Monday, January 31, 2011

the dimensions of love

Ephesians 3:   18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

The problems of living have walls that seem too high to climb.  There are deep-seated issues that appear too hard to uproot...too entrenched to remove.  We see only a few choices, at times, and we feel boxed in to a narrow life.  Some chronic and recurring difficulties can feel like a life sentence...we wonder if we'll ever escape their grip.  But then we read the passage above from the third chapter of Ephesians to discover the dimensions of God's love through His Son.  The problems of our lives cannot run higher, sink deeper, stretch wider or last longer than His love.  He made us and understands us.  Jesus can absolutely identify with us and He lived among us.  Our view of life and of ourselves is as limited as our ability to solve all of our problems and so we need the One who is unlimited, all seeing, all knowing....and most importantly all loving.  We are often bent on fully understanding things.  In the case of God's Love, we cannot.  To experience a love that extends beyond our reach, we need a love that also reaches beyond our knowledge.  But our faith need not depend on full comprehension as long as we comprehend our full dependence on Him!
Rob Smith

Friday, January 28, 2011

five to one

Ephesians 2: 4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God's grace that you have been saved!) 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms becausewe are united with Christ Jesus7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

 8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

I was struck with all the wonderful things God displays and does for us.  From the passage in Ephesians, chapter 2 I highlighted five actions and attitudes God has displayed toward us: He loved us...He gave us life...He raised us from the dead...He united us with Christ Jesus...and He saved us by His grace.

We don't quite keep pace with our Lord, as we have but one action in the passage.  It is our part to "believe".  You can describe our new experience with the Lord with the familiar phrase "born again".  This section also tells us that we have been "created again" when we believe.  We may have only one action compared with five for our Maker...but according to verse 10 there are "good things" planned for us to do on the far side of believing.  After all, we are "God's masterpiece" according to the same verse.

If we aren't believing then we'll be leaving His favor when our physical dwelling winds down.


blessings in belief,

Rob Smith

the way we were

I thought of the title of a movie from years ago after reading the beginning of Ephesians, chapter 2.  "The Way We Were"...all I remember is that it starred Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand...some kind of love story.  But this chapter gets into the heart of "the way we were" before our encounter and embrace of Jesus as savior:

Ephesians 2:1 Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God's anger, just like everyone else.

I think the idea that captures me this morning is that phrase in verse 3, "All of us used to live that way..."  There is a style of living that is most pervasive in the much so that to trust in Christ is to break free from all that is familiar and comfortable in a sense.  Satan has firmly entrenched himself in our midst and drives our culture through the sin nature inherent in us all.  He has us building castles and empires around ourselves, creating what appears to be the Garden of Eden just beyond our reach, when all the while it is a mirage, backed by the reality of a black eternity.  And yet the world remains comfortable in pursuit of the mirage.  This truly has aggravated our Creator.  Imagine you are God and you fashioned us all in your image only to see each of us squandering our lives and following foolish and fleeting fancies.  He wants us to wake up and smell the incense of eternity that lies just beyond and outside of our five senses.  We are not "the masters of our fate" and we are not "the captains of our destiny".  Too many of us are willing pawns in the clutches of all that is wicked and deceptive.  Our only hope is focused in God's only Son who gave His only life to redeem us from the train wreck each of us heads for when we discover the mirage is really a "black hole".  When all the world is going a certain can be almost certain they are going astray.
blessings (please wake up and smell eternity),
Rob Smith

Thursday, January 27, 2011

His body

We focus on the body of Christ as the wonderful story traces Him through the dry roads and over the waters of Israel.  We trace the drama and miracles of His ministry, His cruel and unjust punishment and His broken form nailed to the Cross.  His body is the central character in the resurrection because it was missing from the tomb on the third day following His death.  His body was resurrected..raised to life again..and reappeared among His Disciples.  Forty days after reappearing, His body was taken up into the clouds and we await His return.  It is fascinating that the Church...the collection of people who have been called and have responded by putting the weight of their trust in Him...are also called His body...
Ephesians 1:22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

I don't really understand how we, as the Church, can be Christ's body but I like one of Webster's Unabridged dictionary definitions:
"the Christian church conceived as a mystical living being of which Christ is the head."

So, Jesus Christ lived among us...died among us...was raised while among us and restored to a new body.  He ascended to Heaven...but He remains with us.  None of us is Christ but together we are a unique body through which He moves, touches, speaks and displays His life.  When the enemy of Christ thought he had dispatched Him, the Lord triumphed by ultimately filling the world with His presence...His body on earth lives in and through the Church.
You are the Church and part of His body, if you have believed that Jesus has died for you...been raised for you and now lives in and through you!
blessings (may His body continue to grow),
Rob Smith

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

far above

Ephesians 1:1 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

My father worked in Manhattan when I was small.  Occasionally our family would go into the city to see where he worked and do some sightseeing as well.  It seemed that every time we went downtown we'd end up shooting way up in a skyscraper.  I remember the sensation of walking into the elevator from the lobby and seeing the large panel of buttons, representing all the floors of the building.  Sometimes we'd go to the very top, to the observation deck.  We would be squeezed into the confines of the elevator box, hit the button, and wait quietly as some mysterious force pulled us upward with incredible speed.  The view from the top was always stunning, especially in contrast to the confines of the elevator we had just left, as we viewed a panorama of one of the world's largest cities.  It occurred to me that, as believers in our Lord, we have entered the elevator on the ground floor and pushed the "H" button for Heaven.  We are somewhat confined right now, (and the elevator music is a little limited too) but our elevator car is picking up speed as the mysterious forces of eternity pull us upward.  We are going "far above" to a place that is above the city.  When we step out of the car we will be stunned by the contrast and we will exchange our elevator music for a richer sound.  We will be stunned...but we will be prepared as the Lord opens our eyes of understanding now to realize that the same power that raised Jesus will also raise us.  We're going to the great observation deck to be with our risen Savior.

blessings ("far above" isn't so very far away),
Rob Smith

Ephesians 1:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Himat His right hand in the heavenly places, 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

going across

I'm a modern person in a modern age,
but I can't get past the Cross

I can do a job and make a plan,
but I can't get past the Cross

I can rely on science for all I know,
but I can't get past the Cross

I can cry and think I'm all alone,
but I can't get past the Cross

I can live with fears that hold like chains,
but I can't get past the Cross

I can think I'll make it on my own,
but I can't get past the Cross

He came to take me beyond my self,
cause I can't get past the Cross

He died and rose and rules my life,
cause I can't get past the Cross

blessings to all,
Rob Smith

Monday, January 24, 2011

signed, sealed, delivered...I'm yours

Ephesians 1:13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Stevie Wonder had a great hit song that I thought of this morning, as I read through Ephesians, chapter 1: Signed, Sealed, Delivered...I'm Yours

Here I am baby,
Oh, you've got the future in your hand 
(signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours)

I've done a lot of foolish things 
That I really didn't mean
I could be a broken man but here I am

I thought about our wonderful relationship with the Lord.  He signed the great promise that we could be with Him forever when He gave His Word to us.  We were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when we put our trust in that promise.  He delivered us from the penalty of our sins ("I've done a lot of foolish things"...).  And one day, He'll deliver us from the obstacle course of life in this world to the glory of His throne room.  I hope you can sing with me: "Here I am, Father, signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours".
Rob Smith

Saturday, January 22, 2011

before, during and after

It gives us security to know we were known long before we were born.  It gives us security to know that we are known now, while we move through our days.  It gives us security to know that we will be known in the forever of future.  It gives us security to know that there is God, who planned to know us long before we were born.  It gives us security to know that there is God who opened our eyes and found us here in this place.  It gives us security to know that there is God who will greet us and be with us forever.  He has a plan and we are part of that plan.  We can lay our troubles down.

Ephesians 1:4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,....according to the good pleasure of His will

Ephesians 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will,....according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself

Ephesians 1:11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory

All these things take place "In Him" and are for "His good pleasure" and "to the praise of His glory."  We may think life is all about us...but it really is all for Him!
Rob Smith

Friday, January 21, 2011

don't wait for Hawaii

According to James we tend to live our lives here as if we'll always be here (not too surprising...since we've always lived here and our knowledge of Heaven is based in faith).   It's almost like spending your entire life living and working in Manhattan but keeping a glossy travel brochure of Hawaii attached to your refrigerator.  You dream of going to Hawaii in retirement and believe that it is somewhere out there, but it is hard to get your mind out of the streets, the smog and the subways.  But we forget two things: (a) our move to Heaven's shore will come soon, at a time we cannot predict and (b) God is just as present and sovereign here as He is in the place we go after we die.  You may be able to plan your retirement date and your extended Hawaii vacation, but you may find yourself in Heaven before Hawaii.  I think we can be assured that, while we are working in Manhattan, He is just as near and just as present and just as powerful as He is when we move to our heavenly address.  He is the God of "downtown" as much as the God of "up there".

James 4:14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that."

James 5: 7 Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. 8 You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Rob Smith

Thursday, January 20, 2011

telling it like it is

James 4:7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

As you work your way through the letter of James you can't help but be impressed by his directness.  He keeps coming back to the black and white issues of God vs. the devil.  So often I think we consider life to be removed from this conflict.  Heaven and hell are concepts to have an opinion about but real life is much more practical than that (we think).  But James shakes us by the shoulders and draws the line sharply between good and evil.  He points out that we can be "double minded"...knowing we should do good but choosing to go a different direction.  He explains that there are times when gloom is better than happiness...when we honestly evaluate the attitudes behind our actions and realize that we haven't been leaning on the Lord.  What a great promise we have in verse 10.  He is patiently waiting for us to return to Him, in humility, so that He can lift us up and out of the soup of self.  As James states so eloquently in verse 8, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

consider the source

James 3: 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 

We can tap into one of two different sources to draw out wisdom for living.  One source is a well that is tended by the enemy of the Lord, who has a measure of influence in this world.  It is easy to draw from this well because it is shallow and as close as our selfish desires.  When we lower our bucket into that well we draw wisdom that appears useful because it caters to our self-centered nature.  But its outcome is harmful and evil.  The other source is actually fresh water that rains from Heaven.  The enemy of our Lord has no domain at its source.  This water doesn't satisfy brings the peace that comes from Heaven-centeredness.  To collect this rain we must hold our bucket up.  It is wise to drink the rain of Heaven while it is fresh...before any falls to the ground.
Rob Smith

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

guns and tongues

James eloquently teaches us of the power of the tongue, which is used to teach and to bless but also to do harm.  Of course the tongue doesn't act by is wired to our hearts and whatever fills us on the inside will eventually overflow in our speech.  The careful choice of words can provide control, as the bit in a horse's mouth directs that large animal.  The spoken word resembles a ship's rudder.  There is something about speaking about a commitment of the heart that solidifies that direction.  Perhaps that is why marriage vows are spoken publicly and why the believer is exhorted to confess his salvation to others.  If our heart is ruled by unruly thoughts and evil desire our speech can spread that evil, something like napalm spreading fire across the battlefields of Viet Nam.  Like a gun, the impact of our words can be like bullets, causing lasting damage.  It seems that the key to controlling the tongue is to (1) first acknowledge that we cannot control it in our own strength and (2) fuel our hearts from healthy minds that are fixed on the words spoken and inspired by the one Heavenly Tongue we can trust. 

James 3: 3 Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. 4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. 5Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things...
 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.
May His words become our words and may our speech be a spring of fresh water to others.
Rob Smith

Monday, January 17, 2011

the work of faith

"We're saved by faith alone!"   "We're saved through good works!"  

These two competing statements have wrestled each other for centuries.  The book of James shows that faith and works were never meant to compete...they were meant to coexist.  It is pretty clear from the book of Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 8-9 that our entrance into the Kingdom of God is not "dependent" on our good works:   For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.  

Less frequently quoted is the next verse: Ephesians 2:10; 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

James points out that the kind of good works that God wants are the ones that follow the spark plug of faith. When we have truly accepted Christ as Savior we are changed by His presence and by hearts that have been washed clean for eternity.  The actions that immediately flow from a life that has been changed this way confirm the change and show the presence of the Lord.  Our first work is our response of acceptance to the gift of salvation.  It isn't enough to understand God's love.  We must take action to open our heart's door.

We have been changed because God has a ministry of change to bring to the world and that cannot take place unless we follow through with the work that flows from faith.  Faith is the active ingredient that changes hearts...Works are the "follow through" of faith.
Rob Smith

Saturday, January 15, 2011


I'd been struggling with a certain sadness that I didn't understand....just one of those moods that comes from an uncertain source and leaves you feeling incomplete and just a little down.  So I got in my truck and drove down to the pond this morning and looked out over the familiar surface, now half covered with a thin plate of ice.  Opening the windows of the truck I heard the faint sound of birds and felt the fresh air on my face.  I spoke with the Lord and asked to feel His presence.  I was overwhelmed with the thought of how present He was, as I purposely became very still.  Gradually, over the next several minutes I felt washed and refreshed and I realized it was because I had left the baggage of my mood behind and allowed Him to wash over me.   The word "awareness" jumped into my mind and I considered that the reality of God isn't so much the issue as our awareness of His presence...His personal reality in our personal lives.  He really loves us and His peace is one that we cannot achieve or manufacture on our own.   As I drove up the winding hill from the pond I considered the tall trees that lined the road.  Their great height and canopied branches reinforced the sense of His protection and His towering presence.
Psalm 91:  He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
         Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
Rob Smith

Friday, January 14, 2011

nature of man, nature of God

We can live without knowing the Lord and stumble.  We can find the Lord through faith awakened and walk in truth.  We also can find the Lord and yet stumble once again.  James gives us some insights into human nature in the first chapter of his letter.

James 1:14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin;

(This is man without God...he is prone to follow personal desires that lead him into trouble.)

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

(This is the intervention of God in our lives that brings truth and life).

James 1:25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. 
26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless. 

(This is the choice we have after God has intervened.  We can be honest about our tendency to stumble and keep our eyes on Him...or we can take our eyes off Him and trip over our desires once again.)

I suppose we really only have two questions to answer: "Will we allow Him entrance to our hearts to begin a new life?"  Once we have the answer to this question the second question is "Will we walk in His strength or ours?"

Our salvation doesn't mean the end of our sin nature any more than being elected sheriff means you won't break the law because you are wearing a badge.  Our salvation shows us that we are destined to stumble unless we hold onto the one who has raised us to be His children.
Rob Smith

Thursday, January 13, 2011

spiritual maturity

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

At the beginning of this new year, just like the beginning of every new year, many resolutions have been made.  Of course, many of these center on exercise and weight loss.  We have a view of ourselves that tells us that we are not yet where we want to be.  We appreciate the opportunity given us by the calendar to make major life changes.  There is another one who is resolved to help us grow into the complete person.  We see from the early verses in the book of James (above) that God will bring challenges into our lives that we would never volunteer for in order to develop us.  Of course we have different timetables for maturity.  Our timetable may be closely linked to swimsuit season.  God's timetable runs well past the end of our natural lives and into Heaven.  It seems that a major purpose for our remaining time on earth, once we have accepted His gift of salvation, is to grow to a maturity that is at home in the place we call forever.  We learn through James that many of the trials we face have an intended purpose.  That purpose is to fully form the part of us that trusts in the Lord.  We need to come to the end of ourselves so that we will turn our hearts and minds to Him for help.  These kinds of trials find the outer limits of our faith and, as we trust in Him, extend those limits.  As our dependence and trust in the Lord grows, so does our spiritual maturity.  We are in training to learn how to trust in God.  If we react the right way to trials and our faith develops then we benefit two ways: (1) we'll be better prepared for the next trial and (2) we'll ultimately be so comfortable with trusting in the Lord that we will feel totally at home in the place where we are directly in His presence.  I suspect that some of our friends have moved on from this life to the next before we would ever have let them go because their faith had reached maturity and the Lord was eager to walk with them directly.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

the rock

Last night I was watching a PBS special on earthquakes.  they were discussing the huge "plates" that slowly move against each other along great lengths, as in California and South America.  Inevitably these gradual and massive movements result in the release of tremendous energy and the earth eventually quakes and the sea creates tidal waves.  We saw an example of this in the devastation of Haiti one year ago.  Forces beneath us can unsettle the world around us.  Generally we consider the earth beneath our feet as dependably solid.  But even the earth has its faults!  This made me think about what is absolutely solid and what may appear solid, but can shift and topple.  Our modern culture seems to have a lot of structure and "solid" qualities: government, economies, technological progress, education, etc.  But all of these institutions and developments have "fault lines" and sudden failure can result from accumulated tension...just like the earthquakes that result from years of shifting plates below the earth's surface.  We need something in our lives and in our world that doesn't shift, shake, quake or topple.  We need something that not only appears is absolutely solid.  Jesus is the rock that will not shift.  His appearance of solidity is backed by His words and actions and so we can rest on His promises.  Really, there is nothing that we can absolutely  rely on: from the chair we sit in, to the home we sleep in, to the roads we drive over, to the government we live under, to the science that gives us answers, to the economy that provides work...or even to our personal wisdom and strength.  Any of these can shift and quake and break.  Jesus is the reliable rock.  When all around is shifting, He is steadfast...from before time began until time is no longer measured.  And we can walk this rock and know this rock and rest on this rock.

1 Corinthians 10: 4And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

Matthew 7: 24Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
Rob Smith

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Matthew 25:34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' 
37 "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' 40 And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.' 

We have been considering words that are important from the Bible, like 'faith', 'grace' and 'abide', that we don't often use in casual conversation.  Here's another rare word: "inasmuch".  I don't think I've ever used "inasmuch" in a sentence before.  But "inasmuch" is a key to seeing Jesus.  We learned from the passage above that we actually have the opportunity of seeing Jesus before we go to Heaven.  When we see people with needs around us and we step outside of our personal comfort zone and self-centered agenda we actually are seeing Jesus!  Not only that...but we actually touch Jesus and feed Jesus and comfort Jesus when we extend love in practical ways to others in need.  At the beginning of a New Year, where we are seeking to see life in a new way, perhaps we can learn to see Jesus all around.  Inasmuch as He has promised, I'm confident He will fulfill that reality. 
Rob Smith 

Monday, January 10, 2011

downpayment on a lifetime

The past week was very exciting for our family.  Our middle daughter became engaged to a fine young man while they were vacationing in Vermont.  We had all suspected that the engagement was coming but could only guess on the timing.  One of the first pictures that was circulated was of the beautiful diamond ring on Courtney's hand.  It's one thing to talk about an engagement...but when you see the diamond you have the proof!  It occurred to me that our tradition of cementing a wedding engagement with a diamond ring is something like the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who have decided to accept Jesus' offer of salvation.  We don't wear the Holy Spirit on our finger.  We carry Him in our heart and He is the guarantee that one day we will be united with Jesus for all eternity, in Heaven.  You might say that the engagement ring is a "down payment" on a lifetime...a lifetime of marriage.  It is something of great value that shows how the prospective groom highly values his future bride.  The Holy Spirit is God expressing His love by placing His very presence within our framework, while we still live this veiled life of flesh, faults, frustrations and fragility.  He is showing His love for us, His valuation of us and His commitment to keep His promise to us of life eternal.  The bride is reminded that the man will surely keep His word to marry and be faithful by the light weight and shiny reflection of that stone on her hand.  She is also witnessing to the world that she is no longer available to other suitors.  The Holy Spirit shows up in our words and our works to proclaim that we are the Lord's and we are no longer available to rivals for ownership of our hearts.  He is the groom and we, who have accepted His proposal, are the bride for all eternity.  I hope that you have recognized His proposal to you.  He didn't get down on bended knee.  He was raised on a splintered post to suffer in your stead so that ultimately He could be united with you forever.

Ephesians 1:13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
Rob Smith

Saturday, January 8, 2011

"Can I help with anything?"

1 John 3:24 Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

1 John 4:13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

We have been considering the meaning and application of "abiding" in the Lord.  We have seen that if we abide or remain in Him, He will remain in us.  We have read that abiding in Him means to remain in His Word, His light and His love.  We have reflected on how to abide through purposely setting our thoughts on Him and purposefully investing our time in Him and with Him.  How will we know that we are abiding in the Lord?  We know because God, Himself...who is Spirit...rests, remains and resides within our being.  How can we tell that the Spirit is there?  We can tell when the fruit, or output, of our actions is centered on the wellbeing of others more than personal satisfaction.  When we find that our desires are to serve and help rather than to be served... When we respond to wrongs done to us with grace rather than anger...When we are concerned about the eternal dimension of life and that those we know find this life.  We begin to see evidence that His Spirit is within when our thoughts and actions take on His nature.
My wife told me a story that illustrates this kind of nature.  An associate at work told her of a favorite neighbor of his.  This neighbor was up in years...well into retirement.  He was a kind neighbor and offered friendly conversation and help with yard work.  He had battled cancer years ago and it had gone into remission for about 10 years, but then returned.  Eventually the disease wore him down and took his life.  Shortly after his death, his wife shared that it was her husband's habit to ask every morning and every evening, as he rose and before he retired to sleep: "Now is there anything I can do for you this morning" or "Is there anything I can do before we go to bed?".  This was his faithful habit every day.  He passed away one night, in his sleep.  But before going to bed he asked his wife one last time, "Now is there anything I can do for you before we sleep?"
The Holy Spirit is also known as "The Helper" and as He resides within He makes Himself available to help us and help others through us.  Like the loving neighbor, this is His nature and how He shows up in our lives.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Rob Smith