Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Psalm 27 (part 2)

What is the one most important thing...the most important thing to focus on, to have ambition for, to ask the Lord for? David addresses this question in Psalm 27. It is to live so close to the Lord that we are actually dwelling in His house. It is to make Him the object of our curiosity. It is to be satisfied beholding the works of His hands and the completeness of His truth. It is to find great peace in quietness before Him. In short, it is to center our minds and hearts in and on Him. When He is our central reality and most important relationship we can be confident that He will act to protect us from the evil that seeks to steal our hearts and focus. Knowing God is both the means and the end, just as Jesus said of Himself that He was "the way, the truth and the life." (from John 14:6)
Psalm 27:4 The one thing I ask of the Lord
the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
delighting in the Lord's perfections
and meditating in his Temple.
5 For he will conceal me there when troubles come;
he will hide me in his sanctuary.
He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
6 Then I will hold my head high
above my enemies who surround me.
At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,
singing and praising the Lord with music.
blessings and peace,
Rob Smith

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Psalm 27 (part 1)

Psalm 271 The Lord is my light and my salvation—
so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
so why should I tremble?
2 When evil people come to devour me,
when my enemies and foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
3 Though a mighty army surrounds me,
my heart will not be afraid.
Even if I am attacked,
I will remain confident.
Two wonderful qualities of the Lord in our lives: light and protection. The light represents the breakthrough of truth...the revelation of the reality of God in our personal lives. It takes a miracle of revelation that goes beyond comprehension, study or the human intellect. God comes down and opens our heart's eye to see and to know Him. That light of the revealed God shines inside our deepest corners and reveals the dark places and causes us to repent, turn our inside out to Him and allow Him to wash us clean. His light of revelation leads to our salvation as we grasp the power and purpose of the risen Savior, now also risen in our lives.
He is also the fortress who protects us from danger. Having entered through the gates of revelation and light we are now safely within the thick walls of His castle. There is evil and once it had dominion over us, but no longer. Evil cannot touch or harm those who reside inside His walls. In fact, we will be sent on missions to go outside the fortress and be part of the rescue plan that brings the light of revelation to others who will join us in celebration to the within His fortress...always!
Rob Smith

Monday, August 26, 2013

Psalm 2 (part 2)

Just as Noah's peers had a hard time believing that God could or would end the world as they knew it is hard for many to think that life as we know it could ever deviate from our familiar existence. Like Noah's society, many people believe God to be a myth, or at best irrelevant, to a world they think will continue as it always has. They think that, if they don't believe in God He must not exist! He sent His Son to intervene to provide a bridge of restoration spiritually and that Son will exercise dominion over the earth and all the governments of the world. Verse 12 is especially sobering where the reader is strongly exhorted to submit to the Son of God because He will either be the source of joyful refuge or of sudden destruction (in the midst of all those routine activities)! Truly our world needs to hear and respond to the Gospel in these days as much as any days that have come before.
Psalm 2:
7 The king proclaims the Lord's decree:
"The Lord said to me, 'You are my son.
Today I have become your Father.
8 Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance,
the whole earth as your possession.
9 You will break them with an iron rod
and smash them like clay pots.'"
10 Now then, you kings, act wisely!
Be warned, you rulers of the earth!
11 Serve the Lord with reverent fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Submit to God's royal son, or he will become angry,
and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities—
for his anger flares up in an instant.
But what joy for all who take refuge in him!
Rob Smith

Friday, August 23, 2013

Psalm 2 (part 1)

Psalm 2

Why are the nations so angry?
    Why do they waste their time with futile plans?
The kings of the earth prepare for battle;
    the rulers plot together
against the Lord
    and against his anointed one.
"Let us break their chains," they cry,
    "and free ourselves from slavery to God."
But the one who rules in heaven laughs.
    The Lord scoffs at them.
Then in anger he rebukes them,
    terrifying them with his fierce fury.
For the Lord declares, "I have placed my chosen king on the throne
    in Jerusalem, on my holy mountain."

It is interesting how people think they are independent of the very God who made them!  Rather than acknowledge the One who is so obvious, from His creation of all that can be seen (including themselves), we stiff arm or ignore Him and decide we will lay claim to this world on our terms.  We will assert our own rule, our own ways.  But Psalm 2 tells us that God only laughs.  Of course He laughs.  What other reaction could He have to these little created from dirt beings thumbing their God-given noses at God, Himself.  And then we even have the crass affrontery to consider any obligation to follow or serve God as "slavery".  Is there any wonder that this world of men teeters off balance!  God will choose who will rule the earth and He has placed His Son on the throne, ruling from Heaven.  And all the world that doesn't acknowledge God is in rebellion and denial.   (...and the one who rules in heaven laughs!)

Rob Smith

Thursday, August 22, 2013

alignment for living

Psalm 19 helps us get "aligned for living".  It starts with a magnificent declaration of the wonder and beauty of nature and how all of creation reflects God's artistry and personality and sovereignty (verses 1-6).  It goes on to give us many reasons why we should listen to God's instructions...His Word to us (verses 7-11).  God's instructions are perfect and so they are reliable. It is through His word that we are born again to spiritual life (verse 7).  After coming to new life we need wisdom for living (also in verse 7 and verse 8).  Beyond wisdom we find the abundant life of joy from this relationship and these instructions (verse 8).  As a result of our new life and our experience of walking in grace, insight and joy we turn to God in reverent awe and gratitude (verse 9).   God's word is altogether sweet, like honey, and serves both as a warning and a reward.  His word is the very definition of what is "true" (verses 9-11).   David has learned that his tendency to sin and to sway from following God can only be counteracted by listening to this sweet and true and corrective and instructive word of God.  Frequent and ongoing interaction is necessary! (verses 12-13).

David ends not by talking about God's word but by talking about his own words when he prays that his words and thoughts be so affected by God's words and thoughts that he is brought into alignment with God...the one who has saved Him and is his rock of strength and stability.

Rob Smith

Psalm 19:
The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
    The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
    night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
    their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
    and their words to all the world.
God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.
It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding.
    It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race.
The sun rises at one end of the heavens
    and follows its course to the other end.
    Nothing can hide from its heat.
The instructions of the Lord are perfect,
    reviving the soul.
The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
The commandments of the Lord are right,
    bringing joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are clear,
    giving insight for living.
Reverence for the Lord is pure,
    lasting forever.
The laws of the Lord are true;
    each one is fair.
10 They are more desirable than gold,
    even the finest gold.
They are sweeter than honey,
    even honey dripping from the comb.
11 They are a warning to your servant,
    a great reward for those who obey them.
12 How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
    Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant from deliberate sins!
    Don't let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt
    and innocent of great sin.
14 May the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Monday, August 19, 2013

on the far side

It's almost like Psalms 22 and 21 were written out of order.  Psalm 22 quotes Jesus' last words as He suffered on the Cross.  Psalm 21 seems to show Him beyond the Cross and past the resurrection and even beyond the ascension back to glory.

Psalm 21:
You welcomed him back with success and prosperity.
    You placed a crown of finest gold on his head.
He asked you to preserve his life,
    and you granted his request.
    The days of his life stretch on forever.
Your victory brings him great honor,
    and you have clothed him with splendor and majesty.

[His earthly mission successfully accomplished, the Son is met by the Father and He receives His crown.  His life has been preserved through suffering and His days will stretch on forever.]

Psalm 21:
You have endowed him with eternal blessings
    and given him the joy of your presence.

[No short term earthly success can compare with the blessings that stretch without end in the company and in the presence of the wonderful God of all.]

Psalm 21:
For the king trusts in the Lord.
    The unfailing love of the Most High will keep him from stumbling.

[Jesus, you have modeled trust in your Father....for us to follow.  And the unfailing love of the Most High will also keep us from stumbling.]

Psalm 21:
You will capture all your enemies.
    Your strong right hand will seize all who hate you.
You will throw them in a flaming furnace
    when you appear.
The Lord will consume them in his anger;
    fire will devour them.

[No, evil will not triumph.  It may appear so right now but God works on an eternal clock and He sees all.]

Psalm 21:11 
Although they plot against you,
    their evil schemes will never succeed.
12 For they will turn and run
    when they see your arrows aimed at them.

[So, Lord, we follow your Son and His path to glory.  We will trust in you, even through death, to life forever in your presence.  And we know that righteousness will triumph, forever and ever!]

13 Psalm 21:13 Rise up, O Lord, in all your power.
    With music and singing we celebrate your mighty acts.

blessings and thanks to our mighty God!
Rob Smith

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Psalm before the 23rd Psalm

The Psalm before the 23rd Psalm isn't as well known, of course, as the beautiful 23rd Psalm.  However, the 22nd Psalm was almost exactly quoted by Jesus as He suffered on the Cross hundreds of years later.  The 22nd Psalm seems to provide a lot of insight into the problem of evil and the solution of God.  Thinking of Jesus, it is interesting that He was not immune from the impact of evil.  And it was necessary for Him to experience the sour fruit of darkness: hatred, despising, abuse, taunting, torture.  

Psalm 22:
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
    Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
    Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.

[These were the same words Jesus spoke.  Even He went through a time of feeling that God wasn't there.  Have you ever felt that way?]

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
Our ancestors trusted in you,
    and you rescued them.
They cried out to you and were saved.
    They trusted in you and were never disgraced.

[When we are oppressed by evil and overwhelmed in our present experience, we need to reflect on the faithfulness of God in the past, to His people and to ourselves].
But I am a worm and not a man.
    I am scorned and despised by all!
Everyone who sees me mocks me.
    They sneer and shake their heads, saying,
"Is this the one who relies on the Lord?
    Then let the Lord save him!
If the Lord loves him so much,
    let the Lord rescue him!"
ave been my God from the moment I was born.

[Once again, the writer goes to His personal experience with God prior to the current difficulty.  He has a long experience of faithfulness with God that has followed Him all His life.  Can you relate to that kind of faithfulness yourself?]
11 Do not stay so far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and no one else can help me.

[Here is a prayer we can all relate to.  When God seems distant we ask Him to come near, for He is the only One to save]

12 My enemies surround me like a herd of bulls;
    fierce bulls of Bashan have hemmed me in!
13 Like lions they open their jaws against me,
    roaring and tearing into their prey.
14 My life is poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart is like wax,
    melting within me.
15 My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay.
    My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
    You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.
16 My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs;
    an evil gang closes in on me.
    They have pierced my hands and feet.
17 I can count all my bones.
    My enemies stare at me and gloat.
18 They divide my garments among themselves
    and throw dice for my clothing.

[Can you not picture Jesus looking down at those who have nailed Him to the Cross and to those who gloat at his suffering?  Have you ever felt the impact of hate directed to you?]
19 Lord, do not stay far away!
    You are my strength; come quickly to my aid!
20 Save me from the sword;
    spare my precious life from these dogs.
21 Snatch me from the lion's jaws
    and from the horns of these wild oxen.

[Despite His physical death, which was imminent, Jesus cries out for His everlasting, spiritual life to be saved.  There is life beyond the reach of the sword, the dog, the lion, the horn of an ox].
22 I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters.
    I will praise you among your assembled people.
23 Praise the Lord, all you who fear him!
    Honor him, all you descendants of Jacob!
    Show him reverence, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy.
    He has not turned his back on them,
    but has listened to their cries for help.

[We now live with the knowledge that God did answer the prayers of the suffering one and deliver Him.  He proclaims the truth of God's deliverance.  God doesn't always save from suffering...He may save through suffering...but He is the one who does see and does deliver those who cry out to Him.]
25 I will praise you in the great assembly.
    I will fulfill my vows in the presence of those who worship you.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied.
    All who seek the Lord will praise him.
    Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.
27 The whole earth will acknowledge the Lord and return to him.
    All the families of the nations will bow down before him.
28 For royal power belongs to the Lord.
    He rules all the nations.

[As we wonder about evil and suffering and where God is, we see that there is ultimate victory.  There is a great deliverance that has been demonstrated in the context of evil and suffering.  Evil and suffering seem to flourish today as well, tut there is deliverance for all who seek the Lord.  The poor will be satisfied and the whole earth will ultimately bow before Him...including all the nations that today are wrangling with disputes and power.]
29 Let the rich of the earth feast and worship.
    Bow before him, all who are mortal,
    all whose lives will end as dust.
30 Our children will also serve him.
    Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord.
31 His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born.
    They will hear about everything he has done.

[We, who are living in the flesh right now need to remember that soon we will be dust.  Now is the opportunity for us to find the living God, who sees the evil and who sees the oppressed and who provides the deliverance through the Son who suffered.  Our greatest legacy cannot be measured in dollars, but in the truth of the God who delivered His Son and who alone can deliver us to eternal life!]

Rob Smith

Friday, August 16, 2013

love's laboratory

We started young...
Did you and I,

Barely knew each other,
So early in life.

I was drawn to your beauty,
so soft and so sweet.

You chose to join me,
just why I can't say...

And we've figured it out together,
this game of living,

Trav'ling through time,
all the mornings and evenings,

The wonders of children,
The plague of those bills,
The challenge of working,
Some sickness, some pills.

And we've figured it out together,
this game of life,

The Lord is so real to us,
I know He is why...

The diff'rences between us
Have joined us so fine.

Thanks to my partner,
We started so young...

It's been an adventure,
lab'ratory of love.

(to my Shirley)

Proverbs 18:22 
The man who finds a wife finds a treasure,
    and he receives favor from the Lord.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

light in the darkness: the rescuer

Psalm 12:5-8
The Lord replies, "I have seen violence done to the helpless, and I have heard the groans of the poor.  Now I will rise up to rescue them, as they have longed for me to do."
The Lord's promises are pure, like silver refined in a furnace, purified seven times over.
Therefore, Lord, we know you will protect the oppressed, preserving them forever from this lying generation,
even though the wicked strut about,
and evil is praised throughout the land.

See if you can relate to this psalm of David.  Doesn't it seem that David could have written this yesterday?  When you read through psalms you are reminded that evil has wrestled with good since the beginning.  But evil tends to forget or ignore or deny that it operates within the Creation of God.  He is sovereign and He will not allow evil the ultimate victory.  As we look out over our land, our people, our world today we also see "violence done to the helpless"  and we hear the "groans of the poor".  We are reminded in Psalm 12 that God has made an unbreakable promise to "rise up to rescue them".  And the quality of God's promise is certified to be pure, like completely refined silver.  So even as "the wicked strut about, and evil is praised throughout the land", there is a promise of a rescue and a deliverance from evil.  Our trust and our hope and our total confidence needs to be in the Promise Maker!

Rob Smith

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Styles come and go, but most styles have to do with clothing and accessories.  I have been surprised at the popularity of tattoos, which actually make a permanent change to skin.  I have been especially affected when I have seen beautiful young ladies with tattoos.  Spotting a young lady with a tattoo in a bridal party, I couldn't help but wonder why...

There are some folks, including a number of popular athletes, that seem to want to cover most of their bodies with tattoos.  Some include permanent text messages.  They become walking, breathing signs for their personal brand or unique word to the world.  In one sense this kind of tattoo reminds me of Jesus who the book of John says was "the word made flesh", who "walked among us"  (from John 1:14).  But in another sense I think tattoos are a message that says: "the basic skin is not enough...I can improve it".  

In our natural body we have a God-given vessel that is amazing in its complexity and in its completeness.  But in our perception we often feel incomplete and lacking.  We may think that we can add something of our own design to improve the basic equipment or increase the beauty.  Tattoos are interesting because they go beyond jewelry and clothing and makeup to enhance beauty.  The change is permanent (or essentially so).

We do have a need for change.  We need to gain God's perspective on all the gifts of life He has provided.  We need a total change from the inside out and the top down and the bottom up!  Perhaps there will be a decline in tattoos when more folks find the alignment that starts within the heart and finds its peace in our Maker.  He will do far more than tattoo the body.  He will transform the entire person!

Leviticus 19:28 You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead nor print or tattoo any marks upon you; I am the Lord.

Rob Smith

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

light in darkness: evil in context

Psalm 7 provides some insights into how believers in God ought to understand and respond to evil.   David's cries to God to respond to the wickedness he sees.  David's response to the pervasive presence of evil is to cry out to God, who is the ultimate ruler, that He would do something about it!  He knows that God is the one who sees all and looks into the hearts of every person.

I come to you for protection, O Lord my God.
    Save me from my persecutors—rescue me!
If you don't, they will maul me like a lion,
    tearing me to pieces with no one to rescue me.

Arise, O Lord, in anger!
    Stand up against the fury of my enemies!
    Wake up, my God, and bring justice!
Gather the nations before you.
    Rule over them from on high.
    The Lord judges the nations.
Declare me righteous, O Lord,
    for I am innocent, O Most High!
End the evil of those who are wicked,
    and defend the righteous.
For you look deep within the mind and heart,
    O righteous God.

Verses 10-13 provide more insight into God.  God is the ultimate protector of those whose hearts are aligned with His.  God is not unaware or blind to evil.  He is angry with them.  He provides opportunity for them to turn away from evil and turn toward Him.  But if they do not, God has His own bow and arrow and He will use it.
God is my shield,
    saving those whose hearts are true and right.
 God is an honest judge.
    He is angry with the wicked every day.
 If a person does not repent,
    God will sharpen his sword;
    he will bend and string his bow.
 He will prepare his deadly weapons
    and shoot his flaming arrows.

Look at the insight to evil from verses 14-16.  There are people who conceive of evil in a process that is compared with child birth.  But notice that ultimately the trap they make to catch people will be the trap that they fall into.  We can be confident that ultimately evil will backfire on those who have conceived it.

The wicked conceive evil;
    they are pregnant with trouble
    and give birth to lies.
 They dig a deep pit to trap others,
    then fall into it themselves.
 The trouble they make for others backfires on them.
    The violence they plan falls on their own heads.

The psalm ends with a reminder of where our focus needs to be, even in the midst of evil!

 I will thank the Lord because he is just;
    I will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.

Rob Smith