Saturday, July 31, 2010

Man's Law, God's Law

I've been thinking about the severity and the brutality and the seriousness of the Cross.  I have also been thinking about Man's Law and God's Law.  After all, it was Man's Law that had Jesus put to death in order to fulfill God's Law.  The laws of the Jewish leaders of the time and the laws of the Roman rulers of the time came together to judge the Lord guilty of a serious offense and to sentence Him to the most horrific and public of executions.  How does it happen that the laws of men can lead to the conviction of God, Himself?  One clear conclusion is that Man's Law is askew, off center, biased, erroneous and untrustworthy essentially.  Man's attempt to regulate life and impose justice has always been diestined to fall short...just as we, individually, fall short of Truth.  It's not just that Man's Law is inadequate and needs to be improved...Man's Law ultimately is in conflict with...and even opposition to...the Way and the Truth...and the Life...that God has always intended.
In a way I'm glad that Jesus' death, which was essential to purchase our life, happened this way.  It proved the failure of Man (even with all the tradition of God) to live true and rule with equity.  We need the Savior as individuals and we need the Savior as a people!
Luke 23:23,24 But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified.  And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed.  So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested.
blessings to all, like me, who are flawed and made the Cross necessary,
Rob Smith

Friday, July 30, 2010

Look up!

I am a movie fan.  I enjoy going to see good movies..suspense...drama...romantic comedies...action movies.  If they are well-made I enjoy them.  They always show "trailers" or previews of upcoming, or soon-to-be-released, films before the feature presentation begins.  The first impression I get from these often influences my decision about coming back to see a show.  The Disciples were eager to have a "preview" of the end times.  They wanted to know what the highlights would be and they wanted to know how to recognize the beginning of the end.  Jesus gave them a number of signs.  There would be wars earthquakes, and persecution of believers.  There will come a time when Jerusalem is surrounded by armies and attacked.  But you must keep on eye on the sky because Jesus said that there will be "signs in the sun, the moon, and in the stars" (Luke 21:25).   The normal routines of high and low tide may change....perhaps as the moon is affected and people will be distressed and perplexed as they are unable to understand or explain these great natural changes.  Imagine a world where the reliable activity and motion of sun and moon are altered.  This would collect the attention of the entire globe.  Inside the heart of every man there is a knowledge that there must be an account for our lives before God.  As these amazing events play out people will be afraid, not only because of the natural changes...but because they will have a growing sense that they will have to give account for their lives.  They will see that there is a greater force than nature and this will confirm their fears of judgment.  But for the Believer it will be the greatest of times: (Luke 21:27-28 "Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near."  How will it be if these times happen in our times?   When you look up will it be with judgment's fear or redemption's excitement?  Now is the time to make the most important "look up" of all.  We need to look up, look in and repent of our sin so that we'll be among those who find joyful excitement as He appears in the clouds.
Rob Smith

Thursday, July 29, 2010

tough times and great promises

Luke 21:16-19 "You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death.  And you will be hated by all for My name's sake.  But not a hair of your head shall be lost.  By your patience possess your souls."
Jesus had some things to say to His disciples that pertained to them but that also pertained to generations after them.  Here He is talking about the times leading up to His coming again.  We could be drawing close to that time now, even though it is hard to fathom that reality.  The passage above is very difficult to read and to contemplate.  But there will come a time (as there has already come in history) when some of us will need to choose between important relationships on earth and more important relationships in Heaven.  It is amazing to consider that a parent might turn a child over to authorities because of the faith of the child in Jesus.  But because of this hard and cruel reality, Jesus makes a wonderful and supernatural promise.  Even though some will go to their deaths due to their unswerving faith in Jesus, they will not lose even a hair on their heads.  At first glance this seems contradictory.  If they die, don't they lose every hair...and everything else?  But the Believer has two for this life and this time and one for eternity.  The resurrection body actually cannot be used or inhabited until one has left behind life in this body.  And the resurrection body apparently will have a head with hair!  (perhaps those who are bald now might be pleased to have hair at all in the new body!)  But the key comes in the final sentence above: "By your patience possess your souls."  It is a little hard to grasp, but we have a life within our natural lives that has an eternal quality.  This is our soul.  I think it is what makes each of us distinct and it is how we recognize ourselves within our minds...the essence of self.  Our bodies carry our souls around, but our bodies are not the boundaries of our soul, just its temporary lodging place.  The body can be destroyed by forces outside of God but the soul cannot.   In Matthew 10, verse 28 Jesus tells us: "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."  Our soul defines our life and our relationship with the Savior determines our destiny forever.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

for Heaven's sake!

It seems to me that keeping the focus on Heaven is a great challenge.  We may have felt the touch, even the embrace, of our Lord.  Our hearts may have quickened as we grasped the reality of the Lord ... of His personal love and of the necessity to turn away from our old life and turned toward Him for true life.  Yet we often struggle and stumble as we walk with Him, live for Him and await Him.  We love this life so much...our routines...our homes...our families...our friends...our property and possessions.   When the Pharisees asked Jesus to explain when the kingdom of God was coming (Luke 17:20-21) "He answered and said, 'The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, 'Look here it is!' or, 'There it is!'  For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst."  I think it is good to remember that we are living in the kingdom of God now.  As His believers (faith receivers), spiritual open heart surgery has been performed and we are living through the post-operation plan.  We are cautioned to walk, not run, through life and to let Him do the heavy lifting.  We are instructed to stop looking around for our purpose and our guidance...and look up!  The time is coming, soon enough, when we will go to Him or He will come to us.  At that point our opportunity to choose Him over all the distractions will be over.   When we are in the presence of God, every knee will bow.  Now is the time of great challenge and live for Him when we can choose to live for ourselves.   When my wife and I go to a restaurant she always takes a lot longer than I do to study the menu, review the choices and even ask questions of the waiter or waitress before making her selection.   I usually pick quickly, with little thought given to the choice.  I think we ought to give more care to the choices we make each day.  It's as if we have a menu to choose from and we can take care about our selection, or we can let the downward forces of habit and self pull us like gravity.   It is good to remember that He died for us that we might live for (and with!) Him.
Rob Smit

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

He comes on a colt

Luke 19:30 "Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here." 35 They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it.
Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!  Behold your king is coming to you;  He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Jesus went riding in triumph into Jerusalem on the back of a colt, a young donkey, just as the prophet Zechariah prophesied several hundred years earlier.  He could have walked, as He did throughout His ministry.  He could have ridden a horse like a great commander or conqueror to represent victory of His Kingdom. But He allowed a simple beast of labor to carry Him.  I believe that Jesus comes into our lives in a similar way.  He doesn't smash down a gate and trample into our heart.  He doesn't insist on our obedience, or our devotion.  But the donkey is a beast of burden and Jesus comes humbly to complete important work in our hearts, just as the donkey carried Him into Jerusalem to complete the greatest work of all time at Calvary.  He was hailed by those who loved Him and who had come to believe in Him as they had seen the miracles and heard the truths of God's Kingdom.  He was rejected by those who loved their comfortable lives of sin and self control, who felt threatened by Him.  Have you allowed the Son of God to ride into your heart on His lowly donkey?  He has come to finish a great work in our hearts and He is riding in to finish that work in you as an individual.  There were two kinds of response to His arrival that day in Jerusalem.  Each of us must choose how we will respond, as well.
Rob Smith

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Word and the world

We live in a large world.  It is a place that not only fills our personal lives with activity, it fills our ears and eyes and minds with news.  There are wars and natural disasters.  There is crime and global warming.  There is cancer and AIDS.  There is hunger and there is obesity.  There is freedom and there is slavery.  At times it seems that all there is to know is wrapped up in this small astronomical sphere we call home.  And then there is the rest of the created universe...billions of stars and planets.  But it is good to remember that there is another reality, beyond the scope of our daily news coverage.  Before there was a world there was a Word and that Word spoke the world into existence.  It is easier to focus on the world that was created by the Word than to focus on the Word, itself.  But Jesus said something interesting in Luke, chapter 16, verse 17: "But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail."  He was talking to the Pharisees who had added there own words to God's Word to try to rewrite the rules.  They wanted to have all the world, with its riches and power...and Heaven too!  But Jesus makes it clear that God's Word cannot be changed.  Our choice is whether to receive, accept and obey that Word or to follow the other voices of the world that seem to fill our minds.  Jesus told them that the Kingdom of God was in their midst and they were missing out because the world was blinding them to the Word.  We are blessed to have that Word, still, and as we spend time in the Word we find that the One who spoke the world into being is also the One who fashioned Heaven and opens our minds to His Kingdom.
Rob Smith

Friday, July 23, 2010

the role of money

Luke 16:9"And I say to you, Make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings."
Luke 16:13"No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."
Jesus has a lot to say about money.  It's pretty clear from Luke, chapter 16, that the world worships money far more than it worships God.  We think that money gives worth to our lives since money gives worth to so many things in our lives.  Money is how relationships of trade are made.  Money becomes a convenient way to measure and compare our value with the value of others.  Money translates into power and control and creates a social hierarchy.  Money becomes a visible and convenient means of trust that can displace our trust in God.  One of the great teachings that comes from this chapter is that money does have a great purpose.  As we are faithful in serving others by properly handling their money we can demonstrate love and unselfishness.  It is possible to exhibit love and service this way.  We learn from verse 9 (above) that we will actually enjoy heavenly fellowship in the eternal dimension one day with people who will be in Heaven because they saw how we showed Christ's love through an unusual and unworldly approach to money.  Where the world worships money, the Lord sees it as an opportunity for service.  Rather than an expression of value and worth, it becomes a means of ministry and a demonstration of love and unselfishness.  Our worth is already established by God and money can't add or diminish it.  Money can't buy love, but it can provide a forum for demonstrating it (that is, for demonstrating Him!)
Money can be exchanged for goods and services here, but a love for money can be exchanged for a Heavenly love and a forever life in a place where money has no worth.
Rob Smith

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Heaven's lost and found

I remember discovering my wallet was missing one day at work years ago when I worked at a shipyard.  I knew that I'd had it during lunch and now, in the afternoon, it was gone.  I thought about where I had been over lunch hour and remembered stopping in at a convenience store to buy something to eat.  I looked up the number of the store and called.  They told me that they didn't have my wallet and I started to panic, trying to remember where else it could have been left.  I don't think I got much work done the rest of that day as I kept turning this over in my mind.  My wallet is like my portable bank, filing system, identification and driving control center and if it is missing it is as if I have lost control of my life.  I couldn't think of anywhere else to check so I walked back to the store and spoke to a lady behind the counter.  I explained about the wallet and my earlier call and she said that she had found a wallet and locked it up.  The other person who had taken my call didn't know about this.  Sure enough, the wallet in the safe was mine.  I was restored, reconnected and at peace once again.  I think the great theme of the Bible might be called: "Heaven's lost and found".  Luke 15 has three parables of Jesus that address this: "The Lost Sheep", "The Lost Coin", and "The Prodigal Son".  Each lost item was very precious.  The sheep was one of a hundred sheep, the coin was one of 10 silver coins, and the Prodigal son was one of two sons.  When each was found there was a celebration held.  In the case of the sheep and the coin the celebration was because something had been missing and now was relocated.  But in the case of the wayward son, the boy was not just relocated...he was changed.  He was not physically lost because he knew how to find his way home.  He had been lost in life because he didn't appreciate his father as the source of all he had.  It seems that he had to lose all he had to appreciate what he had been given.  The Bible says that he actually found himself...that "he came to his senses" and when he returned home, he was humbled and repentant and grateful.  His father was especially glad because he knew that the old son had died and a new son was now living.
There is rejoicing in our hearts when something is lost and then found.  Each of us starts lost in this world...lost from Heaven that is.  We need the kind of epiphany that the prodigal son had to realize that we don't need to remain lost.  We, too, can have a change of mind and heart and go to our Heavenly Father with hearts of gratitude and brokenness and He will rejoice that we are not just found...we are changed...and we are His.
Luke15:24 "for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found".  And they began to celebrate.
Luke 15:7 "I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance."
Rob Smith

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

hard words from Jesus

Luke 12: 51-53 "Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth?  I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three.  They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."
Luke 14:26-27 "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be my disciple."
Jesus uses a shock treatment to get our attention, at times.  We have become so comfortable living in an unhealthy condition that we must be shaken.  There are some hard truths that call for hard words, but Jesus has our best interests at heart.  The only peace that truly is peace is the peace we can have with God.  We don't start out with this peace automatically.  Our nature is to miss God and to exalt ourselves.  But if this is carried out for a lifetime, we will ultimately miss God in the forever space of eternity.  It is understandable that Jesus grabs us by the shoulder and shakes.  I don't believe that Jesus prefers that members of a household become fractured.  I believe that He would prefer for every member of the house to embrace Him.  But I think that He knows that this is not the way it always plays out.  The tight bonds of love that naturally exist in the home can only be surpassed by one greater love...the love of a Creator God and His Redeemer Son for lost children.  The only proper way to respond to this love is by accepting it.  This leads to a changed heart, a new perspective on life and eternity and, as a result, even those closest to us may not recognize the new creature we have become.  For this change may not have taken place yet in their lives.  And, once we have accepted Him into our heart, there really is only one way to follow Him properly...with all we have.  The door is narrow to Heaven and we need clear direction to find it and to help others to find it, as well. (And surely we long for those in our homes and families to find and to embrace His love and His peace!)
Rob Smith

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

like a mustard seed

Luke 13:18-19  So He was saying, "What is the kingdom of God like, and to what shall I compare it?  It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches."
Jesus is the only one who has walked in Heaven and then come to earth.  He is God and also man and He fashioned all of creation with the Father.  But He also walked with men and He came to reach men and show them the way to Heaven.  Who could be better to paint the best picture of Heaven for us?  We know from other passages of scripture that Heaven is an amazing place...glorious and grand and wondrous and different than our familiar earthly setting in so many ways.  Jesus could have taken some time to describe the various kinds of angels and the throne of His Father.  He could have talked about the activities of Heaven and He could have illustrated a picture that His disciples could imagine (something like the Revelation that John received and wrote about).  But Jesus chose to use a tiny mustard seed to represent Heaven and the Kingdom of God.  How could something so small represent something so big?  I believe that, although Heaven is indeed grand and God's Kingdom is wondrous and glorious, it starts small in our awareness.  We live in a natural kingdom of the earth, ruled by men and limited by the barriers of nature, our experience and our ability to perceive.  We first grasp the very real reality of Heaven when our spirit is awakened by faith and we place our trust in the Lord for salvation.  But we still walk the earth.  However, as we consider Heaven and as we inquire about Heaven and as we develop a personal walk with the Lord that tiny mustard seed of the Kingdom grows larger inside of us and ultimately the largeness of Heaven dwarfs the smallness of our short natural lives.  The seed grows into a tree and the tree supports us and also provides a nest for others. 
In our yard we have numerous flowering bushes and plants that add beauty.  If I were not married to Shirley I am confident that my yard would be bare of these plants.  But because Shirley was planted in the garden of my life I now enjoy much added beauty.  I think the Kingdom of God is something like this.  Jesus has come to our garden and now we bloom in ways we never could have imagined, apart from Him.
Rob Smith

Monday, July 19, 2010

day by day

Luke 12:22 Then He said to His disciples, "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on......31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you."
Luke 12:40 "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."
This morning I was considering a connection between two teachings of Jesus from Luke, chapter 12.  The first teaching is to trust God for the necessities of life: food, clothing, shelter, etc. and not to worry about where they are coming from.  The second teaching is for the church to be ready at all times for the return of Jesus and the end of this natural life as we know it.  It occurred to me that the two teachings are closely related.  If we can learn to live daily lives of dependence and trust in the Lord to meet our needs then we cultivate an attitude of expectancy and trust that prepares us for the Lord's return.  It's almost as if the Lord wants us to have a mindset that every day is potentially the last day on Earth and the first day in Heaven.  I remember the wonder I felt as I came down the stairs on Christmas morning to see the presents, the tree and the stockings on the fireplace.  I remember the anticipation of all that on Christmas Eve, that made it hard to sleep.  I wonder if we aren't intended to have a similar excitement as each day is something like Christmas Eve.  We know that He is coming into our world again as we experience Him coming into our lives each day, to meet our needs and to refresh our minds and hearts with Himself.  He gives us our daily bread and this could be the Day when we no longer need bread and we begin to breathe the air of Heaven.
Rob Smith

Sunday, July 18, 2010

false peace

Luke chapter 11 has many teachings, including the presentation of the Lord's Prayer.  This morning I am especially challenged by the evidence of direct spiritual warfare that occur in the chapter.  In our sophisticated modern times we don't like to consider that such things as demonic posession, or even influence, still exist.  But there is no reason to believe that the spiritual forces that influenced lives in Jesus' time are any different today.  But, just as the serpent was subtle in his initial deceptions of Adam and Eve, I believe his presence is subtle still.  Jesus delivers a man from a demon that was blocking the man from speaking in chapter 11:14.  And then the crowds accused Jesus of casting out the demon with the power of the devil, himself.  At least they had some kind of awareness of the spiritual world.  But I think we minimize the presence of satan, and his crew of evil, to our peril.  In the early part of the chapter the Lord's Prayer included this phrase: "and  bring us not into temptation, but rescue us from evil."  Evil is the work of satan in our midst.  It takes One who is stronger than the devil...stronger than bind that force and rescue us.  This is exactly what Jesus is illustrating when He purges demons from different ones.  Satan doesn't have to "possess" what he can control through influence.  I was fascinated to consider Jesus' words in verses 21-22: "When the strong man, fully armed guards his own dwelling, his belongings are undisturbed.  But when one stronger than he attacks him and conquers him, he robs him of his whole armor on which he had relied, and divides up and distributes all his goods as plunder."  I think I had misunderstood this passage in the past.  I used to think the "stronger man", who conquers was satan and the victim was a person who had let their guard down.  But now I believe that the strong man is satan, or his forces, that put a form of armor around the hearts of those who have not been born again.  We all start in this condition, with a sense of false well being...and perhaps even contentment...despite our unsaved condition.  It is as if satan has a form of armed guard that watches us and seeks to keep us satisfied with the darkness of living outside the knowledge of our sin and our savior.  But Jesus is the "stronger one" and when He attacks the armor is shattered and the habits of sin are shattered.  I think this may be why one who has invited Jesus into his heart feels a sense of "lightness" and deliverance...and a freshness that, somehow, all is different and new.  It is because there is a new ruler of the heart.  We may have had a false peace under satan's dominion, but it was keeping us from the eternal peace that only the Strong Man of Heaven can bring.
So many walk in our world under the subtle dominion of satan and a false sense of peace.  We must join Jesus as He says in verse 23: "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me, scatters."
blessings to all in the battle, with encouragement to all embrace the "stronger Man" of Jesus to rule their heart,
Rob Smith

Saturday, July 17, 2010

one thing is needed

Luke 10:41-42 And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."
Martha and Mary were sisters.  Apparently they were given to hospitality...especially Martha.  We see in Luke chapter 10 that it was Martha who invited Jesus into their home.  Not only was Martha gifted in hospitality, she was also oriented to servanthood.  In fact, when Jesus came into their home her mind seemed to race from one need to another to be handled.  She probably was focused on meal preparation and, with the Disciples and others following Jesus, that would have been quite a challenge (and this was before the days of Costco and Sam's Club).  Jesus had attained quite a reputation and Martha was excited to have this celebrity in her own home.  Sleeping arrangements had to be considered and perhaps Martha also saw the need to repair worn footwear and mend torn clothing.  After all, it doesn't seem that Jesus was often in places where those needs could be met.  Martha's natural inclination to serve just took over.  Her greatest frustration was that her own sister, Mary, didn't see the obvious and even lift a finger to help her!  But Mary had crossed some kind of spiritual river in her personal life.  She knew that she wasn't just in the presence of a celebrity, or even a great man.  She was in the presence of the Lord, Himself, come to earth.  She could think of nothing beyond sitting before Him and drinking in His words.  When it came time for Martha to speak with Jesus all she could think of was what to ask Him to relieve her of some of her burdens...In fact she actually tried to direct the Lord as to what He should do about it:  "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." , she implored Jesus. 
We may have many good intentions as we live in the company of our Lord.  After all, He has come to stay at each of our homes...if we have trusted in Him.  We may be motivated to get busy and use our gifts...but we may launch off in our own personal direction rather than following His lead.  We may become frustrated with others who don't seem to "get it" and who seem lost in some kind of heavenly dream land.  Our prayer life may consist of self-centered concerns and we may try to guide the Lord's actions, like Martha.  But I think it is good to remember Jesus' words to Martha when He said "one thing is needed".  The one thing we all must do in our lives is to sit at Jesus feet and listen to Him.  We are not long for this world and we will be in the next.  Now is a precious time to discover the beauty of our creative God in the context of this fallen world, because the darkness of our age provides a black velvet backdrop for His shining glory.  And as we consider Him, quietly, we see Him...we hear Him and we love Him...and ultimately we will reflect Him to others.
Rob Smith

Friday, July 16, 2010

revelation drives relationship

Luke 10:21b "You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.  Yes, Father, for this was well-pleasing in Your sight."
We like to think that we are in control, as individuals and as a human race.  Our science and knowledge tackles disease, conquers space, and sometimes even caps rogue oil wells.  We have a sense that, if we don't understand something it's just a matter of time before we figure it out.  But there are great oceans of knowledge that are beyond "figuring out" because they are beyond the observation of our senses and our minds.  The Kingdom of God is that way.  Jesus sent 70 disciples out in pairs to do miracles of healing and to announce His coming.  They came back and reported that they had been succesful beyond their dreams...even casting out demons.  Jesus explained that this was so because He had given them this authority.  He went on to explain that the great wonders of Heaven have been hidden from men for thousands of years but that God was starting to pull back the curtain and reveal the wonder of His Kingdom and power.  Interestingly, God chooses to reveal Heaven to His Son and to those who the Son desires.  It isn't a function of our science, our striving, our collective body of knowledge and wisdom.  But Jesus told the disciples that the greatest truth was not that they were tasting or seeing Heaven while still on earth...the greater truth was that their "names are recorded in heaven."  We cannot force the revelation of God...we can only respond to His love extended through our trust in His Son.  This is how our names can also be added to Heaven's book.  The revelation of God's great love for us is the greatest knowledge of all.
Rob Smith

Thursday, July 15, 2010

perspective drives attitude

Luke 9:29-31 And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming.  And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
Jesus took Peter, John and James with Him up on a mountain to pray.  They probably thought that prayer was all they would experience.  But they got far more than a quiet time of prayer...they got front row seats for a Heavenly production.  Suddenly, all the teachings of Jesus and the prophets took on a greater reality.  Two characters who were prominent in the past, Moses and Elijah, showed up in glorified form...proving there is life after death.  They dsplayed that there is purpose in Heaven as they had a consultation with Jesus.  They reinforced that there is a master plan as they discussed Jesus' final drama of death and resurrection to take place in Jerusalem.  This "window into Heaven" may have helped the three disciples realize that the greater reality is that Heaven has a "picture window" of us at all times.  The reality of Heaven, eternity, life forever, God the Father and the Master Plan all came together on that mountain top.  Certainly they had a new perspective on life as a result.  As we walk with feet on earth we, too, can have minds on Heaven and hearts that are changed.  We may think of the Lord with a fraction of our attention but He thinks on us continually.
Luke 9:35 Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!"
Rob Smith

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

something to say; something to do

There is so much happening in Luke chapter 8 that I wanted to remain there for at least another day.  Two thoughts struck me today.   I have a new take on the "Parable of the Soils", the familiar story Jesus used to illustrate how people can be like four different kinds of soil when it comes to their response to His words (4 soils: trampled down, rocky, thorny, and good ground).  In the past I've always identified with the types of soil and tried to picture myself as good soil, even when I haven't been.  But today I identify more with the sower and I see that the four soils are four kinds or reactions I should expect as I share God's word.  I see that, as believers, we are both sower and soil.  Some will welcome the word, but it is likely that a majority will not.  That should not dissuade us from sowing the seeds.
The other thought that struck me from Luke 8 is that Jesus' ministry was marked by things He said and the things He did.  He spoke of the Kingdom and He demonstrated the Kingdom.  Words and Works reinforce Truth.  We have a message that makes a difference in lives.  So I am challenged to have a walk that includes works with words.  The works confirm the words and inspire a response!  Certainly that was the case when Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead.  It really was impossible for those who saw to ignore prompt a response.
Luke 8:18 "Therefore take heed how you hear.  For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him."
Rob Smith

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

power of preparation

Luke 8:35 Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36 They also who had seen it told them by what means he who had been demon-possessed was healed. 37 Then the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes[e] asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. And He got into the boat and returned.


You would think that if people saw Jesus deliver a man from demons that had tortured and controlled him they would react differently than the passage above describes.  When is it that Jesus inspires "great fear"?  One answer might be that these people had not been prepared for a Savior.   They lived on the opposite side of the Sea of Galilee and were called  Gadarenes.  They were of a Greek background and did not have the traditions and the teachings of the prophets, nor the specific ministry of John the Baptist, to prepare them.  I suspect that they hadn't given much consideration to their need for God.  Since they were removed from the ministry of Christ they may not have even heard of the miracles.  When Jesus delivered one of their own from demonic posession they didn't understand what He had done.  All they knew was that He had shattered their reality and broken into their comfortable world with actions they couldn't understand.  Still, today, there are many who have not been prepared...who have not considered the possibility of a living God...of one who can deliver from evil...of One who comes to establish a relationship with His creation.  We still have much work to do to prepare and to communicate Him to this world, which is more comfortable in the presence of sin and demonic authority than the presence of God, Himself.



Rob Smith

Monday, July 12, 2010


We who have come to trust in Jesus for our salvation are living out a wedding engagement with our Savior.  Yesterday I was reflecting on the incompleteness of our experience with the Lord.  Yes, we have realized His great love and yes, we have acknowledged our sin and separation from the Lord and our need to be cleansed by His presence.  Truly we have been born again, spiritually, and have full assurance of being with the Lord forever.  But yesterday I considered the unique intimacy and the fulfillment of our relationship with the Lord.  We know that the Bible tells us:  "The Bridegroom is coming."  We have been taught that the church, or collection of believers across time, is the bride of Christ.  I thought about the archaic term: "betrothed".  It has the word "troth" inside which is very similar to "truth".  Apparently to "betroth" is to promise to marry...a promise that can be trusted.  We have been told that, in Jesus' day, Jewish men and women were betrothed for a period of time before actually completing the marriage with a feast  and physical consummation.  The betrothal period was something like our modern wedding engagements, with two key differences.  Jewish men and women were considered absolutely reserved for one another once they were betrothed, while enaged couples today are still going through a preliminary relationship.  Secondly, most engaged couples set a date for the wedding and make plans for the celebration.  The husband in a Jewish betrothal would come for his wife at an unannounced time and the couple would then be carred to the feast to celebrate the completion of the union.  Right now we believers are betrothed to Christ.  We have received His promise of marriage and are assured that He will complete what He has promised.  In a sense we have felt His kiss and experienced His touch but long for a completed relationship.  We have not known the full experience of marriage and, just as the engaged couple wonders what marriage will be like, we also wonder what home will be like with our Savior.  We are living out the betrothal and our Lord is coming for us at a definite, but unknown, time to take us to the wedding feast.

Isaiah 62:5 For as a young man marries a virgin,
      So shall your sons marry you;
      And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
      So shall your God rejoice over you.
Rob Smith

Sunday, July 11, 2010

on the way to a burial

It has been interesting to follow the early ministry of Jesus in the gospel of Luke.  How exciting it must have been to actually see Jesus and to be around as He healed the sick and actually raised the dead.  There is an account of Jesus and a large crowd of followers approaching a city called Nain.  As they came to the city gate a large funeral procession was leaving the city gate with a coffin to be buried outside the city walls, in the local cemetary.  The two large crowds of followers and mourners blended into one. The dead person was the only son of a widow.  Jesus felt compassion for the widow and, after telling her to no longer weep, He touched the open coffin.  At that instant the pall bearers stopped.  A funeral procession normally doesn't stop until it reaches the burial site.    Imagine the shock and the amazement that rolled through the crowd when Jesus said: "Young man, I say to you, arise."  .....and then the body came to life, the young man sat up in the coffin, still hoisted on the shoulders of men, and he started talking.  Jesus gave the son back to the mother.  The thought occurs that each of us who has come to know Jesus as Lord was once in a coffin, just like the young man.  We were being carried through our days to a burial site outside God's city and it seemed the procession would not stop.  But Jesus came near and touched us...He awakened us from death and we sat up and then climbed out of the coffin.  We were forever changed as we realized who is the true giver of life and we returned to the crowds.  Along with many of the mourners, we changed crowds and joined the crowd of Jesus' followers.  We were on the way to a burial when Jesus came alongside and touched our coffin.
(from Luke 7:11-17)
Rob Smith 

Friday, July 9, 2010

the beautiful soul

Come with me and take on the greatest project of our lives.  Let's look at our lives as a great project...a project that we are taking this lifetime to work on.  Let's make it our goal to build a beautiful soul.  As I see it we can live one of two ways: We can live as if God sees everything we think and do or we can live as if He doesn't see and He doesn't care.  Well, of course He does see us individually...all our thoughts, words and actions.  Someday, when we are before Him, all of those thoughts, words and actions will be reviewed and we will realize how important our time on Earth has been.  Of course He cares about the choices we make.  While we are here and are not in His immediate and direct heavenly presence we have great freedom to set our minds, choose our words and chart our actions.  I suspect that our choices will be much clearer and more obvious when we stand before God in Heaven.  Of course, the reality is that we stand before Him now.  Certainly He knows of the distractions and He knows of our weak and sinful nature.  He knows that we are prone to temptation and that there is a devil who roams in our midst.  As we consider what we are giving our lives to I think it is good to define the issues and set the stage.  Every one of us faces the great adventure of living and we have the opportunity of eternity: to live for God and not for anything else.  I have been reading the Sermon on the Mount from Luke, chapter 6 and Matthew, chapter 5.  Jesus comes as a direct representative from Heaven to teach his newly appointed 12 disciples how to live to please God rather than ourselves.  Jesus reveals that God is looking for indications that we are living lives on earth that show we are trusting in Him. and that we take our purpose and joy from pleasing Him.  Riches are in Heaven...not on earth      Sadness becomes a gateway for God's comfort.    Patient waiting before God is better than striving in our own strength.     The appetite that most satisfies is the hunger for God and His truth.     God is merciful and He is looking for that quality in us too.     Of all the sights to be seen on Earth, none can compare to seeing God...and that is possible for us, even here.     The world calls for peace, but we know the only peace is with God...we can lead others to this peace.     When we are willing to be put down, excluded and even treated with contempt because we love God we show that it is His kingdom we live for and His kingdom is real.
Come with me and let us look at this life as a project.  Let us build beautiful souls that live in the sure awareness that God sees us, God knows us and God wants to show Himself through us.  This is the great challenge of life, here on planet Earth.
Matthew 5:16  "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
Rob Smith

Thursday, July 8, 2010

when three's not a crowd

"Two's company, but three's a crowd"  These sage words of human relationship seem so true when talking about friendships and activities.  Two people can find common ground and enjoy a level of friendship and intimacy, but three people adds complexity.  With two people there are two relationships (A with B and B with A).  By adding a third person you more than quadruple the number of relationships (A with B, B with A, A with C, C with A, B with C, C with B, A with BC, B with AC, C with AB).  It's almost as if you are moving beyond friendship and entering a "mini-community".  But I have a friendship with two other men that is characterized by oneness.  These friends and I are slowly reading through the book of Hebrews (one chapter each month) and then getting together to read and discuss it.  We have oneness because we have a common interest in gleaning truth and understanding the message and the application to our lives from this great book.  I suppose it is this common love we share for the Lord that has forged our friendship.  Having three walking together through the text generates more insights and reinforces more truth and ultimately brings greater encouragement.  It's almost as if the three of us are standing around the base of a great statue and, as we look up, we are able to share our particular view of the statue.  Taken together, we have a more complete view and we see the statue in three dimensions.  And then I remembered that God, Himself, exists as a Holy Crowd: Father...Son....Holy Spirit.  Unity of purpose in seeking the Lord brings oneness and deepens bonds with the Lord and with each other.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
      And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

working with metal

Metal can be shaped through various processes.  Tools, weapons, sculpture, parts for larger machines all start with the raw metal but must be "worked" to create the desired end product.  Apparently there are three primary methods to accomplishd this: forging, casting, and machining.  Forging uses external force, like a hammer and an anvil, to beat and push the metal into shape.  Heat is applied to make the metal yield to the force.  Casting starts with melted metal that is poured into molds to create the shape.  Machining spins the metal and cuts it into shape, as on a lathe.  In every case the metal starts with the potential for many uses and achieves its specific purpose with the application of force to heat, bend and/or cut it to match the design needed.  The metal is selected because it has unique properties (strength, flexibility, electrical properties, corrosion resistance, etc.) but those properties can't properly be exhibited until harnessed as the metal is worked into the form required.  I'm sure this is an obvious analogy, but we are the metal and God is the skilled craftsman.  We have potential for important work, but we must first be shaped through the application of heat and force and the cutting edges of trial.  Only then can the properties He has placed within become useful in this world of need.
Isaiah 41: 7 So the craftsman encouraged the goldsmith;
      He who smooths with the hammer inspired him who strikes the anvil,
      Saying, "It is ready for the soldering";
      Then he fastened it with pegs,
      Thatit might not totter
Rob Smith

Monday, July 5, 2010

Power of the Word

Luke 4:32 "And they were amazed at His teaching, for His word was with authority and ability and weight and power."
Do you know the sensation of being in the presence of good teaching/preaching from God's Word?  His spiritual searchlight seems to look within our hearts and expose weakness, reinforce strength and touch us where we were unaware we needed to be touched or previously unwilling to be reached.  We resonate with the Truth as we hear it spoken and taught.  I think we were designed to vibrate at the frequency of truth and when we are in its presence we know we are being tuned properly.  When truth washes over us and then finds entrance to our hearts we are moved to agreement and alignment and prompted to action.  Our spirit looks for leadership and recognizes the proper authority of God in His Word of truth.  And so we bow before the King of Truth, the Word made flesh and surrender to the authority He alone deserves.  This may have been how it felt to be in the presence of Jesus as He ministered around Galilee so long ago...and as He speaks today wherever you are.
Rob Smith

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Shepherd celebrities

I'm doing this thought on my smartphone so it may be more disjointed than usual.  Happy 4th of July!  I'm not looking at my Bible right now but I wanted to share an observation from Luke that hit me recently.  In the account of Jesus' birth the angels appeared to shepherds on the hills outside Bethlehem.  So the Son of God came to earth in the humblest form of a newborn, in the humblest place; a barn, to the humblest parents; a carpenter & wife.  The first people to know of this great event were not rich or powerful...their dominion was a hillside and their subjects wore coats of wool.  The Lord came in fulfillment of scores of prophecies to complete God's promise of the Savior, but the humble circumstances and setting were intentional.  We were meant to see that God came in at the bottom of the social structure so that we all would know that there is no one who does not qualify to receive God's gift of salvation.  Jesus' ancestor, David, was a shepherd king to foreshadowed the One who was pleased to be the king of shepherds.  And He lifts us all...for we are all lowly.

Blessings, with birthday love for Shirley, my personal firecracker.
Rob Smith

Saturday, July 3, 2010

What if they took it all away?

As I stood looking out across a local reservoir in the refreshing, cool morning air I considered...not just the beauty of my setting, but the troubles we are facing as a people and as a nation.   There is a palpable sense that there is much that is unhealthy in the world of trade, money, debt and this rocks our sense of financial security.  Homes, jobs, future income have all seemed, or actually been, in jeopardy.  Even some folks living on pensions have been concerned over the possibility of their hard-earned retirement being affected.  So....what if they took it all away?  What if the worst happened and I lost it all...job, cars, house, insurance, money ?  As I gazed over the perfectly level surface of the water and up at the luminous blue sky above I realized that no matter what I lose, I cannot lose my close walk with Jesus.  They can't take that away.  If the economy crumbles and I must scramble to find bread and to put shoes on my feet...then I will scramble and work and somehow find a way.  And He will be with me and in the midst of the greatest trial He will not, He will be magnified and the loss of the material will only allow an increase in the eternal.  I thought about the pioneers who built lives out of America in the early years.  They didn't have much materially but were rich in other ways.  As they fashioned homes and carved livings out of dense forests converted to productive fields they were satisfied. 
If they take it all away, we will suffer, but we will grow and we will thrive because we will return to the essence of life...our delight will center, again, on Him.
Luke 12:29 "And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. 30 For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. 32 "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
Rob Smith

Friday, July 2, 2010

something to say

The father of John the Baptist, Zachariah, had been struck dumb for not believing the promise of the angel Gabriel...that a son would be born to he and his wife.  When it came time to pronounce the name of the newborn boy, Zachariah was suddenly able to speak again after he acknowledged the name given by Gabriel for the boy.  But then, as time passed, the man who had resisted the will of the angel became filled with the Holy Spirit and the one who had been unable to speak was transformed to one with wondrous things to say.  Listen:  "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, because He has come and brought deliverance and redemption to His people!  And He has raised up a Horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant.  This is as He promised by the mouth of His holy prophets from the most ancient times,  That we should have deliverance and be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all who detest and pursue us with hatred;  To make true and show the mercy and compassion and kindness promised to our forefathers, and to remember and carry out His Holy covenant"
And of his young son, Zacharias had this to say: "And you, little one, shall be called prophet of the Most High;  for you shall go before the face of the Lord to make ready His ways, To bring and give the knowledge of salvation to His people in the forgiveness and remission of their sins.....To shine upon and give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to direct and guide our feet in a straight line into the way of peace." (from Luke 1:68-79)
There is a loving God with a plan for our rescue and our best interests...He can change the mind from one of resistance and unbelief to one that is the willing vessel for His message of love.  He is still doing this today!  Like Zachariah, we too can go from chumps to champions. 
Rob Smith

Thursday, July 1, 2010

named by God

I decided to read the story of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke this month.  I like Luke because it is rich in detail.  I also like Luke because the story starts before Jesus is born with the story of John the Baptist's birth.  It's so interesting that John the Baptist and Jesus were related (their mothers were cousins I believe) physically as well as so closely connected spiritually.  The story of the angel Gabriel appearing to John's father, Zacharias, was stunning.  Zacharias ended up speechless, struck dumb by Gabriel when he didn't believe the angel's promise of becoming a father.  Gabriel also told Zacharias what his son's name would be, as he later also told Mary what her son's name would be.  Knowing the name helped Zacharias fix the identity and contemplate the destiny of his son, even before he was born.  Since Zacharias was unable to speak, until John was actually born, his silent world lent itself more to meditation than to dialog with others.  Imagine how often he reflected on his time with Gabriel and imagine how eager he was to be restored in speech so he could be restored to obey and to serve the Lord.  Wouldn't it be wonderful for your name to have been provided by an angel?  I wondered what the name John meant and, with the help of the internet, found that it means "The Lord is gracious".  In Hebrew it would look something like: Yochanan or "Yahweh is gracious".  John the Baptist's full Jewish name would be Yochanan ben Zechariah or "John, son of Zacharias".   We know that John's purpose in life would be to prepare the Jewish people to receive their savior.   Surely we discover that the Lord is gracious to us because he not only has given us the Savior...he has also prepared us to recognize and receive Him!  Without preparation we can miss the closest of blessings and the greatest of experiences.
Luke 1:13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
Rob Smith