Tuesday, July 30, 2013

a different kind of sacrifice

I am grateful that God set up the complicated system of laws and sacrifices for His people as they began their journey in the Wilderness.  It is a picture that we can hold in our minds that illustrates a greater reality that has taken place in Heaven.  The book of Hebrews makes clear that the animal sacrifices that were used back then were not able to clean the consciences of the people and the priests themselves were as imperfect as those they offered sacrifices for.  And the only person who could go directly into the presence of God was the High Priest...and only once a year at that!  The book of Hebrews shows us that Jesus Christ has opened up direct access to God's presence to all who will trust in His perfect sacrifice.  This morning it occurred to me that Jesus was both the sacrifice, itself, and the High Priest, bringing the sacrifice before God.  The only way a sacrifice that has died can offer itself is if it conquers death and regains life.  The purpose of the blood is to confirm the reality of death.  The effect of the offering of Jesus' blood by Jesus is to prove Jesus has died for sin (our sins and all sins).  The purpose of Jesus presenting Himself, and His bloodied body, before God is to establish that death has died and life has transcended death.  A living sacrifice...sounds like a contradiction, but is actually a confirmation of the victory God has established in His Creation.  And Jesus lives on!

Hebrews 9:But only the high priest ever entered the Most Holy Place, and only once a year. And he always offered blood for his own sins and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. By these regulations the Holy Spirit revealed that the entrance to the Most Holy Place was not freely open as long as the Tabernacle and the system it represented were still in use.
This is an illustration pointing to the present time. For the gifts and sacrifices that the priests offer are not able to cleanse the consciences of the people who bring them.

11 So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. 12 With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.

Rob Smith

Sunday, July 28, 2013

context for prayer

Hebrews 12:22 ... you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. 23 You have come to the assembly of God's firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. 24 You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness....

I have been deeply struck, as I have reflected on the passage above, about the context for prayer.  That is, when we consider what takes place when we go before the Lord in prayer we realize that we have entered a different setting entirely.  Because of the perfect sacrifice by Jesus and through His victory over death...and because He now intercedes on our behalf before the Father we can approach Him just as we are.  We may still be here, on this earthly plain, in our earthly bodies but spiritually we move to a different setting.  We come to God's city, the heavenly Jerusalem, where there are many witnesses to God and of our coming.  There are angels surrounding Him.  There are believers who have lived in past times and who, like you, have been made right through the blood of Christ.  And there is the great judge...God himself...and to His Son, Jesus.  When we pray and when we simply stand or kneel in the presence of God we have moved to a very unique place.  Perhaps it is helpful to remember this each time we pause for prayer!

Rob Smith

Saturday, July 27, 2013

looking at nothing

Hebrews 11:27 It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king's anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.

Hebrews 12:We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne.

Some say it's fiction, this God that I see...
Can't touch His face, can't hear a voice speak...

But there's much I can't see...and never have...

Couldn't see my beginning...couldn't see past today...

Couldn't see how a heartache came...or went away...

Couldn't see how a thought works, or live in a dream...

Couldn't see a child's love..Now that's a wonderful thing!

So I can watch Jesus with the sight of my mind.

I know that He lives here....I know that He's kind.

By faith I have felt Him, reach deep in my soul.

He brought me to freedom...He's making me whole.

I'm learning to see with eyes that will last...

til this body's worn...and time is all past...

Rob Smith

Friday, July 26, 2013

the flag of faith

I am old enough to remember the first landing of man on the moon.  What an exciting event that was...what a marvelous culmination of a decade of the space program, the tumultuous decade of the 1960's.  Civil unrest, the war in Viet Nam, Hippies, the Cold War, the Beatles...wow what a decade that was.  But certainly a peak was reached when Neil Armstrong made that "small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" in 1969.  As we have been studying the book of Hebrews it occurred to me that our faith in the Lord Jesus is like the flag that Neil planted on the moon in 1969.  It was, and is, proof that man had gone to a world that had only existed in his far off dreams for thousands of years.  When we plant our trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus, as payment for our sins on a personal basis, we have planted our flag in Heaven itself.  That flag of faith remains planted in Heaven for us and so we have absolute assurance that one day we will walk in Heaven, as surely as Neil Armstrong walked the moon.  The reason this is important is that, once we are assured of our place with God in Heaven, we are free to live for Heaven's purposes rather than the limited purposes of this world.  The things of this world, like our fleshly life itself, are temporary and ultimately failing to provide the greatest satisfaction.  We learn in Hebrews that God will one day end this world, but the next world...designed and built by God...will never end.  That is the world where our flag of faith is planted.  So we are called in Hebrews to run an endurance race here...a marathon where we are tested and challenged by false and shallow substitutes but where we keep looking up at our flag planted in Heaven.  If we live that kind of life we will wave like the flag of faith itself and point the way for others to an eternity with God!

Hebrews 10:35 So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! 36 Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God's will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.

Hebrews 12:26 When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: "Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also." 27 This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain.
28 Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.

Rob Smith

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

more on faith...

I think faith is an onion, with many layers to be pealed but all from the same vegetable.  Reading Hebrews 11 this morning the following observations seemed to surface:
(1) Faith is backward looking and forward looking.  Verse 3 seems to look back: By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God's command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.
So looking back at Creation in faith we believe that God spoke it all into being.  But faith is very much forward looking too.  Consider verse 10:  Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. Faith has confidence that the God who started it all is the God to be trusted for the "unseeable" future.
(2) Faith and righteousness...right living...right attitudes toward God and others... are closely linked.  Remember how Cain killed his brother Abel out of jealousy.  We don't learn much about Abel from that story but Hebrews 11 makes Abel the first example of faith.  Verse 4 tells us: It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel's offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts.
(3) Obedience and Faith are also closely related.  Consider Noah from verse 7: It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before.
and Abraham in verse 8: It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.
(4) As we mentioned yesterday, faith believes that God will keep His promises, even when those promises seem to promise the impossible!  Sarah illustrates this in verse 11:  It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed] that God would keep his promise.
(5) Faith believes that the best things will come after this earthly life is done and the best promises will be fulfilled when we cannot receive them in this natural earthly body: Verse 13  All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. and Verse 16  But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
(6) God may test our faith as a sword may be tempered by flame to develop, establish and confirm it: Verse 17  It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him.
(7) Faith can be a means for others to be blessed. Verse 20 It was by faith that Isaac promised blessings for the future to his sons, Jacob and Esau. and Verse 21 It was by faith that Jacob, when he was old and dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons and bowed in worship as he leaned on his staff.
(8) Faith may lead to a more difficult choice in the near term for a better outcome in the long term: Moses illustrated this and notice the focus even Moses had on Christ! (Verses 24-26) It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter.  He chose to share the oppression of God's people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.
(9) Walking in faith can result in amazing examples of God intersecting our experience, even here, in this life: Verses 33-35 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight.  Women received their loved ones back again from death.
(10) The walk of faith can also result in great difficulty in this life as well (also Verse 35): But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection.
(11) Faith will eventually lead to a wonderful experience with God that we will, ourselves, share with all the people like Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sarah and Moses: (Verses 39 and 40)  All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.  For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.
Let us walk in faith!
Rob Smith

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

what, where, how

We are approaching the "faith" chapter...chapter 11 of the letter to the Hebrews.  As I listened to it this morning glimpses of "what faith is", "where it comes from", and "how we exercise it" seemed to emerge.  The very first verse seems to tell us what faith is: Hebrews 11 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. So faith represents an inner attitude that is convinced something good is going to happen without the obvious evidence of something seen.  But where does faith come from...how is it born within?  What creates faith inside us?  I think the key comes from another word:promises.  Faith seems to spring from two steps: (1) recognizing that God has made promises to us and (2) believing that God will fulfill what He has promised.  This seems clear from Sarah's attitude that is shown in verse 11: It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise.We need to come to the place where the promise is more convincing than the outcome.  "Seeing is believing" is an old expression that describes normal human behavior.  But the greatest things God has for us will never be seen by our human eyes.  They will be experienced in a place and time that is past and beyond our human experience.  And so God is looking to see if a relationship can be built on a promise.  And God has an excellent track record of keeping His promises!  Some might say that exercising faith means giving up your ability to reason and think on your own.  But reason still thrives inside of faith.  Abraham showed that reason should be shaped by faith in verse 19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.  So how do we exercise faith?  I believe we look for God's promises...the ones He made to the people of Hebrews in chapter 11 and the ones He makes to us in our current chapter of living.  In a sense all of Hebrews is describing the great promise God has made and kept in His Son, Jesus Christ.  Jesus' perfect sacrifice has opened the gateway for all who believe the promise to walk through that gateway and enjoy a direct, personal relationship with God that begins here and will be fulfilled in the place where faith ultimately leads...in Heaven!

Rob Smith

Monday, July 22, 2013

Department of the Interior

In 1849 Congress set up the Department of the Interior to care for the great natural resources inside our vast country.  Water and minerals, national parks, energy and conservation...the responsibilities of this office were as vast as the land itself.  When the office was established, much of the interior of our country was still unexplored, but the value of its natural resources was recognized as a great hope for our country's future.  We also have a personal Department of the Interior.  We have vast and vital supernatural resources that need care and development within our person.   The writer of Hebrews explains that a big difference from the Old Covenant, with its system of sacrifice and ceremonial laws, was the personal and direct relationship that God wanted to establish with people:

Hebrews 8:10 
But this is the new covenant I will make
    with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds,
    and I will write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.

God wanted to have a personal and close relationship with people.  He wanted to meet and move with them on the "Interior" of their lives.  This one phrase seems to capture much of what God has in mind from chapter 10: 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him.  In the invisible interior place of our mind and heart it is possible to actually go into God's presence now, just as will eventually go to be with Him in a permanent, direct, eternal way.  Having come to trust in Jesus by that invisible work of faith, we now continue to explore, trust and grow our interior domain...also through faith.  The great thing about our "interior" is that because it is not a physical, tangible kind of place it cannot be destroyed.  Our interior has been brought to life here and now and can be developed and appropriately mined and tended, something like our country's natural resources.  But the object of our great interior is The Lord.  Hebrews will give us many examples in chapter 11 of people who took the management of their interior lives very seriously!

Rob Smith

Friday, July 19, 2013

Divine salad

A good salad usually has a lot of lettuce.  I found a salad mix in Hebrews salad that seems healthy from all of the "let us"!
Hebrews 10:22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ's blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.
23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
Jesus has secured a great opportunity for us and it is captured by all of the "let us" commands from the author of Hebrews. 
You might summarize them this way:
    (1) Let us go directly into His presence.
    (2) Let us hold to our hope, trusting in God's promise.
    (3) Let us serve one another in love.
    (4) Let us meet to worship and encourage each other as we await His return.
This might be considered as a recipe for a nutritious salad.  The dressing is built into the mix by the Holy Spirit!
Rob Smith

Thursday, July 18, 2013

the big problem

I have really enjoyed listening to the book of Hebrews being played on my electronic tablet as I exercise in the mornings lately.  There has been great benefit in hearing the same passages more than one time.  Today I listened to chapters 7-13.  Several themes moved me but one, in particular, seemed important to mention.  The "old system" of sacrifices which God gave the people of Israel through Moses has always seemed so messy and so complicated and so repetitive to me.  There are hundreds of commands and instructions that had to be followed to construct the apparatus for sacrifice, set up the priesthood to carry it out, and perform many different kinds of sacrifice for many different purposes.  I don't think any other people in history have had such an elaborate process to try to make themselves acceptable.  Certainly, today, in our culture we don't see a lot of emphasis on sacrifice or elaborate procedures to be made right.  It occurred to me that today we tend to forget what the main thing is and what the big problem is that blocks us from the main thing.  For the people of Israel, God took care of their worries about finding food and finding direction in life by directly providing their food each day (manna) and by leading them by the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night.  Really they were left with only one major issue or problem.  They had a problem with a blockage in their relationship with God.  They were a sinful people who went their own ways in their personal attitudes and actions.  At the core of their lives there was an ongoing rebellion toward God.  This morning I realized that the complicated, and intensive, system that God put in place for a time for sacrifices was necessary as an ongoing reminder to the people of Israel and also to us that we really only have one big problem.  We still have the big problem of a blockage in our relationship with God.  The old sacrifice system couldn't solve that problem... it could only remind all of us of the ongoing nature of the issue and provide a picture of what needed to be done about it.  

Today, we have a permanent solution to this ongoing problem.  Hebrews tells us that Jesus was the perfect and permanent sacrifice as well as the perfect High Priest.  If we can grasp the bigness of the problem, as illustrated by the original system of sacrifices, perhaps we can begin to appreciate the bigness of God's solution.

Hebrews 1The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared.
But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year......First, Christ said, "You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them" (though they are required by the law of Moses). Then he said, "Look, I have come to do your will." He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. 10 For God's will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.

Rob Smith

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

clarifying clouds

Clouds seem to have many personalities...from wispy ones that waft along at high altitudes that seem to herald clear air to heavy overcast layers filled with moisture that threaten to block the sun's light entirely.  On the West Coast we experienced the Sea Fog caused by the dramatic temperature difference between water and land.  It partially obscured the beauty of the shoreline until the sun's heat burned it off.  But sometimes clouds are majestic and are framed by the sun in such a way that Heaven, itself, is foreshadowed.  Yesterday, on the way home from an errand, I just had to stop and take a picture (attached) of these kinds of clouds.  Jesus ascended to Heaven in a cloud and will one day return the same way, scripture says.  The Heaven's that are anticipated in the clouds will one day bring Heaven's fulfillment when the Son returns for His church.  Keep your eyes on the skies!

Matthew 17:But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him."

Mark 13:26 Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory.

Rob Smith

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

4 sacrifices

Listening to the book of Hebrews this morning I thought of four sacrifices that we learn about in scripture.  There was the sacrifice of Isaac that Abraham was prepared to make on Mount Moriah: 

Genesis 22:1 Some time later, God tested Abraham's faith. "Abraham!" God called.
"Yes," he replied. "Here I am."
"Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you."

Abraham was called by God to put to death the most precious thing in life to him. He was willing to do this according to the book of Hebrews because he was confident that God would raise Isaac back to life, even if he were killed.  Of course God spared the sacrifice at the last second when He saw Abraham's faith.

We hear about the sacrifices of animals that God commanded the Hebrew people to make in Hebrews too.  We are taught there that these blood offerings were a picture and a reminder.  They were a picture of the need for a death to take place before an inheritance can be received and for a payment to be made before sins can be forgiven.  But they are a reminder that the blood of animals cannot take away the sins of men...they can only remind men of the need for a permanent and lasting payment.

Hebrews 10:1 The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship.

The third sacrifice we learn of was the death of Jesus, whose blood has made a permanent solution for our sin.

Hebrews 10:Then he said, "Look, I have come to do your will." He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. 10 For God's will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.

The fourth sacrifice is our personal sacrifice.  It comes after we have put our trust in the third sacrifice.  We are called to sacrifice the temporary and false expectations of finding all satisfaction in this earthly life so that we can focus on the enduring and permanent satisfaction that will come in the future, when we are past the limits of this life.

Hebrews 10:36 Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God's will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.
37 "For in just a little while,
    the Coming One will come and not delay.
38 And my righteous ones will live by faith.
    But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away."

Rob Smith

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Tahoe and the casinos

We visited Lake Tahoe with friends during our trip to California.  Lake Tahoe (which comes from the local Indian name for lake) is the second deepest lake in the country.  The top of the empire state building would not be visible if it were located on the lake bottom.  It is a mountain lake and is located well over a mile above sea level, surrounded by mountain peaks that reach almost another mile higher.   The lake is more than 70 miles in circumference.  The great depth of the water leads to a deep blue that is stunning in clarity and contrast to the surrounding green pines and snow capped mountains.  People are drawn to the lake for many reasons.  We visited the day after the 4th of July and our hosts told us they'd never seen such heavy traffic choking the roads.  Swimming and boating in the summer, skiing in the winter, and camping much of the year are some of the attractions.  But we were surprised to see large casinos also.  The Lake straddles the state line with Nevada and Stateline, Nevada is the name of the town where several large casinos are located.  We decided to stroll through Harrah's Casino.  Standing in stark contrast with the natural beauty of the lake,  Harrah's featured a windowless large floor with all the machines and card / roulette tables you would expect.  I had not experienced a smoke filled room in years and was fascinated to see so many playing the games.  So these folks had come to one of the most beautiful sites in all of America to spend their time and lose their money in a dimly lit room while breathing smoky air.  This made me ponder...What is our view and how do we choose to spend time with our Lord?  He is deeper, grander and more beautiful than Tahoe.  Do we come to experience Him in a direct way, like those who are boating on the lake water?   Do we circle the lake in slow moving traffic and settle only for a glimpse?  Or do we come close to Him only to spend our time walled off in unhealthy activities and ignore His reality, beauty and presence?

Psalm 48 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.
Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.

Rob Smith

Friday, July 12, 2013

looking back, looking forward

looking back, I recall, I was anxious as I looked forward...

when I was young I didn't know who I was or what I should do...

I tried to be what I thought I should be and do what I should do...

I hadn't given myself life, but I thought I was responsible to make that life a success...

then I found Jesus, as He found me...

I discovered that my life had been planned before it was given...

there were purposes that He had in mind...

just as He'd found me...His purposes I'd find...

looking back, I review the faithfulness I've known...

the success has been knowing Him and...

experiencing His life and His touch and His care...

it never was meant to be about me...what I'd accomplish...what fame I'd reach...

as we have traveled time together, He has led...He has healed...He has forgiven...He has given and given...

looking back I count those blessings of salvation, the heart's desire of wife, the great joy of children, the daily help through work, the unexpected joys of grandkids...

looking forward, my best preparation is looking back!

Psalm 65:
You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds,
    O God our savior.
You are the hope of everyone on earth,
    even those who sail on distant seas.

Rob Smith

Thursday, July 11, 2013

marine layer

The coast of California is unparalleled for natural beauty over hundreds of miles.  Once you get north of the heavy population centers around Los Angeles it isn't long before you find unspoiled and uncommercialized grandeur from the mountains that run down to the sea and the acres of open grassland and vineyards.  We were surprised to even see pastures of cattle grazing on choice land overlooking the ocean!  At one site, where a number of cars had parked, we pulled over to view scores of elephant seals resting on the beach from their migrations up and down the open water.  But there was one phenomenon that seemed to be common up and down the coast from San Diego to San Francisco.  It is called the "marine layer" or "sea fog".  The hot summer air of California mixes with the cool waters of the Pacific to generate a kind of cloud or fog that hangs right over the coast until the sun rises high enough in the sky to burn it off.  They were experiencing especially hot weather when we were there and the sea fog hung over San Francisco until well into the afternoon.  I thought about what happens when the intense heat of God's truth comes into contact with the coolness of people.  There seems to be a similar "sea fog" that covers the picture until the sun (or the Son) rises high enough in the sky to even out the temperature difference and melt the fog away.  When we were in the lovely town of Santa Barbara and walked out on a very long wharf there one of the natives told us that the fog was called "June Gloom" and it seemed to remain all morning, shrouding the beautiful hills from view that lined the shore.  How many of us are walking in fog because we haven't allowed the Son to rise high enough in our vision to warm us to His presence and clear up our view of the beauty that truly surrounds and fills us!

Rob Smith

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

unseen power

One of the California experiences we looked forward to, and then very much enjoyed, was riding the cable cars of San Francisco.  We were fascinated to discover that they were invented back in the 1870's and are still very much a part of the transportation system there.  A few factors have helped them endure, despite advances in transportation technology like electricity and gasoline engines.   They were first invented as a replacement for horse drawn carriages because the steep hills of the city gave horses problems and the horses created health issues with their manure production.  The cable cars have probably lasted this long in San Francisco, when they were replaced long ago in other cities, because of their romantic appeal and the sheer fun of feeling the open air and ocean breezes while negotiating the hills that would make walking a challenge and parking cars a nuisance.  We visited the cable car museum to find out how they work and discovered that there is no power in the cable car itself.  The source of power is unseen from above.  It consists of a series of cables that are continuously running during the day under the road.  The cars grab onto these cables to move at a maximum of 9 miles per hour and the cable car drivers are skilled to manage speed and braking with the hand controls that act like giant vice grips or pliers with the cable.  On reflection I realized that I am just a cable car myself.  I have no spiritual power in myself and must grab onto the Lord's continuously running cable.  He will carry me over the hills and provide the opportunity to enjoy the cool breezes and gorgeous views of His city.  The simple technology of the cable car has enduring value and the simple, but profound, presence of the Lord in our lives will never be outmoded either!

1 Timothy 1:17 All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen.

Rob Smith

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Gold Rush!

While visiting California, we stayed with friends who took us to see the location of Sutter's Mill.  This is where gold was first discovered in 1848, that led to the gold rush of 1849.  We visited a museum at the site, where they have recreated the actual mill, and learned about all the excitement.  John Sutter, a Swiss immigrant, had partnered with a carpenter named James Marshall to build the saw mill on the American River upstream of Sacramento.  Sutter was building a large settlement in the Sacramento area and needed a lot of wood for buildings and fortifications.  In January of 1848 James Marshall spotted gold in the water near the mill when he was inspecting it.  At first the search for gold was kept very local and the men who operated the mill lost interest in cutting wood when they could get rich searching for gold.  But once the word reached the streets of San Francisco and then was publicized in the press thousands of men and a few women hit the trails from all over America, as well as Mexico, China and the rest of the world to come pan for gold in California.  A few became very rich, but most barely survived.  Many hoped to earn enough from the sale of gold to return to their homes.  It occurred to me that if only people could grasp the treasure that is available in Jesus Christ they would leave everything to come for Him, just as the thousands did in hope of finding gold.  As it turns out, finding God is much more certain than finding gold.  All the miners and searchers for riches from 1848 and 1849 have gone on to the eternal dimension.  Some of them found gold and some did not.  But when we have found the truth of the reality of God through His Son Jesus Christ we can stake a claim that is held for eternity in Heaven!

Monday, July 8, 2013

presentation of the bride

We recently attended the wedding of our nephew and his bride in the San Diego area.  It was a beautiful wedding in every respect.  The young couple clearly love the Lord as well as each other.  I was touched by the foot washing ceremony that they built into the service.  But the biggest impression that was made on me was the presentation of the bride in the early part of the program.  The groom and his best man and groomsman all were up front already.  They had made a quiet entrance together from a side door in the front of the church with the pastor.  But then a glorious pipe organ started the wedding march and one by one the bridesmaids majestically stepped forward followed by the four year old twin flower girls and then the gorgeous bride, arrayed in white and escorted by her father strode down the aisle with eyes fixed on her groom, and his eyes glistening and locked on hers.  I thought about the great beauty there is in the presentation of the bride to her groom.  It represents the climax of preparation in each of this couple's young lives to find and be joined with their life partner, to continue the rest of this life's journey no longer alone with the promise of joy and the fulfillment of bringing new life into the world.  Of course I couldn't escape the parallel to the Bride that is being prepared for presentation to the Lord.  The Church of redeemed people, who have placed their trust in the saving work of Jesus, is also described as His Bride.  I thought of the eyes of Jesus glistening with joy as He views His Bride being prepared and then coming down eternity's aisle to be joined forever with Him.  We, who have come to experience the forgiveness and restoration of our Lord, are coming down the aisle and we are challenged to keep our eyes fixed on His as He beholds our now-spotless wedding clothes and soon will receive us as His Bride for eternity.

Revelation 19:
Let us be glad and rejoice,
    and let us give honor to him.
For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb,
    and his bride has prepared herself.

Rob Smith

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Redwood view

Shirley and I just returned from a week in California.  We toured the coast from San Diego to San Francisco.  One of my goals was to see a real redwood tree along the way.  We found them in the Big Sur area on the coast about an hour south of Monterey.  We actually stayed in a state park where the redwoods were located.  They weren't the biggest...those are found a few hundred miles north.  But they were still huge and signs told us that they reached about 300 feet in height.  We truly felt like we were in the land of the giants there.  As I reflected on the greatness of these trees, which are impressive in every way...from size to age to overall beauty...I realized that a redwood may be best viewed and appreciated from the ground level (see attached picture).  We hiked a trail that climbed next to a grove of these huge trees and ultimately found ourselves looking at the peaks from eye level.  It was amazing to realize just how tall they were but I certainly was most impressed when I looked at the trees from the ground up rather that looking over at the same height as the tree tops.  This morning it occurred to me that Heaven may be something like the giant redwoods.  We view it now from ground level and are amazed to consider the awesome height and the grandeur that one day we hope to dwell in.  We picture God the father and the son on thrones in Heaven and those thoughts are also filled with a similar grandeur and awesomeness.  One day our trail will bring us eye level with Heaven and that grand place will become our dwelling place.  I'm sure we will be overwhelmed with the immediate presence of Heaven.  But perhaps as we view Heaven from the ground level we can have a healthy excitement and awe that resembles the sensation of staring up the vertical line of the great redwood, where the top seems to scrape Heaven's floor!

Psalm 48:
It is high and magnificent;
    the whole earth rejoices to see it!
Mount Zion, the holy mountain,
    is the city of the great King!

Rob Smith