glow as the young sun painted the brown tree trunks and evergreens on the far shore and reflected a warm image on the water.  A few fish jumped, almost in celebration, and a sense of peace lay over the scene.  My thoughts turned in gratitude to our Lord, who fashioned this lovely scene, and I realized that He is very near.  He is as near as a heartbeat, for if my heart should stop I would be immediately in His presence.  He is as near as the breeze that caresses the surface of the pond, as His Holy Spirit gently moves my heart.  He is as near as the problems I will face today because He knows my thoughts, feels my concerns and comforts me in total awareness of my life.  He has surrounded me with His creation and planted me in the midst of a loving family.  He has met every single need I have ever had and He has saved me from countless disasters.  He is near because He speaks to us and longs for us to speak with Him.  He is not far.  Heaven is not far.  He is very, very near.  I hope you know how near He is to you.  I hope you draw near to Him!
Romans 10: 8 But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Rob Smith

Thursday, March 4, 2010

beyond lifestyle change

Christianity may be perceived by many as a "lifestyle".  It may be considered one of many lifestyles that people may adopt to give order to their lives and provide a code of conduct and morality.  Some may perceive that to be one of the major roles of be a sort of societal glue.  In fact, many religions may serve that purpose.  But Christianity goes beyond lifestyle to define life itself.  One second after we die we will realize the difference knowing Christ personally means for all eternity.  Most religions attempt to connect people with forces beyond this life but there is only one way to find life.  Some people criticize Christians as narrow-minded and, in a sense, that is true.  Jesus said (recorded in Matthew chapter 7):13 "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.  Coming to faith in Christ as savior is more than a lifestyle is a choice of life.  The way may be narrow, but it is clearly marked, a trail blazed by Jesus, Himself.  And He awaits all who have chosen His path!
Rob Smith

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

the absolute best

So much of our lives is centered on competition.  We compete for victory from an early age...whether in kickball, board games, races or later in organized sports, classroom grades and ultimately in the workplace.  I remember in the military school I attended we had to rank order all the classmates in our company from top to bottom for leadership potential.  Even countries compete, as we just saw in the Winter Olympics.  Sometimes competition goes to another level and becomes conflagration.  In our day to day lives it's Democrats vs. Republicans, Yankees vs. Red Sox, Cowboys vs. Eagles, Toyota vs. Ford and Apple vs. Microsoft.  But this morning I realized that, in a spiritual sense, we can desire the absolute best...true victory...for everyone, regardless of how we might normally be opposed or competitors.  For there is a great competition in the heavenly realm over the soul of every man, woman and child.  The competition centers on our eternal destiny and the key players are the ultimate forces for good and for evil.  We are not able to win this battle ourselves but we do know that victory is actually available for all.  In fact the game is already over, in a sense.  Jesus won the battle with Satan when He foiled Satan's plan to destroy fact He turned that destruction into a great victory...over evil...over Satan....over death.  Now the competition centers on influence.  Satan tries to hide this victory from everyone and the Lord keeps announcing the outcome across time through His message in the Bible and in the lives of changed people.  I think it is good to remember that, however else we may compete with each other in this life,  we ought to want the absolute best for all people because we have a common enemy and a common champion.
Psalm 55:18 He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me.  For there were many against me.
Rob Smith

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

yesterday's news

The Winter Olympics are already "yesterday's news".  There was daily excitement during the games as gold medals were predicted for various athletes and then reality confirmed the expectations or revealed surprises.  The gold medal hockey game between Canada and the U.S. almost felt like a Super Bowl as the two countries girded up their pride in the last days before the game and the sports news was full of predictions and coverage.  But now this big game is over (and for U.S. fans the pain of losing a close context is starting to diminish) and as we turn to internet news sites and newspapers a host of new dramas are ready to seize the attention of our hearts and minds.  That is the way of news on earth.  Tomorrow's drama becomes ancient history in a matter of days.  But it occurs to me that God's news is just as dramatic and just as exciting on a daily basis.  The word "gospel" comes from two old English words meaning "good news or good message".  While the plan of God for salvation is unchanging and absolutely dependable, the drama of souls coming to believe and trust in God through that plan is dramatic and new every day.  Can you imagine a more amazing news story than that of a person becoming a citizen of Heaven, guaranteed eternal life and set free from every failing of their lives when the light breaks through their understanding and they see that Christ's words and works, especially on the Cross and leaving the tomb, apply directly to them!  When it comes to the news of the world it almost seems to have become another form of entertainment, with daily changing heroes and villains.  When it comes to God's News the excitement comes from transformed lives based on some events that may have been briefly covered in the Jerusalem Times about 2,000 years ago.
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
Rob Smith

Monday, March 1, 2010

the everlasting song

"We'll join the everlasting song, and crown him Lord of all,
we'll join the everlasting song, and crown him Lord of all."
Revelation 15:3 They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: 
      " Great and marvelous are Your works,
      Lord God Almighty!
      Just and true are Your ways,
      O King of the saints"
We, of course, do not know when we will transition from this life to the next.  Recently a few young adults in the families of our congregation have died suddenly from disease or natural cause.  One was a young woman who had just given birth to a son 4 weeks prior to her death.  These young people had discovered the love of the Lord early in life and reflected His reality to many others.  Now they are directly in the presence of the Lord in Heaven.  I thought about the readiness we all need to have to make that transition.  Our pastor spoke on the subject yesterday as well.  For some reason I thought about life here like a song that we sing.  As we go through our days you might say that we sing different songs...songs of joy, sadness...songs of self and songs of selflessness.  Songs capture and present our emotions and are a doorway to our hearts.  We know that the saints of Heaven are singing praises to the Father and the Son from the book of Revelation.  That is the "everlasting song" that we will one day join that is identified from the verse in "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name".  One day we'll be singing a song in this life and find ourselves suddenly in the presence of the eternal song.  My hope is that those songs will fit well together...that the song I start in this life will seem fully appropriate as I enter Heaven and pick up the eternal song there.
Rob Smith